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.