Shooting The Messenger


From top: Kevin Myers (left) and Major Gen David O’Morochoe, of the Royal British Legion at the 90th Anniversary Commemoration, of the Battle of the Somme, in the Irish National War Memorial Park, in Dublin; Dan Boyle

I was considering presenting a defence of Kevin Myers. Not a particular defence (I’ve never really been a fan), more of a general defence on the role of contrarians in helping to provoke a better, more democratic discourse.

In the right hands, a well aimed epistle can expose any amount of sanctimony or complacency that would exist around an issue.

There is an honourable tradition in stand up comedy that has causing offence as a pre-requisite in bringing about laughter. The acts of Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks and the earlier career of Tommy Tiernan, revolved around this premise.

Getting the tone right, so that it is understood that a subject is being lampooned not emulated, is an advantage that live performance has over the written word.

If Myers’ earlier work carried a hint of satire, that would soon dissipate. His scribblings became a parody of the parody he may have thought he was creating.

His cultured tone, combined with his stylised writing, allowed him to coast for several years. Both combined to create an impression that he possessed a keen intelligence, which gave him a credibility to write what he liked, how he liked.

The more blatant the allusion, the more generalised the insult, the more pleased he seemed to be that he was advocating a ‘truth’. The real truth was that he was far from the iconoclast he believed himself to be. He has been one of many participants in a tired and tawdry genre.

He and his ilk have constructed a colour by numbers approach to controversy. The easy target in their eyes being the existence of political correctness.

This code, this voluntary code, has been exaggerated as being the enemy of our time, by right wing contrarians. PC, to my mind, is an ethic to try to avoid the demonisation of entire groups of people on the basis of generalised prejudice.

To the ‘freedom mongers’ of right wing contrarians, PC is the slippery slope towards equating any type of sensitivity as being the same. This reductio ad absurdum approach has become the most boring aspect of this type of writing. It has pushed no barriers. It has merely succeeded in digging deeper holes.

It is sad, as Myers could once have been described as being a good journalist. His earlier work in Northern Ireland has been rightly praised, even if his memoir of the time concentrated as much on his sense of priapic brilliance.

The diminishing returns of his subsequent career has been enabled by several publications and by many commissioning editors. A media more intent on provoking a response, rather than informing and subsequently reflecting public opinion, will unfortunately always have room for a Kevin Myers.

The problem isn’t really with the prejudices being peddled, but with the ‘truths’ being asserted. A recent Myers article, that was probably more nodded on than saw fists shook against it, saw him fulminate against wind turbines.

Every ‘fact’ he presented in the article, every single fact, was incorrect. Facts, real facts, undermine prejudice. The truth undoes us all.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Top pic: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews

54 thoughts on “Shooting The Messenger

  1. Shayna

    “The truth undoes us all”? I enjoyed that piece. Kevin Myers made some unfortunate comments, but haven’t we all? The difference is, he’s paid for his opinion.

    1. I'm "alright" Jack. Mad Jack is on annual leave.

      Yes and I agree with Dan as well. The truth for example found out the Green Party and their crazy middle income taxes when the emissions scandal played out

      1. Donal

        Surely there is a difference between a truth know at the time and a truth found out after the event?
        The emissions scandal wasn’t mentioned as an issue back in 2007 when the motor tax regime was changed, or at least wasn’t mentioned where it would have received a large audience

  2. Laura

    I walked through the Jewish memorial garden in Bayreuth the other day, reading the relentless individual sorry after sorry, which usually goes the same way… Lost the right to work in 1933, and if they were lucky fled elsewhere, if not, they were usually gassed in some concentration camp around 1942. It never once struck we that gee whiz wouldn’t they have found myers subtle humour nuanced or ironic? I’m side it was their last thought as they stepped into the gas chambers, alright…. One after another, in a relentless queue…

    1. Anomanomanom

      That has nothing to do with anything in this piece, your comments are ridiculous. If joke about Jews being money hungry that in no way has anything to do with the holocaust or any Jews involved in it. Was he wrong in what he Said in his piece of course he was but lets not pretend the holocaust is anything to do with it.

      1. RuilleBuille

        The Holocaust didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened because a climate was created that the enemies were Jews, gays, gypsies, etcetera. This climate was created because these communities were smeared in all sorts of ways which demonised them. The trope that Jews were ‘greedy, avaricious’ individuals was just one strand of this.

  3. Clampers Outside!

    As political correctness becomes more and more about identity politics, and it brings with it its’ postmodernist way of thinking you are going to end up with even more division among people.

    Take for example the teaching of ‘microaggression training’ which has been embraced by ‘forward thinking’ or that great oxymoron, ‘progressives’ , within corporate multi nationals like Google.

    And then you look at the effects of that authoritarian political correctness and it’s now known consequences…. the reverse effect.

