Dan’s Inferno

at

90214796

Julien-Mercille-hi-res-233x300

From top: Dan O’Brien Dr Julien Mercille

Looking for missed bubbles?

You’ve come to the right place.

A Saturday morning radio appearance with two well known economic pundits throws up for the author a horrifying vision of Irish media deference.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

This weekend, I was on Newstalk’s Talking Point, the radio show hosted by Sarah Carey on Saturday mornings. I was on a panel with Dan O’Brien from the Independent newspaper and Eamon Delaney, who often writes in the same newspaper and is the founder of the right-wing think-tank Hibernia. The ‘sheet transcribed some of the best parts here  and the podcast is here.

We were there to talk about the role of the media in light of the Banking Inquiry, before which I appeared as a witness.

The radio show was one of the most interesting of my media appearances. Sarah Carey was good at keeping the ball rolling during the interview, and that led to a number of declarations on the part of the two other panellists, as follows:

1.
Eamon Delaney is a former diplomat for the Irish government. He revealed how docile and obedient his mindset is and it’s actually scary to think there are others like him in the government and media. To challenge and interrogate received wisdom is out of the question for him.

Indeed, he declared that journalists should never question or challenge the owners of their news organisation and should remain loyal. He said journalists should be like diplomats, they should simply obey their government, and never challenge it. Even if, seemingly, their government does really bad things like supporting a war on Iraq based on lies, etc.

People ask me all the time, “you say journalists don’t challenge the establishment enough, but have you actually talked to a journalist who told you that was true?”: I will now use the above example every time I’m asked that question.

2. Dan O’Brien tried once again to blame economists for missing the housing bubble. He said that journalists can’t be blamed because they just rely on economists and other experts to report on events.

That’s another astonishing comment, for several reasons.

First, an important point to remember, and that I made on the show, is that Dan O’Brien has no credibility. He doesn’t understand economics. And I’m not saying this as an opinion or due to ideological differences, I’m stating it as a matter of fact.

He has a record of failure for the last 15 years. From 2001 to 2007, he missed the housing bubble entirely. Then, since 2008, he’s been saying that austerity was the way to go to revive economies in recession. But history shows exactly the opposite, and any competent economic observer knows that.

Dan seemingly can’t even read articles. For example, it is well known that the Economist magazine warned about the housing bubble in Ireland and in other countries as early as 2003. It wrote about it clearly and repeatedly. Those were not vague warnings, as the magazine even gave percentages of overvaluation in the real estate market.

But Dan didn’t bother reporting on that, even if—wait for it—at that time, he worked for the Economist! The fact that he couldn’t even read his own magazine is mind-boggling.

And anyway, why did Dan not bother reporting on David McWilliams’ warnings about the housing bubble? Maybe McWilliams is too much of an independent thinker for Dan?

Second, although I’m always pictured as the guy who despises journalists, as opposed to the likes of Dan O’Brien, who supposedly defends journalists, we can see here that the reverse is actually true: I have more respect for journalism and the work of journalists than Dan. He thinks that journalism is just about reporting what others say, whether it is “experts” or the government. Think about this for a second, it is extremely demeaning to journalists. It means that they’re not supposed to think very much, simply to report the sayings of others.

I know that a number of journalists don’t agree with Dan, but still, that’s what he says every time I debate him.

On the contrary, my view is that the ethos of journalism should be to report the truth. And for that, you need to question things, determine whether “experts” are really experts, etc. That requires independent thinking and I expect journalists to do that, myself included, not to simply report whatever politicians or others say.

Third, Dan always complains about the methodology I used for reaching my conclusion that the media missed the housing bubble. He never explains what exactly he doesn’t like about my methodology, which is revealing in itself, but let me ask him about his own methodology: Dan, can you explain to us what your methodology was to miss the massive housing bubble for 6 years? And also, can you explain to us what your methodology is for believing that austerity apparently works to revive economies in a downturn, contrary to all historical and contemporary evidence?

Is your methodology to always and only talk to the same incompetent economists? Why is that? On what criteria does your methodology exclude competent economists like David McWilliams, Michael Taft, those at the Nevin Institute, or TASC?

We’d really like to know about this fascinating methodology.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at University College Dublin. Follow him on Twitter: @JulienMercille

Saturday: No Touching of The Hair or Face

Top pic: Rollingnews

Update: Rights of reply welcome.

72 thoughts on “Dan’s Inferno

  1. Drebbin

    “Dan O’Brien has no credibility. He doesn’t understand economics. I’m not saying this as an opinion or due to ideological differences, I’m stating it as a matter of fact.”

    Is this a Donald Trump impression?

    1. ivan

      I’ll grant you that it reads like one until you read the next paragraph where the writer sets out his rationale for making the claim.

