You can tell the ‘silly season’ is almost upon us, because the Scotsman is reporting fascinating news that some kerb stones in Larkhall were painted red, white and blue. The paper informs us that this horror was perpetrated by a ‘sectarian girl gang’. Now I have no doubt that their actions comprise a wanton piece of vandalism and all the details in the piece suggest that some underlying sectarianism might motivate the youths in question, but the paper simply hasn’t mentioned circumstances that justify using the word in the article.
We are told that this “is the latest example of sectarian behaviour in the Lanarkshire town known for its over-enthusiastic support of Rangers Football Club and the Queen”. Now I loathe both members of the ‘Old Firm’, I’m a bit of a sceptic as regards our Royal family and I deplore illegal graffiti, so I’m not going to defend the town or its inhabitants on any of the above counts. But are the above components really defining indicators, or corroborating evidence, of sectarianism?
Red, white and blue are three colours, widely displayed, both separately and collectively. They shouldn’t be daubed on public property, but if they are offensive to the beholder, that is his subjective aesthetic judgment. Rangers are one of the biggest Scottish football teams and whilst part of their fanbase is probably sectarian, we mustn’t generalise. We can’t suppose that every Man United fan is a prawn sandwich munching, glory hunting stock broker from Surrey, nor can we presume that every Rangers or Celtic supporter is a bigoted spide. Likewise, not everyone applauds the Queen’s role as head of our state, but it is possible to support a constitutional monarchy without raving about the Pope.
There are mentions of ‘loyalist slogans’ and smashed green traffic lights which provide the hint of fire under the Scotsman’s smoke. So why label particular aspects of behaviour ‘sectarian’ when they do not justify that label? Why not be more responsible and uncover actual instances of sectarianism? It is, at best, a rather lazy use of words.