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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: August, 0001|
Irish Media: Culture War!
|Irish Media: Culture War!
Ireland is a neutral State in which neutrality enjoys the force of tradition and has the backing of a clear majority of the electorate. As a means of allaying public concerns that neutrality might be abandoned, a triple lock defence was introduced following the rejection of the EU’s Nice Treaty by referendum in 2001. The triple lock means that Irish Defence Forces cannot serve abroad without the approval of the Government, the Dáil and the UN Security Council.
Since February 24th the Irish Times has championed the NATO narrative of the Ukraine War. Taking such a stance in Ireland signifies a deeper commitment to the Western Alliance than the dutiful war propaganda being produced in NATO countries; it signifies intent to undermine the existing policy and bring Ireland into the NATO fold, if not in name, then in substance.
The stance of the paper is of course closely attuned to the will of the Government but the paper has been an instigator and an influencer rather than a reflector of national opinion in recent decades. The following is the first paragraph of a recent editorial:
“In 1970, when Germany signed a contract for the first major Russia-Germany gas pipeline, its government promised NATO, worried about strategic dependence on Moscow, that it would never allow its reliance on Russian gas to go above 10 per cent.” (21 July 2022)
This statement is breath-taking in the way it treats the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 as though it never happened. In 1970 NATO was a defence alliance. In the decades following 1991, after its reason for existence had disappeared, and for reasons privy to the US political and military leadership, the Alliance spurned requests from Russia to integrate with the West, and instead expanded eastwards through accepting former Warsaw Pact countries into membership and creating military bases on their territories.
Referring to agreements made during the Soviet period as being relevant to the present crisis with regard to Russia is like treating modern Germany as a continuation of the Third Reich. The regime operating in Russia in 1970 was entirely different, constitutionally and politically, to that which came into being in 1991. And NATO, when it was a defensive alliance, was qualitatively different to the organisation that purposefully created antagonistic relations with Russia in the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, probably under the influence of Zbigniew Brzenski’s strategic thinking.
The Irish Times is pro-NATO, and it is also a firm supporter of the game being played by the von der Leyen Commission in Brussels. On the first day of the War, von der Leyen proclaimed that EU Sanctions will have the aim of gradually destroying the industrial base of the Russian economy. When Russia took defensive measures, she complained that “Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon” (NBC News, 21 July). Maybe economic measures were not the panacea she thought they were!
Having ditched the Christian Democratic approach that characterised the Brussels institutions in their formative years, the Commission has filled the ensuing vacuum with doctrinaire liberalism in which hatred of Russia—Russophobia—became a convenient means of whipping up emotion. But such ideological posturing, especially when it is little more than a cover for abject subservience to the US, is not the stuff that will engender a European demos.
On July 20th the Commission initiated a European Directive to force a reduction in gas consumption in all EU States from August through to March. It contained a provision for the Commission to shift rationing from voluntary to mandatory actions. Meeting as the European Council on July 26th, the Energy Ministers of the EU approved the draft legislation but scrapped the provision for the Commission to assume mandatory powers. The national Governments have sensibly decided to retain control of their energy policies rather than ceding it to an executive body with an ideological agenda.
This will be a disappointment to the Irish Times. The editorial referred to above concludes as follows:
“But, crucially, Putin has demonstrated his ability to weaponise energy exports by stymying Europe’s ability to comfortably fill gas storages ahead of the winter, leverage that he will use again to divide European capitals. That reality has prompted the EU Commission to call on member states to cut consumption over the next eight months by 15 per cent. It is likely to propose mandatory measures to energy ministers next week” (21 July).
Von der Leyen wanted the Member States to entrust their energy supplies to the care of her Commission; they have turned her down. Europhile expectations, including those of the Irish Times editorial writer, have once again proved to be unrealistic.
In line with its historical roots the paper abhors the idea of an Irish State conducting its affairs as an independent Republic. Since Brexit has closed off the possibility of the State becoming a British satellite, the EU has become the best hope of an external entity that might subsume the force of upstart nationalism. But the Europhiles at the Irish Times are pursuing a will-o’-the-wisp. Since Brussels became addicted to market fundamentalism and all that goes with it, the idea of a European superstate has become pie in the sky.
The EU is an association of states with developed national cultures. The peoples of the EU, whatever about their disconnected elites, still live through the medium of national culture and will continue to do so for as long as anyone can see into the future. When the EU makes progress, as when it created the single currency, it is by dint of being consonant with national interests. If the Irish Times intelligentsia desires to make this country more European, they should look to the national tradition. Our most European of political leaders, Charles Haughey, was steeped in that tradition.
Recent Media Developments
The Irish Times has backed a loser in plumping for the von der Leyen Commission, and it is snubbing the pro-neutrality majority in the electorate by uncritically championing NATO’s narrative, butjudging by recent developments in the strange world of Irish mediawe shouldn’t be surprised that editors and opinion formers are becoming disorientated. It seems that the Irish media industry as a whole is unable to honestly diagnose its own problems.
An article reviewing the Digital News Report Ireland 2022 by Dr. Dawn Wheatley, a media specialist at Dublin City University, had the title, “Our news media are not perfect, but we should resist importing partisan conflict” (IT, 15 June). The gist of it was her belief that Irish media tend not to fuel the sort of divisions that appeared in 2016 with events like the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump.
