We’re free to do whatever they want

Author: Herzog’s Child

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Given the enormous brouhaha that emanated from the now tedious race-gate, one would be forgiven for thinking the sneering one’s refusal to shake the hand of someone he racially abused was the one and only vile act of February 11th last. Yet the day’s initial ugly act had already occurred when The Greater Manchester Police, those rarefied bastions of all that’s great and good about our society, felt obliged to confiscate and subsequently impound Red Issue fanzine for having the gall to provoke humour through its pages. Concealing a parody Ku Klux Klan cut-out mask embossed with a sympathy message for Luis Suarez, the ‘zine was rounded up from its sellers and carted off to the cop-shop on the grounds that the mask could potentially incite racial hatred and untold disturbance amongst supporters. That the size of the mask rendered it quite impossible to conceal one’s face mattered little. Nor did it seem pertinent that its message was overtly anti-racist. The message from those who felt compelled to drive Red Issue from the streets – an act which could have potentially set the publication’s future into ruination – was clear from their motivations: the satirising of serious situations are prohibited – when it suits those who can divvy out unjustified and criminally insidious authority. On a day blighted by an ever-enlarging grotesqueness permeating the game, the removal from the street of a publication that regularly exposes football’s absurdities was a low that could set a worrying trend. And the most worrying aspect is that most won’t care.

That most purported United supporters will never have heard of Red Issue fanzine says more about the current state of the club’s support than it does the quality of writing found in its pages. One of a trio of long-standing voices of the supporters, flanked by United We Stand and Red News, it is the most vocal and heavily politicised of the three. As a result it receives the most vitriol from those too impassive to open their eyes to what lurks beneath the shininess enfolding the club’s exterior. Stringent and ceaseless in their denouncing of the Glazer-regime, its back-beat section in particular is a diamond-mine where hilarity and horror resides in equal measure. Loaded with a steady collection of regular contributors who possess the right amount of acid in their inkwells, the ‘zine is a cutting and razor-tongued voice in an era where the majority’s hollers have dwindled to ghostly nothings. Many will recoil at the critical-heavy angle it employs, but this too is a reflection not of the wrongness of prodding at shadiness but the ignorance of presuming all is unequivocally fine and dandy. Manchester United is too big a club, with too many questionable dealings, to not have a vocal minority casting light on what appears wrong. From the eyebrow-descending motives behind the Bebe deal, to the harsh and humbling numerals exposing the horrors of Glazernomics, a voice of reason is needed in a time when the club itself is only too happy to drown out any justified noise. Ultimately, the point is: the gagging of those who ultimately care the most is a dangerous and worrying act, for two reasons: it blockades the liberty with which we use to go about our days, and it is something United, as a club, would only be too happy to oversee, for the extolling of criticism and revealing of lies does not fit the criteria of the ‘fan’ they wish to create and ultimately make money off. It is a world of smiling, nodding and not looking back.

The prohibition of satire opens up wider issues, of course. Even if, as logic dictates, many will have found the KKK-Suarez mask in bad-taste, or lacking humour, the delivery of it was and is eternally less important than the right executed to print it. Perhaps the ejection of satire is best summed up in the words of Dario Fo, who asserted: ‘It’s hard for power to enjoy or incorporate humour and satire into its system of control.’ Busy-bodied and unaccustomed to laughs, maybe the authorities, rather than wanting to discard any ridiculous notion of riots, merely wanted to spoil the fun. If so, their motives would have gained some form of credibility had their spoiling efforts been a tad more consistent. As was heartily pointed out to them on the day, a leading tabloid had carried a face off image depicting both faces of race-gate under a desperately unfunny ‘Race for the Title’ heading. Unlike the ‘zine, which had clearly proffered its stance in support of the victim, the newspaper was simply trying to be funny; given its wide distribution around the UK, and message that could only be taken for stoking the hyperbole even further, one could deduce in the name of fairness that it too would be seized. Or not. Fascist actions, we come to find, are as inconsistent as the reasons those who carry them out disgorge when confronted about their vileness. The curbing of humour is a disturbing assault not only on publishing freedom, but on freedom itself – as reflected in the police warning served to a 20 year old red who dared traverse the streets with a ‘Klanfield’ t-shirt he had purchased from a swag-seller outside the ground. This combating of personal liberty is mirrored in Orwell’s totalitarian landscape in his Big Brother immersed 1984. To continue the literary references, one can venture to Bradbury’s masterpiece Fahrenheit 451. Set in a dystopian otherworld, ideas and the progression of intellectualism are banished through the burning of all literature. The Orwellian and Bradbury worlds, in comparison, are dystopian and as a result unearthly, but their defining message should be drummed into those unperturbed by overzealous authoritarianism: an acceptance of dictatorial rule is dangerous.

