Tag Archives: Bryan Wall

From top: Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan (centre), who has said unless regulated social media poses “one of the biggest threats to western democracy” with Minister for Finance  Paschal Donohoe (left)  and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a Project Ireland event in the National Gallery last April; Bryan Wall.

What is not debatable these days is the general collapse of the standard and traditional style of media organisation which came to dominate our lives throughout the 20th century and the early years of this century.

Newspaper circulation numbers have plummeted over the last decade and a general mistrust of the media prevails. This has been inevitable given the rise and ubiquity of the internet alongside the rise of social media.

Now the traditional media hierarchy, in which people were the consumers at the bottom of a chain with the content creators in the media at the top, is no longer predominant. With the internet and social media it is now possible to bypass this top-down hierarchy.

People have been able to find other non-mainstream sources of information which carry stories and ideas that would struggle to find light in traditional media outlets.

Media has become more democratic in the sense that now anyone can become a reliable source of information with a minimal amount of resources.

Presumably given this ubiquity of social media, there are now calls to have it regulated.

Josepha Madigan, the Fine Gael Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has stated that unless social media is regulated, it “could pose one of the biggest threats to western democracy”.

Her reasoning for this is the “growing body of evidence that the Brexit vote and the last US presidential election were significantly influenced by foreign bodies through spend on social media.”

Therefore, she has called for regulation of social media and has asked her fellow ministers to “prioritise the introduction of legislation and regulation in this area at both a national and EU level before the end of the year.”

When I contacted her office regarding her claims of the “growing body of evidence” that the US.presidential elections and the Brexit vote were influenced by “foreign bodies” — undoubtedly she means Russia — via social media, I received no response.

Further to this, it was reported in The Irish Times in late August that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (D.E.AS.P.) is currently “seeking tenders for media monitoring”.

Included in this is the monitoring of social media for “‘keywords’ that may flag issues to it” along with providing “details of what people are discussing in public threads on Twitter and Facebook, and other platforms.

A representative of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICC.L) told me the organisation was “perturbed by reports that DEASP is soliciting tenders for social media monitoring.”

They are also “concerned by the power and privacy implications of this same agency potentially monitoring and collecting data about the personal and political opinions of those dependent on the its essential services.”

On the issue of social media regulation, the ICCL is in favour of such a move given the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the ability of Google to track its users at all times regardless of what privacy settings have been selected.

The ICCL spokesperson stated that regulation “would encourage increased transparency from these corporate entities, including how they human rights proof their policies and procedures.”

The Press Ombudsman also supports the latter move.

When asked, their spokesperson told me: “that it is time for social media to accept its responsibility” and “abandon[…] the argument that social media isn’t a publisher.”

This means that social media groups must “put in place transparent self-regulation processes that can be scrutinised for their effectiveness.”

If this self-regulation does not work or meet previously set standards, the Press Ombudsman believes “national governments and international agencies such as the EU need to put in place statutory frameworks whereby social media that fails to live up to acceptable standards can be brought into line.”

Nonetheless, “considerable caution” has to be shown in order to “avoid the accusation of censorship or restriction of freedom of expression.”

To that end, governments and agencies tasked with the regulation of social media “must recognise that there is a balance to be achieved between freedom of expression and the need to protect people from the misuse of that freedom.”

Fianna Fáil has also published a report on the issue of social media and its effect on journalism.

Arguing that “Professionally produced journalism is an essential condition for the survival of modern democracies”, the report goes on to call for the government intervention to support journalism and publishers given “the significant erosion of publisher revenues” due to the proliferation of the internet.

Among other things, such intervention would take the form of a Minister for the Media, who “would have overall responsibility for media including news publishing”, along with expanding the role of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (B.A.I.), Ireland’s media regulator, to also encompass social media.

In Paschal Donohue’s budget speech last week, one recommendation of the report, reduction of VAT rates on newspapers, was introduced. Now the rate of VAT has been lowered from 23% to 9% for digital publications and digital versions of physical publications.