    It hides the surface idea it is trying to ‘correct’ in people’s bias, but never actually addresses it.
    Sadly, the effects is a heightened sensitivity to so called microaggression.

    If you work in a corporation who ask you to do a microaggression awareness or any bias training… show them this…

      1. Shayna

        I think that political correctness is a state of mind, regardless of media intervention – everyone knows how to behave and regard others.

      2. Gorev Mahagut

        Myers’ contention was that the alleged gender pay gap in the BBC is an illusion because Vanessa Feltz is Jewish and the Jews are well-known money-grubbers, so therefore she can’t possibly be under-paid. This isn’t a “micro” aggression.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          “Microaggression” theory is a subset, and was on the way to becoming, I believe, a tenet of political correctness.

          For want of better phraseology, but I hope you get the picture. That’s the only connection I am making.

      3. Nigel

        Antisemitism led to the Holocaust. Misogyny led to the systemic oppression of women for thousands of years. Racism to the North Atlantic slave trade and chattel slavery. Insidious political correctness leads white people to question whether it’s okay to touch the hair of black people they don’t know without asking, and possibly ham-handed corporate training. Horrors all.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          Of course they are horrors all, but citing extremes to make a point against the postmodernist claptrap that is political correctness today is really like shootin’ fish in a barrel. And most of which I agree, but you get a bit too simplistic… And life is far from simple.

          ” Insidious political correctness leads white people to question whether it’s okay to touch the hair of black people they don’t know without asking ”

          Ridiculously wide open comment.
          Next time i’m in China, I do hope to go again someday, and I’m off in some remote spot, or even at the Forbidden City and it’s full of Chinese tourists, and when, like last time, the many teens and young kids start rubbing their hands on my freckled skin, and pulling my hair. My hair was just starting to go grey then….
          I’ll remember to remind them that they’re all…. racists!

          Context Nigel. Use it if you want to make a point, please. Your comment was too wide open.

          ” Antisemitism led to the Holocaust. ” It did.
          ” Misogyny led to the systemic oppression of women for thousands of years. ”
          Water is wet. Well done on both there Nigel. Now please tell me why you are a supporter of those who promote Sharia Law again?

          ” Racism to the North Atlantic slave trade and chattel slavery. ”
          And what drove the Islamic slave trade that went on for longer? What drove the Irish to steal slaves from Wales? What drives the black on black slave trade on African continent today? Indians holding slaves in India. Pakistani’s holding Pakistani people as slaves and so on…. Also look up the etymology of ‘slave’. These are the countries with the most slaves… are they being racist towards themselves when they have slaves from their own country or only when they have slaves from other countries?

          Slavery has more motivations and drives than racism. Don’t simplify the problem to race.

          1. Nigel

            ‘Ridiculously wide open comment.’

            It was a very specific comment because it was the most common example cited to me by black US friends. Your experiences in China are irrelevant to it, though interesting – I’m not talking about strangers in a strange land where people might rarely see particular physical characteristics, but work and school colleagues or in social situations such as at parties or in cafes. And it really is quite simple.

            ‘Slavery has more motivations and drives than racism.’

            I know. Which is why I cited one very particular and well known example of slavery which, along with the various economic and political aspects, also had and has deep roots in the racism of the time and of today. I was using it to illustrate a point about the sorts of catastrophe wrought by racism, not to make a point about slavery. Other examples of slavery are irrelevant because I was not using them to illustrate my point.

      1. Harry Molloy

        you could refute his points or you could tell him to shut up cos you don’t like the sound of what he says.

        one is easy, one is hard.

        but this is just casual comments section so I won’t think less of you for taking the easy option

        1. Nigel

          There’s a handful of commenters around who seem more or less devoted to shutting people up or attacking them purely for commenting. I don’t get on with Clampers, but he’s worth ten of them.

          1. Brother Barnabas

            Amen to that.
            I haven’t a notion what either Nigel or Clampers are on about half the time, but I recognise that they both contribute positively to this site.
            And I bet they’d both actually get on really well with one another if they met randomly over a pint.

          2. :-Joe

            @Harry.. but which one is Gore Vidal and which one is William F. Buckley?…

            Best Of Enemies 2015 (Documentary)


          3. Paul Laver

            People say that about Donald Trump too. Like he’s not that bad, he doesn’t mean half of that stuff, he has a problem with his words sometimes

        2. Lord Snowflakee

          waa waaa some commentators won’t let me fulminate my alt-right male emasculation rage

  4. Shayna

    In 1998, I worked on the 50th anniversary of the state of Israel at Wembley Conference Centre. I autocued Maureen Lipman and Tom Conti, they read from “The Diary of Anne Frank”. I was perceived to be Jewish, all the other crew had flown in from Jerusalem. Last time I looked, I’d be on the Catholic end of things, but I do hate to disappoint.

  5. Cian

    As somewhat of a contrarian myself, I like to read articles that challenge my prejudices and my thinking.

