Fly My Pretties




From top: Are you a hidden Flying Monkey?; Tony Groves

Crouching troll?

Or hidden Flying Monkey?

Tony Groves writes:

Whenever I send in a “new piece” I think of that scene in Jurassic Park. You know the one where Sam Neill’s character, Dr Alan Grant, mock eviscerates a boy while explaining about the pack hunter mentality of Velociraptors? As the blood drains from the child’s face, Dr Grant completes the humiliation with the clincher:

“The point is, you are alive when they start to eat you”.

There’s always a little bit of self-immolation in the clicking of the send email button. Knowing I’m about to piss off one group or another (isn’t that the point) and that some faction will turn their Flying Monkeys on me.

Flying Monkeys, for those unfamiliar with the term, are a gang of, very often, anonymous individuals, who act out the orders of their particular Wicked Witch.

The natural habitat of the Flying Monkey is the internet, on social media, chat rooms and online comments sections. While most are proponents of argument techniques like deflection, whataboutery, ad hominem attacks and straw man bluster, some of them are witty and not without a kernel of truth.

I confess to getting more than a little fun out of the Broadsheet Flying Monkeys. You guys are all alright, not Alt-Right…

The more malignant Flying Monkey is less easy to spot. These are the Party Loyalists, who defend the latest betrayal of an election promise by claiming the disenfranchised “need to see the bigger picture”. They will defend the indefensible out of loyalty to tribe.

The other variety like to hang out in the “political reports” of the majority of newspaper pieces. You’ve probably seen one today if you browsed through any of our “papers of record.”
In “political reporting”, the Flying Monkey is more easily recognised, once you know what the traits are.

A journalist who writes a piece a based on views expressed by “a source close to” or from an unnamed “advisor” or the very often anonymous “party spokesperson” is a Flying Monkey.

By allowing “anonymous sources” disseminate unverified and unverifiable information into your news feed the Monkey helps his “paper of record” stay close to the source of power and the politician (who is very often the source in question) keeps the journalist on side.

The reader, already inclined to believe said journalist, eats the propaganda and uses it to reinforce their views. This is mass production of confirmation bias.

It’s important to say that there are many valid reasons that one would want to maintain anonymity. Should one be say, a Whistleblower, especially in Ireland, you would almost certainly be better maintaining anonymity.

Ask the courageous Dr Jim Gray, who called the travesty of our health service for what it was and was quickly rounded on by the then Minister for Health and defender of the Welfare Budget, Leo Varadkar.

Back then the Minister’s Flying Monkeys leaked spurious accusations about the doctor and the compliant media reported these claims rather than the ongoing crisis in the Health Service.

When I put my occupation on a blog post last year, a few people told me I was either brave or stupid. But I think it says more that someone’s means to make a living and pay their mortgage could be deemed to be at risk because of a world view contrary to the Flying Monkey Brigade!

This may seem a fantastical claim, but worryingly, it is not. I recently discovered I’ve been blocked on twitter, by large swathes of a certain political party for “being unfair” to them in my writings. It appears some of these Flying Monkey’s only believe in Freedom of Speech when the speaker is of the same opinion as themselves.
A government that can mute dissent can silence anyone they choose to and point to the legislation for justification. Martin Luther King said “don’t be more devoted to order than you are to justice…that an unjust law is no law” in a letter penned from an Alabama Prison Cell.

I believe strongly in the Freedom of Speech and while I used to be tempted to “Block” the Flying Monkeys, I find it ultimately unnecessary. People have the right to their opinions, they have the right to express them. They, like me, have the right to be wrong. We should all defend that right, whether we agree with them or not.
So whether you’re called a Shinnerbot, a Lefty Loony, a Political Hack or good old Rotide, it’s all good. Dissent is good for debate, debate is necessary for progress.
But look out for the Flying Monkeys. Recognise them for what they are. They can be apologists, propagandists and or salesmen. They are selling snake oil, and a snake oil salesman is to be pitied.

