Irvin Muchnick: Not Making Waves

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From top: George Gibney; BBC Sounds/Second Captains podcast ‘Where Is George Gibney?’; Irvin Muchnick

I don’t expect to be named Miss Congeniality for having to break the news to folks in Ireland that the BBC/Second Captains podcast Where Is George Gibney?, despite being hyped to the heavens by the herd of independent minds in the Anglo-Irish media, is pitifully exploitative and faux-earnest, and that its practitioners are callow.

In the just-aired episode about Gibney’s rape of a 17-year-old Irish swimmer, pseudonymously called “Susan,” on a 1991 training trip in Tampa, Florida, producer-narrator Mark Horgan tracks down her sister for the purpose of, among other things, sharing with the audience the indispensable factoids that this sexual assault victim boasted a perfect breaststroke kick and the physical beauty of a model.

Not noted is that the victim herself was interviewed in explicit detail on RTÉ television back in 2006.

Generally, the new podcast seems happy to make fair use of archival audio — but only when the content in question conveniently aligns with the new project’s template of rewriting, and adding slick production values to, what was already reported and re-reported, even in the Irish media. The priority is a patina of freshness and exclusivity.

Meanwhile, Horgan devotes exactly one sentence to recording the rejection of criminal charges against Gibney by Ireland’s director of public prosecutions. The DPP, Horgan glibly avers, “did not have jurisdiction” over Susan’s rape.

Bullshit.

In fact, Susan was one of four former swimmers of Gibney’s Trojans team who lodged abuse allegations against the two-time Irish Olympic coach, prompting a fresh investigation by gardai in Blackrock, County Dublin.

In declining to pursue his extradition, the DPP office decided they were unmoved by the body of new evidence against him. As noted in my  last article, this was in 1996.

And if jurisdiction was the sticking point in justice for Susan, then how, pray tell, does that square with the DPP’s revisiting her case yet again in 2004 (with the same result)?

The sad bottom line of this podcast series has become clearer and clearer:

The Horgan crew appeared to have no desire to use their BBC platform to assist in a global reckoning for the abuses of an Olympic sports system that turns millions of kids in extracurricular activities into vessels of our bread-and-circuses fantasies, while covering up the worst outcomes, many of them heinous.

In the interview of Susan’s sister, she betrays this superficiality. The tragedy of her sibling’s ruined life is, yes of course, that Susan, following multiple suicide attempts, would turn into a mental patient who required institutionalisation. But the other tragedy is the one about how the evil coach dashed a family’s dreams of Olympic glory — Susan’s, directly, and their parents’, vicariously.

Thus does our world devolve into full-tilt jockocracy, a place where the ultimate grievance is the one expressed by the Marlon Brando character in On the Waterfront: “I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.”

For me, the derivative and thoroughly sophomoric nature of Where Is George Gibney? was evident from the first second of the first episode.

In that moment, Horgan and his cohort set off on a purportedly breathless, carefully engineered stakeout of an old man. Actually, Gibney was long known to be playing out the end of his miserable life in a house on Breakwater Drive in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Whether there is an actual punchline for this extended contrivance remains to be heard.

For the latest episode, Ireland’s answers to the Hardy Boys of children’s mystery books tell podcast listeners that they have changed pursuit cars for their undercover op.

Subscribing to the Michael Moore school of documentary making, Horgan must convey everything through his own eyes. Unfortunately, he lacks Moore’s wit and sense of purpose.

One of my Irish-American readers got it right.

Where Is George Gibney?, this reader wrote me early on, is “like an Australian one, The Teacher’s Pet, which turned a sordid but potentially interesting story into an irritating endurance test. My wife has difficulty listening to any Australian accents as a result.”

Irvin Muchnick writes at Concussion.net

Previously: Gibney Didn’t Vanish

Shallow Hype

Previously: The Chief Justice, Her Brother And How George Gibney Got Away

Meanwhile…

Tonight.