The report also calls for “innovative new schemes to support the work of journalists, through the dispersal of Grant [sic] aid” and providing bursaries, fellowships, and “training and educational opportunities”.

One of the ways this could be funded is by imposing a “digital advertising levy” which would ensure “that the success of online platform does not come at the cost of independent public interest journalism.”

In an apparent case of good timing, early last month the European Parliament voted in favour of the so-called Copyright Directive.

In the directive proposal it is suggested that a “licensing market between rightholders and online content sharing service providers” is developed.

If passed in the final vote next year, the directive, specifically Article 11, would allow for publishers to demand the creation of this market in which licence fees are paid to them in return for links to their publications being shared online.

Both the decrease in VAT and the European Parliament voting in favour of the Copyright Directive were welcomed by Newsbrands Ireland, “the representative body for all national newspapers, print and online” according to its website. Their chairman is Vincent Crowely, who was previously chairman of INM.

Newsbrands wrote that the directive will “safeguard the future of journalism in Europe” and that the VAT decrease will “reduce the cost of access to quality, independent Irish journalism for people who access their news online.”

Clearly this aligns with the recommendations in the Fianna Fáil report.

One could argue that this seems to be an attempt to legally codify censorship and prop up the publishing industry at the same time.

But the former explanation ignores the fact that social media companies already take steps to limit the access of certain groups and organisations to their websites and services.

They appear to have their own regulatory system in place but whose details are not known to those outside the companies in question. Plus technology companies and governments often work hand in hand already when it comes to monitoring and censoring people and organisations.

Last year ‘The Intercept’ reported that both the Israeli and US governments were directing Facebook to delete certain accounts, including those of Palestinian activists.

More recently, Facebook deleted the English-language account of teleSUR, the television network based in Venezuela whose regular reporting tends to be highly critical of American foreign policy and the actions of other Western states.

And just last week Facebook and Twitter deleted the pages of hundreds of alternative media organisations.

On the surface, then, it may seem as if regulation of social media will be of benefit to underfunded newspapers and publishers, given the power that social media already holds in terms of their ability to block information as well as spreading false information.

But government intervention in this case must be questioned.

This is especially so when governments have a history of spying on journalists and pushing false narratives to their mouthpieces in the media.

Judith Miller of The New York Times is an egregious case of the latter, with her role in cheerleading the 2003 invasion of Iraq now being infamous. With the revelations of Edward Snowden there can be no doubt that journalists are prime targets.

Even as far back as 1982 the Irish government was discovered to have been wiretapping the phones of a number of prominent journalists.

This would eventually result in the resignation in 1992 of the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, given his role in approving the wiretaps nearly ten years earlier.

With this in mind we should be wary of any government intervention in the realm of social media and the internet more generally.

Along with the proposal to directly fund journalists, as laid out in the report issued by Fianna Fáil, it is now apparent that there is a move underway to further tighten the reins on all media. Social media giants are themselves already playing a part in this.

But with government intervention the possibility of censorship and a chilling effect on political activity and media no longer seems an abstract that only applies to those we consider “others”. It could very soon become a norm that applies to all of us and which will have untold deleterious and detrimental effects on our societies and our ability to dissent.

And although social media in its current form is far from perfect, it is far preferable to a state of affairs in which both technology companies and governments are aligned against those who demur and question orthodoxy.

Unless media is free and open, and that includes social media, it is a tool of propagandists and nothing more.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall


From top: The launch of the Labour Party’s alternative Budget 2019 yesterday with from left: Alan Kelly, Joan Burton, party leader Brendan Howlin, and Jan O’Sullivan;  a tweet from Ms Burton during the Raise The Roof protest; Bryan Wall

Class politics still matter. The fact that this statement is being written in 2018 would likely have given Marx and his acolytes conniptions had they known this in the 1800s.

For them, class politics would eventually resolve itself in the victory of economic and social equality. Eventually, what this would engender, so Marxist theory goes, is a classless society.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” would be the basic economic premise on which this new society would rest.

