Competing Narratives


Defend Public Health rally this Saturday

Freedom of Choice rally this Saturday

This morning.

Ahead of two separate rallies in Dublin this Saturday.

One opposed to Covid restrictions.

The other urging more restrictions (and calling the first group far right racists).

At the core of these protests are conscious and violent far-right forces. At the ‘Health Freedom Ireland’ protest, a small group of counter protesters were subjected to a violent attack by a larger group which had come prepared with weapons such as hammers.

At the same time, these protests have also been able to draw in a broader section of people who may not even know about the nature of the forces behind the protests.

…lockdown measures have caused real psychological and social hardship which is wearing away at people more and more and this creates and opening for those who try to claim the virus is fake or exaggerated using conspiratorial thinking.

Those views are still rejected by the majority who correctly see that they attack the idea of solidarity.

In recent days, a campaign on social media has tried to promote the idea that the numbers of Covid-19 deaths is massively exaggerated because the majority of those who died had underlying health conditions – an insult to the huge numbers of people who suffer with ill health…

Nefarious peddlers of snake oil: How we can defeat the far right (Conor Payne, The Socialist Party)


…At some point, the left made a choice. They chose to side with the medical establishment.

They refused to take the position that science itself is a contested field, where conflicting studies and statistical data can be weaponised to suit competing agendas for the justification and implementation of political objectives.

Of course, they only think this kind of weaponisation is happening on the “conspiracy” side of things; the “real science” relied upon to inform Government decisions is always correct.

Why did they choose to side with the ‘man’? Perhaps they desire greater legitimacy. Or, perhaps, they can’t afford to lose any more legitimacy. They have decided to lead the masses from the ignorance of conspiracy theories into the enlightened defense of “public health”.

…As time goes on, the number of people who are likely to question the Government and media’s response to the Covid-19 crisis will increase. In their eyes, the lockdown measures either don’t make sense or are actually intended for malicious purposes far beyond the curtailing of a virus.

This is a broad spectrum and no two people think exactly alike. It’s not too late for the left to consider the question: perhaps these concerns actually have some validity to them?

The Irish Left’s Problem with the Anti-Lockdown Movement (S&TL, Medium)

Earlier: Our Mask Game Is Strong

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90 thoughts on “Competing Narratives

    1. Kolmo

      One side is pushing for solidarity with vulnerable members of society and vigilance against mindless fascism, the other is a hash of groupings looking to hijack any non-scientific conspiracy to get some political leverage by obnoxiously antagonising people into a reaction – they are not sides of the same coin.

      1. Nigel

        Don’t be sily. Believing Bill Gates created the fake pandemic to make vaccines mandatory so he can inject microchips under your skin is exactly equivalent to being anti-racist. Or, to put it another way, believing these two things to be equivalent is the most destructive form of modern extremism.

          1. Nigel

            Sorry, I forgot I was helping the government lead us down a dark authoritarian path because I think wearing masks is a good idea during an airborne virus health emergency.

      2. f_lawless

        Hear hear – I worry about the effect these government policies are having on our children. I’m not sure we’ve properly considered what the long term impact of instilling adult fears in such a way is going to be on their psychosocial development. We need to hold to account the actions of this government whose authoritarian measures are causing so much widespread damage to society – if not for ourselves, then for the next generation.

        And then you have the likes of Paul Murphy who wants to paint everyone who questions the scientific reasoning behind government policies as far-right conspiracy theorists. Seems like a desperate attempt to gain some political leverage by obnoxiously antagonising people into a reaction.

        1. Nigel

          Is this the same model of argument you’d use if governments actually started taking action against climate change and biodiversity loss?

    1. SOQ

      It’s quite extraordinary- the Left who were the radicals and the free thinkers have become the boot boys of the state.

      The last rally in London was organised by Piers Corbyn- as left as you can get. And, if appearance is anything to go by, most of the crowd were left wingers too.

      1. Tony

        the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ have long since become meaningless as any kind of political descriptors. Only used by fearful folk who have trouble perceiving shades of grey

  1. GiggidyGoo

    I’m neither left nor right. I reckon I’m either up or down. Terms being bandied about like a scattergun.

