Sunderland AFC

In April of 2013 Sunderland Football Club appointed Paulo di Canio - a self-proclaimed Fascist - to manage the team.

This appointment was met with protests from a number of directions. In response the club issued a statement which in its inaccuracy, lack of awareness of both di Canio's history and the sensitivities of the region, and in its unfounded accusations was grotesque, bizarre, and an insult to the intelligence.

After three days of disingenuous prevaricating di Canio offered a clear statement that he did 'not support Fascist ideology'. Whether the statement was sincere or not time may tell; for the time being doubt will exist, however by making the statement di Canio apparently turned over a new leaf and must be given the benefit of that doubt.

Irrespective of di Canio's tardy statement it was appallingly irresponsible to appoint to a position of responsibility and influence in the community a man who has a history of association with, and by his actions, approval of vicious thuggish adherents to Fascism.

The poet Hugh MacDiarmid made the observation that 'High intelligence and football fanaticism seldom go together' (in The Scotsman, 8th May 1978). It is a readily observable fact that right-wing 'ideology' appeals particularly to the less intelligent - its obvious illogicality ensures that it is of little attraction to the more intelligent. It is also an unfortunate fact that historically the keenest foot soldiers of Fascism are to be found amongst the less intelligent members of the manual working class - eager, blinkered followers of a movement inimical to their own best interests. Following football has always been a predominantly working class pastime, it is therefore no surprise to find amongst the most unthinkingly tribal elements of football fandom a fertile seedbed for the idiocy of Fascism.

Assuming that the club's hierarchy were initially unaware of di Canio's 'baggage', then once it was brought to their attention a 'window of opportunity' of a day - or at most two, existed when the situation could have been rescued by terminating di Canio's contract. That this did not happen, and that the original club statement was not (as far as I am aware) withdrawn shows a remarkable level of crassness or cynical indifference.

Having surrendered my allegiance to SAFC over the appointment of di Canio I see no prospect of its renewal, and most certainly not while Short, Byrne and di Canio are at the club.

It is of a course a foolish weakness of football fans to invest far too much emotional capital in 'their' team, particularly when the sport has been relegated to the shadow of businesss. A fellow Glaswegian, Bill Shankly when manager of Liverpool made the tongue in cheek observation that football was more important than life and death. Fascism really is a matter more of death than life - 'Long Live Death!' being the repulsively asinine battle cry of the Spanish Fascist butcher General Millán Astray. The issue of Fascism is also far more important than following a football team.

In Britain the word 'fascist' is routinely and indiscriminately applied to every obstructive 'more-than-my-jobsworth' petty official in creation, so much so that the currency has been devalued to the point where a poster on a national newspaper's comment page can write in all seriousness 'Fascism is only a word'.

It was Italian Fascists who originated the concept of terror-bombing of civilian targets - practised on Barcelona, a tactic later 'perfected' by the methodical German Fascists. Imposing military rule on a civilian population is the modus operandi of Fascism, and murder, torture and rape are the stock in trade of its licensed thugs. There are those who find aspects of Fascist rhetoric attractive, but the rhetoric and the reality are unrelated; truth has no appeal to the Fascist. During the Spanish Civil War the American journalist Virginia Cowles noted that the self-deception of the Fascists very nearly amounted to 'a mental disease'.

Historically those who may be called Fascist fall into one of three categories; the real Fascists, the willing followers, and the unwilling followers.

The real Fascists may be split into three groups; deluded 'intellectuals', warped 'intellectuals', and thugs. The deluded 'intellectuals' tend to believe the high-flown rhetoric, and by some means manage to overlook or avoid seeing the barbarity of the thugs. The warped 'intellectuals' foster the thuggishness, they are by definition sadistic and psychotic, and are the truest Fascists in that they understand the exact nature of Fascism and are one with it. There are few 'intellectual' Fascists leaders but many thuggish followers - and they too are sadistic and psychotic.

The willing followers of Fascism are not necessarily innately wicked individuals, but in buying into the rhetoric show a remarkable ability to believe the black propaganda of their leaders in the face of all evidence to the contrary. In this they too are delusional, and they are characteristically - and literally - always 'just following orders'. While the warped 'intellectuals' and the thugs relish brutality for its own sake, the willing follower tends to want to believe that their own conduct is honourable. In this they are generally delusional as well. The willing followers are the largest grouping of Fascists.

The unwilling followers of Fascism are those who bowed to force majeure, the choice being to join with the Fascists or receive a bullet in the back of the head. (In Spain there are well over 100,000 victims of Fascist murder still lying in unmarked mass graves right across the country.) For those who chose to go with the Fascists the continuing choice is to keep their own counsel - in this case silence does not give consent.

It is my opinion that di Canio is unlikely to be a real Fascist - far more likely that he is a delusional follower who has bought into the rhetoric. Whenever the subject of Fascism has been raised with or by di Canio he makes mention of his parents. It is also my opinion that the likelihood is that di Canio's parents were willing followers of Fascism, ie the delusional. Assuming this interpretation to be correct, and that di Canio and his parents before him are subscribers to the Fascist fairy tale there is no reason why the rest of us should respect their delusion and refrain from pointing out the pure evil that is the reality of Fascism.