Quick Thoughts on Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and Barbra Streisand

I’m sure that heading caught your attention!

I suspect Phil Mac Giolla Bhain never expected to share a blogpost title with Ms Streisand! However, I do not have a juicy trans-Atlantic scandal to reveal.

Instead, as at 1.25pm on 4th September, Phil’s book was placed at number 13 on the UK Amazon bestseller chart. Maybe it would have got there as a result of the proposed serialisation in the Sun, and maybe not.

However, in an episode which surely will join the annals of the Streisand Effect, Phil is racing up the charts!

What is the Streisand Effect?

The BBC wrote about it in June when an Argyll schoolgirl’s blog about her school meals, under the title of Never Seconds, was “banned”, briefly, by Argyll and Bute Council. You can read my lengthy thoughts on it here.

As the BBC said:-

In 2003 Barbra Streisand attempted to suppress photographs taken of her house, and a meme was born.

She sued aerial photographer Kenneth Adelman for displaying a photograph of her home in Malibu, California, published as part of a series of photos of the California coastline that he was taking for a photographic project.

Her legal action was later dismissed under California law – but she was probably more upset by the 420,000 visits in a month to the site where her photo was published. Naturally, these all came after the news of her legal action made headlines around the world.

In fact, according to documents filed in a California court, her house’s image had been downloaded only six times before Streisand’s legal action – including twice by her own lawyers.

In a far more serious example, the fatwa pronounced by certain clerics against Salman Rushdie for his Satanic Verses meant that the book achieved far greater sales and publicity than if it had been ignited.

Before then we had the sagas of Spycatcher, where the UK Governments attempts to ban a spy’s memoirs resulted in the creation of a worldwide best-seller.

Going back further we had the prosecution of Penguin Books for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover, ensuring it would be the only DH Lawrence book people actually wanted to read.

Especially now, when messages can pass so quickly round the world, efforts to keep the lid on a story only succeed in making it more widely known.

Whilst Phil might have offered up a quiet thank you to Sir David Murray and Craig Whyte, amongst others, for giving him material about which to write, he can now add to his list the Sun, and the various Rangers message boards and websites which have mounted what has been a very effective campaign regarding the stopping of the book being serialised in the Sun, but only at the cost of making a much wider group want to see what the fuss is all about!

Posted by Paul McConville


Filed under Press

18 responses to “Quick Thoughts on Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and Barbra Streisand

  1. Macduff

    I’m guessing PMcG’s publicist is sitting somewhere smoking a fat Cuban and downing a large brandy. It’s a tricky one now for Phil to call, the bully of The Sun and it’s capitulation are a disgrace, but when the royalty cheques come in…

    I’m happy for him that the Sevco supporters have now ensured his book is a success. It is another example of how a section of Sevco supporters (and some at the club) have displayed breathtaking arrogance only for it to backfire. Indeed ‘The Rangers’ may still be playing in the SPL if there was some humility to be shown.

    I know a number of Rangers supporters who apart from their misjudgment in supporting Sevco, are decent people. I can’t help wishing though, that as a symbol of hatred and arrogance, I wish their whole club had just been dismantled into tiny pieces. i think then the rest of society would be a happier place…

  2. As a rag the ‘Sun’ is down there with the likes of the ‘Daily Dodo Record’ for crap and poison and as such is only fit for kindling the fire. However, this rag is read by thousands and thousands of people who for one reason or another actually buy it and actually read it and actually retain the rubbish therein as if it were fact. I believe that having Phil’s book serialised will target the very people that need such facts and news more than those to whom such information is by and large already known. Providing they don’t chop it to pieces and distort it with right wing garbage then it can only be a positive move for Phil and the greater cause. The serialisation of Phil’s book is a separate issue from the editorial and direction of such a rag. If this toilet paper is to be bought and read then let such facts be written within it and read by those who need it most and maybe just maybe they may begin to ask questions and seek further answers.