  2. Daisy Chainsaw

    A couple of weeks ago Yellow Vests were ranting about justice for people in nursing homes who caught Covid19. Now they’re ranting about how covid only really killed 100 people. The old and those with underlying conditions no longer matter to the brave paytriots.

    1. Micko

      The entire thing is a total mess on both sides.

      And the real problem is that both these “sides” only represent the fringe element of nutbags.

      Most folks just want stuff to go back to normal.

      On the plus side, I got to go to a gig the other night. Socially distanced / limited numbers and all – but it was class.

      Things slowly getting back to normal. :-)

      1. scottser

        i don’t think it’s random nutbags micko. i’ve been around enough protest movements to know that they get infiltrated very easily and trouble makers are usually plants by those who have a vested interest in discrediting the movement; sometimes private interests, sometimes the state.
        i think there’s a touch of the ‘football hooligan’ structure to it, whereby violent conflict is pre-arranged between the groups; the exposure and drama benefits both groups. it’s very interesting to see the gardai’s response to these showdowns in that they are slow to arrest protagonists from either side.
        whatever way you dress it up, it ain’t random.

        1. Micko

          Honestly scottser,

          These guys can beat two shades of crapola out of each other in town on sat and it doesn’t bother me as I’ve no interest in either side of their radical debate.

          They are both two sides of the same coin.

          I’m only interested in sensible debate (which I get here on BS thanks to all you lovely folks) where ideas can be exchanged without losing our heads.

          The majority of those lefty\righty people are zealots and their minds will never be changed.

          It’s like they both speak a different language.

      2. Nigel

        ‘Normal’ of course means regular, and almost certainly more, major disruptions followed by austerity for the majority and bailouts for the rich and powerful, all the while ignoring reasonably reliable predictions of said impending disruptions. Really not sure why people find this so attractive.

  3. V AKA Frilly Keane



    And btw
    Officially like
    The Republic of Ireland is actually a State
    Not a Nation
    Just saying

    Maybe it should say
    Bring your Nation’s, Island and or State Flag (◔‿◔)

    1. Cian

      “Bring your Nation’s, Island’s and or State’s Flag”

      Hoist with your own petard?

      sorry, I couldn’t resist ;)

      1. V AKA Frilly Keane

        Are both not right C!an

        Not that I’d be a reliable source on spellings punctuation and the grammar like
        Frilly Keane still lurks within

        But our oul’ pal Spaghetti Hoop might be the one to adjudicate this in fairness

  4. ACI Question

    Everyone knows that the Covid hoax is part of Bill Gates’ plan to dim the sun and slash the population of the planet while replacing everyone in Ireland with migrants.

    Apparently ?

  5. Nigel

    ‘At some point, the left made a choice. They chose to side with the medical establishment.’

    ‘You can’t think the pandemic is real and serious because that makes you part of the establishment’ is such a dunderheaded take. Pandemics, like climate change and biodiversitry loss, are not amenable to worrying about whose side you’re on just because you think they’re real and serious. It’s like saying you can’t think gravity is real becuase you know who else thought gtavity was real? Literally Hitler.

  6. bejasus

    you’d swear we lived in 1950s Mississippi with the number of anti racism groups. most of these people have nothing better to do than pretend Ireland has a serious problem with racism.

    1. Pee Pee

      A family home was burnt out in Galway before a Traveller family had a chance to move in. Are you for real?

    2. Janet, dreams of big guns

      there’s plenty or racism, unless you are on the receiving end you could be forgiven for not being aware of it.

      1. bejasus

        everything is racist these days.
        asking an Irish born black person where they are from is racist now, apparently.

        1. Janet, dreams of big guns

          no asking them where they are REALLY from is where you are going wrong after they tell you Raheny for example

        2. Daisy Chainsaw

          Asking them where they’re from is fine. It’s if you question their answer of, say, Ennis with “No really, where are you from?” then it’s racist.

          1. bejasus

            lol….are you for real. that isn’t racism. if you get offended by that you need to take a LONG, HARD look at yourself.

