Social research and the Old Firm

Long long ago when the world was young or at least I was, when Latin teachers had actually fought in the Spanish Civil War (unlike Eric Blair, mine tragically wasn’t shot by a Fascist sniper) and university lecturers still awarded marks for Marx, I read Sociology at the University of Bath. I didn’t read much of it, to be honest. Like Ben in Not Your Heart Away I had a head full of ideals and romance, not for anyone in particular, just for the thingness of things. The brightness. The future. The shining plain.

Lenin. We used to go in the same pub. Not at the same time, admittedly.
Lenin. We used to go in the same pub. Not at the same time, admittedly.

I didn’t enjoy Sociology. I thought it wasted my time and its own. I didn’t see the point of it. I disliked the earnest mature student middle-class magistrate mums who thought they were contributing to ‘the revolution’ they desired, oblivious to the fact they’d almost certainly have been first against the wall if their revolution went the same way it did in Russia, thanks to a bunch of sociopathic paranoiacs. The biggest joke of all looking back was that not a single one of them realised they were in the middle of the biggest, sickest revolution this country ever went through, back in the early 1980s. But anyway, he typed, wiping the spittle from the laptop screen. Moving on.

I always liked finding things out. I didn’t like the way if an identifiable real incident was referred to that was instantly called ‘anecdotal,’ which was supposed to mean unrepresentative. It wasn’t even tested, just a knee-jerk response, as valid as “Marx for marks” or “greed is good.” Like the selective view of soviet communism, it seemed to be the collective truth that it was the principle that counted, not the facts. If something really happened then it just didn’t. Facts were irrelevant. Reactionary. Not to be trusted.

Things that make you go hmmm

It was a view that coloured my view of the validity of lots of research. Working in commercial research for two decades made me realise that there are plenty of charlatans around and the very biggest ones are too stupid to even realise that they are. You can spot them easily though; they’re the ones with the presentations full of buzz-words, usually ones they don’t actually know what they mean going forward.  As Gregory Peck said in Twelve Angry Men, let’s run that up the flagpole and see who salutes it. Or we can throw it out on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up.

Either way, when I see things like this, earnest, useful, trying to be helpful, couched in this pseudo-scientific jargon that is supposed to primarily impress the researcher’s PhD board, it still irritates. I was reading as one does the Association Between Old Firm Fitba – sorry, Football Matches and Reported Domestic Violence. 

You can see a problem just from the title. The Old Firm is Rangers v Celtic, Prods v Papes. Quite how two different brands of imaginary friends make you punch your partner in the face (because God wanted it that way?) is a mystery to me but then the Lord moves in a mysterious way. Much like the fans after a bottle of Bucky.

The real issue, the real problem with this research is ‘reported’, because generally, it isn’t. Women make excuses for the people who attack them. They’re embarrassed about staying with them. They’re encouraged to believe it’s their fault. The more it happens the more it happens, because for the woman it becomes a cycle of feeling more and more useless and deserving of being attacked while for men it becomes a self-justifying loop of look-whit-ye-made-me-dae.

That was inappropriate. I am sometimes. It’s certainly not an issue confined to Strathclyde.

graphBut it’s also not an issue that benefits from ‘explanations’ like this. Whatever else I am, I am not stupid. And I have not the first clue what this “Association” (geddit??) graphic is telling me or even what it is supposed to tell me. A picture isn’t always worth a thousand words. But some researchers seem to believe a picture like this proves academic rigour, that the less intelligible a report is, the magically ‘better’ it must be until everyone sings the chorus to The King Is In The Altogether. The emperor is always naked, whatever people flatteringly say.

If you can’t see what it is from this picture, it isn’t saying anything worth saying. It is, as they might say in Strathclyde, a self-righteous havering pile of sh*te.

Here’s what it said:

It was found that the median number of reported domestic incidents was significantly greater in the Old Firm condition, compared with the Old Firm comparator and both Scotland International conditions.

That means more people punch their partner in the face when Celtic are playing Rangers, more than when any other match is on. So why not say it? Bit they havnae finished:

Moreover, there was no statistical difference between the Scotland International and Scotland International comparator conditions. Additional comparisons indicated a statistically significant difference between Old Firm and Scotland International comparator conditions, but none between Scotland International and Old Firm comparator conditions.

Moreover, that is simply repeating the first sentence, unless you want to know that when Celtic play Rangers there’s a difference in the amount of partner-face-punching compared to when Scotland International matches are on, but we’re not told which way, better (less) or worse (more). Sorry, that’s me introducing my disgusting, frivolous anecdotal subjectivity into science. Again.

We are told there is evidence of a link between sporting events and increased levels of domestic violence in wider society (Brimicombe & Café, 2012). Palmer (2011) discusses the role of the “holy trinity” (seeWenner, 1998) of sports, alcohol, and hegemonic masculinity in the context of domestic violence but this minces words.

barmy army
Other hegemonic masculinity. Of a sort.

How about this? Sport, specifically football, attracts morons who like a fight, especially when they’re drunk. There are no mass fights at rugby matches, or tennis or chess tournaments or even cricket matches, despite the temptation to lump the bathetic Barmy Army. When Celtic are playing Rangers, drunk morons who think their God likes this kind of behaviour like to smack their wives and girlfriends about, more than at other times.

This is not “engaging in hegemonic masculinity.” This is called being a violent, domineering, retarded inadequate. There are other, much shorter words that I know for a fact are often used in Strathclyde. But  of course, a proper social researcher could come up with a more academic nomenclature.

I didn’t do well in Sociology. Somehow I just couldn’t see the point of it at all.







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