Author Archives: Eamonn Kelly

From top: Covid testing at Dublin Airport; Eamonn Kelly

There is a small percentage chance of dying from Covid-19. The exact percentage is hard to pin down because the risk is age and health related too. But when all is weighed and measured it seems to be somewhere around 1-3%. Here is a link to a study that has gone into this in tremendous detail, offering charts and graphs and all the rest relating to risk assessment.

Generally, it’s safer to be young than it is to be old – old being over 40, hah! – and it is better to be healthy rather than unhealthy. But even allowing for these generalisations there is still a risk of dying from Covid no matter what age you are or how healthy you are. In other words, there are known unknowns to be factored in when assessing risk.

For instance, no one person can know for certain how their particular metabolism will respond to the virus, regardless of what they may think or “feel” or believe about this. In a similar way as no one knows for sure how they’ll react in a crisis until they’re actually in a crisis.

A few months back it was reported in the US that a young man who had attended a so-called Covid party in order to deliberately catch the virus in the belief that this would build immunity, ended up in intensive care. Shortly before he died, he told a nurse that he had “made a mistake”.

His mistake was that while he believed that he was stronger than the virus, he simply had no way of knowing how his metabolism would react to the virus. He was not in possession of all the facts and all the risk factors, and was tricking with something that killed him.

Dosage

Another unknown is the long-term effects of the virus. It seems that people who caught the virus and recovered are still feeling the effects of the virus months afterwards. Does this mean the virus is still in their systems waiting for an opportunity to go deeper?

Related to this possibility is yet another unknown. Early in the pandemic it was thought by some experts that catching the virus may be related to dosage. This would explain why some health workers succumbed. That a lethal dosage had accumulated in their systems over time.

Might people who have already had the virus and still experience return of symptoms have within them a certain “dosage” which could be topped up by catching the virus a second time? The jury is still out on this as well.

The Stakes

The point of all this being, there is a percentage gamble when exposing yourself to the virus that could result in death. To put it another way, by not observing recommended precautions you are staking everything on winning. The odds are really good that you will win. But if you lose, you lose everything.

There is also the possibility that by not taking precautions you may pass the virus to someone who is susceptible – most likely a close friend or family member – and they may lose everything, due to your choices.

This gamble can be offset by observing recommended guidelines; wearing a mask and washing your hands, until such time as a workable vaccine is available.

The irony of all this is, if you’re the type of person who feels they are resisting an unjust government directive that you believe is infringing on your rights and freedoms, your refusal to participate in protecting yourself and the community may have the effect eventually of forcing the government to implement more stringent laws than might otherwise have been the case, laws that may restrict your rights and freedoms.

Because of the nature of the virus and its opportunistic infection capabilities this has to be a team effort. The whole world could mask up and lockdown, and it would only take one Covid dissident to undo all the good work.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

RollingNews

 

From top: Tanaiste Leo Varadkar leaked confidential documents to his friend and political supporter Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail (right), a president of the now defunct National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP); Eamonn Kelly

The Village article saga will likely dominate the news this week. Following the article and the statement by the Tánaiste in which he acknowledged that he “had provided a government document to a medical organisation through informal channels,” as reported in The Journal, the next question is, Is that illegal?

Village contends that it is illegal, while the Tánaiste rejects this and admits that it was “not best practise”. This line “not best practise” has been taken up by the taoiseach and others like a shield to deflect the awkward legality angle.

The ins and outs of whether or not this practise is or isn’t illegal is way beyond the scope of my abilities to discern or decide and will be thrashed out over the next week by better informed heads. But the story is fascinating on a number of levels, not least the level of unprofessionalism involved.

It would appear that the recipient of the confidential document is a social friend of Leo Varadkar and was the beneficiary of a favour. It is almost as if one of the perks of being a friend of a politician is that you may have access from time to time to confidential documents which might normally only be available to certain people in government.

The gesture of sharing the document might also be a form of showing off to a friend the reach of your powers. Whatever the motive, the act itself, the sharing of the document, is basically unprofessional, whatever about its legality or otherwise.

Unprofessional Standards

This kind of unprofessionalism is not uncommon in Ireland. People often appear to break from their roles for the sake of interpersonal showing off or advantage.

The point though is not so much the legality or illegality of such actions, as it is the casual abandonment of the person’s role, position, duties and obligations by the standards of professionalism, which you would imagine are held in high esteem by those in high positions.

But as was demonstrated by the church scandals, that may not necessarily be the case, while the current mother and baby controversy seems to amount to a form of human trafficking in which the state is implicated.

And it is here that the Varadkar story is both very Irish and very average. Because here is a former taoiseach who apparently, while taoiseach, by his own admission, abdicated on basic professional standards in order to facilitate a friend.

A friend who was engaged in establishing a rival union to an already existing union representing people in the same sector. The fact that unions are involved, coupled with Varadkar’s neo-liberal ideology, makes the whole affair seem even more intriguing.

The careful repetition by other politicians of the phrase the Tánaiste used in his defence, “not best practise”, while being politically wily, manages only to project a suspicion of complicity in the practise, suggesting perhaps that the practise is fairly common in day-to-day political activity.

Certainly, the general view of politics in Ireland is that it is rife with cronyism. But what hasn’t been made so abundantly clear until now is the likelihood that one of the perks of governing is that you may share inside information with friends and acquaintances, presumably for any number of reasons: from a desire to impress with your power, to even perhaps issuing subtle business tip-offs. Who knows?

The point is, the impression given is that there doesn’t seem to be any moral reason why you wouldn’t engage in such practises. On the contrary, by Irish standards, it seems almost expected of you. You might even argue that the only reason for acquiring political power in the first place is that it gives you access to the inner sanctums of government from whose secrets you and your immediate circle of friends may derive benefit.

Again, such an attitude, which might be framed as “clever” by a certain type of person, is actually a lack not only of professionalism, but also of even the belief that professional standards matter. It’s an acknowledgment that cute hooerism is the accepted Irish professional standard.

Whose Government?

There was an article recently published in the Irish Times by the American writer Richard Ford which oddly sheds some light on this. Ford described Americans as being affected by “a deep, colonial-inherited suspicion of government.”

A similar suspicion due to colonialism perhaps exists in Ireland too, where the acquisition of political office often appears to be seen more like a hi-jacking of the levers of power than an acquisition of power to benefit the wider community.

This sense of an Irish politician using their position to facilitate a crony is what makes the Varadkar story so tawdry, so familiar and so disappointing.

Prior to this there were many who believed that Varadkar was a break with the kind of brown envelope past which, despite Michael Lowry and his supporters, was a culture (or lack of) that was always most strongly associated with Fianna Fáil.

Now it appears that this parish pump form of cronyism is not confined to one party, or even to the occasional cross-party bad apple, but actually appears to be a standard of unprofessionalism that informs much of Irish political life.

Rogue Element

The next week may be less about interrogating a system that encourages clientelism, less about finding out whether or not the Tánaiste’s actions were legal or otherwise, and more about a display of political manoeuvres designed to extricate Varadkar from this awkward tangle, without him having to resign, and without inadvertently implicating the entire system in the lack of professional standards that gave rise to the situation in the first place.

