Posts Tagged ‘Noirin Hegarty

28
Mar
09

Cowengate Debate on RTE, not yet

The discussion on The Late Late Show regarding the (artificially created) controversy for those paintings was a typically pathetic attempt by RTÉ to ‘address’ the issue, in that it completely missed the point. In case you missed it, Senator Ronan Mullen, Comedian Alan Shortt, Sunday Tribune editor Noirin Hegarty and Mammy O’Rourke TD were invited on to discuss the issue. And by ‘discuss’, I mean Shortt told some jokes that reminded us how awful Bull Island was (he even pulled out a wig, for fuck sake), Senator Ronan claimed the paintings didn’t count as satire as they didn’t say anything (or it might have been because they were funny enough. His argument was so inane that I couldn’t identify anything that might be described as a “point”), and Mammy displayed (not for the first time) an inability to distinguish between popular opinion and her own perception of events. After whining that we would have been up-in-arms had the subject of the paintings been one of our female politicians (or “Marys”, as she referred to them), she then claimed that the paintings were in particular bad taste as Cowen has two daughters. By that rational, any parent is entitled to a limit being placed on criticism or reproach, due to the impact it may have on their child. Even Joe O’Reilly wouldn’t have thought of that one.

So, the focus of the discussion stayed squarely on whether the paintings were satire or just a mean-spirited attack on Cowen’s physique. I would argue that they are satire as they depict the holder of the highest office in our land naked and vulnerable as the rest of us. You could also draw comparisons between The Emperor’s New Clothes and what happened to our economy, but I’m sidetracking myself by mentioning this as the purpose of the paintings is now irrelevant. Only Hegarty touched on the real significance of this story, by saying it should have died on Monday night rather that grow and become an international phenomenon. Pat did mention that RTÉ may be somewhat responsible for this, but he did this in a manner that was so limp-wristed and uncommitted that it doesn’t count. RTÉ is undoubtedly (though not solely) responsible for this. The reason this story has grown is not because it was an insult and not because somebody illicitly hung paintings in two of our state galleries. It’s because of the over-response of our government and our state bodies, and because of the implication that free speech is now limited in this country. None of this was addressed on the Late Late last night.

It also seemed odd to me that the discussion was never opened up the audience, as is typical for this kind of item. I’m not suggesting this was a deliberate attempt to restrict a discussion. It could have been just an oversight on the producer’s part. Either way, this was missed opportunity as audience participation might have invited some real insights on this. I mean, here is a scenario where the state broadcaster backs down so readily and cops are sent to the offices of a commercial radio station to look at e-mails even though nobody is convinced an actual crime has been committed (and this at a time when we can’t know the identities of the Anglo 10 because of “due process”). There is clearly something to say on this regarding our freedoms. Ireland’s reputation on the international stage has already been sullied by the meteoric collapse of our economy and the scandals that have emerged in our banking system. On top of this, we now look like a tin-pot dictatorship where criticism of our leader does not go unpunished. The fault for this does not lie with the media (RTÉ excepted) or bloggers (despite what John Waters would have us believe) and certainly does not lie with Conor Casby. Responsibility lies purely with the powers that be. Cowen may have been embarrassed by the pics, but we as a nation have (once again) been humiliated by our government. As for RTÉ, it is possible, I suppose, that they withdrew the story independent of pressure from the Taoiseach’s office, but this does nothing to make the station appear as any less of a weak-willed, unprofessional news body that refused to stand by a story. In fact it makes them seem a lot worse.

Hopefully we’ll get a proper debate on Questions & Answers on Monday.

16
Mar
09

Today’s top stories: Cheer up, you miserable gits

Today’s Sunday Tribune was just the most bizarre thing I’ve read in months. Ok, I can appreciate what they were trying to do, and given the moaning I’ve had about constant pessimism in the media I’d be a hypocrite for attacking a newspaper just for taking a positive stand. Some optimistic reports on this recession were certainly welcome. But jasus, they went a bit mad with the happy rays of sunshine.