There will be those of course who believe the satirising of a racism-related incident does nothing but a disservice to the seriousness of the topic – that it ultimately trivialises an incident that has not only sullied those residing in Merseyside, but the game as a whole. But the subjection of the grotesque to satire is not a devaluing of the subject’s content. As anyone in possession of a single brain-cell would have immediately deciphered, the message carried by the inclusion of the mask was not suggesting Luis Suarez was a member of, or in any way associated with, the Ku Klux Klan. The caption it bore, ‘Suarez is Innocent,’ was the image’s true message – something evidently lost on the power-hungry geniuses who declared it potentially offensive. Its intention was to highlight the absurdity of a continued campaign of justice for someone who had admitted to their guilt and had been duly punished as a result. It was to highlight the almost comically sinister wearing of sympathy t-shirts for a man who had subjected another man to abuse solely because the colour of his skin was different. It was to pour petrol on and ignite a debacle that should have burnt out long before the recent ugly scenes it produced had taken place. To satire is to ridicule, and the stance with which those at Liverpool took in the wake of the saga deserved, and still deserves, immense ridicule. Our best approach to the vulgarities of life is not to recoil in horror, as it only justifies the attacks, but to lessen their effect by reducing them to comedy. In doing so, we do not dissolve an issue’s seriousness – to the contrary, it merely shows a strength in not crumbling under the obscene nature of others. When Chris Morris confronted the topic of Islamist fundamentalists he didn’t subscribe to the scare-mongering of those who envision terrorism as something that should provoke constant fear in us all. Instead, with the creation of the wondrously witty Four Lions, Morris invoked the banal and subjected the suicide-bomber to satire. The result wasn’t any less effective and didn’t, as the GMP may suggest, incite racial hatred. Morris’ satirising of such a subject cast light on the ridiculousness of all forms of fundamentalism and the sadness of generalisation. Of course comparing a film on the topic of terrorism to a ‘zine subjecting a player and club to satire may appear odd on the face of it, but the pertinence of satire remains: to prod at the most serious matters, satire is as potent a weapon as any other. The GMP’s rounding up and impounding of Red Issue only served to criminalise our freedom to express ourselves through the medium of humour. It is a sad society that takes it upon itself to decide what is funny or not – and it’s an even sadder one that doesn’t fend off such rulings.

Having being seized on February 11th, Red Issue headquarters finally received the confiscated issues back on Friday, a full week after they were first impounded. The ‘zine took a financial hit, but fortunately for those who believe in the merits of the independent voice over the official one the losses incurred were covered and it will carry on producing as it only knows how: with wit and venom and, crucially, satire – with insight aplenty along the way. It will continue to print offensive content because as an independent fanzine it has a right to. If the reasons for impounding a publication are based on its potential to provoke offence, then the ‘zine, along with many others, would have ceased shortly after its inception 23 years ago. That it hasn’t only throws more light on the selective, and absurd, nature of those obliged to enforce their power at the oddest of moments at the oddest of times. The outrage born out of Liverpool’s choice to openly express their support – with t-shirts and inanity-ridden statements – for someone who admitted to racially abusing was real and justified. Their message was clear: our self-interest trumps the topic of racism and evidence suggesting we’re wrong is a smear-campaign against our unblemished name. Red Issue’s inclusion of a KKK mask was a satirical reply to this deranged stance. Their message was just as clear: the stance is bile-inducing and through satire we will reduce it to the pitiful reality it unquestionably is. We now know the authorities clamped down on the latter and presumably concluded that championing a guilty party is less offensive than ridiculing them through the use of satire. It was a depressing occurrence and one that should not be repeated again. Prohibiting one’s right to express ridicule in the face of hate is as vitriolic as the causes which provoke the need for ridicule in the first place. The GMP have now set a bar for themselves with which they’ll have to adhere to in the future if they’re to appear consistent – a trait any decent authoritative system should be employing….As for Red Issue: 250 or so of its confiscated issues remain in possession of the GMP, unreturned, out of the boxes they were packed in and now unable to be sold. Quite what the GMP, the purported protectors not only of safety but liberty in our democratic society, want with 250 cut-out Ku Klux Klan masks is anyone’s guess, of course.