This kind of game has its place in our dysfunctional system, and a ready audience eager to admire the escapology of the rogue, which is how we, as post-colonials possibly understand the true meaning of politics.

Was it illegal? is not the question. Will he manage to get away with it? That’s where the sport is to be found.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

From top: Irish Examiner’s front page last Monday; Eamonn Kelly

Aoife Moore’s article in the Irish Examiner on Monday  “Single Mothers on Welfare Feel ‘Bullied’ by Inspectors” reads like an extract from “The Lives of Others”, the 2006 film about the East German Stasi.

While the article cited privacy intrusions of a grotesque nature, the stories also had the effect of strengthening the case for the introduction of a universal basic income.

One single mother described two female welfare inspectors ordering her out of her own bedroom where they then went through her underwear, apparently intent on discovering if there were any signs of male presence to be found in her underclothes or, presumably, in or around her bed.

Lots of odd questions spring to mind from just this one incident, not the least of them being the apparent policing of sexual activity by state officials, along with the perplexing question of the right of DEASP officials to enter and search people’s homes without notice or warrant as described in the article.

These intrusions are justified by a suspicion or possibility of welfare fraud. But this raises another question. Does claiming a welfare payment equate to a surrendering of certain fundamental rights and freedoms?

This question alone gains even further significance today since an estimated 150,000 people are likely to lose their jobs as a result of the new lockdown. No doubt they will all be interested in hearing of any hidden “costs” associated with claiming a welfare payment.

The question of a potential threat to democratic freedoms due to Covid, is further complicated by the government’s apparent attempt to railroad through, without consultation or debate, an extension of special powers for the minister for health, as reported in today’s Irish Times. This also suggests that observance of democratic niceties are not deemed a very pressing priority.

Detectives

In Aoife Moore’s Examiner article one woman describes a social welfare inspector regularly parked outside her house all day and into the evening, keeping her under surveillance, even following her to and from the kids’ school. Was this official some kind of Walter Mitty cop, brightening up his public service day with a bit of make believe?

A similar kind of faux “investigative” persona was turning up in JobPath and in the department after Leo Varadkar’s welfare cheats campaign. Welfare officials playing TV cop with the welfare recipients, the “suspects” helpfully framed by Leo Varadkar, the then minister for social protection.

At the time, Bernadette Gorman, a former social welfare officer, said that in her experience welfare fraud was “miniscule” and that she believed minister Varadkar was deliberately demonising the vulnerable in his bid for the Fine Gael leadership.

But all this needless investigative activity, in combination with the current Covid crisis, has the effect of reinforcing the argument for a basic income. Because the intrusions described by Aoife Moore’s article seem a lot like “work” being created by people with nothing better to be doing.

A basic income, a living payment to the amount of the current Jobseeker’s Allowance, would have the effect of saving millions of euro on these pointless faux “secret police” operations.

But there is a far more disturbing potential to this type of surveillance by a state bureaucracy than just a waste of tax-payers’ money.

Functionaries

Back in the early 1960’s when the political philosopher Hannah Arendt was studying the former Nazi functionary Adolph Eichmann, on trial by Israel for war crimes, she could see nothing remarkable about the man at all.

In her controversial book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem”, she came to believe that evil is not some monstrous, dramatic entity, but is far more often found in the ordinary, complacent, faceless, number-crunching servant of a vast bureaucracy. She coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to explain what she perceived as Eichmann’s utter lack of remarkability.

The ideas she developed about the effect of bureaucracies on individuals, both as functionaries and as objects of the bureaucracy, stand as a warning about the nature of bureaucracies, which tend to develop lives of their own, independent of the individuals that supposedly run them.

This comes about as a result of what Arendt called “the rule of nobody”.

No one person is committing the acts of the bureaucracy, no one person is responsible or accountable, everyone is just “doing their job”, “following orders”, ticking boxes, gradually becoming dehumanised themselves by the cold logic of the needs of the bureaucracy.

“In a fully developed bureaucracy,” Arendt writes, “there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.”

“The Department”

When Aoife Moore contacted the DEASP for a reaction to the stories cited in her Examiner article, a “spokesperson” for “the department” said “If there are specific examples, we would ask that these be brought to the department’s attention.”

But the problem about bringing a complaint to “the department” about the activities of social welfare inspectors “just doing their jobs” is that the social welfare inspectors are the department. What if the person you complain about also takes the complaint? Or is a colleague of that person?

“The department” itself is an abstract entity. As such it doesn’t actually exist. It is an entity made up of people who appear to be subject to Hannah Arendt’s “rule of nobody”: faceless individuals quietly ticking the boxes, serving the abstract entity’s wants and needs, which gradually take precedence over the needs of the “nobodies” the bureaucracy was initially designed to serve.

Almost without anyone noticing, the bureaucracy itself is soon referred to as if it is a person. In this case “the department”. When questions are raised about the behaviour of servants of “the department”, the “will” of the abstract entity is always invoked, and no one person is ever accountable for its actions.

Solution

A basic income would release people from the violations reported in Aoife Moore’s article, which were undertaken on a pretext of cost-cutting.

A basic income would also release those well-intentioned public servants who may have become mindless cogs in the bureaucratic machine, finding their own lives reduced in significance in service to the needs of the bureaucratic machine.

There are many books and studies on the toxicity of bureaucracies and their softly softly threat to democracy, from Kafka to Orwell and Arendt and beyond. But perhaps the most entertaining and convenient primer on the subject is the film “Brazil” by Terry Gilliam.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

From top: Apple CEO Tim Cook received an award at an IDA Ireland event in the National Concert Hall last January to mark Apple’s 40 years in Ireland, watched by then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left); Eamonn Kelly

Leo Varadkar’s comments in yesterday’s Business Post about taxing the multinationals brought into focus Ireland’s dependent relationship with the multinationals.

While it is generally agreed that the multinationals are important to the Irish economy, the suggestion that they should be entirely tax free speaks volumes about Irish dependency. Because in that relationship with the multinationals there is the sense of being minded, like children.

Independence

From that idea arises two further ideas. One, that we might have been far better off staying with Britain, since we obviously need an external authority to make things happen for us; and two, that in our dependent relationship with multinationals we can only ever be workers, giving our time and energies for the interests of others, who will export the profits and give us the occasional pat on the head.

Figuratively speaking it’s like we’re still serving the big house, it’s just a different big house.

Implicit in this dependent relationship is the idea that local businesses will never get into a position to compete.

In David McWilliams most recent Irish Times article “Why an Irish mortgage costs 80k more than a German one” he showed how Irish banks actually penalise Irish businesses by refusing to pass on lower EU interest rates to Irish businesses.

Alongside this unfair trading sits a kind of national inferiority complex where confidence is always low in the Irish themselves. I once knew a German woman who went to FAS seeking grant assistance and, as she said herself, once they heard she was German “All the doors opened”. Irish people at that time couldn’t even get a pat on the head from them.

Meanwhile, over on Twitter, banking whistleblower Jonathan Sugarman reminded Varadkar that if his government hadn’t spent over €8 million defending Apple’s right to withhold due taxes, that we would have plenty of ICU places to deal with the pandemic.