In case you missed it, they called it “Guaranteed Positive”, complete with a suitable play on the old Guaranteed Irish logo. “Remember, the future we see is the future we’ll get,” warned Miss Hegarty’s editorial, which rather dramatically appeared on the front page. At least the splash was comparatively more composed in its buoyancy, with a headline declaring, “We’ll return to full employment within six years, ERSI predicts.” Uplifting, perhaps, but we really have to wait until 2015 to find a job. The front page item that really caught my attention, however, was a banner on the very top declaring the paper to be “an issue dedicated to positive thinking and a fresh perspective on the Great Recession”. So it’s the Great Recession now, not some silly, everyday recession unworthy of capitals. This was the most depressing angle on the recession that I’ve encountered so far.

The content within the newspaper did little to cheer me up. There were some interesting pieces on people whose businesses are picking up in recent month, second-hand clothes shops and renewable energy companies and the like. The problem with this is that, logically, if the economy does pick up, as they promise, these companies can expect a drop in their revenues. Worse is the “Why Irish eyes should be smiling” segments, where various Irish dignitaries provided a few paragraphs on the positives or our current condition. These range from somewhat qualified, highly specific reasons to be happy to downright fantasies.

I don’t have room to discuss them all, so I’m just going to highlight what I feel was the worst, that being one by businessman Gerry Robinson (I’m not sure if I’m supposed to have heard of him, but I haven’t). He claims, “We’re like a rowing boat badly rocked by a big storm that was not of our making.” Not true! This is a big storm that we are very much responsible for. In fact, we should grateful to the big storm for punishing us for sailing in waters we had no business in to begin with. After opening with the “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” paragraph from A Tales of Two Cities and asking if it sounds familiar (it doesn’t. This isn’t an age of wisdom in bad times. It’s an age of desperately groping around dark looking for exits but finding only deeper holes), he points out, “We’re hurt and we’re looking for someone to blame.”

He goes on, “Probably there are some people in Ireland who carry a bit of blame, but not many.” Wrong again. We are ALL to blame, every one of us. We allowed ourselves to be blinded by easy credit-based (ie, non-existent) wealth and as a result bankrupted ourselves. We also recognised the failures of our government in providing to our society’s weakest members (sick, elderly, schools, etc) yet voted for them anyway, because we were sure this was the crowd to keep us in pocket money. We tolerated wasteful spending of public money because, well, there was plenty more where that came from. And now there a backlash against the government because their bubble has burst. But guess what, we’re as much to blame as they are.

Of course Gerry highlights the inevitability of all this. “Things have gone wrong. They were always going to. The kind of success that Ireland has enjoyed simply couldn’t last forever,” he claims, admittedly quite correctly. However, if it was that obvious why did the government continue to rely on a housing market that was clearly heading for a downturn for its tax revenue? Why did we continue to raise wages under the guise of “social partnership”, fuelling inflation and making the country uncompetitive for multinationals? Why did we place blind faith in Seanie Fitz and the likes for our banking system? It’s true that there is an international banking crisis, yet even with this our banks look like that of a third world country. Even years before this banking crisis hit, foreign investors knew to stay out of Ireland.

The highlight of the paper for me is the “20 people who will save Ireland,” unbelievable as any superheroes yarn it’s made to resemble. I mean, Brendan Drumm, the man who couldn’t fix the health service during the good years, is now going to do this in bad times? There’s Bono, who they feebly speculate will move back the businesses U2 shipped to the Netherlands to avoid paying tax. And as for Giovanni Trapattoni, that’s just taking the piss.

I really hate to sound so cynical. I know there’s too much of that these days and I know the Trib was just trying to combat some of this. But devoting the entire paper to such up-beatism smacks of propaganda, the worst “Kitchener’s Army” kind of propaganda that sprung up during world wars to assure people everything will be tickity-boo if you just do your part. A level of this is of course needed, but the way it appeared in today’s Sunday Tribune is just misleading.