And if you still feel tempted to block them, remember, as I do, Saul Bellow who said

“A man should be able to hear and bear the worst that could be said of him”.

*turns off notifications for a few days*

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Top pic: Shutterstock

78 thoughts on “Fly My Pretties

  1. rotide

    Leaving aside the massive swathe of narcissism inherent here (The Establishment watches me so closely, They dispatch their goons to try to discredit me every week – spoiler: they don’t), and the confused piece in the middle (Anonymous sources are bad, except when they’re good) I feel you might need to brush up on your democratic basics.

    No one is denying you any freedom of speech. People have a right to block you on twitter if they think that a 6 year old can write better opinion, but no one is stopping you write it or anyone else reading it. You’re not a martyr and no one is breaking any bones with sticks and stones.

    Get over yourself.

      1. egghead

        Don’t mind them Rotide. You’re perfect just the way you are. Don’t ever change.

    1. Tony Groves

      Ah here Ro, you weren’t even first to comment. You know that by not commenting first I can dismiss your entire comment.
      Those are the rules!

      1. Jocky

        Feeble stuff Tony. You must be particularly arrogant and thin skinned because you’ve only contributed a handful of posts before dedicating a full one to the dissenters who cause you so much bother. You’re just another opinion amongst billions online and your opinions are muck.

    2. classter

      From what I can gather, much of the negative commentary on Tony’s pieces has been about their incoherence rather than because they wind up a particular party (presumably FG is being referred to here?) or because they are left-leaning (I’m not even sure they really are left-leaning tbh).

      Anyhow, assuming those who criticise you of doing so in bad faith is a surefire way to help poison the debate and keep your own arguments weak.

      1. classter

        Blocking somebody on twitter does not deny them free speech.

        You might indeed argue that it is a short-sighted way to go about your business, similar I would say, to dismissing criticism of your pieces as coming from a ‘Flying Monkey Brigade’.

        1. classter

          There is a rather massive leap there from blocking individuals from your own twitter account and ‘A government that can mute dissent’.

          Whatever else Kenny’s govts have done – good or ill – they have scarely been very successful in muting dissent!

          1. rotide

            So where did “A government that can mute dissent can silence anyone they choose to” come from? That line implies very heavily that FG blocked you on twitter and this is the (incorrect, see above) basis of ‘muting dissent’.

            If it’s not a govt party, then wtf are you talking about?

      2. rotide

        Got it in one Classter. Very few people actually challenge the basic argument Tony has because they’re usually pretty straightforward gripes that few will disagree with. Like those people that post ‘Let’s beat cancer together, 1 like = 1 prayer’, No one is against the message, just the manner of which the message is delivered.

        Today’s blog is a particularly rambling piece touching on many different things that really don’t have a lot to do with each other. That’s the problem more than whatever message he’s trying to convey.

          1. theboogieman@sǝɯǝɯ

            I’ve said this before, but it’s that time again….already.
            Sing along…

            ♪♫♬ Ride ‘en up,
            Ride ’em in

          2. Bertie "the inexplicable pleasure" Blenkinsop

            Ah, the diggers, so that’s where I know your face from….

    3. MoyestWithExcitement

      Did I just see rotide call someone a narcissist, that they’re bad at forming opinions AND that they should get over themselves? Rotide? :D Incredible.

      1. theboogieman@sǝɯǝɯ

        I love it when you two fight.
        (Not U2… they died in 1980)

        Everybody loves it when two chaps get stuck into each other.

        If there’s anything I do to exacerbate the animosity just ask.

        (Sorry Tony, but fupp these eejits. Ammirite?)

  2. Cinnamon Girl

    I normally subscribe to the rule that it’s not my what business what people think of me. Just pretend you’re not in the room then the monkeys can maintain tradition by chatting about you behind your back. But, wait, that will make them less ‘brave’. Dang.