But Irish people aren’t the priority, except insofar as they might occupy promised multinational jobs at some point in the future.

Dependency

The ongoing dependency on the multinationals may actually go right to the heart of the meaning of democracy. Because in such a dependent relationship, our government often seem more like a managerial class working towards the interests of the multinationals.

The core idea of the relationship is based largely on the understandings of trickle-down economics, in that the multinationals will set up base here and provide jobs and presto! Everybody wins.

However, while this arrangement was progressive in the early 1960s, the ongoing effect has been arguably detrimental to Ireland’s sense of independence, and may simply be serving to postpone the cultural need to pose important questions in relation to post-colonialism and the meaning of independence.

The ongoing dependence on the multinationals may have had the effect of prolonging a kind of cultural learned helplessness, a dependence on greater powers, leaving Ireland stunted and ineffectual.

This ineffectual dependence was perhaps best exemplified in that embarrassing photo of Enda Kenny, the then taoiseach, being patted on the head by Nicolas Sarkozy.

This is where dependence has taken us. Lost children on the world stage.

So, while the multinationals walk away tax free and generously grant-aided, we feed off one another, the banks crippling Irish local businesses before they can get going; the service providers hammering the consumer for basics; while the main political parties surreptitiously privatise national assets, kindly divvying out opportunities for profit to foreign investors.

Condescension

In this ongoing dependent scenario, the people become a kind of servant class on the one hand, and a meek collective of exploited consumers on the other. While the politicians, essentially agents for foreign capital, wag the finger and presume to “teach” us, like Simon Harris over the weekend warning us against trick or treating at Halloween, as pretending to be sick might have the effect of unnecessarily scaring us.

It’s not trick or treating that scares most Irish people. It’s the likes of Harris and Varadkar stripping out the health service, scapegoating the poor, and happily creating homelessness and exploited workers, leaving them without union protection at the mercy of multinationals, like those Debenham workers still picketing for recognition and justice after all these months.

It’s the established Irish political class that scares people. Because it often seems that the established parties don’t work for Irish people, rather they presume to command, themselves apparently working for pats on the head from figures of foreign power.

While the strategy makes a certain sense – appeasing multi-nationals in return for jobs – the practise often comes across as unseemly, unfair and hopelessly regressive, imposing incalculable costs on native Irish confidence and business potential. As the rest of Europe learned long ago, appeasing does have costs down the line.

The multinationals get all the breaks while the Irish themselves are handicapped by red tape, inflated rates and official insinuations of inadequacy.

The cost of appeasing our multi-nationals with generous tax breaks and grant aid, in return for jobs, means we may never learn to create our own opportunities, and risk remaining forever dependent in a kind of phony independence, with only a flimsy tricolour to warm us when the vultures have finished feeding.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

RollingNews

From top: Tanaiste Leo Varadkar at Burke Joinery in Kylemore, Dublin 10 last week; Eamonn Kelly

Leo Varadkar was photo-opping the other day with a huge machine that planes and finishes sheets of prefabricated timber. Leo walked alongside the machine with his hand on the edge of the sheet of timber as the machine did its thing. It was bit like standing at the rear of a vehicle and leaning on it with your hand as the vehicle begins to move, taking credit for the “skill” of the engine causing the vehicle to move.

Apart from the photo op being a compelling demonstration of advanced automation, further supporting the argument for an introduction of a basic income, the photo op was rich in numerous unintended messages.

One, it demonstrated that Leo Varadkar knows nothing about manual labour, which tends to involve a little bit more than walking beside a machine, calling instead for investment of muscle, sinew and bone that, over time, leads to a consequent shortening of life.

It also demonstrates that the now Tánaiste’s PR team are still active on public money in using that money to play perception magician with the public.

Sexy Apprentices

The idea of sexing up trade apprenticeships comes with the realisation that the higher aspirations of college credentials and the types of white collar careers such credentials used to deliver are now suffering from the fact that there simply aren’t enough white-collar careers to go around.

The idea is also attractive from an elitist political point of view in that you with your college career – despite what you may be hearing about the value of “skills” – will always be a step ahead of those who don’t have a college education. College education matters. It matters a great deal. It matters particularly in money management and business skills.

Like most things party political, this idea that apprenticeships are a credible alternative to further education only looks to a short-term future.

While it is true that having a manual skill in the trades is a good thing, it is only a good thing in an ideal world. And while the promise of apprenticeships in the trades sounds good on the face of it, the fact is the trades are being decimated by automation and by the privatisation of housing development.

Education is also being decimated by monetisation, so now it barely even delivers the founding promise of the academy, and instead often traps students into long term debt. Both are being decimated by neo-liberal policies, the very policies that Varadkar stands for.

Back In The Day

Back in the 1960s and 1970s Fianna Fáil generated employment in the trades by embarking on vast social housing programmes, something Fine Gael are ideologically opposed to. Which begs the question, what are all those apprentices supposed to do when they acquire the skills of whatever trade they plump for?

The answer of course is, emigrate. Which is probably the idea anyway since emigration has served Ireland’s ruling class so well over the last fifty years, acting as a safety valve that kept their political seats and business interests safe from youthful, hungry competition.

So what is this photo and this encouragement towards the trades all about? Well, in the parlance of building workers it’s called “blowing smoke up your hole”.

It’s designed to make the politician look good and make it seem like he’s looking to the future, but is in fact a ruse to make people lower their ambitions and expectations and be willingly redirected towards lives as manual workers in an automated neo-liberal world that will in all likelihood have no real use for them.

It is a short-term distraction to take away from the fact that in reality all the seats are taken – there are only so many professors the world needs – and the fact that a basic income is the only realistic way forward to ensure a stable society, something neo-liberals like Varadkar simply cannot countenance.

Class Consciousness

Ultimately Varadkar represents a class interest that depends for its superiority on the existence of malleable lower classes. This promotion of apprenticeships and manual work looks to create and enhance an uneducated service class.

The alternative, given the realities of automation and the sheer lack of career opportunity, which will also, by the way, apply to manual work, is to introduce a basic income and to make third level education free to those that want it, in order that the ideals of the academy be honoured, and the bankers preying on students be run off the campuses.

Further to this, a public works programme should be embarked upon, to provide homes for people and the opportunity of practical application for apprentices who wish to learn a trade. Not providing such realistic opportunities in the field for apprentices creates another monetized education system, which is probably the idea.

Varadkar and other neo-liberals will not even consider these options since these would have the effect of removing the only thing that gives them status: the existence of an uneducated underclass.

The result is this short-term stop-gap idea designed to keep them in power in the short term while they think up ways of ensuring their ongoing survival as a political class, even despite their antiquated ideas.

The problem is that their determination to pretend that it is still 1960 is to create a widening split between haves and have-nots and all the social inequality and unrest that this entails.

Suggesting that everyone learn a trade because the white-collar seats are already filled is a stop-gap measure for politics lacking in vision suitable to the times.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

From top The Irish Times, August 17 and August 26; Eamonn Kelly

It was never my intention to become some kind of ongoing critic of radical feminism. But I have noticed a pattern in how radical feminists deal with criticism, a pattern that others don’t appear to be reporting on or discussing.

