Pagemaster: Brendan O'Neill (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Scotland has mumbled
Kenny Dalglish's favourite answer to any question is 'mubbies aye, mubbies naw'. The Scottish electorate is getting a bit like that. Having given the go-ahead to devolution last year, around 60 percent of Scottish voters turned out in May to elect a hung parliament. New Labour was denied a majority, the Scottish National Party (SNP) did not do well enough to claim a moral victory, and the terminally dull Liberal Democrats were cast as powerbrokers.
Anybody who had followed the campaign could not have been surprised at the voters' ambivalence. It was widely acknowledged to be the least exciting election campaign in living memory. The only issue of any 'substance' was the SNP's tax-and-spend 'Penny for Scotland' campaign - but campaigning around the minutiae of tax spending was boring when the grey Mr Major did it in 1992, never mind on the cusp of a new millennium, when Scotland is supposed to be taking an historic leap. When election night finally came, counting staff in Ayrshire and Edinburgh got fed up and went home for a nap - much to the consternation of Scottish Office ministers.
Having failed to inspire anybody with their 'ideas', politicians from all parties reminded us that politics does not always have to be exciting. Instead, the Scottish parliament will be about 'a new kind of politics' based on consensus and cooperation. One occasion on which consensus really did emerge during the campaign was when the SNP leader Alex Salmond spoke out against the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and everybody else told him to shut up. It was universally agreed that the war should not be an election issue. When it is not an excuse for having nothing to say, consensus can be a way of making sure that nobody else has anything to say, either.
Faced with the question of which group of mumblers they would like to represent them, Scottish voters can be forgiven for mumbling in response. The Scots cannot compete with the militant apathy of the Welsh (who really could not be bothered with their election), but with politics this anodyne, the future of Scottish democracy does not look bright. Maybe 'Sean Connery for king' isn't such a daft idea after all.
Meanwhile, at Celtic Park...
Scottish voters may have slept through the election, but football fans were as excited as ever about the real issues facing Scotland. Celtic fan Alec Rafferty got so excited that he fell from the Jock Stein stand during the controversial Old Firm game which clinched the title for Rangers in May. Despite life-threatening injuries Rafferty waved his arms and sang Celtic songs as he was stretchered away to an ambulance. But instead of receiving a 'get well' card from the club, Rafferty was served with a lifetime ban from Celtic's ground for 'behaving in a careless and reckless manner'.
Rafferty was the latest victim of Celtic Football Club's relentless campaign to control the behaviour of its fans. After referee Hugh Dallas was injured by a coin thrown from the crowd during the match against Rangers, Celtic set up a special telephone hotline, encouraging fans to pass on the names and addresses of anybody who behaved badly during the game. Without judge, jury or evidence, Rafferty and a dozen other fans were banned from Celtic Park for life.
Celtic's authoritarian measures are justified in the name of cleansing Scottish football of its sectarianism, particularly between the largely Catholic supporters of Celtic and the largely Protestant supporters of Rangers. In 1996 the club launched the 'Bhoys against bigotry' campaign which threatened to eject from Celtic Park anybody guilty of 'bigoted chanting or singing' (in other words, supporting their team). Since then the campaign has been broadened, and Celtic has led the way in football's clampdown on what is deemed to be 'unacceptable behaviour'.
One 14-year old fan was told that he had seen his last game at Celtic Park after he had the gall to run on to the pitch to congratulate his heroes for winning a Cup semi-final. Two other fans were banned for life after questioning why Celtic observed a minute's silence for the victims of the Omagh bombing when this was not normally club practise. Another two fans are being hunted down after making the fatal mistake of turning up late and disrupting the minute's silence on the tenth anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy.
Singing team songs, jumping up and down in the stands and running on to the pitch are now to be outlawed as bigotry, while sitting down and clapping politely is the order of the day. And then they complain about there 'not being the same passion at the match anymore'. The clubs still have to make their new rules stick, however: if we have beaten Rangers in the Cup final at the end of May by the time you read this, I hope to have been the first on to the pitch to congratulate the team.
Kevin Rooney is a season-ticket holder at Celtic Park.
LM Online does not accept responsibility if his ticket is confiscated
Death by TV?
A US court has found Warner Bros negligent and fined the company $25 million following the murder of a former guest on The Jenny Jones Show. In 1995 Scott Amedure went on the show to tell his friend Jonathon Schmitz that he had a crush on him. Three days later, Schmitz drove to Amedure's trailer in Oakland and shot him twice in the chest with a shotgun. Lawyers for Amedure's family say The Jenny Jones Show lured a mentally ill Schmitz into a TV studio and 'humiliated him into murder'.
The suggestion that being embarrassed on TV is a valid explanation for murder is absurd. Everybody who has appeared on Vanessa, Kilroy or the ever-embarrassing Stars in Their Eyes could use this as an excuse for bad behaviour. But as well as undermining the idea of individual responsibility, the court decision will have a detrimental effect on TV journalism.