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31 Comments on We’re free to do whatever they want

  1. You really are a silly boy to even imagine that anything with a KKK connection can be termed, “inoffensive”. Please go away and mature a little.

  2. If you feel the whole thing was a piece of genius satire, why not ask a few black supporters how they feel about seeing the imagery of the KKK being used to make a crude joke?

  3. You can tell the level this blog is on when it’s factually inaccurate. I’m a united supporter and a member of the ethnic minorities but can any of these wannabe jurno’s please point out when Suarez admitted to racially abusing anyone. I’m 100% sure he has denied it. I think you will find that he used a word that Evra found offensive and reacted to even though its not an offensive term in most contexts. Evra being French and with a minimal knowledge of Spanish language, never understood the real meaning behind the term and reported it falsely. He claimed Suarez had called him nigg*r initially because this is what the French speaker mistakenly translated what Suarez said to him. Once the claim was registered officially it has been too late to take it back without looking like the tit he did when he asked Phelan to make his claims against Chelsea. As a United fan I’m disappointed with Evra and some of the Equality groups statements.

  4. United fans sing about burning scousers yet look down there noses at Suarez for calling Evra a negrito. Your just a bunch of horrible twats. Your club is hated by every other football fan in Britain. Fuck off.

  5. I’m a United fan who is not interested in scoring points between the clubs using racism. I believe the race issue to be more important than that. I feel severely let down by my Club over this incident. Iv seen the World and I can understand how this misunderstanding happened on the pitch but I’m sure that the incident was taken too far officially to retreat without looking stupid on Evra and Fergies part. I’m also dissapointed that the club keep bringing the subject up to score points. So just imagine how I feel about my fellow fans.

  6. Obtuse piece that is as ill-judged as the decision to print the KKK masks in the first place.

    As a satirical joke, the KKK mask is actually quite clever and witty.

    But if Patrice Evra can reserve the right to be offended by anything Luis Suarez says to him, anybody else can reserve the right to be offended by large groups of men wearing symbolic masks that represent the face of real racism.

  7. Evra said at the time he didnt think Suarez was being racist. Suarez admitted he used the word negrito when he could have denied it. He isnt racist he made a mistake and we backed him just like your club does when your players make mistakes.

  8. I didn’t find the joke particularly funny, but the point is that the police has absolutely no business arbitrarily confiscating magazines and t-shirts. Do we live in North Korea? No. It’s an appalling state of affairs when satire is effectively illegal. I’m sure football fanzines up and down the country have published much more offensive things than this over the years. Whether or not you find it funny is irrelevant – the possibility that someone might be offended by a satirical joke is not a justification for the authorities to confiscate publications that break no laws.

    Did they really think that people would wear masks no bigger than your hand? They clearly weren’t meant to be worn, unless Pigmy reds were over for the game.

  9. Excellent piece!
    I think they should give away the now returned issue free with the next one.
    Quite outrageous that it was confiscated in this manner, why oh why are GMP not made to pay compensation to the publishers?
    GMP should be taken to court for this, i’d bet they would settle before the case itself.

  10. If you can’t see how waving about a picture of a KKK mask (which some people WOULD HAVE DONE) is potentially offensive or potentially going to cause trouble then you’re really trying far too hard to be put out. And it being satire doesn’t make it instantly appropriate any more than people think it’s acceptable to be an obnoxious prick as long as you say it’s just banter.

    And all this “OMG IT’S LIKE WE’RE IN NORTH KOREA/CHINA/wherever!!!!!!1111” nonsense needs ending too. It’s as ignorant as it is belittling the problems of people who actually live in such countries. Old Trafford is not a public area. It’s not a suppression of free speech any more than if you told somebody that they couldn’t come into your house to recite passages from Mein Kampf.

    At the end of the day, Red Issue knew exactly what they were doing. This wasn’t some insightful jab at the situation, it wasn’t particularly smart and it was little more than an obvious wind-up. And worse, it was blatantly trying to chuck fuel onto a fire that didn’t need any more.

  11. So it’s fine for a man to be found guilty of an offence without evidence or witnesses but not okay for the authorities to confiscate a subsequent publication that they deem could incite racial hatred?

    How many different ways do you want it?

  12. Nobody would have ‘waved’ it, for god’s sake. It’s pretty obvious the vermin infesting these comments have no idea that Red Issue is a very small publication, about the size of your hand. ‘Waving’ it would have been pointless as it wouldn’t have been seen by anyone. The ‘mask’ was too small to be worn. The comparison with North Korea is perfectly sound, given that North Korea is a dictatorship where publications that displease the authorities are routinely confiscated. I’ll say it again, for the hard-of-thinking scousers on here: the police have no business arbitrarily confiscating a publications that breaks no laws, based on a satirical joke. They have no right to do it, and Red Issue are correct to be outraged.

