The Critical Media Review sat down with French Canadian buff boffin Dr Julien Mercille, of UCD, whose book on the media’s role and collusion in the boom and bust was published last week to much acclaim and some fury.
Julien, Why does the media fail us so?
Julien Mercille: “The media serves the interests of its owners and the corporate class of which they are part. They serve an ideological function in presenting government policy and interests in a positive light. All along the economic crisis, the media consistently endorsed and supported virtually all government policies (the major ones, at least), confining debate to details and losing sight of the big picture.”
Critical Media Review: “Do you think the severe concentration of media ownership in Ireland plays a role in this?”
Mercille: “Yes, to some extent. A lot of the media is owned by Independent News and Media, for example. But an issue that’s probably more important to me is the nature of media entities. As of now, they’re all corporate or state-owned with significant commercial interests (RTE), so even if you had more of those, it would be better, but not that much. What’s missing is a diverse media in the sense of more alternative, strong media outlets. That would provide significantly more diverse coverage, alternative viewpoints, etc.”
CMR: What about RTÉ, has the public media been any better at covering the crisis?
Mercille: “No, it’s the same thing. It’s owned by the government, so it’s no surprise that it reflects government views. For example, during the housing bubble years, RTÉ’s Prime Time show, the leading current affairs programme, ran about 700 shows. Only 1% of its shows addressed the housing bubble, let alone criticising it.”
CMR: “Do you see any room or agency for progressives working in the Irish media sphere?”
Mercille: “Yes, there are many actually, but there number will be limited as long as the structure of the media landscape remains as it is. Vincent Browne, Gene Kerrigan, Colette Browne, Fintan O’Toole and others give good progressive viewpoints.”
CMR: “If the media is so heavily biased towards neo-liberal economic policy can it play any progressive role in Irish society and democracy?”
Mercille: “It plays a role as it is now, but it could play a much more meaningful role if it was restructured along the lines mentioned above, i.e. by encouraging alternative media outlets that reflect to a greater extent the interests of the population as a whole.”
CMR: “Do new online media channels offer any hope for you?”
Mercille: “I don’t think online media improves or worsens the potential for better news, it’s just another medium. There are a lot of good websites and blogs obviously, but there are also a lot of mainstream news websites that actually dominate the internet.”
CMR: “What is your advice to political activists in terms of relating to the media?”
Mercille: “On one hand I’d say try to present your message in a way that’s “respectable” so as not to worsen an already difficult situation in reaching out to the media and getting covered. On the other hand I’d say that it’s not good to change your message and actions too much just so that the media will be more likely to give you coverage, it’s better to do what you think is best for whatever project you have, and not think too much about “convincing” the media to give you coverage, otherwise it can often lead to hitting walls and waste of time and going in the wrong direction. So a balance has to be struck and that depends on context and the specific case at hand.”
For the last seven years, Massachusetts-based photographer Zev Hoover has been creating these imaginative, whimsical scenes composed of regular sized backgrounds digitally overlaid with multiple miniaturised subjects, often shot in the same locations.
The roots of lay and clerical anti-abortionism in Ireland would appear to be a modern phenomenon as medieval sources indicate a country in which abortion could be seen as a less severe offence by clerics, for example, than bearing an unwanted child or committing ‘fornication’.
In the middle ages women commonly underwent abortions in Ireland and the fact that they did so is reflected in numerous sources. Enshrined in the medieval Irish legal code is that fact that a wife could be divorced if she had procured an abortion for herself. This prohibition is part of a long list of grounds for divorce which included infanticide, flagrant infidelity, infertility, and bad management.
Thus the circumstances in which a man could divorce his wife were obviously quite severe but even still the wife was allowed to receive her marriage-portion back (even after an abortion).
Ireland has four saints who are recorded as openly and miraculously carrying out abortions, Ciarán of Saigir, Áed mac Bricc, Cainneach of Aghaboe and Brigid of Kildare.The life of Saint Ciarán (c. 6th century) told the story of a young virgin, Bruinech, kidnapped by King Dimma who raped her, and she became pregnant. Bruinech appealed to Saint Ciarán, who miraculously aborted the foetus. Later, versions of this Life told of Ciarán making the foetus disappear rather than aborting it. Áed blessed a nun who was pregnant and the foetus disappeared, similarly with Cainneach. Brigid was the only female saint to carry out abortions. She is also the premier female saint of medieval Ireland.
The Penitential of Finnian written c. 591 CE lists the punishment for women who abort
If a woman by her magic destroys the child she has conceived of somebody, she shall do penance for half a year with an allowance of bread and water, and abstain for two years from wine and meat and fast for the six forty-day periods with bread and water.
It is worth noting here that the penance is quite a lenient one and was much less for example than the time assigned to penance for childbirth which demanded six years fasting on bread and water. These sanctions appear to indicate a society where women were certainly acquainted with reproductive choices, exerted agency in choosing to abort and in which the penalties for doing so were quite minor.
Knowledge of abortifacients must have been passed down through the (female) generations and were thus greatly feared by the (male) Establishment because “they subversively aimed the devious weapon of spells and potions at the patrilineal kin group, the community, and all orderly, congenial gender relations.” Thus the killing of the foetus was not so much the issue at stake rather it was the power of the women who chose to do so (and had the means to do it) that was feared as it lay outside male knowledge. Making the link between a woman’s reproductive freedoms and witchcraft ranks as a severe challenge to female reproductive agency.
“Details about ‘The Endless River’, the new Pink Floyd album from David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason, were revealed today as the album artwork appeared on buildings in ten international cities, including an eight metre lit installation on London’s South Bank. The album will be released on Parlophone on Friday November 7th and is produced by David Gilmour, Phil Manzanera, Youth and Andy Jackson….”