          1. bisted

            …I thought the monkeys ended up writing Hamlet…or getting made rotide of the odnI…

        1. anne


          It is none of your business what anyone else says about you really..and here’s another one i like – always do what you want, and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

      1. By Popular Demand, Frilly Keane

        well now Tony
        you do your gig
        your way

        let me do mine
        my way

  3. Sheik Yahbouti

    “Lefty Loony” me, Tony – ’til the day I die, and I WON’T apologise for it.

      1. nellyb

        ah, ‘le charme discret’ of ‘ la bourgeoisie’ :-) / or just endowed socialist ;-) ?

        1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐƃᴉq

          Half an hour later and I’m still in ‘De Modz’.*
          Bodger must be he’s lunch or something.

          *That’s me new idea… Listen to me… Hear me out…
          – Let’s form a gang called ‘De Modz.
          -You can only join if you can post proof (a screenshot) that you are ‘in moderation’.
          – The purpose of the gang will be to fight over who’s in charge. I think I should be.

          1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐƃᴉq

            Who’s with me?
            Who’s against me?

            This isn’t going to work.
            I’m beginning to understand the moderation thing a bit better now.
            I need to lie down for a while.

  4. Cian

    I think this describes you perfectly Tony: ” While most are proponents of argument techniques like deflection, whataboutery, ad hominem attacks and straw man bluster, some of them are witty and not without a kernel of truth.”

    Your articles are sometimes witty and often contain useful truths. However when you respond to comments you consistently use “deflection, whataboutery, ad hominem attacks and straw man bluster”.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Actually most (all) of the people who criticise him “use “deflection, whataboutery, ad hominem attacks and straw man bluster”.

      Don’t dish it out if you’re going to throw a temper tantrum when you get it back. Honestly, right wingers are insecure children. It’s embarassing reading most of their posts. Genuinely hard to fathom how they come from grown adults.

      1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐƃᴉq

        & a reluctant numero uno.
        It’s very hard, I must admit, but sometimes Moist is just right.

      2. rotide

        I love it when Moyest criticises ad hominem attacks and then goes on to use ad hominem attacks in the very next paragraph.

      3. sǝɯǝɯʇɐƃᴉq

        And also*, I was just thinking….
        You said ”Don’t dish it out…’

        I was confused at the start… I started thinking about how that works both ways, and reflections.
        Then I started thinking about mirrors and how there’s more than one type.
        Then I had another ‘smoke’. wink, wink

        Sorry MoyestWithExcitement.
        I just agreed with YOU and I want to wipe the fingerprints off my keyboard.

      4. classter

        ‘ most (all) of the people who criticise him “use “deflection, whataboutery, ad hominem attacks and straw man bluster”.’

        Is this fair, Moyest?

        We debated this on one of the last posts and at your prompting, I picked out specific examples from the piece and explained why I disagreed, gave examples to the contrary etc.

        Bit disappointing to see you repeat the line on ‘deflection, whataboutery and ad hom’

      1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐƃᴉq

        10/10 Tony.
        Useful truth.

        The alternative to alternative-facts.
        We NEED it.

        1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐƃᴉq

          Another thing Tony… My name is Tony too, in real life.
          Not Tony 2. Tony also. also Tony.

          …what was I going to say?…

          …oh yeah….
          I don’t normally read the serious stuff on Broadsheet. I come here to entertain MESELF.
          You’re pushing your luck if your post can’t fit on one screen, but you, Tony Groves, my friend…
          Don’t worry about it. You have a free pass. I like the cut of your jib. Type away, mi brudda.
          – Let’s go on the lash sometime, up the mountains, in the canal, (your choice)…
          You’re sound Tony.
          Me and you have the same name, if that IS your real name…
          I like you. I like your big balls. I’m not gay but I can still blow you a kiss.

          1. theboogieman@sǝɯǝɯ

            I absolutely HATE getting all ‘existentialist’ and stuff for no reason, but sometimes I feel a kind of reverse-paranoia, where I begin to think everyone is afraid of me. I feel a duty to upset them so they can sleep at night.

            Does that make sense to you?

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