The strategies radical feminists use to counteract criticism seem to be mainly concerned with tarnishing and maligning the critic. What used to be called, shooting the messenger. At least this is my impression.

The Irish Times in recent weeks has become an active outlet for this type of strategy, in the wake of what radical feminists are calling “the backlash”.

On August 26, The Irish Times published an article by The Guardian writer Laura Bates, with the rationally balanced, impartial, benign and non-inflammatory title of “The Rise of a Toxic Male Separatist Movement Who Hate Women”.

The piece was a promotion of Laura Bates’ new book maligning some men for taking the decision to avoid women who seem to those men to be overly hostile towards masculinity.

To put it absurdly, her book maligns men tired of being maligned by people like her for now avoiding people like her. Their dislike of being maligned now worn as a badge of victimhood by Bates to justify further maligning.

Ironically, a week or so earlier The Irish Times published one of those now jaded, supposedly humorous articles about “mansplainers” and so on, titled “Men To Avoid”, taking the ridicule angle on masculinity.

It seems it’s okay for women to avoid some men, but not okay for men to avoid some women. It would make you wonder what manner of machinations are going on in some back office in The Irish Times.

Cathy Newman

The failings of this strategy to discredit critics, or just people tired of being maligned, were most clearly and cruelly revealed a couple of years back in Channel 4’s now infamous 2018 interview of Dr Jordan Peterson by Cathy Newman. What the interview revealed was a startling lack of ability by Newman to engage in a fair debate.

Instead her strategy appeared to revolve around a determined effort to ignore references to scientific studies, accompanied by an equally determined effort to personally discredit the interviewee and provoke him to anger, which, if successful, could then presumably be framed as male anger and construed as an indicator of latent violent tendencies.

After that interview, a sympathetic Guardian journalist, Nosheen Iqbal, interviewed Cathy Newman about the interview and used the occasion to malign Peterson as “alt-right”, a charge he by now wearily denies. Newman used the same Guardian interview to assert that all men who critique feminism’s maligning of masculinity have hidden agendas.

Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson came to prominence in his opposition to Canada’s bill c16, which, he claimed, would mean that the improper use of a pronoun could be construed, in certain contexts, as hate speech.

Peterson’s opposition to the bill became controversial because the issue that had prompted the bill was a trans/gender issue.

This resulted in an invasion by student protestors of a lecture Peterson was scheduled to give at McMaster University in Ontario in 2017, on the grounds, in the estimation of the protesters, that anything Peterson said was hate speech.

This allowed the protesters, in their own estimation, to cancel his right to free speech, which they did by yelling slogans and standing in front of him at the head of the lecture theatre, drawing a banner like a curtain between him and his audience.

Peterson responded by taking the lecture and his audience out to the car park where he advised his audience to resist being provoked to anger by the protesters, and to simply allow them their freedom of expression so that the limitations of their expression could be clearly seen and heard.

So You’re Saying…

Feminists often counter criticism with similar obstructionist strategies and name-calling. The critic is framed as a misogynist, or is ridiculed, or is accused of having a hidden agenda and so on.

The strategy seems to be to simply silence and malign the critic, without making any attempt to debate the questions posed by the critic.

In the case of Cathy Newman’s interview with Jordan Peterson, Peterson undermined the strategy by keeping his cool and concentrating on the debate. Once he refused to respond to name-calling, Newman quite literally had nothing to offer the debate.

Many saw Newman’s repeated “So your saying…” approach as an attempt to misrepresent the interviewee by reframing his comments. But another take on this by cartoonist and satirist Scott Adams is far more interesting.

Adams saw Newman’s constantly repeated “so you’re saying…” as evidence of cognitive dissonance in the face of an irrefutable argument backed by science, and the dismantling of what Newman had taken to be a rock-solid belief system, (the patriarchy), clashing with her own professionalism as an objective journalist.

This collision of conflicting ideas and loyalties had the effect of causing Newman to kind of mentally short circuit, falling into that loop of “so you’re saying…” in the vain hope of somehow re-framing a losing position.

(Credit must go to Channel 4 for choosing to broadcast the 30-minute interview in its entirety. It  is one of the best available demonstrations of the limitations of this destructive mode of discourse favoured by radical feminists.)

Backlash

After that interview, as already mentioned, The Guardian helped to paper over the cracks by suggesting that Peterson is a product of the alt right.

But this attempt to tarnish Peterson after the fact was the same strategy that failed for Newman in the actual interview; was the same strategy employed by the students in McMaster, and is the same strategy currently being pursued by The Irish Times in a misguided attempt to counter the supposed “backlash” being suffered by the feminist movement.

But there is no “backlash”, there is simply criticism which is not being responded to, apart from the by now routine attempts to malign and discredit the critics. In fact, this is the main criticism: that these attempts to discredit masculinity seem to many men to be overt expressions of misandry.

The impression you’re left with is that this is a mode of argument – a deliberate undermining of debate – that has worked quite well in university women’s studies group, but when exposed in the real world its shortcomings are evident.

The inevitable response to a debate that cannot be dominated by either post-modern re-contextualising or attempts to discredit the opponent, is to simply shout down the opponent so that no debate is possible, as happened in McMaster.

Conclusion

After the incident in McMaster, Jordan Peterson said that he felt that the students had been let down by their own teachers and had been misled into an intolerant ideology.

Similarly, readers of The Irish Times and The Guardian are being let down and misled by editors in those newspapers who appear to feel justified, in the interests of gender equality, to publish articles maligning and ridiculing masculinity.

But it is disappointing that both papers seem blind to the fact that what they are participating in is the dissemination of gender prejudice and the deliberate undermining of rational debate.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

From top: Arts Minister Catherine Martin at the Jack B Yeats exhibition in The Model in Sligo on last week; Eamonn Kelly

Leisure the Basis of Culture

One of the arguments frequently put to government by the arts fraternity when seeking arts funding is that the arts create revenue. While this is a good argument, it has the unfortunate effect of placing the arts squarely in the economy’s utilitarian tool-shed, making of the arts what Thomas Aquinas called the servile arts, as opposed to the liberal arts.

The difference between the two is that the liberal arts have no end but their own end, while the servile arts are those arts and sciences that are essentially appropriated by the state to achieve specific goals for the state.

In literary terms it is like the difference between the Soviet literature of socialist realism, designed to glorify the revolution, and Solzhenitsyn depicting awkward to explain hardships in the Siberian wastes.

The reason why the money-making angle seems like the only concrete argument to be made for arts funding is because the world of the economy is now so all-encompassing. We live in a time where every activity must serve the economy. As soon that happens, the liberal arts virtually cease to exist.

So, the argument that the arts is good for the economy, as a way of convincing hard-nosed and often ignorant politicians that arts funding is justified, has the effect of destroying the very ground on which the liberal arts is of any use to the common good.

Because it is precisely in their perceived “uselessness” that the arts are “useful”; but only if they are permitted to be “useless”. The point is, you can’t understand the value of the liberal arts by the yardstick of the economy, or, what the philosopher Josef Pieper calls the world of “total work”.