Journalist Irvin Muchnick (above) will Answer A Broadsheet Reader.

Please leave any questions on Gibney, the BBC Sounds/Second Captains podcast or any other matters for Irvin below.

UPDATE: Irvin answers

Previously: Answer A broadsheet Reader on Broadsheet

11 thoughts on “Irvin Muchnick: Not Making Waves

  1. broadbag

    The unfortunate reality is that slick and attention grabbing content like this is more likely to gain traction and get results than the tireless, detail-oriented, fact based investigative work that Irvin spent so long selflessly doing for years of his life. See the likes of Making a Murderer or Serial for other examples, if they can get the public behind them they can gain a momentum that a lone journalist simply cannot in this day of soundbites and clickbait, more’s the pity.

    Reply
  2. Blonto

    It’s such a shame that the podcast couldn’t/wouldn’t collaborate with Irvin. He’s the center point of information on Gibney. While it’s great that the victims get a voice, the main point of this case is not about where Gibney is, but how he was allowed into the USA and how he has managed to stay there. The massive redactions on Irvin’s FOI requests, added to the political interest from some on both sides of the atlantic, show that this goes far beyond swimming.
    Keep pulling on the thread. One day it will all unravel.

    Reply
      1. dav

        I recall hearing or reading somewhere Second Captains alleged/complained once, that Irvin wanted remuneration when they invited him onto their rte radio show. Now I stand to be corrected on this.
        If true I have no issue with this as Irvin has done a huge amount of work on a dirty little secret that irish journalists have ignored.

        Reply
  3. Formerly known as @ireland.com

    Quoting from the post:
    Where Is George Gibney?, this reader wrote me early on, is “like an Australian one, The Teacher’s Pet, which turned a sordid but potentially interesting story into an irritating endurance test. My wife has difficulty listening to any Australian accents as a result.”

    – If someone has difficulty listening to an Aussie accent after listening to the podcast, they should seek help.

    Reply
  4. seanydelight

    Hi Irvin, well done on all the work to date. What’s the latest on the case from your understanding? If he lied in his immigration application, would ICE not intervein?
    All I ever hear about them is their cavalier gung-ho approach to the type of persons they can kick out of the states.

    Do you think or have any evidence to suggest there are still active predators in Irish sport, either new or still part of the organizations? And what details, if any, can you share at this point, if so?

    Thanks and good luck.

    Reply
  5. Moon Safari

    I’m a subscriber to the Second Captains podcast, and the way they’ve been promoting this series hasn’t sat well with me at all. They seem to be relying on the details of what Gibney did to his victims, using them in promotional clips, rather than focusing on the investigations into Gibney and the culture that allowed him to evade justice. “Exploitative and faux-earnest” just about sums it up

    Reply
  6. Irvin Muchnick

    Thanks to all for your comments. I’ll reserve answers to most questions for my interview tonight on “Answer a Broadsheet Reader.” Quickly, on a few points: I discussed my dealings with the Second Captains people in a section of this long piece, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14173, Gibney is the target of an open investigation of the US Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, under the coordination of that office’s human trafficking finance specialist, and this investigation is an offshoot of a federal grand jury investigation of USA Swimming for covering up abuse cases, insurance fraud, and hiding assets from victims seeking restitution. Finally, the prosecution of Gibney for his rape of an Irish swimmer in 1991 in Florida remains possible, but requires someone knocking together the heads of Irish and American police and prosecutors to get them to share the known evidence.

    Reply
    1. Andrew

      Thanks for the hard work you have invested in this Irvin, I have read a lot of it over the years.
      I understand your frustration.
      Justine McCarthy has also written very well on this too.
      I feel that we will have to rely on the U.S. system to get justice as our own here in Ireland seem reluctant to to do anything.

      Reply
    2. Toe Up

      Thanks for that Irvin. I’ll read that after work.

      I remember reading about Gibney on the ‘sheet and when I heard that the podcast was coming I assumed that you would have been a major contributor.

      Reply

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