        3. bejasus

          that’s not how it works. you answer my question first.
          theres footage of travellers recently, by hand, demolishing a home in the midlands of this country. gang related it would seem.


          was there an arrest made in relation to this?
          how is it this racist?
          could have been a gang feud.

          PS. I win if you don’t answer. PMSL.

          1. Pee Pee

            You’re being willfully ignorant as to why that house was burnt down. And you’re a horrible pos. No wonder everyone hates you. The only friends you have, are other hateful people. Hope you have a crap weekend.

  7. Eoin

    So questioning the state and the science behind lockdown is now….far right? That’s a ridiculous approach to this. It’s not a political issue at all. If science is not questioned there is no scientific progress. It stands still. I am not qualified to question scientists on the virus and the state response to it, but when I see someone who is qualified questions the science I pay attention. Somebody has to be the first to ask questions and point out flaws. These people are putting their reputations on the line so the least we can do is pay attention. Einstein and Gallileo were crucified for daring to go up against the establishment in their days too…..but aren’t we glad that they did?

    1. Nigel

      If you’re going to join in the the anti-mask movement, you’re joining a movement that began with the far-right in the US, as did the opposition to lockdown and the idea that the virus is a hoax. If you have a problem wuth ‘questioning the science’ having become a red flag, don’t blame anyone but the tobacco and fossil fuel lobbies, who spent billions ‘questioning the science’ of smoke causing lung cancer and climate change, the the US right, who sided with them opportunistically, not to mention the crackpot anti-vaxxer movement, which used to be a notably stupid strain on the left but which appears to have agressively migrated rightwards.

      Pretty much everybody is questoning and criticising the response of the state, for one reason or another.

      Niether Einstein nor Galileo were crucified, thoug Galileo was certainly given a hard time by the Church.

      1. bejasus

        If you’re going to join in the the anti-mask movement, you’re joining a movement that began with the far-right in the US

        lol far right

    2. SOQ

      There is a little more to it than that Eion. Science is a bit like religion- everyone has it on their side but it has many fields and at the moment, two of those fields are in direct conflict.

      Most of the objection to this madness is not coming from within medical science but data science.

      So when someone points to a peer reviewed study on the efficacy of masks for example they are not wrong but- the real empirical evidence is their impact after introduction and they have shown to have zero impact on either infections nor sickness. Data science is every bit as valid as medical science.

      1. Q Celt

        The pandemic is a medical issue, therefore medical scientists are the best informed. Previous scientific studies have demonstrated the efficacy of masks.
        If you don’t get this then you are basically saying ‘experts what do they know’

          1. SOQ

            What I meant is both sides are arguing that they have science on their side- a bit like God- and in a way they do- expect it is differing branches of science and sometimes those branches do not agree with each other.

            Take the current situation for example- medical science is looking specifically at a virus in the here and now- to the exclusion of all others. Apart from re classifications, nobody can explain why flu numbers fell off a cliff when CoVid-19 arrived- so that is not the complete picture.

            Data science is laying less emphasis on that single virus and looks at patterns over a number of years, taking into account seasonal changes. It is a different approach but that does not make it wrong either.

        1. Junkface

          Science is not even close to religion. Science is constantly challenged and updated, as it should be provable with vigorous repetition. Religions were pulled out of old mens bottoms in the bronze age.

          I need a pint.

          1. Micko

            Completely disagree.

            Science has become extremely like religion.

            Not in it’s methodology or teachings of course, but how people react to the keepers of these ideas.

            If you need any proof of this, watch back some of the journalists interviewing the Chief medical officer.

            Everything he said was taken as Gospel. “Tell is what to do Dr Tony”

            The deference shown to the Doctors is so similar to the way we used to speak to clergy, politicians guards etc.

            And anyone who questioned the whole pandemic was met with “are you a doctor?” and “where’s your medical degree?” rubbish. As if you can’t have an opinion with out a piece of paper / uniform.

            The parallels are astounding.

          2. Nigel

            To put it another way, we have frittered away unearned respect on clergy, politicians and Guards when we should be have been reserving it for people who earn it through demonstrated expertise, competence, good acts, wisdom, judgement and fairness.

