Don’t Hate Him Because He’s Beautiful

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90374415Dr Julien Mercille at the Banking Inquiry during the week

You may recall dreamboat Canadian-born UCD academic Dr Julien Mercille gave evidence at the Banking Inquiry last week.

Dr Mercille, author of The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland, discussed media collusion in the boom and bust.

How did that go down?

Irish Independent?

“… Chasing red herrings and matters of no consequence remains a risk when competing politicians from different parties gather in conclave.”

“This week, they devoted some hours to considering the views of some obscure academic by the name of Julien Mercille. He has cast himself in the role of being some kind of messiah when it comes to the media, and its alleged involvement with spiralling house prices.”

“When it comes to the foibles of newspapers, in particular, Mr Mercille seems to be an expert on all those ”unknown unknowns” which challenge lesser mortals. Such is the way of self-appointed gurus. However, his arguments suffer from one overwhelming weakness – I cannot recall him predicting the crash either.”

Gerry O’Regan former Irish Independent editor

Irish Examiner?

“Finding out why was never going to be easy, but the inquiry got off to a pretty poor start on Wednesday. Before newspaper editors, including the Irish Examiner’s Tim Vaughan, the first witness was an academic chap, Julien Mercille.”

“Dr Mercille lectures in the department of geography in UCD and is the holder of a Phd on ‘the political economy’. He has written academic publications on matters such as the war on drugs, but he is not a media academic, and has never worked in the Irish media. He has penned a book based on the newspapers’ coverage of the property boom and bust.”

The thesis of his book is that the media is largely a tool of “the elites” and reflects their views at the cost of telling “the truth” or catering for “ordinary people”. It’s not clear whom exactly the elites are, but it’s safe to say Dr Mercille does not include among them highly-educated, well-paid and pensioned academics. Those souls are far more likely to be “ordinary people”, in search of “the truth”, whatever that is in a political context.”

“Dr Mercille’s thesis on the media derives as much from his political perspective as from any neutral examination of the function and performance of newspapers. His columns and media appearances suggest his politics chimes with that of the so-called far left, although Dr Mercille told the inquiry he would consider himself “progressive”, rather than left- or right-wing.”

“There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Diversity of opinion is a positive feature of public life. What is baffling is why an important Oireachtas inquiry, on a very tight schedule, found it useful to hear about the media from a man who could not be described as either a practitioner or an expert. Perhaps the politicians thought this passed for the ‘balance’ they habitually contend is lacking in coverage of their affairs.”

Michael Clifford, ‘Special Correspondent’ Irish Examiner

Sunday Independent:

Dr Mercille is a man of the hard left. In his hard-left worldview, capitalism is dominated by interconnected elites, who are in the minority, but because they wield all the power they are able to keep the majority poor and suppressed…..

Last year I was invited to debate the role of the media with Dr Mercille at a conference. In preparation for the event, I read his work carefully. His claims about the failings of the media during the bubble period are based on articles which appeared in this newspaper, the Irish Independent, the Irish Times, and episodes of RTE’s Prime Time. He claims that when this output is analysed it shows a highly unbalanced picture of cheerleading for the boom and only a tiny amount of time and space given to dissenters.

Interested in analysing his evidence, I contacted Dr Mercille and asked him to share the database he had collated. It turned out that he had not gathered the data in the normal way that any rigorous academic would do, so that the findings could be replicated, tested and built on. As such, it is not possible for anyone to know what was included in his study and – probably more importantly – what was not included.

The issue of what is not included in any study is important because it is the most common fault found in academic work.

As Dr Mercille’s evidence base is not available, it is impossible to assess the accuracy of his study, but there is reason to question it.”

Dan O’Brien, Sunday Independent.

