A lot of people are still very angry about England shirts. If you take a gander at a search for the phrase "I'm not racist but..." on Openbook, you find:
Oh dear. The use of caps lock is particularly wearying, isn't it? What's surprising is that if you look at the search results, you'll find that a lot of these coves haven't copied and pasted the bollocks about the England shirt in its entirety and have gone and typed it out themselves. What a waste of time and effort! But there you are. You can see how the original message - itself a load of old toot, as I've mentioned ad nauseum over the past few days - gets added to and manipulated along the way.
No matter how rubbish the story about 'cops going around pubs and clubs is', you can see from the reaction to it that it pushes all the right buttons - outrage, dismay, political correctness, and so on. So it's not surprising to read this (warning: links to the Mail), on the website of our favourite news outlet for stories about things which have really happened, oh yes:
A toddler was ordered off a bus because the foreign driver was 'offended' by his England football T-shirt, his mother has claimed.
Sam Fardon, 27, was allegedly told to get off the service with her sons Dylan, two, and 10-week-old Adam as they made their way to a childcare group.
The unnamed driver, who had a Polish or Eastern European accent, said Dylan's white England shirt was 'offensive' and he threatened to turf the family out on the street.
Is it true? Did the nasty "Polish or East European" driver tell the little boy to get off the bus because his evil England shirt was offensive? Even if he did say it, isn't there a chance that it might have been a joke that was lost in translation? Nah, fuck it. That would mean doing something other than getting your readers worked up into a PC GONE MAD YOU CAN'T EVEN RITUALLY SET FIRE TO GOLLIWOGS ANY MORE WITHOUT BEING CALLED A RACIST frenzy - and who wants to read about that?
This story neatly combines a couple of tabloid folk myths in one: firstly, the England shirt ban story; and secondly, the 'nasty bus driver' story. We've seen the second before in terms of the driver who didn't let a bloke with a tin of paint on the bus. As we saw then, this is the kind of story that pops up from time to time. So when you combine the 'bad bus driver' element with the 'England shirt ban' element, you've got a win-win story.
Look. This bus driver might have been a really nasty "Polish or East European" bastard, and he might have been really spiteful to this kid because of his England shirt because he found it offensive - he really did find it offensive, genuinely so, somehow, because he's foreign and that - and he might have told the kid to get off the bus, and he might not have been joking, and all this might be true. And if it is, he sounds like a nasty mean Mr Bus Driver, and no mistake.
But you have to wonder, don't you. Because it doesn't matter if it's true. The Mail knows that. They couldn't give a shit whether it's true or not. And you can see that by what I'd say is a deliberately misleading description of the 'England shirt ban' mythology:
Last month the Metropolitan Police suggested that some pubs ban customers from wearing England shirts during screenings of this summer's World Cup matches to stop the risk of violence.
Except that's not it at all. Because 'England shirts' were not mentioned in any communications. And the Mail should know that. I'm almost certain they do know that. But what would the point be in being accurate about these things? Why not just dangle the maggot into the water and see who nibbles it?
We don't know who this driver is, what he said, what he meant by it, whether someone got the wrong end of the stick, or anything. We can guess. My guess would be that the driver tried to make a joke and something got lost in translation. But I'm fully prepared to entertain the idea that this was just a horrible East European immigrant bus driver. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter what actually happened, because it presses all the right buttons.
Foreign bus driver? Check. Nasty bus driver? Check. Immigrant not integrating properly? Check. Foreigner 'offended' by England shirt? Check. Links with the non-existent shirt ban? Check. It's all there. It's got all the ingredients to keep this going. So you can pretty much nail it on that the next CAPS LOCK status updates you'll start seeing polluting your news feed will be mentioning this incident, as if it definitely happened, and look, I'm not racist but... and so on, and so on.
And before you know it, this story will become entirely accepted as true, and that will be that.
*update* FirstGroup have released a statement about the story (thanks to Stewart in the comments for letting me know):
Following an alleged incident involving our service and the refusal of a young passenger wearing an England shirt, the following statement has been issued to the media. Paul De Santis, Commercial Director for First said: "The claim made about one of our drivers' behaviour is a very serious one and we have been in touch with this woman several times to try to establish what actually happened.
"We have carried out a full investigation and can't find any evidence to substantiate this claim. No driver fitting the description given was working on any routes in this area at that time. Our buses were busy around the time yet no one else has been in touch with us about this alleged incident.
"We expect the highest level of professionalism from our drivers and such an act would not be tolerated. However, in this instance it now appears that no such incident took place.
"Far from banning England shirts on our buses First is fully supportive of England's World Cup campaign and we are, in fact, currently fitting good luck banners featuring England flags on all our buses in England."