According to lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, The Jenny Jones Show 'selected a victim. They picked a murderer and provided a motive....They did everything in this case except pull the trigger'. Such an indictment will undoubtedly mean that, in future, research- ers on such shows will be overly cautious - guests will be vetted for 'anger control' problems, and stories will be toned down. But let's face it - if you like Jerry Springer-style trash TV, the last thing you want are guests who will behave responsibly when they hear those dreaded revelations. Lawyers accused The Jenny Jones Show of 'surprising' its guests, but isn't that the point? When shock is removed from trash TV it just looks contrived.
Some factual TV programmers who look on trash TV with disdain will have welcomed the ruling against The Jenny Jones Show. But the court decision will effect serious TV journalism as well. The new sensibility about what constitutes acceptable TV could well spread across the Atlantic, pressuring journalists into giving more consideration to the feelings of their guests, whether on Frost's couch or in the Newsnight armchair. The effect will be to soften up even further the questioning role of television. Politicians already complain of being bullied by interviewers - now they will just have to cry about being 'humiliated'.
Confrontation on TV is too rare - we should have more of it, and not just on trash chat shows. The finding against The Jenny Jones Show sets a precedent for letting murderers off the hook and turning TV into an even tamer medium. Let's hope it is overturned on appeal.
Claire Fox is the publisher of LM.
Is your pet year 2000 compliant? For years, loving pet-owners have been installing microchips into their cats and dogs, as a means of tracking them down when they get lost. Now there are fears that such chips will stop working when the millennium arrives, with missing pets wandering around when the bug wreaks its inevitable havoc.
But rest assured. According to Tabatha Black, office manager of the Animal Shelter in Chicago, 'We should realise that chips don't depend on reading years and dates'. Her colleague John DeWispelaere said that 'if things do go wrong, like some people are forecasting, the focus will be on solving people's needs before animals''. This hasn't stopped some people arguing that pet-owners should become 'bug-aware' so that their pets don't get lost when the clock strikes 12 on the big day. What with the fireworks, the drunken owners and now the threat posed by the bug, it looks like pets will have a pretty miserable millennium.
Have you signed up with Washington-based anti-bug Expert Service Corps yet? 'You, the digitally blessed out there: there's a lot of people out here who need you', says Gary Beach, administrator of the bug-battling corps. The corps wants to build an 'international grassroots volunteer network', including 'individually recognised experts who have offered their time and knowledge at no charge to support this humanitarian effort'.
But if you sign up (which you can do by filling in a form online), don't expect to be jetting around the world to fight the bug wherever it raises its ugly head. Volunteers are needed to work over the internet, alerting fellow net-heads to the dangers posed by Y2K. Forget it: fight a more realistic battle on your Playstation.
Finally, it seems that we have still not learned our lesson from the millennium bug, as one anonymous net wag observed: 'Trust the computer industry to shorten "year 2000" to "Y2K". It was this kind of thinking that caused the problem in the first place.'
The what's NOT on guide
OUTLAWED: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the National Canine Defence League called on the publishers of Richmal Crompton's Just William stories to make appropriate changes in time for the eightieth anniversary edition. Macmillan declared that the activities of William and the Outlaws would not be altered, while admitting that 'years ago' two 'inappropriate' stories (one, 'William and the Nasties' featuring a mean Jewish shopkeeper, the other an episode in which William's mongrel is put into a pen to kill rats and attack another dog) were removed from the Crompton canon. AD-DLED: A study for the Broadcasting Standards Commission advises broadcasters not to use AD and BC for fear of offending those of non-Christian faiths. Professor David Craig recommends CE (Christian Era) and BCE (Before Christian Era) instead. Why the designation of the past 2000 years as the Christian Era should be any less offensive to non-Christians remains a mystery. BADLY: The Programme Complaints Unit (PCU) at the BBC has agreed that the episode of Men Behaving Badly broadcast on 25 December 1998 was not suitable for transmission on Christmas Day. The PCU has promised that it will not be shown again at Christmas (that's one fewer repeat, then). Meanwhile, BBC programme makers are planning a new Yuletide show: 'Men Behaving Not Too Badly At Peak Family Viewing Times.' The PCU also upheld complaints about bad language and explicit sexual humour arising from the fourth part of the documentary History of Alternative Comedy. Will the BBC do the right thing and bring back the non-alternative Bernard Manning instead? SMOKED OUT: In Florida, an irate theatregoer made an official complaint under the Clean Indoor Air Act after actors smoked on stage in a production of Noël Coward's Private Lives. The camp playwright not only insisted that Elyot and Amanda should smoke, but left strict instructions as to how they should hold their fags. SHOO'ED: The Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against an advert in FHM for Patrick Cox shoes, which 'showed the legs and feet of a man who had apparently been hanged from a tree'. Perhaps they thought he was not sufficiently well-hung. Meanwhile, despite repeated requests, the DVLA has refused to issue the car number plate V14GRA, which would have been due for release on 1 September.
Compiled by Andrew Calcutt
Reproduced from LM issue 121, June 1999