          3. bisted

            …there is no parallel…you are entitled to your own opinions…even doctors are entitled to have opinions…but nobody is entitled to have their own facts…

          4. Nigel

            Of course I would. Hence the ‘demonstrated.’ But that doesn’t mean anything – I knew religious peple who loved to challeneg priests and monks about questions of theology and morality.

          5. Micko

            I get ya Nigel, but the fact remains that not one Irish journalist at those conferences ever questioned the whole “€9 meal and yer safe from Covid” rule.

            They just lapped it up along with other inconsistencies.

            I found it extremely frustrating.

          6. Nigel

            My understanding was the the 9 euro thing, though apparently arbitrary, was the result of licensing definitions? Loosening the lickdown was always going to lead to apparent inconsistencies. “€9 meal and yer safe from Covid” is a straw man.

  8. Dave

    This is not in any real sense a competing narrative.

    We have a Government who, while not being the worst in the world in terms of their response to the pandemic (small consolation with the likes of Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro around), have made a mess of any kind of comprehensive testing regime and went out of their way to avoid tackling major issues in meat plants, mushroom farms and Direct Provision centers.

    Their messaging has been all over the place, contradictory advice/guidelines and botched attempts to turn them into laws, trying to push all responsibility back to the individual while ignoring large workplaces etc. All the while showing how they feel they are somehow above the restrictions with golfgate.

    People are correct to be angry with the Government, they are right to demand much, much better.

    The problem arises when a group of nasty, hard-right, anti-choice, homophobic bigots try to capitalise on the genuine anger out there. The groups behind the scenes here have long histories of horrible behavior and links to like minded groups around the world.

    They have tried numerous approaches to act as a poll of attraction for the anger that is out there, most recently with blatantly homophobic attacks on Roderic O’Gorman (I’m not a supporter of him or the Greens but at least criticise them for something they actually did or promote). They have now chosen to go for the anti-mask line.

    They will do or say anything to gain support, they will repeatedly lie and contradict themselves to try to capture the real anger that exists. Earlier in the pandemic they were complaining about people being left to die in nursing homes but now they claim only 100 people died from Covid. They had Marcus De Bruin speaking at the last rally, he left the medical council complaining about a lack of masks and other PPE in nursing homes then turns up on an anti-mask rally.

    If the anti-racist groups opposing these people are guilty of anything it is being too concerned with public health and being overly cautious about opposing these people while they held demos during the lockdown.

    It is hard (but far from impossible) to organise a demo with adequate social distancing but it has to be done. Just consider the alternative. The main figure behind this is Herman Kelly of the Irish Freedom Party (a quick google should confirm they are a group built on and riddled with racists). He worked for many years for Nigel Farage in Europe and he is very much attempting to organise a group that is much more UKIP than BNP.

    The dangers should be clear. Aside from giving a sense of confidence to all the closet racist out there there is a danger that if groups like this gain traction they can pull the entire political discourse to the right, like UKIP did to the Tory party in the UK. Much like the Torys our own mainstream right wing parties like Fine Gael (who voted in the EU parliament to let refugees drown in the mediteranian) have shown a willingness to pander to the racist when it might suit them – just remember Verona Murphy in the Wexford by-election.

    And all of this is before even considering the batshit stupidity of the scary number of Q Anon loons at their last event.

    Anyone who believes in equality needs to have a long hard look at these people, their past actions and the bile they spew. Think about the consequences if they are allowed, unopposed, to gain a foothold with the public. The only response is to oppose them.

    1. SOQ

      Herman Kelly was not involved in organising the anti Mandate rally- he was there because of Dolores Cahill but to her credit she stayed firmly on her scientific message and the main speaker Marcus de Brun is definitely not ‘far right’.

      As for the people who attended- do you honestly think the far right could pull those sorts of numbers? Along with plenty of others, black Asian and gay people would not have been in attendance if it was.

      Of course there are those who- mainly for their own self serving interests- want to paint these protests as fringe left / right therefore dismissing it all but it is a topic which is way to serious to be side tracked in such a manner.

      1. Dave

        I think you may have missed my point, I wrote that very quickly so it may not be the clearest.