      The Donald wouldn’t be getting into that lark of explaining…

      1. Drebbin

        Yes, it’s a difference of opinion. Mistaking his own opinions for facts is the mark of a blowhard. As is almost everything about these bloody interminable ego-shots.

        1. rotide

          +100

          The transcripts of that radio show are totally a difference of opinion, and now jules is using his column for some good old fashioned knife twisting.

    2. J

      Given Mercille’s tangled relationship with fact , I don’t think he is remotely qualified to pass judgement on Dan O Brien. Would David Williams just give the kid a break and get him a slot on RTE please.

      1. classter

        I find it difficult to agree with Mercille here given his own methodology seems so lax but he has a fair point on Dan O’Brien.

      2. J

        Food for thought for McWills: Perhaps a little feature/animated sketch on one of your RTE adventures?( Itchy and Scratchy show comes to mind). You could call it The Messiah’s child….non? I think Dr Mercille has earned it with this rather fine whine ” And anyway, why did Dan not bother reporting on David McWilliams’ warnings about the housing bubble? Maybe McWilliams is too much of an independent thinker for Dan?”

  2. Supercrazyprices

    Most Irish journalists are either cowardly or corrupted. Most just play the game and regurgitate press releases. RTE’s Paul “All the Hallmarks” Reynolds may as well work for the Garda press office.

    The reason columnists are so popular in the Irish media is because they provide content that doesn’t require investigate research or fact checking. They just poo on about their personal opinions while effecting no change whatsoever. The public are fooled into thinking the media are actively questioning our establishment but all they are reading is Roisin Ingle and Fintan O’Toole being all middle class apologetic.

    The same can be said for political satire. Empty vessels like Oliver Callan offer no challenge to the status quo. All they do is mimic voices and characteristics without any political punch. Real satire needs edge and a message. Satire is also popular because of our defamation laws. It’s a softly softly approach to attacking a person in power which stops just short of having any impact.

    1. ahyeah

      Yes to all that – except the Fintan O’Toole; I think he does a pretty good job of challenging the established order.

      *ducks in anticipation of the onslaught*

      1. classter

        O’Toole is very good on some topics but occasionally, he strays onto topics of which he understands little and still delivers it with his usual confidence.

        He varies from excellent to risible in a way few commentators can manage

  3. Eoin

    The updated NDAA laws in the US in 2012 allow the government, for the first time since 1948, to engage in propaganda against the American people. No kidding. Look it up. This is the direction the West is going in. You cannot have independent, unchecked journalism AND propaganda at the same time. Though our journos are a particularly contemptible lot.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Is that the one that says corporations are people and so have a constitutional right to lie to the public?

      1. Nigel

        It’s behind a paywall now, but I read a discussion on a US legal law blog last year where the consensus was that, thanks to the First Amendment, yes, it is, up top the point where it becomes criminal fraud at any rate. Oh, and money is the same as speech and therefore corporate donations are protected by the 1stA.

        1. classter

          The money is the same as speech is interesting tbf. The ramifications are atrocious but if you believe in free speech, what right do you have to prevent somebody from airing (or paying others to air) their opinions on politics.

          No European country has anything like untrammeled rights to free speech so the issue doesn’t arise here.

  4. Whatthefupp

    This is just hilarious. Mercille writes like a kid on acid, has no train of thought , is desperate for attention and his media appearances are just laughable or worrying (if you have a kid at UCD and believe in the value of a good education). HIs appearance at the banking inquiry merely highlighted his talent to squeal “what” .. Jaysus. He is not a patch on Dan O Brien ( whether you agree with him or not) , who at the very least has got a brain.
    I bet Dan is chuckling into his coffee this morning at this dross.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      I do notice that people who keep going after Dan Boyle and Merceille never really have any substance to what they say. It’s usually just full of patronising jibes at his intelligence or writing ability. They almost never are able to counter what he’s actually saying. Also, the last 2 sentences in the above are just embarrassing. It’s clearly someone with a vested interest given his need to defend Dan O’Brien despite the fact he was horribly exposed by Merceille.

      1. rotide

        He wasn’t ‘horribly exposed’ by mercille.

        They had a difference of opinion and its up to the listener to decide who they agreed with. I’d go with O’Neill over the good doctor given his past utterances.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          “From 2001 to 2007, he missed the housing bubble entirely.”

          That’s not an opinion.

          “For example, it is well known that the Economist magazine warned about the housing bubble in Ireland and in other countries as early as 2003…at that time, he worked for the Economist!”

          That’s not an opinion.

          “He thinks that journalism is just about reporting what others say, whether it is “experts” or the government.”

          That’s not an opinion.

          1. Drebbin

            1. He acknowledges that he missed it until 2006, and quotes a warning that he gave then.

            2. See number 1. Or are you suggesting that Dan should have overruled his own opinions and gone along with his employer? Because I know someone who really hates when journalists do that.

