Martin Hannan: The thugs have nowhere to hide

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When it has been revealed that the United States’ CIA, with the assistance of our own Britspooks, have been spying on just about the entire human species, it amazes me that there are people who still think they can be anonymous and cause trouble.

I am thinking of two groups of people who like to think that they can be anonymous troublemakers – football fans and internet trolls. There is also a particular breed apart, namely football supporters who are also internet trolls, and I’ll come to them later.

In recent years we have seen Scottish football fans disgrace themselves in public. Celtic’s Green Brigade are only the latest minority group to get themselves and their club unwanted publicity and fines.

The 2008 Manchester riots by Rangers fans, the thankfully much smaller scale presence of Hibs casuals – remember the High Street battle in June? – and the very small number of Hearts supporters who occasionally venture into sectarianism, they all have one thing in common.

They all think they can act with impunity because no-one will know who they are. They believe they can commit violence and behave like scum because their identity is concealed inside that of the mob.

I have news for them all – you are not anonymous. This may come as a stunning revelation, but the name and address of every football troublemaker in recent times is known to Police Scotland and often to their clubs. Isn’t the presence of CCTV cameras at every ground and the carrying of police video cameras by every officer not a bit of a giveaway that any fan committing a criminal act will be caught? Some of these supporters are perhaps not the brightest, but what they really are at base level is cowards. That’s right – they are not brave, macho types spoiling for a fight, but out-and-out cowards.

Have you ever seen a Rangers, Hibs, Hearts or any football hooligan causing trouble on his own? Do the Green Brigade make their protests individually in Govan? No, because they need the anonymity of the mob to protect them.

Meanwhile, internet trolling has become a worldwide disgrace and really does threaten the very existence of freedom of speech on the internet – it is only a matter of time before 
countries start to pass laws banning the practice because it is nothing more or less than cowardly anonymous bullying.

Yet it is on the various football-related websites populated by trolls who wreak their anonymous havoc that you see the real problem for Scottish society – some of these people really do believe the utterly ludicrous nonsense they write.

It is the policy of the newspaper group that I work for to allow moderated comment on articles posted on our websites by people whose identity is known to very few people in this company.

That’s a decent halfway house to what I want – the end of anonymity. For the real test of an individual and his or her beliefs is whether he or she puts his name to what they say. I do it, even if am I wrong – especially if I’m wrong.

I say it is time for all football fans convicted of criminality to be named and shamed by their clubs on club websites. As for the internet trolls – name yourselves, I dare you.

At last, we’ve got a sporting chance

When I read the words Meadowbank and Aberdeen Sports Village in close proximity, I could have jumped for joy.

It seems as though Edinburgh City Council has finally seen sense and will get rid of Meadowbank’s outdated buildings – more than 40 years old, don’t forget – and create something akin to Aberdeen’s fabulous facility, which the Granite City rightly claims to be the premier sports and exercise facility in Scotland.

It was designed by Edinburgh architects Reiach and Hall, and what a magnificent job they did – get them on the Meadowbank case now.

It seems the velodrome will go, and that’s a pity, but so many other sports will be catered for and Edinburgh’s long-suffering public will get the recreational facility they need.

Hospital’s car park drove me round the bend

I HAVE had occasion to visit St John’s Hospital in Livingston quite a lot recently, and have nothing but praise for the medical staff.

Not so their “logistics” people. I came back to the visitors car park and found a parking contravention sticker because I was outside a designated parking bay.

I wasn’t blocking anyone and at no point on entering the car park did it warn about bays. There is a sign saying so at one of the exits, but not the one I used. A prior warning sign would be logical but “logistics” is rarely that.

Don’t set any store in fears

My fellow columnist Brian Monteith is usually a quite fair Unionist, so this SNP member was disappointed to see him repeat the latest Project Fear scare story that supermarket groceries might cost more in an independent Scotland.

They might, but then they might not – but what is certain is that all these scare stories are becoming very tiresome.

Shaken, not stirred

So James Bond could not have been a superspy because he hit the bottle a lot, says a new survey. As a journalist I can only say: “No comment!”