There are times when it isn’t easy to be a Liverpool FC supporter. There are times when it isn’t easy to be a Christian. And if you’re both, well…
This week I have been tarred by two different brushes – one assumes that I’m a vile troll who wishes Alan Davies dead (and visited all kinds of nasty, indefensible abuse on the man through Twitter). The other assumes that, because I am a Christian, I am a homophobe who believes that being gay is an illness and can be cured. Both views of me are wrong – but you wouldn’t think so if all you knew about me was that I was a Christian Liverpool FC supporter and you read some peoples’ posts on Twitter!
Unlike, it would seem, many on Twitter, I quite enjoy ‘Jonathan Creek’ – a gentle, usually humorous, crime series in which Alan stars (starred?). He is also a regular on the massively popular quiz show ‘QI’ as well as being a stand-up comedian. As a ‘celebrity’ he is relatively high profile – and his love of Arsenal Football Club is well known. He’s a celebrity ‘gooner’ and regularly contributes to an Arsenal podcast. In the most recent episode, Alan made some crass, ill-advised, insensitive (in my mind) comments about Liverpool Football Club’s desire not to play a game of football on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster:
“Liverpool and the 15th, that gets on my tits that shit. What are you talking about, ‘We won’t play on the day’? Why can’t they? My mum died on 22nd August. I don’t stay in all day on 22 August.
“Do they play on the date of the Heysel Stadium disaster? How many dates do they not play on? Do Man United play on the date of Munich? Do Rangers play on the date when all their fans died in that disaster whatever year that was – 1971?”
“Every interview [Dalglish] has given this season he looks like he wants to headbutt the interviewer. This tight-mouthed, furious, frowning, leaning-forward, bitter Glaswegian ranting: ‘Liverpool FC do not play on April 15th.’”
“Hillsborough is the most awful thing that’s happened in my life, in terms of football. It’s one of the worst tragedies in English peacetime history. But it’s ridiculous that they refuse to play on that day any more.”
Maybe he didn’t know that the club always hold a memorial service on the anniversary – which ALL players and staff attend which would make actually fielding a team impossible. Maybe he was unaware that the fight for justice and honest answers has been on-going for 23 years, that the lies told about the fans were perpetrated by those who were supposed to be public servants or guardians of football, or maybe he just thought it was funny … whatever his reasoning he got it badly wrong. He apologised quite promptly. I tweeted him to say that I had accepted his apology and to apologise, on my own behalf, for those morons who were supposedly supporters of Liverpool FC who continued to rain horrible abuse down on him and his family.
(For anyone wondering why I think I have a right to accept his apology; read this blog post)
Alan chose not to retweet (RT) any of the messages from Liverpool fans offering apology or support although he flooded my timeline with RT after RT of disgusting comments directed at him. I suppose that is his right. But it distressed me to think that other people reading his RTs would assume that the morons threatening and abusing him were representative of the millions of Liverpool FC fans around the world (including me). They aren’t (and I suspect that many aren’t even LFC fans – just trolls). Still it’s not for Alan Davies to be concerned about me feeling upset – I can certainly understand how HE was feeling upset after reading some of the bile directed at him. Alan is entitled to his opinion. I’m entitled to disagree with it. Nobody is entitled to send disgusting abuse and death threats to someone else just because they disagree with what’s been said, or the way in which it’s been said. I didn’t do anything when he later posted a ‘joke’ picture via Twitter which could be taken to suggest that his apology wasn’t entirely sincere, but I got over it (remember that phrase!) I guess that’s life on Twitter. It’s clearly not always easy to be in the public eye. It’s also not easy to be a Liverpool FC supporter when you can’t get a ‘balanced reporting’ situation.
And then yesterday I spent time watching all Christians being lumped together in one boat (I’ve digressed from the ‘tarring with the same brush’ theme) by those who assumed that the ‘Core Issues Trust’ and ‘Anglican mainstream’ represented the views of ALL Christians in the UK. These two groups had rented advertising space on some of London’s most travelled bus routes to respond to an advert that was placed there by Stonewall promoting equal marriage in the biggest advertising campaign of its type in the UK. Apparently believing that being gay is some sort of disease which can be cured by therapy, ‘Core Issues Trust’ and ‘Anglican mainstream’ (a misnomer if ever there was one if the Anglicans I know are anything to go by) the proposed bus adverts read “Not Gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!” (did you remember that phrase I asked you to?)
The advert was, thankfully, pulled before it made it to the streets – although how that sits with my ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion however odious I might find it stance’ I’m not really sure. (actually, I am: they have a right to their opinion – I just don’t think they have a right to force their opinion on everyone else, Although I suppose the same should go for Stonewall … ) Maybe I’m just too liberal and wishy-washy for my own good. I should have learned after voting Lib-Dem in the last election…
In both these instances it’s the way that ‘twitterati’ assume the few speak for the many and can, therefore, ridicule everyone who shares any connection, however tangentially, with the extremist tweeters. And the retweeting of the extremist propaganda and/or bile merely exacerbates the situation and allows those who, I assume, are normally quite balanced in the usual day to day life to start swinging the lead with condemnatory/belittling/dismissive assumptions and pronouncements about ALL Christians and ALL LFC fans.
If anyone is wondering exactly where I stand on either of these two issues:
Firstly, I think Alan was wrong to say what he did in the way he did but think that not having the full facts (and thinking things through) was his only error. I would rather Liverpool FC forfeited the game than play on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Maybe Alan should have read this article or one of the many like it to get a bit more perspective.
Secondly, I believe that God loves us all, equally. Whether we are Gay or straight, Jew or gentile, slave or free, Mother Theresa or Osama Bin Laden. That’s difficult to understand sometimes, but I believe it. After all, if God hates gays so much, why does he keep making ’em?
So tomorrow will be the end of a tough week being me. And it’ll be the start of a long day – setting off in the early hours for a long drive.
Tomorrow I will be at Wembley on the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. An all-Merseyside FA Cup semi-final. Liverpool versus Everton. I will be one person in a crowd that includes reds, blues and neutrals; a crowd that includes people of many faiths and people of none. I pray that we all get there, and get home, safely.
You’ll Never Walk Alone. Justice For The 96.