Sunday Business Post:

A former Irish Times journalist,[Harry] Browne’s assertion that the media were “property porn” cheerleaders for choosing to feature property programmes and lifestyle features, distinctly smacked of poacher turned gamekeeper. The architectural nerd in me enjoys watching property, interior design and restoration programmes. I like watching cooking programmes too. Perhaps we should blame them for rising obesity levels? Or blame travel programmes for inspiring wanderlust?
Browne’s peer, UCD academic Dr Julien Mercille, was no more enlightened when he suggested that journalists could have predicted the property bubble and the crash itself. I anticipate a much more intriguing week this week, as the focus shifts to estate agents and their role in the bubble.

Tina Marie O’Neil, Sunday Business Post

Irish Times:

Geraldine Kennedy: “I listened to Dr. Mercille with great interest yesterday. Without doubt he was the finest conspiracy theorist I have heard in a long time. I was disappointed that his material was not evidence based. He gave one fact in his submission which was that there 40,000 articles written in The Irish Times about economic policy and the property boom and only 78 about affordable housing. That is absolutely wrong. It is very easy to press a button and get “property bubble” without taking into account all the other formulations of expressing that same phenomenon. Between the years 2008 and 2013 the country was banjaxed, it was bankrupt. Unless we want it to be Greece, one had to try to bring the country out of the mire. I noted yesterday that he seemed to support Argentina and in something else I read about him he supported—–

Deputy Joe Higgins: “Does Ms Kennedy dispute the figures and the percentages that he outlined in terms of the support for…”

Kennedy:
“No. I do not know but I would be surprised.”

Higgins: “But Ms Kennedy said that his contribution was not facts based and
now she says she does not know.”

Kennedy: “I do not know as I did not study that period because the terms of reference of the inquiry given to me were for 2002 to 2007. His figures were for 2008 to 2013 which is beyond my period as editor and I did not study that before coming in here. I will say that I believe, personally, and would probably have pursued the policy as editor, that there was very little option for Ireland unfortunately but to try to get its house back in order. It required great sacrifices by ordinary people.”

Higgins: “Yes. In other words, Ms Kennedy supports it. Did she support then the bailout of the financial markets rather than the people who were victims?”

Higgins: “How is that balanced journalism?”

Chairman: “I am going to move on.”

Former Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy at the banking inquiry.

Good times.

Update: Dr Mercille responds

Media grilled as Bank Inquiry bearpit uses hindsight to predict past (Irish Independent)

Michael Clifford: We all had the economic blinkers on (Irish Examiner)

Media Played Little Role In Inflating The Property Bubble (Dan O’Brien, Independent.ie)

Geraldine Kennedy, irish Times (banking Inquiry)

Previously: Mercille Live

For Those Who Shouted Stop, He Salutes You

30 thoughts on “Don’t Hate Him Because He’s Beautiful

    1. ollie

      with a name like ucdrat I reckon you’re a fair dose yourself. now run along, mammy has the clothes washed and ironed for next week, the sambos are made for ating on the bus and daddy’s ready to drop you to the bus stop in the passat.

  1. Jimmy Rimmel

    Dose or not the response of the media heads is so defensive you might think he was on to something. Plus Dan O Brien was predicting a soft landing in 2007 and Geraldine Kennedy is a former PD – buts that’s all conspiracy right?

  2. SweetPeteato

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise that party politicians and editors of newspapers don’t like being told they are doing everything wrong and it’s contributing to the place being in a shite and nothing ever changing. This stuff is self evident, we don’t need a mountain of evidence but even if someone did collect it all and present it to say a judge at a tribunal it would be a total waste of time and energy. I’m sure the likes of Julien has better things to be at.

  3. Soundings

    Academic attacks media for its abandoning its traditional fourth estate role in holding a mirror up to government, and holding power to account (while at the same time making out like bandits with property advertising and in the case of the Irish Times shelling out €50m for MyHome.ie)

    Media attacks academic for saying bad things about it.

    Predictable.

  4. Drogg

    Gerry o Regan should research his article better cause Dr Mercille was doing his PHD in 2007 when those in the indo where making a fortune from property.