            3. Ah, that’s different. I didn’t know he had a magic machine for reading thoughts.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            1. So Merceille was right.
            2. “See number 1” Exactly.
            3. Magic, and the ability to read words.

          3. Drebbin

            Hang on, are you saying that O’Brien and Mercille don’t have a difference of opinion during that interview? Your understanding is that Mercille is calmly enunciating facts, while O’Brien slobbers on the pop filter and speaks in tongues?

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            No, that’s not even close to what I’m saying. I can see why you had trouble with number 3 now.

  5. Whatthefupp

    Nope. No vested interest. I just find Mercille exceptionally weak and am amazed at his arrogance, given his obvious lack of ability.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      I think this sentence from Merceille’s post above is rather humorously apt about now;

      “Third, Dan always complains about the methodology I used for reaching my conclusion that the media missed the housing bubble. He never explains what exactly he doesn’t like about my methodology, which is revealing in itself,”

      Ahjayzis is right. You *are* Dan.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          Nah, he seems way too uptight to be the type to laugh at his own misfortune. He’s been embarrassed.

          1. Whatthefupp

            LOL . I doubt it. Being criticised by Mercille is like being given a wedgie by the slow kid at school.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Ok, Dan. You seemed awfully wound up when Merceille was talking to you but I’m sure everyone will believe you that you’re laughing now. Definitely.

    1. rob

      pretty awful performance from mercille. Can’t reference any specific incidents to back up his claims. Not fan of Dan O’Brien, but this guy is a bit of a joke!

  6. seanban

    Play the ball not the man Julien…an academic and a journalist don’t assess events from the same critical viewpoint neither do they enjoy the same latitude of expression or indeed superpowers

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      “an academic and a journalist don’t assess events from the same critical viewpoint”

      What does that mean, as a matter of interest?

    2. rory

      Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man play the
      http://youtu.be/FPxY8lpYAUM man not the bAll play the man not the ball play the man not the ball play the man not the ball play the man not the ball play the man not the ball ahaha play the man not the ball play the man not the ball play the man not the ball Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man play the ball not the man FG Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man play the ahahahaball not the man Play the ball not the man Play the ball not the man

    3. rory

      play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man http://youtu.be/wCem9EZb-YA play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball not the man play the ball play the ball not the man

  7. Clampers Outside!

    Say whatever ya want about Mercille, he did brilliantly in exposing Dan’s self deluded belief that he himself has any integrity as a *cough* so called journalist worth speaking of.

    More of this I say !

  8. Tish Mahorey

    Irish investigate journalism is non existent except for a very few good journos like Gemma O’Doherty. And they are oppressed, harassed and black listed from the large newspapers and TV/Radio.

    Trade journalists who report on business and industry just spew out their press releases and don’t dare question their actions. None of them did any work on the bank crisis when it was needed.

    Journalists here are more like advocates for their briefs rather than impartial professional journalists.

    Buy foreign newspapers if you want to find out what goes on in Ireland.

  9. rotide

    Jesus, this reads like that episode of Father Ted where he was voted priest of the year and used his speech to get the digs in on people he didnt like.

  10. duane eddy

    The vast majority of economists/economic journalists, as far as predicting how the economy will perform is concerned, haven’t a notion what they’re talking about. They wouldn’t last five minutes in any other profession. There must be a case for governments/newspapers and even educational institutions to dispense of their ‘services’ entirely. Predicting how an economy will behave is not an exact science anyway, but it seems that the best that most of these individuals can do is make a series of ‘educated’ guesses as to how it will behave. These guesses are invariably wrong, and in the meantime these guys get very well paid for making them. To say that their relationship with reality is tenuous would be an understatement

    1. Tish Mahorey

      Nobody can predict the future. It’s always a guess.

      And all accountants do is confirm what has already happened and monitor what is currently happening.

      1. duane eddy

        Would it not be fairer to say that some can predict the future more accurately than others, re economic matters? David McWilliams & Morgan Kelly come to mind – most of the others seemed snookered.

      2. classter

        ‘all accountants do is confirm what has already happened and monitor what is currently happening.’

        Even that is a generous assessment of what accountants do.

  11. Declan

    Did anyone see Julien’s opinion piece in the Sunday Business Post encouraging European companies to sell in Iran?

    It’s a bit rich, him calling for engagement when Iran treats gay’s and other minorities like s*@t. But that’s progressively getting one up on the yanks so feck it.

  12. Anne

    Mercille seems a bit excitable at times. Mmmmmmmmmercille.
    Where was I? Oh yeah, he’s right of course, but I think what he’s saying about those in the media would be more effective if he got a bit less personal. He’d seem a bit more mature or something.

    1. Drebbin

      I agree. His general point seems valid, but the ad hominem stuff is juveinile.