While right-wing enthusiasts of hard work for others like Leo Varadkar might claim that getting up early in the morning is a “good”, the book of Job tells us that “God giveth songs in the night.”

In this respect the coronavirus has thrown us a life-line, an opportunity to avail of Pieper’s “power of leisure” to maybe find a way of dreaming up some climate disaster escape plans.

Leisure and Culture

Josef Pieper’s book, “Leisure The Basis of Culture”, published in 1947 when the world was rebuilding after the war, provides a sustained argument which sets out to show that the modern world, the world of “total work” as he calls it, is actually having the effect of pushing the arts and humanities towards extinction.

His argument is, generally, that a concentration on utilitarian ends will have the effect of hollowing out the human experience, essentially creating a kind of rot in the culture.

The irony of this is, that in the ongoing degradation of the arts and other methods by which people use the power of leisure to gain perspective and transcend the workaday world, the ability to even perceive the prison walls that the world of total work creates, also becomes dimmed.

Evidence of this rot of culture he sees in the changed aspect of the academy.

Pieper writes:

“Perhaps the reason why ‘purely academic’ has sunk to mean something sterile, pointless and unreal is because the scholar has lost its roots in religion. And so, instead of reality we get a world of make-believe, of intellectual ‘trompe l’oeil’ [optical illusion], and cultural tricks and traps and jokes…”

It is exactly this type of intellectual trickery that informs post-modern argument and cancel culture. While the universities themselves, site of these linguistic games, far from being academies of free thinking and intellectual exploration are often little more than economic traps, where banks prey on youth to deceive them into lifetimes of debt.

In that regard, Pieper’s world of “total work” has already completely over-run the academy, turning free thought and intellectual exploration, and arts and culture in general, into commodities for the market to feed on, in a marketplace devoid of any pretense towards acknowledging the divine in cultural activity.

You Are Your Own Detective

In a New Yorker article from 1996, “Why I Wrote ‘The Crucible’”, Arthur Miller distilled the essence of the problem posed to freedom of expression by both the Salem Witch trials and McCarthyism. In both cases, he said, it was never so much about actions being taken by individuals, as it was about the uncovering of hidden intentions.

This, ironically is also, according to Aristotle, the aim of art: “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” It is as if cancel culture is a distortion of artistic aims.

The idea is also very similar to Orwell’s thought crime, where even the person committing the “crime” may not be aware of their own thought crime.

A similar idea is found in Milan Kundera’s “The Art of the Novel” when discussing Kafka’s “The Trial”. The black joke at the heart of Kafka’s novel is that K is never charged with a specific offence, but is left to guess what his offence might be. He must find his own hidden intention. His own crime.

These days however, we can’t even trust the accused to do that much. What if they don’t find their crime? What if they don’t even try and just continue along as before, brazenly saying anything they please?  What then? This is why, presumably, we must have a process of “cancellation”. Is that not like a euphemism for death?

Flawed Individuals

While thinking this through I happened also to be thinking about Heather Humphreys’ suggestion that artists should retrain for different occupations, and it occurred to me that this might simply mean sending them through JobPath.

The fundamental idea that JobPath is predicated on, that the unemployed must be “helped” to see what it is about them personally that has caused them to be unemployed – in other words the discovery of the personal “flaw” that is causing their unemployment – is similar to cancel culture’s fundamental idea that anyone who speaks against cancel culture or offers any criticism is only doing so for ulterior motives, and are most likely harbouring hidden misogynistic, racist or sexist intentions.

The point is, whatever the critic of an accusatory ideology might be, whether they are criticising Senator McCarthy or the crazed dot-joining of a witch-hunter, they can never be seen to be right. Because if the accused is right, then the accuser is wrong. But the accuser simply can’t be wrong, otherwise the entire edifice of the ideology collapses.

Denial is Guilt

So, like in Salem or in McCarthyism, everything a person says in their defence, once accused, intensifies the suspicion that they are merely hiding a negative intention.

With JobPath if you argue that automation or over-competition, or too few opportunities etc is causing unemployment, this is taken as evidence of your personal laziness. No cognizance can be admitted pertaining to the realities of the external world. The customer is always wrong. The system depends entirely on this one idea.

Similarly, if you critique cancel culture and radical feminism this is taken as misogyny. Again, the flaw is perceived as residing in the individual, who must then be “fixed”; and not in the ideology that is imposing itself on the individual.

It’s like the floating witch conundrum. If she sinks, she is not a witch. She is, however, unfortunately, dead, not to put too fine a point on it. It’s a lose-lose situation. As Senator McCarthy might have said, Of course you deny you’re a Russian spy. What else would a Russian spy do but deny the charge?

Ultimately the hidden intention must be dug out of you, as O’Brien digs the confession out of Winston Smith in 1984. And even then, it is not enough to confess in order to put an end to the interrogation. You must come over to the other side, willingly. You must abase yourself. You must be shown to be empty of meaning at the feet of the triumphant ideology.

Compliance

What is interesting is that on this question of insisting that the individual is flawed and not the ideology, both right-wing conservatives and leftist social justice advocates, appear to be of one mind in the view that opposition to their respective ideologies is driven by a personal flaw or hidden agenda in those who critique their ideologies.

It is in the protection of flawed ideologies from scrutiny or critique that extreme right and extreme left appear to meet. But the situation closes down the possibility of development of an argument, since all arguments are ultimately perceived as fake or phoney, the very thing that ideologies tend to be.

Ideologies, no matter how different or politically opposite they may seem, are always opposed to rationality and creative thinking in favour of habituated systems designed to answer all questions, even before such questions are even asked. All the individual has to do is to agree that the flaw is in themselves, like original sin.

In this type of arrangement, creativity and free thinking are problems. Compliance is favoured.

It would appear that all sides, regardless of the political spectrum, are playing by the same fundamental rules. The goal is to discover those who are deemed undeserving of promotion due to personal limitations or potential hidden negative intentions.

The cause of these increasingly desperate selective procedures may be simply due to over-population and a consequent narrowing of opportunity, leading inevitably to conflict.

Much of the pressure and desperation could be relived immediately with the introduction of a basic income. It really is the only thing to do, and would have the effect too of freeing up the dreamers to go to work dreaming a way out of this fine climate mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Conclusion

Use it or lose it, they used to say, and in a world of granite ideologies there is no time or space for creative thinking. The ideologies supposedly have all the answers.

In the world of total work as described by Pieper, the capacity to transcend that world through the traditional methods of religion and the arts also atrophies.

But it is from these sacred places, as people commune with the divine in active leisure, that all the progress and technical perks of the modern world were initially dreamt up.

Pieper describes how we may even delude ourselves into settling for the fake.

He writes that worse than the extinction of spiritual and imaginative experiences that transcend the world of total work,

“is their transformation, their degradation, into sham and spurious forms…Religion can be debased into magic…prayer can be perverted into a sort of technique whereby life…is feasible…love can assume a debased form in which all the powers of devotion are bent to serve the ends of a limited ego…pseudo art and a spurious poetry, instead of bursting through the vault of the workaday world, merely paint deceptive ornamentation…these spurious forms combine…to close every window…and then man really is imprisoned in the world of work.”