Worker control of the means of production in such a society also secures social equality in the sense that the property-owning class, factory owners, etc., are unable to socially reproduce.

There is no longer any inequality because the economic and social hierarchy has been either completely destroyed or extremely constrained.

Given that none of this has come to pass — for various reasons — it is argued in some quarters that this demonstrates the superior applicability of capitalism to the functioning of advanced societies.

Capitalism has lifted millions out of poverty, therefore its superiority to all other economic and social forms is self-evident, so the argument goes.

Of course this ignores the fact that the economic prosperity of the West has been built on the backs of the poor peoples of the world.

Within individual states there has also always existed a similar hierarchy upon which the economic successes of a few rested on the subjugation and exploitation of the many.

From this arises the Marxist critique of capitalism and also the solution. This solution lies in the advocacy of class politics via the party system in order to ensure an economic and social revolution further down the road.

With the continued rampage of capitalism around the world, including in Ireland, class politics is probably more important than ever before.

Any party which claims to represent the interests of the trampled-upon-classes, then, must be held to a strict moral consistency.

The needy and exploited are not baggage to be discarded at the first sign of trouble or the first sign of political power. Unfortunately, the latter has too many times been the case.

Parties, having once claimed to represent the downtrodden and economically enslaved, at the first scent of political office being offered to them, too often engage in their own form of moral expediency.

And the ones who pay for such moral calculations are the very people who put their faith in the said party in the first place.

When the Labour Party went into coalition government with Fine Gael in 2011, it was seen as a victory of working class politics in the mainstream political arena.

In the midst of a recession and mass unemployment, Labour’s election victory was seen in a positive light. Their advocacy for equality in society over the previous decades meant that their clout as an apparent voice for the voiceless, at least in terms of political parties, was well established in Irish society.

Having received 19.5% of first preference votes in the general election in 2011, it was called a “democratic revolution” in the opening paragraph of the Statement of Common Purpose document issued by the newly formed coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour.

When Eamon Gilmore, the then Labour leader, went before party delegates to secure permission to enter into coalition with Fine Gael, The Irish Times quoted him as saying that “The ‘last place’ people who voted for the party wanted it to be was in opposition.”

Joan Burton, who after the coalition was formed would become the Minister for Social Protection, said that it would be an “act of folly” for Labour not to go into government with Fine Gael.

In the Dáil, on March 15th 2011, Gilmore would lay out Labour’s goals when in government. He stated that “Those most at risk of poverty will not be made to suffer further” and that “Family incomes will be protected.”

They planned to “build up the economy again”, ensure that the workforce “is supported in gaining the skills that match the jobs of today and tomorrow,” and advocate for the creation of Irish jobs. Undergirding this would be “A fair and balanced approach to fixing our public finances.”

Admitting to his fellow TDs that “there will be some very difficult days”, it was his intent “to hand a country on to our children that is better than when we found it.”

Along similar lines, just days before their electoral success, Ruairí Quinn, Labour’s education spokesperson and soon-to-be Minister for Education, signed a Union of Students in Ireland (USI) pledge agreeing not to reintroduce or increase third level fees of any kind. Even before Gilmore’s speech was given however, portents of what was to come were already in the public realm.

Jimmy Kelly, the then Regional Secretary of UNITE, the second largest union affiliated with Labour, called on the party to abandon coalition talks.

He argued that Labour would be better positioned as the “official opposition” and would as a result be able to lead an “expanding parliamentary Left”. He was, of course, ignored.

The Statement of Common Purpose document mentioned above also showed the path that Labour would willingly trod down.

Mr Gilmore admitted as much when he told fellow Labour members, as reported in The Guardian at the time, that although the “document outlining the agreement was not the Labour manifesto, it was driven or moderated by Labour thinking.”

Logically then, it could be construed that Labour were making the argument that they played a moderating role on Fine Gael’s policies.

By moderating said policies, Labour would be protecting “Those most at risk of poverty”.