  3. florian albert

    I look forward to reading Phil Mac Ghiolla Bhain’s book and he deserves great credit for his part in informing us of what went on at Ibrox. That said, the ‘satirical’ article was he wrote on his blog in April 2012 was a nasty piece and should be condemned as such. People will read a ‘satire’ in which Rangers supporters are the offspring of a gorilla and think; this is what used to be said about black people and Jews. It would be a disaster for Celtic to be tainted by association with such views. Talk about ‘freedom of the press’ is overwrought. The Sun saw a problem coming – ‘Do you agree with Phil Mac Ghiolla’s description of Rangers’ fans ?’ – and ducked out of the way.
    Celtic supporters need to get over the view that they are Persil white and Rangers are black as coal.

    • Martin

      @ Florian albert.

      I also found the satire that you refer a little tasteless however if you wanted to accurately substitute ‘ black people and Jews’ into the piece these would be the people the creature, born of a gorilla, was indoctrinated to hate.

      • Martin

        People are not born hating other people, this has to be learned. If hatred of people of whatever race or creed exists then teaching of hate must also exist.

        The use of a gorilla and mad professor is tasteless at best and not very informative.

        Far more frighting than creatures born of gorillas as a result of a mad scientists endeavours, is children being taught to hate others, by people, measured in any other way found to be quite sane.

      • Martin

        Children are not born hating other people, this has to be learned.
        sadly mad scientists and gorillas are not required.

    • merciatic

      I read this piece at the time and considered it borne from the frustration of the credence given to the Bill Miller (Incubator) plan. Contained also is Phil’s main point: That Ibrox and Rangers has been a focal point for Anti catholic/Irish hatred, bigotry and sectarianism. A breeding point even. He does not say this of all Rangers supporters nor is he comparing all rangers supporters to half breed mutants in the satirical piece. Rangers supporters are not even mentioned but only certain qualities alluded to that we all know exist in certain people (toxic urine excepted).

      There are vile people out there and it’s a good description. What was our own reaction? What do we call or how do we describe people ourselves when we have reacted to their depravity, violence, bigotry or sectarianism? If the shoe fits….Have we not made the same comparisons time and again?

      Phil is focused on rangers but he doesn’t live in Rwanda or Uganda. Remember Manchester, Villa-real, Pamplona, Barcelona Need I say Scotland?

      The truth is instantly recognisable characteristics were used. He didn’t need to mention the Rangers support but we have all made the comparison.

  4. Tom

    I am reminded of the Beatles are bigger than God story from the 60’s. The bible belt of America went on a rampage burning everything Beatles. Many were the stories of WASPs going out to buy said Beatles records, books, magazines etc simply to be seen to be one of ‘the people'(oops) who were outraged by Lennons comments.

    How many will buy Phils book only to find out what all the fuss is about or will they buy that ‘newspaper’ to read the serialisation. Either way Phil is raking it in.

    • Sorry Tom I think you are missing the point – the Sun aren’t going to serialise it anymore. This is another example of the Scottish press not covering the biggest story in Scottish sport, possibly in Scotland, because they cowtow to mob rule and fear for their own commerce or indeed safety. The reality is fans of What Was Rangers don’t want their dirty washing aired in public and they have succeeded. The pleasurable irony noted by Paul’s article above is for me tempered by the disappointment that the average Joe (Jock?) in Scotland will still not get the truth of what happened at Rangers.

      • Martin


        fearing for your own safety or commercial viability are perfectly valid reasons for hiding under the duvet. Not everyone is brave or rich enough to ignore the financial consequences of their actions.

        As pointed out above the law of unintended consequences will doubtless apply and more people will buy the book.

      • jockybhoy

        Sorry Martin, I disagree wholeheartedly. Journalists who take the high moral ground, such as that offered by the leader in the Sun, banging on about reporting the truth without fear or favour, then doing the exact opposite as soon as they receive calls and emails from unhinged ‘fans’ of the firm in the story aren’t fit to call themselves journos imo. The Sunday times wrote a recent impassioned leader talking about how they racked up a £1m bill (in todays money) fighting to bring the thalidomide story to the public back in the day; journalists get killed, injured, kidnapped in the line of duty. This is cowardice. Commercial or physical? Don’t know, don’t care, the editor of the Scottish Sun bottled it.