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

Photocall Ireland

From left at top: Senator Michael McDowell, Louise Byrne and Ebun Joseph, of UCD, on last night’s Prime Time; Eamonn Kelly

Cancel Culture

The RTÉ One Prime Time discussion last night on cancel culture, hosted by Louise Byrne, involving the removal of four statues from outside the Shelbourne Hotel, was a timely demonstration of how perplexing cancel culture can be. The row appears to have been ignited by Niall O’ Dowd of Irish Central, the Irish American website.

The contention, put forward by Ms Ebun Joseph of UCD Black Studies department on Prime Time, was that the statues represented white privilege and black servitude.

Senator Michael McDowell, representing white privilege, I guess, and it was fair casting, it has to be said, held that the statues were of two Egyptian women with ankle bracelets, whereas Ms Joseph held that they were two African women in shackles.

Ms Ebun challenged Senator McDowell to consult with Egyptian archaeologists to support his contention that the ankle chains were bracelets.

But in an equal world it was equally incumbent on Ms Joseph to consult with experts to confirm if the chains were shackles. Though she appeared to believe that the responsibility to consult experts was McDowell’s alone.

Since neither had consulted with experts it was now a clear difference of opinion by two non-experts; the epitome really of cancel culture.

Though, given the implicit understandings of cancel culture, this particular argument seemed unfairly weighted in pitching an African woman against a white middle-aged, heterosexual man who, as everyone knows by now, by the rules of cancel culture, is usually the villain. You sense a woman’s touch in the rigging of the debate.

Interestingly, in a film montage before the debate, various individuals accused or convicted of sex crimes were shown; Woody Allen, Louis CK, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski; but not Bill Cosby. This had the effect of suggesting, in guilt by association, that white men in particular were on trial.

Over these images the voice of Tina Sikka, a lecturer in media and culture from Newcastle University, described cancel culture as public censure and, in the case of people working in the creative arts, may result in, as she put it, “a little bit of a media blackout.”

This attempt to downplay the destructive effect of cancel culture is totally counter to the warning issued in the Harper’s letter of a few weeks ago.

Louise Byrne’s introduction to the segment appeared to share this view of cancel culture as a perfectly legitimate practise, insinuating that those opposed to cancel culture, ie, all the signatories of the Harper’s letter, were being a bit precious.

The subsequent discussion ended…nowhere really.

All we know is that following a suggestion by someone in the US who consulted Irish Central, that the statues outside the Shelbourne Hotel are now “cancelled”; albeit voluntarily, since the Shelbourne management removed them, in fear, apparently, of transgressing the new codes imposed by cancel culture.

Street Fight

The Harper’s letter a few weeks back, warning of cancel culture’s threat to freedom of speech was like coming across a street fight that causes you to avert your eyes and hurry on past thinking, it’s got nothing to do with me.

With the Harper’s letter the fight seemed to be about J.K. Rowling who appeared to have gotten herself into a squabble with some transgender people; and Salman Rushdie who, as far as you can recall, got into some kind of bother some years back with Islamic extremists who wanted to kill him.

This is not a fight that you want to be involved in.

You notice that the mainstream press also seems disinterested, careful even, inclined to only mention Rowling and Rushdie as being among the signatories of the Harper’s letter.

The Irish Times and the Irish Indo report the existence of the Harper’s letter but offer no opinion on the matter. Are the mainstream press intimidated? As the Shelbourne management apparently were?

If a view is volunteered, as The Guardian dared to do, it tends towards the idea that the signatories of the Harper’s letter are piqued because everyone has freedom of speech now via social media, and the elite simply want their exclusivity back.

This is cancel culture’s argument, based on the feminists’ idea of a patriarchy controlling social structures. But you find it hard to imagine someone of the status and vintage of Noam Chomsky, another signatory, being overly preoccupied by such petty concerns.

Cancelling

John Banville, an Irish writer of impeccable quality and international repute, but notably lacking in the general Irish public cheer-leading that often accompanies Irish international success stories, appears on RTE’s Brendan O’Connor morning radio show to talk about the Harper’s letter.

Banville is a signatory of the Harper’s letter too and he says he knows personally of writers who have had works cancelled by their publishers fearing that the content might stoke the anger of the cancel culture watchdogs who might turn on the publishers.

A paragraph from the Harper’s letter reads:

“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.”

Did Shelbourne management, by removing the statues, do so in fear of retribution? It seems clear that they did.

Women’s Studies

Bruce Bawer in his 2012 book “The Victim’s Revolution: The Rise of Identity Politics” contains a very helpful overview of the history of women’s studies through what is called Second Wave feminism, featuring people like Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem, among others, and Third Wave feminism, notably not featuring Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem, among others.

In fact, Gloria Steinem is one of the signatories of the Harper’s letter. As is the author of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, Margaret Atwood. It seems that Third Wave feminism is even intolerant of some outspoken Second Wave feminists.

Bawer writes that:

“Many Women’s Studies students are taught to be suspicious of strictly intellectual endeavours – or endeavours, in others words, that don’t prioritize feelings.”

Which means that Bawer’s book, this article and any other ideas generated by people, whether male or female, in an intellectual, objective manner, are deemed invalid as “male constructs”.

That has to be the best cancellation of the lot, built right into the ideology of identity politics: all critiques are constructs of the “enemy” and therefore inadmissible.

In “Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systematic Discrimination Against Men”, Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson argue that ideological feminists even regard science as a cultural construction, a mirror of maleness.

“They believe that Western culture in the seventeenth century was fatally contaminated by the ultimate poison of patriarchy…”

As a consequence, the goal, for extreme feminists, is to undermine science, or the concept of objectivity and objective truth that is the hallmark of science – and journalism for that matter – as dubious male constructs, and replace these parts of the culture with subjective truth, along the lines of women’s intuition and gut feelings. Qualities, it is argued, that women excel in.

“Andrea Dworkin… [late radical feminist]” write Young and Nathanson, “…claims that her own intuition or insight supersedes any other form of evidence.”

Such a claim is not unlike the dictator who claims that he has only to look into his own heart to know what the people want. Often what the people apparently desire in such instances is for state assets to be lodged into a private Swiss bank account.

Young and Nathanson write that:

“once the subjective voice of women (or minorities) has been established as a new standard…no dissonant voices need to be taken seriously; women can presumably ‘know’ things by virtue of being women and affirming their own subjectivity, things that men cannot know by insisting on the ostensibly universal standard of objectivity.”

Bawer, writing of the goals of Women’s Studies groups, remarks:

“…on the surface, there’s plenty of pretty rhetoric about women’s mutual support and nurturing and openness to diversity; the underlying reality however, is one of hard-core ideological indoctrination and enforcement.”

The Harper’s letter says:

“We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.”

It seems as if the same rules of enforcement and indoctrination are now operating in the wider community.

Strategies and Narratives

The conclusion, as I understand it, is that Women’s Studies groups that have flourished in the universities of the West, gave birth to a culture of silencing opposition with a range of strategies from simple elusive argument using post-modern terminology.

This allows the user, if losing an argument, to simply “recontextualise” the question and start again – right down to the threat of reputational destruction of opponents through the very female aggressive tactics of spreading gossip and innuendo against dissenting individuals.