      He needs to self-edit too. Broadsheet are obviously applying they same light-touch regulation that gave us the Sheriff of Puddingham.

  13. Brendan O'

    Julien is like Mulder always wanting to believe that there’s more to it all.
    Today he has some words that Eamon said to play with. He’ll make the most of these words.

  14. Bonkers

    Dan o’Brien must have the most slappable head in all of Ireland. I’d pay good money just to hear the crack of my palm on his slaphead.

  15. rory

    This post states that Dan O’Brien isn’t a reliable source of information, at one stage using The Economist at a reliable point of reference to further said argument.
    But if Dan O’Brien worked at the Economist, and he isn’t a reliable source of information, wouldn’t that mean that The Economist, to some extent, isn’t a reliable source of information either; which in turn would make that particular point of argument unreliable?

    P.S. Anyone read the economist? Is it a reliable source of information?

    1. classter

      rory, your argument is not as glic as you think it is.

      Something can be relatively reliable even if it is not absolutely reliable.

  16. Mulder

    Mulder thinks that Julien wouldn’t even get a job doing Ads on the local hospital radio in Kent . Williams has whispered that it is a well known fact that he has a secret copy of Hello magazine peeking out of the covers of The Economist. Can Julien confirm on this rumour?

  17. Dara

    I wrote a bit about this after Kilkenomics, not only the panelist but the crowd seemed totally unfazed as experts from various fields explained how we are on the road to a de-populated 3rd world state. The entire country needs a good oul bout of existential angst without access to gluten free anything or phones. Ruminate all of ya. Good oul rumination on ur insignificance never did anyone any harm.

    An I’ll shamelessly drop the link here https://degreeofuncertainty.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/the-minotaur-and-the-house-boy-noonan-bae-of-piigs/

    “Ireland never really stopped being a colony, a mindset which is rewarded with advancement up the ranks. Demonstrated by Cormac Lucey, former financial advisor to the government, and Kilkenomics contributor. He played his part perfectly. The patronising face of a paternalistic state. And I played my part, challenging him but backing straight down in the face of the patient laugh of a priest taking time out to explain the workings of moving statues to a pretty lil prole. Ireland, as he explained our economic policy in terms of hotels, is a one star hotel, so we can only charge one star prices. Whereas countries such as America and Norway are five star countries, so if we were to raise any tax they would leave us for another one star country where they don’t get uppity about little things like poverty and paying tax.
    Norway would up an run from that one gas field providing each citizen with 4k annually if we were to up the tax from 0% to any%.
    Initially the existence of any oil or gas was denied until I mentioned that closed door meeting with Ray Burke and Shell where tax on oil and gas was lowered from 50% to 0%. The rest of our conversation can be summed up by this clip from Django unchained.

    In this example the Big House is the concept of autonomy, Django is Ireland. LeoDiC is those multinationals and foreign direct investment.
    Sam Jackson is Cormac Lucey, or any member of the governments team, its a mindset which gets you places, just remember yours and you’ll be fine.”

    On Noonan
    “Whatever form the target takes, he’ll be there, leering away his pride. So slavishly enamoured with being part of the cool gang he set about tutting at the Greeks with the febrile pleasure of the chubby kid, temporarily accepted by the bullies, who paraded him up and down, their good child. The success story of soulless call centres. Even if it means hiding almost 40% of children in food poverty and food banks from the middle class. The broken child of austerity who loved at first sight his masters. They are everything he and that weird mix of house Irish and officer class which make up the increasingly inbred ranks of our political class, aspire to be. But that kids is how colonialism works.”

    1. classter

      ‘ we are on the road to a de-populated 3rd world state’

      This is why the crowd were unfazed.

      This is not true.

      It is hyperbole of a level which will immediately switch off most of your audience.

  18. Ivor

    Mercille is more right than wrong, but is also unnecessarily rude.

    Delaney and O’Brien represent two of the biggest problems with Irish journalism. One feels that his job is to be loyal to his owner/editor/ethos of the paper that hires him while the other just reports what those who the status quo regards as experts’ opinions without critically engaging with them.

    I’ve never said a word in Dan’s favour in my life, but I think with regard to his (current) stance on austerity, it’s not that he thinks it works, it is just that he thinks that it was the only game in town. He seems to think that the proposed alternatives would have worked out even worse. He doesn’t claim that austerity works in bringing about recovery but that it beats the amount of chaos and suffering caused by the alternatives. I don’t buy this argument but we might as well criticise it for what it is and not a strawman.

    People like Dan and Eamo will continnue to have jobs in journalism for a long time to come. Sarah Carey had her “credibility as a journalist” destroyed after her antics at the Moriarty tribunal according to her former editor, but still manages to pick up cheques from INM. In the meantime, people like Gemma O’Doherty get fired because of their lack of “loyalty” to their bosses while uncovering the truth.

Comments are closed.