There is a scandal unfolding, involving football manager Malky Mackay, his sidekick Iain Moody and a series of ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ text messages. But not quite in the way that has been widely reported.
- It is a scandal that a top law firm representing a private company, Cardiff City football club, should be able to get a High Court order empowering its ‘investigators’ to mount a dawn raid on the home of a former employee – Moody – seize his computers and smartphones and take digital images of ‘evidence’. This is a private financial dispute, between Cardiff owner Vincent Tan and the manager and head of recruitment he had sacked, over some allegedly suspect transfer deals. It is not the police pursuing terror suspects. What next – court orders enabling private goons to impound phones to see who has been tweeting rude things about their bosses or teachers?
- It is a scandal that a few of the thousands of private text messages which investigators found on the snatched phones should be reported to the Football Association, leaked to the media, and used to brand Mackay and Moody as ‘sick’ and ‘vile’ racists, sexists and homophobes, costing them new jobs at Crystal Palace and possible bans from football. If what we say or think in private is to be used as public evidence of a Thought Crime, they are going to have to turn football stadiums into prison camps to hold all the wrongdoers.
- It is a scandal that moral and media crusaders seeking to sanitise football have seized upon a handful of words in the highlighted texts as ‘proof’ that the beautiful game remains a secret hotbed of ugly bigotry. Having failed to find much racism or homophobia on the pitch or in the stands, these self-righteous prigs are delighted they might have discovered some inside a football man’s mind; they now want all players, officials and fans subjected to a re-education programme to teach us the correct groupthink.
Amid all the expressions of outrage about the vile, sick etc texts, few questions have been asked about any of this. Nobody even seems to have noted the irony of law giants Mishcon de Reya – a firm in the frontline of suing newspapers for alleged phone-hacking and invasions of privacy – acting as legalised hackers and invaders by trawling through Moody’s 70,000 texts and 100,000 emails, the cherry-picked details of which then end up all over the media. Instead, it has been a deluge of denunciations of Mackay and Moody, in a ‘debate’ about as one-sided as the Real Madrid forward line versus Cardiff City’s defence.
Sure, the few texts splashed across the news make unedifying reading (though they would surely only be shocking to the easily shocked). Mackay and Moody (it has not even been made clear who sent which text to whom) did themselves no favours by tapping in such messages as ‘Fkin chinkys’, ‘He’s a snake. A gay snake’, ‘Go on fat Phil. Nothing like a Jew who sees money slipping through his fingers’, ‘Not many white faces in that lot’ or ‘I bet you’d love a bounce on her falsies’. Guilty of private outbursts of puerile stupidity, m’lud.
But the notion that they should be sacked, publicly humiliated, if not hanged, and drummed out of football for these texts is far more outrageous and dangerous than any of their snickering text messages. It is not as if they used those words on a football pitch or in a board meeting. It was private correspondence between friends and close colleagues. We need not approve of what they said at all, but we should defend their right not to be put in the stocks for the digital equivalent of whispering to one another at the back of the class.
Treating the public and private spheres differently is vital to the healthy maintenance of both. Most of us – and especially some of us – will rant and rave about life and other people in private in a way that we would not in public. The private sphere is a refuge from the tough examination of life outside, and also where we formulate the things we want to say to the world and how we wish to say them.