These strategies have now evolved into political correctness and cancel culture, effectively endangering free speech and instilling the type of fear that caused the management of the Shelbourne Hotel to remove four decorative statues from outside its premises because some anonymous person in the US claimed they were celebrating white privilege.

The signatories of the Harper’s letter recognize that they themselves, being professionally above the fray, are unlikely to be destroyed by cancel culture.

They wrote the letter on behalf of less famous people who are being routinely side-lined and silenced by advocates of this apparently closed-minded and pernicious ideology.

Men who oppose the ideology are often framed as potentially violent, sexist and racist; while women who oppose the ideology are characterised as blind puppets of the patriarchy.

The Patriarchy

But even the idea of the patriarchy itself also seems problematical, as an academic postmodern deconstructionist might say.

If masculinity is as toxic as extreme feminists claim, how did women’s studies groups gain so much so quickly in the universities?

Bruce Bawer cites an anthology from 2000 called “The Politics of Women’s Studies: Testimony from the Thirty Founding Mothers.”

Having discussed the various essays in the book he goes on to say:

“Although the founders of Women’s Studies are routinely portrayed as brave pioneers who struggled valiantly against the patriarchy to carve out a space for themselves in the male-dominated academy, they would in fact have never gotten so far, so fast, if not for the readiness of liberal male administrators and faculty to approve and fund Women’s Studies. Indeed, the very rise of Women’s Studies belies its own rhetoric about the ruthless hegemonic power of the patriarchy.”

This apparent exaggeration of male hegemony, combined with the dismissal of the scientific method as a patriarchal construct, might leave you inclined to wonder what the difference is between the idea of the patriarchy and any other conspiracy theory doing the rounds.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

Yesterday: The Naked Truth

Clockwise From top left: Prime Time’s David McCullagh and Miriam O’Callaghan; Aine Lawlor of The Week in Politics; Bryan Dobson of Morning Ireland;: Eamonn Kelly

The RTÉ One Prime Time programme on the rise of nationalism in Ireland (Thursday,  June 25) seemed, from the off, to have another agenda. Two separate issues were collapsed into one, as if they were synonymous.

David McCullagh in his introduction said that similar nationalist groups across Europe “tend to share a deep suspicion of the political establishment and an implacable opposition to emigration.”

This had the effect of casting both issues as being tied at the hip. But many people, who could not in any way be described as racist, are often suspicious of Ireland’s political establishment, and often with good reason.

Nevertheless, the insinuation was woven through the report, and had the effect of suggesting that those working-class people featured in the programme, speaking out for social justice, may be proto racists.

The people featured were mostly working-class people, with working-class accents, concerned with social housing. Everyone knows that working-class accents are the speech patterns of the “other” in Ireland, particularly in Dublin.

In the privatisation of housing under Fine Gael, social housing was neglected in favour of the market, and homelessness soared.

But the victims were mainly those working-class people who traditionally depended on social housing, and are depending on it even more now when two wages can’t afford to buy one house. Those same people who are unable to avail of the pricey educational advantages that middle-class Ireland routinely enjoys and regards as “normal”.

The spin put on this programme, which was ostensibly concerned with Gemma O’Doherty’s and John Waters’ often hare-brained and dangerous escapades, seemed more like political sleight of hand, designed to tarnish those social activists who are neither racist nor hard leftists, but who are interested in social equality and who are often rightly suspicious of Ireland’s political establishment.

To suggest that anyone who is suspicious of a political establishment such as the one led by Fine Gale during austerity, are somehow proto or even covert racists, is really little more than a slippery bit of class politics designed to tarnish opposition to Ireland’s right-wing political establishment.

Sowing Division

The result of Fine Gael housing policy was that there was competition for housing between immigrants and working-class people, setting in train an unfair competition for limited resources. The price of failure in this competition to gain accommodation was homelessness.

But the set of circumstances that caused the conflict arose directly from Fine Gael housing policy, as was repeatedly shown and argued by Fr Peter McVerry.

To imply, as the Prime Time programme did, that those desperate people, placed in such a conflictual set of circumstances imposed upon them by a right-wing political establishment, are somehow proto racists, is a mean and underhanded trick of political spin.

The insinuation also has the effect of protecting the interests of the political establishment that the RTÉ journalists themselves are clearly part of.

Given middle-class suspicion of working-class people, and the routine middle-class prejudices on display by, for instance, Josepha Madigan’s NIMBY activities, it is almost comical that middle-class prejudice towards working-class people should be manipulated in this way to suggest that working-class people are prejudiced against immigrants.

Abstract Austerity

Only a few days earlier, another RTE journalist, Áine Lawlor, made the case on her TV show that austerity had been good for Ireland.

When Áine Lawlor’s views on austerity met with opposition from people interested in social equality, her RTÉ colleagues came out in support of her position.

But these RTÉ personalities are all well paid professionals. Austerity cost them nothing. In fact, austerity often provided the raw material for many of their stories. But none of them were personally bitten by austerity. To them, austerity is an abstraction. It’s just background noise.

But for people on housing lists and hospital waiting lists and working in jobs that don’t pay a living wage and don’t deliver enough to buy or even rent a place in the premium rental market encouraged by FFFG housing policy, austerity is a daily suffering grind. It’s not abstract. It’s real and it’s dirty and it hurts.

And by all accounts there is more of it coming down the line, since the parties who delivered the last tranche of austerity are now back in power in a combination/partnership that no one expected or voted for.

In fact, people were assured by Micheál Martin that Fianna Fail would not enter into coalition with Fine Gael.

This means the new taoiseach has already broken a campaign promise, and he’s still only a wet weekend in the job.

Disappointing Journalism

To be told by the public service broadcaster that those who oppose the current right-wing political establishment, share traits with European racists, seems like a deliberate attempt to deceive the viewer, or to dampen potential dissent.

If this is the standard of journalism in RTÉ we are in real trouble. Because there are those of us who actually look to the established media to behave like “real” journalists, since they are the established face of the profession.

But far from serving the public interest, as real journalists are expected to do, this kind of lazy, politically compromised journalism risks making cynics of us all.

Such journalism gives the impression that the established journalists and the political establishment that they purport to hold to account are all really in the same social club.

Though I am not a journalist by profession, but an arts practitioner, I hold to the ideals of objective journalism, and write from that perspective to the best of my ability.

I am not affiliated with any one party or cause, apart from a general interest in social justice and a particular interest in untangling spun political narratives such as the one described above.

The idea of a journalist not holding to those ideals of objective journalism makes no sense to me, since this would have the effect of abandoning the unique perspective that journalism affords, that space where independent opinion may be expressed.

But this is precisely what these high-ranking RTÉ journalists seem to be doing. In the process of promoting the policies of the political establishment they purport to be holding to account, they are rendering their own professions meaningless.

Complacency

As if to add insult to injury, when Micheál Martin finally ascended to the office of taoiseach, Brian Dobson on RTÉ wondered might the new coalition be described as “centre left”.

Really? I’d regard myself as centre-left. But if Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney are centre-left that makes me Che Guevara. I guess that’s the idea. Shove everyone over in the bed, right-wing becomes “normal” and everyone else is a radical.