  5. Interesting Paul – had to look up ‘meme’ (showing my age) and still don’t like the word ;0)

    It’s amazing how much religion has played a part in banned,or frowned upon,books. Lady Chatterley’s was a big no-no for Catholics until surprisingly recently, and funnily enough the only two people I have met who read Satanic Verses were Muslim – and both thought it was a good laugh.

    As regards the Sun, I think most people (outside the Bears Den at least) are pretty savvy. They know what they’re getting when they buy the Sun. My best mate, one of the most intelligent guys I know, swears by it, but mainly because of the racing section. I remember at school on a Monday me and my mates discussing the latest nonsense in the Sunday Post (the Doc and the Hon man were favourite targets).

    Scotland (and probably more so Ireland, according to marketing people I know) is one of the best markets for newspapers, as we all read lots of different sources. I grew up with the Herald and the Record six days a week, the Observer, Sunday Mail and Sunday Post on the Sunday . When I came down to SE England I mostly read the Guardian, mainly because it was the only one down here with good coverage of Scottish football (it was the Souness era).

    So I think a helluva lot of Scottish Sun readers would have thought, ‘This is probably worth a gander,’ when they read the Sun Says – it was quite a complicated one too by their standards, so most normal Scots would have recognised that the paper was having a bit of trouble with itself.

    Also, I think the decision to ‘un-promote’ Phil Mac’s book was taken at a fairly late stage. Look at the way it is written – I read it thinking ‘My God, the Sun is going to have a proper go at last’ (and I’m sure most people reading the previous interview with Phil Mac were expecting as much), only for the editorial to take what seemed like a sharp right turn towards having a go at the author. A very unusual construction for a ‘Sun Says’ piece – you normally know where the writer is going either at the headline or the first sentence. (It could even be said that the editor was being as defiant as he could be until the editorial went for Phil Mac – in the context of working at the Sun, of course)

  6. charlie o hare

    for me Phil Mac wrote a rather unfunny satirical blog that married up a couple of topical points that separately never upset anyone, they just provided many a laugh at the RFC dilemma .

    Take Bill Millars INCUBATOR then marry it to the creature mentioned here….”A previous Rangers chairman referred to his club’s potential exposure to huge HMRC liabilities as the “10,000 pound gorilla in the room”

    what do you get, for me, you get an orchestrated all out attack on Sevco Franchises number one hate figure, Phil Mac G, oh how they hate this man for telling them that their club was going to be liquidated as Green/Whyte kept telling thm it would not be liquidated.

  7. Paul,
    It looks like you are next in the sights of the “Bear’s Den” forum.

    There is now a thread devoted to you. Sadly, the comments are not exactly complimentry, if you get my drift.

    Enter with extreme care.

  8. The truths, the whole truth and nothing but it depends what the truth is.....

    What’s next?
    Everyone who buys the book is targeted by Sevco bigots?
    Amazon block the book in case it upsets some poor wee soul in a sash?
    Boycott the Sun – I already do after Hillsborough

  9. iain

    Can anyone shed any light on how many books are required to be sold to get onto the Amazon top ten list?

  10. Paul

    An interesting situation full of contradictions on all sides.
    A self-defined “rebel journalist” takes the Murdoch shilling.
    Rangers fans protest and (for whatever reason) Mr Mac Giolla Bhian’s serialisation is shelved. Book sales rocket.

    The Sun writes an article praising Mr MGB’s courage and integrity before checking what he has actually previously written on his blog (and if you check the editorial, the Sun hasn’t limited its “concerns” to one post).
    He is then revealed as a sectarian bigot.

    Now… as a writer, i would be reasonably pleased about those book sales. However, the serialisation would have reached a much wider audience with much wider and broader attitudes than those who are apparently presently buying the book- a “we’ll show’em” seems to be the main motivation as opposed to a “well, that could well be an interesting read”/

    As a journalist (even a “rebel one”) with (presumably) the ambition to be taken much more seriously beyond my core, devoted audience I would be horrified to find myself effectively labelled as a “sectarian bigot” by the editor of a national newspaper. That one allegation has basically blocked any route out of the literary and blogging ghetto where Mr MCB presently resides.

    I would therefore be interested to hear Mr McConville’s considered expert opinion about the legal options for the slighted author. Should he take a libel case? Or would proving his “non/sectarian” credentials be too difficult?

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