From top: New Year tweet from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Tony Groves
There’s a conflict playing out across the world, the war on truth. The battle between the truth and the truth we are most comfortable with has maybe never been so inflamed. It is exacerbated by infighting, finger pointing and pointless regrets on (dare I say it) both sides.
That our newspapers have become viewspapers is only a small part of the problem. It was Elaine Byrne who pointed out that there were “14 men and 1 woman in the Irish Times opinion pages”.
A closer examination found there were five pro-government pieces and one mildly critical one. (Slight digression; there was also one Sinn Fein “they haven’t gone away” piece. It really is time that that headline went away).
The attacks on traditional media haven’t helped. Mainstream Media, in the main, does a good job reporting the news. The fact that both Left and Right decry RTÉ as biased is not a bad thing.
But it is in the op-eds and commentator class that the biases are most on display. The viewspapers are nothing more than a pressure valve. Words of comfort or rage depending on your socioeconomic standing.
The often discussed marketplace for ideas is a closed shop of simplistic and often factually inaccurate noise. Words that hiss and bubble, but seldom make real trouble.
Those who want to do some real reporting, like Tom Lyons did recently, find themselves subjected to injunctions signed off by none other than the Taoiseach himself. There’s a word for a leader of a country who interferes in the freedom of the press, isn’t there?
Have a read of what Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar tweeted above. All of it is a comforting truth to anyone in the top 36% of the socioeconomic ladder.
It pays no heed to the bottom 64%; the cohort who may or may not be aware that while what the Taoiseach tweeted is true, so is the fact that we have the highest gross income inequality in the EU, the highest number of people (including 3,333 children) homeless in the history of the state, the highest hospital waiting lists in the history of the state and, in the context of the storms that are becoming more frequent in Ireland, a government that has made no progress in reaching our 2020 climate change goals.
Truth versus Comfortable Truth.
Ibec came out with a report this morning telling us that we’ve never had it so good. This lobby group has proclaimed that the boom is about to get boomier and we are supposed to be ecstatic.
Of course, the normal “don’t ask for a pay rise or you’ll kill competitiveness” caveat was attached. The economy, they gleefully report, will come in at 5.9% growth. The real earnings (note not average wage), the less gleefully report, are up 2.2%.
Comfortable Truth: the economy is doing well. Truth: this isn’t translating equally well into people’s lives. In fact, the gap between economic growth and wage growth has widened since 2015.
In 2018 I said (egotistically?) that I’d help join the dots. Sadly, and ironically, my desire to do so means I must ape the behaviour of those Viewspapers that I complained about at the outset. I must put forward the Uncomfortable Truth.
The uncomfortable truth is that, in this viewspaper era, there are no facts left anymore, only interpretations. But please, don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s for that matter.