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Steve Bruce, Newcastle United fans, death threats and social media abuse – The truth

7 months ago
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Steve Bruce is in the headlines.

Not because he has an appalling record of ten defeats and only two wins (and two draws) in Newcastle United’s last fourteen matches.

Nor indeed because of anything else to do with football, Monday’s match at Chelsea, or Newcastle United.

Steve Bruce taking his press conference ahead of Chelsea on Thursday morning and ‘death threats’ the only thing making headlines afterwards.

Very emotive and totally unacceptable stuff, if people are threatening to kill you.

Whether you are Steve Bruce or anybody else.

The breaking news after Thursday’s press conference was all about Steve Bruce receiving ‘death threats’ via social media…but then it was interesting later to read exactly what the Newcastle United Head Coach had actually said after choosing to introduce the subject, knowing it would become very definitely the media story / focus afterwards, with everything else ignored.

This is how The Guardian related what Steve Bruce said yesterday:

Bruce, when discussing his experience, mentioned death threats sent to the referee Mike Dean and members of Dean’s family, which prompted the official to withdraw from duties this weekend.

“These big companies have got to police it better.

“The abuse I’ve had, death threats and all this sort of stuff.

“When I see the referee become a target for it because he has made a mistake, people threatening his life, it’s absolutely obscene and totally ridiculous.

“They need to clamp down on it and they need to police it better because there are vulnerable people out there and it’s vile some of it.

“I don’t go on it [Social Media] but people close to me do and they are sensitive towards their father and yes [there have been death threats] … Some of the stuff I’ve had has been obscene.

“You feel the hatred and something has to be done.

“It’s really horrible stuff, which I couldn’t really get my breath with.

“Things like someone saying they hope I die of Covid.”

We all know that social media has been allowed to be a free for all for years, the companies providing the platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc etc) taking minimal responsibility at the very best for the absolute cesspit that it is, year after year. Governments, including in the UK, should take action against them and stop them operating, unless they are willing to make everybody and everything accountable. No anonymity allowed, people having to provide proof of their identity before they are allowed to have an account, then if any user crosses a line, instantly banned for life, with wherever appropriate the companies being proactive in ensuring all of those who have broken laws are prosecuted as well as getting a lifetime ban. Giving every bit of help they can to those who have been wronged and assisting the police and other authorities in getting successful prosecutions and sentences that deter others from similar behaviour.

Going back to what Steve Bruce said on Thursday, I would like you to consider three possible comments that could appear on social media.

“Steve Bruce is useless.”

“Steve Bruce is useless and I want him to die.”

“Steve Bruce is useless and I want him to die, I am coming around to your house Steve and I am going to kill you.”

The first is somebody expressing an opinion.

The second is somebody expressing an opinion but then descending into abusive behaviour.

The third is somebody expressing an opinion, then descending into abusive behaviour, before finally making a threat to kill.

The first is fair comment.

The second is unacceptable behaviour and the person should have their social media account closed and be banned for life.

The third is a crime and the police should be alerted, with the person prosecuted, as well as of course having their social media account closed.

I must admit, I have never seen any death threats made against Steve Bruce.

I can’t even say I have seen that much, if any, unacceptable abuse aimed at Steve Bruce.

I have seen LOADS of criticism of Steve Bruce and ‘strong language’ used (‘He can f.ck off’ etc etc) but not really stuff that crosses any major line.

Indeed, Steve Bruce talked of ‘death threats’ but in actual fact the example he put forward of the worst thing that had been aimed at him was: “Things like someone saying they hope I die of Covid.”

You would have to be a real lowlife to say something like that to / about anybody but it isn’t a ‘death threat’, nobody is saying they are going to kill him. It is pathetic behaviour (by those making the comments) and whoever has said it should be publicly exposed to ridicule and thrown off social media for life, it isn’t something though where you would see the police involved. No matter what you thought of the character of the kind of person who would say such a horrible thing.

At first people were also confused as to how Steve Bruce had been specifically targeted by ‘death threats’ when he hasn’t got a presence on social media. However, what became apparent later was that Steve Bruce was specifically talking about messages his son Alex had received, presumably via Twitter on which he is very active. These past 19 months having seen Alex Bruce end up in arguments with Newcastle fans and indeed in the aftermath of his dad’s very first NUFC match, with one prominent journalist. Alex Bruce making himself look a fool as he clumsily tried to defend his dad, after Newcastle had lost to Arsenal, the winning goal coming after Steve Bruce caused total chaos on the pitch with his tactics / instructions and substitutions. Arguing with journalists and fans is of course very different to abusive comments and death threats.

What has been so predictable is that as the story has rolled on, it has become a story where the media are trying to make out that this Steve Bruce story shows Newcastle United fans are a special particularly extreme problem when it comes to what they do on social media.

This is not the case and anybody claiming it is wrong.

Bottom line is that you will find everything on social media.

Indeed, things have sunk so low when it comes to the football media (and other media) these days, on a regular basis they will base entire articles on what somebody has said on Twitter or other social media platforms. When I am talking about ‘somebody’, of course they make stories from what famous people have said on social media, but I am meaning the articles based on what an anonymous fan / fans has said on Twitter or wherever. It’s a joke.

As I have said above, anybody who crosses the line should be banned from social media, then if they cross a more extreme line they should then also be prosecuted by the police / authorities, that goes for Newcastle fans or whoever.

However, to claim that the Newcastle United fanbase has a special particularly extreme problem with unacceptable and indeed criminal behaviour on social media, is simply untrue.

Yes like every club we have loads of idiots BUT they are a very very small proportion when it comes to these extremes of behaviour. Things like these idiots abusing Steve Bruce and even potentially making threats to kill, can’t be used as a stick to beat the entire NUFC fanbase with.

With certain other fanbases I do think they have a serious (minority) problem, for example, no surprise to see that it was West Ham fans involved with the Mike Dean incident and making threats to kill. You just have to look at their behaviour against the club’s owners, yes they had a lot of justification for protesting but their viciousness and extremes of behaviour were far beyond what we have seen from Newcastle fans, despite Mike Ashley being far worse than what their owners get up to.

Chelsea are another fanbase that go to extremes via a sizeable minority of their fans. Eva Carneiro received death threats and threats of sexual violence when bringing her case against Chelsea, Petr Cech got death threats from Chelsea fans when moving to Arsenal, Tammy Abraham got death threats from the Chelsea clowns when revealing he was an Arsenal fan when kid. Whilst when it came to referees, they had a number of serious incidents in Champions League matches in particular, where death threats were made and the referees having their private addresses put up on social media, two of the most notorious cases after Chelsea had played Barcelona in both cases.

Newcastle United fans aren’t all angels BUT they / we are one of the best fanbases you will find anywhere. Any clued up away fans all look forward (in normal times) to making a weekend of it when playing away at Newcastle, due to the city, the pubs and the people.

Get this relatively small number of people thrown off social media, get the most extreme of them prosecuted. However, don’t tag all Newcastle United fans with the actions of the few.

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