    1. Drogg

      I also remember being at a talk in 2004 where some lecturer I don’t remember who said about the advertising spend in the times and how plenty in their where making serious cash from the property boom. He also signed off by saying that it was going to crash.

  5. ollie

    I wouldn’t normally pay any attention to this man, but the reaction from state media is hilarious, head spinning and eye turning.

  6. Zarathustra

    I suppose some people might find him attractive, but he’s not sexy in a Jack Nicholson/ Seán Connery way.

  7. Kieran NYC

    Just because he’s somewhat right about him, doesn’t mean they’re totally wrong about him either.

  8. Iseult

    He’s totally body right, though. The language used in property supplements back then was disgusting. I was trying to buy a house at the time on the shared ownership scheme and the Indo, Times and Business Posts property pieces were a master class in vulgarity, excess and hype. I would rant at whoever would listen at the prices and the sheer disconnect of the affordability gap between what me and my friends could pay and what the supplements judged to be “an affordable first rung on the property ladder” …We were invisible to them

    1. Goin' forward

      it seems the impartial meeja- sorts couldn’t buy an over priced ranch in raheny fast enough to keep up with there deluded betters on the numerical ladder, the 4th rung can be somewhat fulla it after stepping over the heavily soiled 3rd rung.

  9. More_Bermuda_than_Berlin

    Why do the media outlets above seem to be unaware of the ‘gatekeeping’ role they play in society?

    Events don’t just happen and get reported on by the media. Loads of stuff happens everyday and it never makes the news. Instead, the media pick and choose what will sell best, what will attract the readers/viewers their advertisers require, what can they get easy coverage of over a few days, what aspect of an event best fits with the other business interests of their owner, etc.

    What fits with their business models gets reported. What doesn’t doesn’t. Either way, the media decides – they are the gatekeepers for what the public sees/hears.

    And this is no conspiracy theory – this is Media Studies 101.

    Is it possible that the above news-makers are somehow unaware of the role they and their trade played in fuelling the property bubble?

    It hardly takes a conspiracy theorist to say that latent guilt and good old-fashioned denial come into play when some academic (_spits_) points the finger at them.

    1. Sam

      to label them as unaware, implies that their criticism is honest. They wish to present themselves as honest purveyors of ‘how things are’ so they have some credibility to pimp out to their advertisers.

  10. What Goes Up...

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

    Hey, media people! Want proof of the media/property nexus at the height of the madness in 2007?

    Sunday Tribune Business Editor Fired Following Pin Thread
    http://www.thepropertypin.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4500

    Richard Delevan, Business Editor, got fired from the Sunday Tribune for talking out of class about an Estate Agent.

    And what was the response of the media people?

    *Tumbleweed*

  11. Seanban

    Have to say the banking inquiry seems to be about the biggest waste of time EVER. There is no smoking gun, move along….most of the *experts* called are so loaded that no reasonable case or theory can be made and most of the Oireachtas members haven’t a rashers

  12. Tucker Done

    The defensiveness of these people should be followed up but if Dan O’Brien did ask Mercille for his data and he could not produce it then he’s a douchebag in my opinion. If you can’t produce evidence to back up what you’re saying you have no credibility and potentially ruin what looks like a correct analysis based on anecdotal evidence.

  13. Mayor Quimby

    Dan O’Brien’s piece is actually very sober and specific.

    Mercille *is* a man on the far left and his biases are actually laughable (“The current Gov crashed the economy by implementing austerity” -WTF)

  14. Mayor Quimby

    Also, what’s wrong with Mick Clifford’s piece?

    It’s a lot less hysterical than Mercille’s pronouncements. They make Broadsheets “Greatest Clickbait” posts look real

  15. Joe the Lion

    Don’t blame it on the sunshine
    Don’t blame it on the moonlight
    Don’t blame it on the good times
    Blame it on the boogie

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