Around the same time a controversy blew up when Dublin Pride dissolved its media partnership with RTE because the transgender issue had been debated on Joe Duffy’s Liveline radio programme in a manner unacceptable to the LGBTQ+ community. The controversy drew staunchly ideological responses from Jennifer O’Connell and Una Mulally in the Irish Times, both repeating the argument that transgender debates being conducted in the US and Britain should not be imported into Ireland. O’Connell said:
“While other countries were getting caught up in toxic culture wars in recent years, Ireland was making peaceful and uneventful progress towards a more inclusive society for trans people” (IT, June 18).
Describing how she had led a workshop informing journalists about the transgender discourse, Mulally said:
“Along the way, I’ve implored journalists to understand how inauthentic discourse can cascade, how right-wing fearmongering and manufactured moral panics can often take on the facade of reasonable debate, and how Irish media must utilise common sense to understand that our reality—where the Gender Recognition Act has existed in legislation for seven years—does not need to fold in on itself by importing phony discourse” (IT, 20 June).
Then in July the media was once again in the news. After sitting on the Report of the Future of Media Commission for almost a year, the Government published it on 12th July. According to itself the Report is “one of the most comprehensive examinations of the media system ever undertaken in the State”, its key issue being how public service journalism is to be funded now that a large portion of advertising revenue has switched to the tech companies behind social media.
What is noticeable in all this debate on the media’s role is that the real problems are never mentioned.
Arguments from Wheatley, O’Connell and Mulally about preventing the import of culture wars from the US and Britain are rich to say the least. In the last fifty years there hasn’t been a scrap of thought in the Irish media space that hasn’t been imported from the Anglosphere. Neo-liberalism, the LGBT agenda, sympathy for NATO, anti-Catholicism, anti-nationalism, have all been pushed relentlessly while issues like the Mother and Baby Homes have been used to discredit Independent Ireland.
Dr. Wheatley presents the cohesion of the Irish media as a good thing when, really, the public here is being short changed by not having access to different perspectives. Anyone who dissents from the prevailing ‘cohesion’ is treated as a troglodyte. Such a media regime must be having harmful effects, whether by giving disproportionate prominence to certain viewpoints, causing disaffection among conservatives, fomenting group-think, or curtailing mental freedom. The partisan culture wars in the US and Britain have deeper causes than the existence of conservative media: and placing all the blame on conservatives is itself an instance of partisanship. Liberal intolerance on issues like abortion is at least part of the problem.
The controversy over how the transgender issue is debated highlights the excessive power enjoyed by LGBT rights advocates in the Irish Times and elsewhere. As this is being written, it has been announced that the Tavistock Centre in London, a clinic providing a “Gender Identity Development Service”, is being decommissioned by the National Health Service in Britain following an official investigation. In an article headed “We will look back with horror at the mutilation of children done in the name of medicine”, Suzanne Moore writes:
“This rush to put someone on a medical pathway (puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, double mastectomy) at an age when they could not possibly understand the irreversibility of some parts of the treatment was mutilation done in the name of medicine … Groupthink and the importation of a particular ideology about gender identity prevailed, much to the dismay of brave souls such as Sonia Appleby who spoke up about it” (Daily Telegraph, 28 July).
There have been others in Britain—children’s author, Rachel Rooney and novelist, J.K. Rowling, deserve special mention—who have been subjected to witch-hunts because they dared to question the validity of transgender ideology. The key point is that malpractice has been made possible because of fear generated by the LGBT lobby.
In wanting to close down debate on the issue, Mulally and O’Connell were promoting the sort of groupthink that facilitated the “service” being provided at the Tavistock Centre. No counter balance was provided by the Irish Times to their articles.
The Demonisation of Sinn Fein
Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha posted the following on his Facebook Page on July 26th.
“RTÉ just can’t help themselves can they? Their new ‘Reeling in the Years’ series 2011 episode, in covering the general election that year, never mentions that Sinn Féin went from 5 Dáil seats to 14, including Gerry Adams. But blanket coverage of the English monarch’s visit of course.”
It is an apt comment and a reminder of other failings of the Irish media: pro-British leanings and bias against Sinn Féin. Following a honeymoon period after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, all branches of the media participated in a campaign accurately described as the demonisation of Sinn Féin, a campaign that invariably intensifies at Election time. That it has been counterproductive is evidenced by current Opinion Poll ratings with Sinn Féin on 36%, Fine Gael on 20% and Fianna Fáil on 17%. At the least these figures show a level of distrust between public and media.
So, a less than complete list of problematic areas for the Irish media might include the following: pro-NATO bias and an absence of coverage of the case for neutrality, despite its majority backing; misplaced faith in further EU integration; antipathy to the republican/nationalist origins of the State; abandonment of the journalistic standards achieved by earlier generations, especially those of the Irish Press; excessive reliance on UK and American media culture; lack of conservative, as against progressive, representation; excessive power enjoyed by the LGBT lobby; bias against Sinn Féin; and a failure inside the industry to acknowledge these problems.
Notwithstanding the above, in the circumstances that unreliable social media, controlled by US tech firms, has become increasingly influential, there is a case to be made for having a publicly-funded news service staffed by experienced journalists dedicated to the public good.
The Future of Media Commission proposed the adoption of an ‘explicit tax approach’ encompassing, “a stand-alone media tax or an integrated tax that is classified as a core expenditure item which is funded out of general taxation” (IT, 12 July). This would have the purpose of making up the shortfall created by the loss of advertising revenue to social media.
An appropriate response by taxpayers to that proposal might be: ‘sort out your profession and we’ll consider it!’