The First Casualty

May 11, 2009

The first casualty when war comes is truth

So said Senator Hiram W Johnson in 1918, and over 90 years later, it still rings true. 

Written under a cloud of despair, ‘The First Casualty’ (Revised Edition, 2002) by Phillip Knightley laments what he sees as a dilution of truth within spheres of war reporting.  He cites a correspondent’s patriotism, military censorship, and the inability and indolence of the press to analyse official press releases as some of the reasons for this perceived demotion of the truth.  His anger, and later dismay, that truth is indeed ‘the first casualty,’ seeps through the pages, and lead to him predicting that “governments [and] their spin doctors … will find further justification for managing the media in wartime … [and that] control of war correspondents will be even tighter.”  

Indeed, Knightley’s prediction of tightening control on war correspondents leads him to despondently associate this with the demise of the war correspondent, and the death of his hero status.

Picking up on this is a comment piece by Kevin Myers in Friday’s Belfast Telegraph entitled ‘Why the Falklands is proof that truth is the first casualty of war’.  Referring to an article in last month’s Torygraph  he picks away at the misleading language, concluding that the 22 men who supposedly “saw off Argentine invaders” and gave them their first bloody nose in fact surrendered meekly after just two hours with only one man slightly wounded.   Referring to the power of myth, Myers points out that looking back at history which is ours, we inevitably exaggerate and puff it up.  With reference to 1916, he concludes

And no memory is immune to the mighty power of myth. Australian social historians were able to chart the change in the recollections of Gallipoli veterans, as the events in the truly myth-laden film ‘Gallipoli’ became indistinguishable in the veterans’ minds from their own experiences.

The power of myth is not that it is based on actual historical events. Its power derives from the needs of the people who pass on the myth. Thus Royal Marines want to revel in a victory nearly 30 years ago, though it simply did not happen.

Equally, Irish republicans wanted their own mythic, martial giants to rival the British heroes like Wellington and Nelson, and so have conjured them out of the motley band of 1916.

We tell tales. We all do. But we should remember. They are just tales. And when we turn baseless myths into icons of national identity, we are trading in a currency that is liable to inflation; for there are always those who will exult in a more extravagant and bloodier version of the myth, usually with contemporary political consequences.

One has to look very hard under the surface if one is interested in real truth.  Be that history, religion, football, whatever.  In each of these examples, there is always a side to be took.  And when bias comes into it, truth gets distorted, it gets exaggerated or played down, depending on whether it suits us or not.


Scotland B v Northern Ireland B – Will there be any winners?

April 29, 2009


A week’s time from now, we will know what the result will be from the Scotland v Northern Ireland B international being played at Broadwood, but the question is, will there be any winners, or only losers?

For George Burley, the occasion seems to hold more risk.  As the ‘better team’ (source arrogant Scots fans, not my own opinion) they have more reason to question the usefulness of the exercise.  Burley has already come under criticism from Chick Young for the nature, and the timing of the game.  He has suffered the setback of Kris Boyd rejecting a chance to return to involvement with the international team, Ala Chris Sutton.  On top of that there is ignominy of being unable to select any players involved in the Old Firm set up, as well as players belonging to Aberdeen, Dundee United, Hearts and Hibernian, teams who play on the same night.

For Nigel Worthington, the night provides a great opportunity to look at some of the fringe players available to him in the squad.  Expect Tuffey and Carson to get 45 minutes each as both battle to prove themselves worth of a regular squad place, waiting patiently for Maik Taylor’s retirement.  Regulars under Roy Millar when he was in charge of the u-21s, Rory McArdle (a defender in the Craigan/Murdock mould), Craig Cathcart and Chris Casement have the opportunity to show Worthington they are ready for the step up.  In midfield Michael O’Connor will dominate, showing that his impressive 45 minutes against the Czechs in September was no fluke, while up front I’d expect Jamie Ward to get 70 minutes and a goal, unless Sheffield United remain in the playoffs, in which case his withdrawal would be expected and understood.

Worthington is on record as articulating his belief in these exercises; 


“This match bridges the gap between the Under-21s and the seniors, which is a big jump,” said the Northern Ireland manager.

It is an ideal opportunity for us to have a look at some fringe players and some young players. I do not see the point of including players that I know enough about.

“If they perform well against Scotland, they could well be in my thoughts to face Italy [in June].

For Scotland and Burley, I think the match will also prove to be deeply constructive, but he has more obstacles to overcome to convince his players, and the press, that this is so.


Frankly, I think the match will prove to be entirely useful for the Northern Ireland set up.  With the team cruelly providing hope of qualification, there is a strong desire for fringe players to realise their dream of international football.  It gives Worthington a chance to have a close look at players – some of whom will be a part of our set up for the next few years – not only in training, but in a match setting with a natural competitive edge.

Match Fixing – justifying the original scepticism of Professionalism?

April 24, 2009

The Independent reportstoday on the betting scam surrounding a match between Accrington Stanley and Bury at the end of last season, which saw home side Accrington lose 2-0. Meanwhile at home, the Irish League is once more embroiled in the now annual farce of supposed match fixing where teams with nothing to play for are suddenly backed either to win or to lose by huge sums of money. Gareth Fullerton broke the story on the front page of the Belfast Newsletter, reporting that Paddy Power are only taking bets on the IPL matches involving Linfield and Glentoran this weekend.

These problems were foresaw at the very inception of professional sport in the late 19th Century, and the prospect of match fixing was one of the major reasons why Gentlemen Amateurs were desperately against the introduction of payment for playing. Neal Garnham reports that “In England the most influential arguments against professionalism had been based on ‘the social antipathy of men who considered professional sport ethically unacceptable’”. There was a genuine fear that if a man was being paid to win, he could be bought to lose.

Reference – Garnham, Neal; Association Football and Society in Pre-Partition Ireland; (Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, 2004).

Football in Northern Ireland during WW2

April 1, 2009

Entitled ‘Fiercely Loyal or Indifferent?’ this dissertation (here) attempts to use Association Football as a gauge of how involved Northern Ireland was in the Second World War by looking at wartime football in both Northern Ireland and England