As our shops pile up with acres of red-and-white plastic tacky novelties, it's reassuring to know that, for the moment, not everyone has been fooled by rumours that England shirts are to be BANNED for this summer's World Cup.
This Facebook group explaining that it's just the kind of Winterval-style myth that the tabloids love to churn around is much more popular than the spinning-Dalek voices of outrage
who've picked up the story, run with it, and never bothered to check if it's real or not.
*update* As a commenter below points out, the delightfully named "It's funny how our flag offends you but our benefits don't!!!" Facebook group has 200,000 members, so unfortunately I was a little bit premature with the optimism.
These days you're never more than a couple of clicks away from debunkers quick to squash these kinds of stories, though it's worth pointing out that debunking a myth that people find believable and which fits to their prejudices can, surprisingly, make people believe the myth all the more. And while it's (partly) true that England shirts have been 'banned' in the past,
that's not quite the case this time around.
The interesting part of the story is how it's shaped to form a familiar kind of myth. You can see from that 2002 tale, and even from the 2010 vintage (*update* See also these posts from 5cc about similar stories doing the rounds in 2006) where police have offered advice about dress codes in pubs, that whatever motivation there is about stopping people in football colours from entering a pub, it's not to do with offending immigrants, or non-English people; and it's not been put in place by the PC Brigade - PC Plod in this case, and it's advice rather than a ban, but not the PC Brigade.
But see how quickly that changes into the popular mythology:
Spring Bank is, I'm led to believe, an area of Hull where there are quite a lot of immigrants. Even one commenter on that Facebook page who expresses scepticism about the plausibility of the 'ban' takes the opportunity to call the area 'SpringBankIstan'.
There are other voices on other angry Facebook pages too, if you go looking for it, and I did. Some demand that the only flags in England should be England flags; some say that turbans and headscarfs 'and all that shit' should be banned, if England shirts are going to be banned; others bemoan the idea that English people can't wear England shirts in their own country, while everyone else can wear what they like, and no-one can do anything about it.
It's interesting to see how quickly these things get distorted. Advice from cops to publicans to think about dress codes (and there are lots of town centre pubs up and down the country that don't allow football colours at any time, let alone during a World Cup) becomes the idea that you can't wear your own team's shirt in your own country, and that somehow the do-gooders must be involved, and that it's so that minorities won't be offended. Those are the usual building blocks of a BAN OUTRAGE story, so that's what people change it into. They know the narratives, they just don't know the facts.
However, we can all go looking for nutters on Facebook and end up thoroughly depressed. The group which makes it clear there's no ban at all currently has 80,000 members; the ones bemoaning it only have a few hundred each (*update again* - though unfortunately I hadn't seen the other one). Maybe the voices of sanity are winning out; maybe when someone says "They've gone and banned us from wearing the England shirt for fear of upsetting foreigners!" someone else will say "No, that's a crock of shit" - well, I can hope.
This is just the opening salvo, though. There will be other rumours, and myths, and little stories that come along. What's fascinating for me is how people who've probably read so many stories in the past about how the PC Brigade want to ban stuff for fear of upsetting minorities expect to see that in any ban story - how the facts get forced into a certain narrative.
And you don't even need a tabloid newspaper to be there at all for people to do it.