I was a 15 year old kid who was hoisted out of the crush at Leppings Lane, and for most of the past 25 years I’ve tried really hard not to think about it too much. I went on an official LFC travel club coach with 50 odd people on it, and we returned late that night on a bus that was half full, having trawled around all the hospitals and police stations in Sheffield with people looking for missing loved ones in an age before mobile phones. When I got back my parents didn’t talk about it, my school said nothing, I stopped going to the match and stopped hanging round with any of the lads I used to go with. I remember the headlines at the time – not just in The Sun. They didn’t make me angry, they made me question my sanity, my own memory – because I wondered if they could have been right and I’d missed it all, seen it all wrong, but I didn’t discuss any of it with anyone. I stuck my finger down my ear, tried to shove the whole experience down to the very base of my amygdala, and spent the next few years laying a viscious viscous firewall of booze and LSD across the top of it.
I did get my season ticket back some years later, when football had entered an inevitable and as yet still unfinished project of mumfordisation. As it stands, I hate pretty much everything about football apart from the football. The sport keeps dragging me back – but the conversations people have around the ground that bounce from idiot’s guides to hedge fund management to remedial race theory make me want to smoke crack. The narrative of premier league football in England is poison.
One group of people have remained inspirational throughout the whole period. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign. They never gave up, never accepted any authoritarian voice, kept on going for decades, often at huge personal cost, until they eventually reached the massive series of victories that have come about recently. I’m pretty certain that their vindication has trickled down into all of the current anti-establishment actions going on at the minute. I’ve done nothing to help any of it except throw a few quid in the bucket when going to the match. They deserve every bit of respect that they get, and I can see why some may worry that Russell Brand could be seen to be trivialising their cause, but I disagree.
One of the things that the HJC have done is shown quite clearly how large sections of the media team up with the monolithic power structures in this country in order to manipulate the nation’s thoughts on matters that they’d rather weren’t discussed at all. This has been exposed and disgraced continuously over the past few years, with public enquiries into phone hacking and various cover ups revealing the collusion between the lizards at the head of govt and the reptiles at the head of News International, yet people still buy their papers, watch their news and imagine that it’s all above board. Millions of them. So in an age when Neuro Linguistic Droning seems to have replaced debate, when politicians from every party can spend entire half hour interviews shouting the same half dozen hashtags in answer to any question, we need as many people as there are on this side to keep drumming home the message that Murdoch, all he stands for and everyone he teams up with are the enemies of truth.
Brand isn’t just divisive across the country, I can’t work out from one minute to the next what I make of him, my left brain is fighting my right. Sometimes he does my head in with his nebulous meanderings, but sometimes he gets things bang on, and he's right on this. It's lazy and pathetic to suggest his personal success should limit his right to get involved with New Era or any other campaign he wants to. I thought it odd that it wasn't The Sun or similar who kicked this all off, but Channel 4 News, who've maybe got bored of reporting on the gutter press and decided to join them.
A little while back I managed to jedi-mind-trick Brand into linking to a pirated copy of his newly released DVD on twitter, in an exchange in which he also admitted that he might be a lizard plant, unaware that he was working for the opposition. But even if he is, he’s annoying the right people and fighting for the right things. I don’t think it’s fair to say to people from outside this city that their help isn’t wanted or isn’t appropriate, just as it isn't fair to shout Brand down simply for being wealthy, and I think it’s unfair to suggest that he is piggybacking onto the HJC campaign. I think he’s highlighting how Murdoch should be dealt with, through resilience, and he’s showing how much he admires their work and how he would love to emulate that.
It’s still far easier for people outside of Liverpool to dissociate themselves from this place, it’s been smeared for so long, and I love how Brand has reacted to The Sun. I think it’s fine that he mentioned the HJC, both to demonstrate that Murdoch can be taken on, and to continue to support them. If there’s to be any substance or lasting value in the work that he’s been doing lately, surely it would be to use his position to bring every group of people fighting against injustice in the system, to bring strength in numbers, and to unite them no matter where they're from or whatever their own particular fight may be.
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