        I do not think the far-right could attract those numbers – at least not on their own terms – mainly because everytime they try they get put back in their little hate filled boxes pretty sharpish. They have to find some genuine anger and attempt to co-opt it.

        This is what they are doing here. In the same way that white supremacists have rallied to anti-mask protests in the US or AFD members have pushed it in Germany. It is not a coincidence that this is pushed by all manner of right wing groups in Ireland from the Irish “Freedom” Party, through the National Party, the Yellow Vests, to all the Q Anon and Gemma O’Doherty types.

        I do doubt that many of the people you describe would attend if they know exactly who the people pushing this were or what views they regularly espouse. To give Marcus De Brun more credit than I really like to I never said he was far right, my intent was to use him as an example of two facets to the far right strategy. First, he had a genuine and justifiable anger at a lack of PPE in nursing homes but this anger has been co-opted into speaking at an anti-mask rally, leading nicely to the second aspect of their tactics I wanted to highlight – they will do or say anything, no matter how much they may contradict themselves, to gain a political foothold.

        There isn’t a country at any time in history that has in any way benefited from the far right gaining a foothold, They need to be opposed at every turn. The reason they have been able to organise to this level is that anyone with even mildly progressive politics has taken the pandemic seriously. As long as the government keep creating justifiable anger with confused messaging and blatantly putting the interests of the likes of the meat plants before workers while news keeps dribbling out of their own hypocrisy – like golfgate or the Bord Failte members taking holidays abroad to non-green list countries – people will be drawn to protest them and the far-right cannot be left as the only poll of attraction for them.

        Also, by way of a post-script, describing Dolores Cahill as having a scientific message essentially disqualifies from being taken seriously about any scientific topic.

          1. SOQ

            Cheers love- I usually just rattle something off and have 4 mins to revise which means sort of scrambled egg but I do take your constructive criticism on board


        1. bejasus

          the noose was to do with giving the death penalty to paedophiles.

          everyone knows this.

          only the ultra left cry babies tried to make out this was an attack on the minister.

      1. Dave

        It’s a trope so old and depressing that those who dismiss it are usually just making their own – thankfully rejected by the vast majority – views crystal clear.

  9. f_lawless

    What’s going on? Have the crazy, far-right conspiracy theorists taken over the Irish Times? So confused right now!

    “Diarmaid Ferriter: We must consider NPHET may be wrong”

    “Have we suffered from a lack of consideration given to medical and scientific opinions alternative to those promoted by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET)? Have the momentous decisions made been grounded enough in evidence? Are those who promote the Gompertz Curve model – a steep rise followed by a slow tail – on firmer evidential ground than those wedded to the idea of exponential death rate curves as per Imperial College London models? I don’t know, but I do wonder if the parameters of the medical focus we hear daily are too narrow…

    ..A lengthy letter sent to the Taoiseach and other elected representatives in August by Dr Alan Farrell that draws on the work of international experts such as Nobel laureate Michael Levitt and Swiss immunologist Beda Stadler raises these serious questions and more…

    ..He is critical of the Irish reaction to Covid as disproportionate, highlighting that face masks were not considered imperative at the height of the pandemic but are deemed so now, without enough evidential basis; that Covid-19 does not impact on certain groups such as children and pregnant women in the way influenza does; that the death rate has been similar throughout the world independent of lockdown measures (Sweden, castigated for its light-touch approach, has had a similar death rate to other countries) and that the reaction of many governments was based on questionable predictive models of Imperial College London…

    .. it is hardly unreasonable, in Dr Farrell’s words, that “the one-dimensional view of NPHET be challenged by other experts”.

  10. Jonboy

    Am I the only person who still thinks it’s weird to make a political stance out of wearing a mask to stop the spread of a virus?

    The only silver lining is that this didn’t happen when people were asked to wash their hands…

  11. Ian-O

    At this stage its clear that being anti mask usually (not always) coincides with racism, sexism, homophobia and so on.

    Very sad to see Broadsheet lurch so strongly to the right but it was hardly a surprise.

    But hey, they are just asking questions. Man.

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