    As a society we have various stereotypes – most have a gain of truth to them – sometimes are quite accurate – but occasionally are completely false. Some are more PC than others – “The drunken Irish” is reasonably acceptable (and reasonably accurate)[*]
    The difficulty, as I see it, is when we exclusively use the stereotype and ignore the fact that any group is made of many individuals: e.g. there are many Irish that don’t drink or drink in moderation.

    [*] for a given value of reasonably

    1. Nigel

      As a general rule of thumb, articles that employ stereotypes reinforce prejudices rather than challenge them.

      1. :-Joe

        Eh.. Isn’t that statement a generalisation?…

        Many articales state the common stereotypes for the sole purpose of discussing them, challenging them and ultimately at tleast diluting their power and meaning or dismissing them altogether.

        I suppose that statement can be true depending on what you’re into reading… maybe stop reading from bad sources then?…


  6. :-Joe

    Interesting Dan, I wonder what exactly you thought of Myers artical if taken in isolation without judging it as part of all his previous mumblings?…

    Personally, I thought the reaction was way over the top and out of proportion but I suppose most people have just had enough with Myers now and that’s understandable. . all things must pass.

    It’s a pity though, because we need contrarians, we need curmudgeons and even the so-called “far-right”, bigoted and x,y,z.. worst of them should be allowed to have an opportunity to speak.

    Give them the freedom to pull enough rope to hang themselves and even more importantly, it’s a more efficient way to allow thoughts to be expressed openly and the public can see it out in the open and decide if it’s acceptable for the greater good or not.

    The problem with censoring opinion is you drive it underground and it builds and builds into a more underlying pervasive sentiment amongst certain groups of people in a society and can then become extremist ideology at worst.

    It’s not easy to listen to something that’s widely considered offensive but most forget that you also have the right to be offended.

    Best of luck myers, I’m sure we’ll see you back in some other incarnation because everyone loves a villain.

    You auld’ pretentious, elitist, poo stirring blow-hard and what a fupp’n shy-hawk of an eejit you are too…


  7. nellyb

    His interview with Emma Barrett was very painful. Myers sounded confused, massively out of step with times, “naked”. There were attempts to present himself as a harassment victim and claim some sympathy this way.

    Barrett repeatedly brought up ‘assumed knowledge’ as basis for Myers’ reasoning, which, i thought, was bullseye. He could have accepted her argument, concede and redeem himself then. Didn’t happen. But i think Sunday Times could rehire him in 2018, give man a second chance after some soul searching in the cold. Who is better to fight prejudice than a former proponent of it? Provided he keeps a better company after this incident. Just a thought.

    1. Zoella

      Emma Barnett was downright rude. Yes, he deserved a kicking, but as the host of the show, she should have been civil. Bringing up the fact that she – who let’s face it, he had probably never heard of before this week – was Jewish was just me-me-me waaah. Terrible interview.

  8. Kenny U-Vox Plank

    We don’t need to talk about Kevin. We do need to talk about Fintan, Patsy, Kathy, and the rest in the Irish Times who took the Myers uproad and turned it into an identification politics rootle-tootle fest of the highest order, roundly ignoring the core issue – anti-semitism and replacing it with one about misogyny while bending over backwards not to acknowledge (as the Jewish Council of Ireland did) that M not only supported Jews but ISRAEL.

    However, the Irish Times managed to partly rehabilitate Myers because he was anti-IRA, a Redmondite, and wrote some waddle about Paddies who became Tommies in the Great War and protestants in Cork. The papar also ignored the fact they could have stopped him years ago (Mothers of Bs) but didnot – A female editor declined to fire him (think about that Kathy Sheridan). And of course he was given free reign to indulge his Airfic 1/32 Afrika Korps toy solider festish-myopia by hailing David Irving’s right to pronounce Shoa Denial as a matter of free speech.

    Such a twisting of facts by the Aul Wan of Tara Stree to suit a Labour Party/Identification Politics narrative is par for the course for the Irish Times. That such infantilism and downright anti-semitism (Jews can take care of themselves) goes unchallenged by the rest of media (RTE) is not surprising but it is something to be challenged and fought.

    Myers is now more popular than ever. Thanks Irish Times.

      1. Lilly

        ‘Presenters on the wrong side of 50’

        Gotta love it. Someone who is ageist criticising someone else for being racist.

        1. Kenny U-Vox Plank

          Ageism will be the Ground Zero of the Millenials Identification Politics Folly.

  9. Kenny U-Vox Plank

    Not ONE Irish Times journalist was capable of writing this. A great piece, with some wit, and devoid of the identification politics and to the whole point: Myers was offensive to Jews

    Jewish stereotype in Kevin Myers’s apology adds insult to injury
    The men who defended the writer after his ‘Sunday Times’ column do not speak for me

    Not one.

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