From top: Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe offer cakes and coffee during the Fine Gael leadership election hustings last month; Tony Groves
Facilitator: “Kevin Doyle from the Irish Independent…”
Kevin Doyle: “Congratulations Mr Varadkar…”
Leo Varadkar: “Hi, Kev…”
Kevin Doyle: (talks over Leo) “… first off on Fianna Fáil…you’ve said some things that we probably couldn’t say as this is airing live…”
The above happened at Leo Varadkar’s first press conference as the elected leader of Fine Gael. The bonhomie, over familiarity and little inside jokiness off the relationship between politicians and the media charged with holding them to account, laid bare in a 15 second exchange.
A window into world of anonymous sources, party spokespersons and a source close to a source.
I know that I’m just a grouchy old man shaking his fist at a cloud, but even I know that this is the way of the world. Journalists are embedded, and in bed with those they are paid to cover.Kevin Doyle is just doing his job, Leo is just playing the game, and we, as consumers, are eating junk food journalism.
Fox News unashamedly uses the tagline “Fair and Balanced” and it used to bother me. Not so much anymore, I mean, some people go to the cinema to suspend reality and spend a few hours away from the travails of real life.
Is it really any wonder millions of Americans watch Fox; the American middle class has shrunk relentlessly over the last decade and Fox News acts as a comfort blanket of unrealities and an outlet for their outrage.
The BBC warned Jake Painter, the man behind the Liar, Liar song, not to go too heavy on the Tories before he went on screen. They’ve also refused to cover this speech by Jeremy Corbyn. I’ve found their election coverage, while not as biased as Sky News, more pro establishment than in previous campaigns.
And I understand it. The Beeb’s reluctance to upset the Tories stems from money. I mean, they depend on the licence fee and this Tory Government have threatened to cut their budget by hundreds of millions. No matter how well Jeremy Corbyn does, the BBC knows too well that he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Junk food journalism, in moderation, serves a purpose. It can be somewhat informing, it can build consensus and social cohesion. Unfortunately many of us aren’t discerning consumers. We eat our news at the same echo chamber restaurants every day. The only thing we like in moderation is any fair and balanced moderation.
I’m a glutton for news and my problem is overeating to the point where I’m able to hold opposing views at the same time.
Multiple helpings of the Indo, the Times, RTE, Sky News, Al Jazeera and Fox News, barely leaves enough room for my cognitive dissonance dessert. Still, I would like to see the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland show some teeth. I’d love to hear the Press Council comment on the quality of the commentariat.
There’s an old story, perhaps apocryphal, that I never get tired telling. It goes that in one of Lyndon B. Johnson’s early congressional campaigns he told an aide to spread a rumour about his opponent. “Leak to the press that the guy fucked a pig”, he reportedly ordered.
His aide, horrified, responded “Christ Lyndon, we can’t call the guy a pig fucker, it simply isn’t true”. Johnson, not to be overruled, shot back “Of course it ain’t true, but I want to make the son-of-a-bitch deny it”.
I often wonder in today’s modern media landscape that if you want to smear an opponent would an aide be necessary; couldn’t you just Whatsapp Kev at the Indo?
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