It is difficult to decide whether this is disinformation – deliberately designed to deceive – or misinformation: mistakenly delivered, where the journalists themselves are being deceived with disinformation.

Though that’s hardly possible, since it would mean that the RTÉ journalists are lacking in the basics of political science.

Whatever the mechanics, this carefully judged encroachment also came across like information spun in the apparent service of right-wing parties attempting to supplant those parties of the left and policies of the left that many voters, calling for change, favoured in the last election.

Perhaps it’s just institutional complacency.

Certainly, the photograph of Miriam O’Callaghan and David McCullagh (top) that goes with the Prime Time programme on the RTÉ player seems like a study in complacency.

Both look kind of sleepily comfortable and casually condescending, their expressions perfectly encapsulating the sense of unaccountable privilege that appears to inform their journalistic choices.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

Rollingnews

Who are ‘the new nationalists’ ? (Prime Time)

From top: Supermac’s founder Pat McDonagh; Eamonn Kelly

One of the angles frequently used by Irish employers when confronted about underpaying people, is that they have heard no complaints.

Complaining is hard for Irish people, as it must be after holding your tongue for 700 years. You might say that the Republic itself is founded on a letter of complaint in the form of a Proclamation that, simply put, says, we’ve had enough of being second-class citizens.

We all know how that went down.

Irish history is littered with the bodies of people who complained. Naturally many people have learned the wisdom of silence. Irish people tend to be really, really good at not complaining. Even going so far as to stand with authority against those who do occasionally complain. As if to say: ‘Shush, you’ll get us all in trouble.’

Not Complaining

Not complaining is repeatedly relied upon by various authorities to justify the liberties it often so casually takes.

Pat McDonagh of Supermacs when he was asked on RTÉ radio recently why he charged staff for food, whether they wanted it or not, replied that the staff seem “quite happy” with the arrangement. And possibly “quite fired” if they did complain.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty when asked about complaints concerning JobPath said something similar, basing the perception of “happiness” on a carefully worded satisfaction survey, the work of a private contractor, paid gazillions by the taxpayer, which helpfully delivered stats for minimal complaint and maximum satisfaction.

However, there still remained a small percentage of unusually stubborn people who complained anyway. Of these it was generally implied that such people are “trouble”, or just plain contrary, if not mentally retarded.

Diversions

Still, it’s not normal to never complain. To get around this we appear to have evolved ways of complaining without actually complaining by deflecting our attention elsewhere to complain about something else.

Most recently the Dominic Cummings case fulfilled this role by taking all the attention away from the revelation that Fine Gael’s job creation claims seem to be based on 240,000 jobs that don’t deliver a living wage. But that was okay, because the jobs in question don’t deliver a living wage to people who are apparently “quite happy”.

This habit of deflection is like a national tic. In an earlier article of mine on Aosdána, I wrote about Aosdána being largely absent from the local political scene, though some of its members were very visible in international justice campaigns that invited zero personal blowback. The old “the situation in outer Mongolia is getting bleaker,” stratagem.

It was the wrong thing to do, writing about Aosdána, since some of the members felt victimised by the attention. As one poet wildly exclaimed, You’re going to wreck it for everyone!

Really? How? By mentioning its existence? Is it in hiding? Is it like Irish austerity’s Anne Frank?

Aosdána has only 250 members, many of them elderly, and it seemed unkind of me to be harping on about it when it was clear that the artists simply wanted to be left alone.

But the institution stands as a model for arts funding, and it seems clear by now that in the ideal Ireland that Fine Gael would have, there would only be a couple of hundred funded artists, with the rest fed into the JobPath machine, which needs all the bodies it can get to keep its corporations in clover. It feeds on live tissue you see, and will take any old body: writers, musicians, butchers, bakers…

The silence of funded artists in a situation where unfunded arts practitioners are being sent through a process that is chiefly designed to degrade them, sends out the message that the established arts community are in favour of neo-liberalism’s dividing of the arts community along lines of privilege.

This is too familiar, in an Ireland too often defined along such lines.

The Rigged System

The American economist and author Robert Reich in his book, “The System: Who rigged it, How we fix it”, makes a distinction between the old paradigms of “left” and “right” and the situation we find ourselves in today, which he sees as a divide between Oligarchy and Democracy, the two sides currently featuring in running street battles in the US, thanks to real life Goldfinger himself, El Trumpo.

It is a situation where you are either with the systems of economic inequality, the Oligarchy, or you are for Democracy. The two positions are by now mutually exclusive, since, as Reich shows, the Oligarchy acquired the policy-makers a long time ago.

Anyone who goes finger-jabbing about the dangers of “socialism” is badly missing the fundamentals of the new world order.

Quietly supporting neo-liberal policy makers, like our own Fine Gael, who work primarily on behalf of business and corporations, in the hope that political circumspection will guarantee the retention of personal privileges, perpetuates the creation of social inequality through economic systems that are enriching the few at the expense of the many.

The only way to reclaim democratic freedoms lost to neo-liberal policies designed to favour business, is for people to stand unified on behalf of all who are being degraded by the neo-liberal system. Because in time, all will be degraded by that system.

Economic Apartheid

What appears to have happened in Ireland is that an elite inherited not just a republic, but a lower class perceived variously as sinners, rebels, petty criminals and uneducated labourers and skivvies, who were to be watched, managed, corrected and exploited by the elite, much as the vanquished elite had done.

It’s a kind of economic apartheid, helped in its effectiveness by a fee-paying education system that favours the middle-classes, resulting in wealth and privilege being passed on from generation to generation; as poverty and disadvantage is passed on, with unerring precision, further down the social scale.

[Independent Senator] Lynn Ruane, in an article in the Journal.ie from 2018, talks about how difficult it is to even raise the issue of class in Ireland. She writes of how a politician accused her of bringing class into everything:

“This was not the first adverse reaction to raising the issue I had received but I refuse to be made feel like I shouldn’t. The devastating impact of social class in Ireland is not an abstract concept to me and hundreds of thousands of others all over this island. People who have had their lives determined by a class system that they wore born into; by luck and luck alone.”

I met similar resistance following an article on Gerry Ryan when I mentioned, almost in an offhand way, my own working-class background. It was deeply resented. As if I was proffering some unfair gambit.

What came across very clearly to me was the middle-class assumption that disadvantage is totally about cash.

But disadvantage is about living in an environment where no one knows anyone of influence or of academic or business achievement; where university is for “them”; and where no one knows anything really of how the world works beyond finding a “boss” who’ll treat you fairly.

Robert Reich says of structural inequality:

“Today the most important predictor of someone’s future is the income and wealth of the family they are born into.”

And though Reich was speaking of the United States, all neo-liberal states are fractals of the US, and all social inequality works by the same basic globalised monetary principles of neo-liberalism, as was clearly demonstrated in 2008.

Ultimately it is up to those people who are being short-changed by the neo-liberal system to break through their ancestral reticence and start complaining against what is essentially, in Ireland, an entrenched, comfortable cartel of politics, business and landlords that has grown complacent and casually contemptuous in the silence of non-complaint.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

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