    And it wasn’t confiscated INSIDE Old Trafford, it was OUTSIDE Old Trafford, on a public street. So comparisons with someone coming in your house and reading Mein Kampf are flawed.

    The scousers’ obsession with constantly playing the victims, a completely inability to accept anyone associated with Liverpool can ever do wrong and an appallingly badly handled reaction to someone found guilty of racist abuse does not change the fact that satire is not illegal.

    Despite Liverpool supporters’ constant stream of lies, Suarez was found guilty of racist abuse after an investigation that included one of the country’s leading QCs. There WERE witnesses and there WAS evidence. Only scousers can read a 148-page report that concludes in someone’s guilt and proclaim that it somehow proves his innocence.

    Liverpool supporters are simply furious that their years of painting themselves as righteous, morally superior Warriors of Justice has come crashing down amidst a barrage of fully-deserved criticism for their appalling reaction to one of their players being found guilty of using racist abust.

  13. You can say there were witnesses and you can say there was evidence.

    But it’s just words.

    Because there wasn’t and there weren’t.

    Let us know when that changes.

  14. As a United fan I did not see in the report where the FA claimed Suarez was a racist. Evra himself said he did not believe Suarez is racist. What the FA concluded was that Suarez PROBABLY said something which Evra found offensive and had a reference to colour. The Criminal Prosecution Service said there was no case to answer, unlike Terry. This is because of a lack of evidence where the FA think something possibly happened. The way the FA handled the case was always going to come out with a possibly guilty verdict. Graham Taylor of the FA was to blame for allowing to become as serious within public domain as it did. The guys a joke and has harmed the anti racist cause within this country. Also LFC as a club mishandled the situation. Suarez is guilty of a non-handshake when he claimed he would, that’s all really unless we are point scoring on the racism issue.

  15. The fact that the scousers keep saying Sewerz said negrito proves they haven’t read the report. He admitted to calling him a negro. It was friendly or affectionate, it was used to gain and upper hand so Evra would respond and maybe get himself sent off. Shithouse trick, cunt of a man and it WAS racist, whichever way you scouse cunts like to dress it up.

  16. Lots of people had already taken these fanzines into the ground, having bought them before the police came along, yet none were seen being ‘waved’. Funny that.

    And AlexF, please stop pretending to be a United fan, you’re not fooling anyone.

  17. Joe, you’d better let the QC who investigated it know that there wasn’t any evidence or witnesses. He seemed to think there were, roughly 148 pages of it in fact.

  18. It doesn’t look like you read the report either Steve.

    Suarez called Evra neither “negrito” nor “a negro”.

  19. Can as a united fan not have a balanced opinion Paul? Or should I blindly follow the FA and media line? If more of us United fans thought for ourselves then this would be a much smaller issue. I’m not going to sit and criticise a club I don’t support when I believe there is plenty to be critical of ourselves. I’m not here to score points against opposition fans like some on here with one-sided views.

  20. AlexF…A United fan, my arse, no self-respecting United fan would post under that monikor. So to you, @5times, Joe and assorted victimised, self-pitying Scouse cunts…a big FUCK OFF.
    Justice for the 96, certainly, and also Justice for Heysel(never hear ye banging on about that )and for Evra.

  21. Re criticism of club’s support by suggesting ‘many have not heard of Red Issue’-let’s not tear down the walls within the club. Many fans do not live in Manchester, that is nature of football these days. And whilst this is a heartfelt and lengthy piece on a contentious issue, can we get back to the real business and have a post on the Ajax match?

  22. Doesnt matter if it was negrito o negro the fact that in Latin America is not offensive (which is not) doesnt deminish the fact. This article is not about Suarez being guilty or not its about the fact that a human right was not considered and there was clearly and abuse by the police. “El Respeto al Derecho ajeno es la Paz” The respect of the others right es Peace, the mask was joke and people are intitle of a joke and it was uo to people if they like the joke they would buy it if not they wont… trouble making if they were real mask which they werent.
    Great article, beutifuly written, feel like my IQ just rose a point or two, and maybe I need to study more English Literature to fully aprecieat it….

    By te way as it may be I dont live in Manchester nor anywhere near… and knew about the Red Issue

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