But as far back as 2004, under the leadership of Pat Rabbitte at the time, the signs of political expediency were already apparent. Labour had agreed to the so-called Mullingar Accord, in which the two parties , Fine Gael and Labour, “committed themselves to begin negotiations for an alternative Government”.

Labour’s rightward drift was not an overnight tactical manoeuvre. It was a calculated move in order to attain power.

During their tenure in government their policies, or those they had a hand in “moderating”, would result in pain and penury for large swathes of the population.

Between 2009 and 2015, the Economic Social and Research Institute (ESRI) reported that the “biggest losses are to be found among those who are of working age, but not at work: those who are unemployed, non-earning lone parents, and those who are ill or have a disability.” Along with the introduction of water charges,

Labour were now seen as apologists  for — and defenders of — the increasing neo-liberalisation of Irish society. A profound betrayal of the most vulnerable in society had taken place.

When questioned about this, along with Labour’s inability to keep its election promises, Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, admitted lying to the electorate is something “you tend to do during an election.” But probably the most powerful example of the anger that was felt was the now infamous protest at Jobstown.

On November 15, 2014, Joan Burton, by then leader of Labour and the Tánaiste in the coalition government, was attending a graduation ceremony in Jobstown. Upon leaving the ceremony she was met with dozens of protestors and was trapped in her car as a result.

After the Gardaí attempted to remove the protestors by force, Burton and her advisor, Karen O’Connell, were moved to a Garda SUV.

After more back and forth jostling with the protestors, Burton and O’Connell would be moved to another Garda car which eventually managed to make it out past the protestors. In all, the entire event lasted roughly three hours.

Afterwards a number of people would be arrested and put on trial for their participation in the events of Jobstown, including TD Paul Murphy and a teenager. It took until June of last year before Murphy and six others were found not guilty of “false imprisonment”.

Jason Lester, the teenager mentioned who has only 15 at the time when arrested, would later have his own guilty verdict overturned by the Circuit Court.

With the arrests and subsequent trial being seen as politically motivated, it further ensured the demise of Labour as an entity of the Left.

It would emerge during the trial that O’Connell, Burton’s adviser, referred to the protestors as “fucking dregs”. Just one month earlier Ms Burton had commented on the use of smart phones by the anti-water charge protestors.

She stated that the protestors she had seen all seemed to have “extremely expensive phones,” presumably, in her mind at least, negating the argument made by many of the protestors that they would unable to pay a new water charge.

With their decimation at the polls in the 2016 general election, Labour were punished by the electorate for their behaviour in supporting massive cutbacks and the resulting inequality.

The party and its members, however, seem to have paid no heed to their critics or the people they once claimed to represent.

Brendan Howlin, the current Labour leader, was recently quoted as saying that the housing movement, Take Back the City, is “not something I would be associated with”.

And just days ago, on October 3rd, members of Labour made a rather unsuccessful appearance at the Raise the Roof protest in Dublin.

Organised to highlight homelessness and increasingly unaffordable rents, the protest attracted members of Labour, including former leader Joan Burton.

At one stage when members of Labour in the body of the crowd rose their flags, they were immediately shouted down.

Chants of “Labour, Labour, Labour, Out! Out Out!” could be heard. The small contingent would eventually be surrounded by Gardaí for their protection and were then escorted out of the march, again by Gardaí. Optically this was not entirely dissimilar to Jobstown. It played just as badly.

Ms Burton, who was not part of the contingent that was shouted down, took the opportunity to post a photograph of her appearance at the protest on Twitter.

She wrote that she was there to support the protest and “highlight homelessness”. Like the above, it  was not received well. Labour’s history when in government has ensured that they are now “toxic” to the electorate.

A change in leadership and engaging in ideological window dressing by showing up to the Raise the Roof protest is not going to change that. It showed the lack of understanding the party and its supporters have.

Turning up to a protest like Raise the Roof is seen as nothing more than political opportunism by most people. Labour’s record when in government was appalling, betraying their constituency and their core beliefs all for the allure of power.

What is even more damming damning is comments that Ms Burton made on the issue of housing when she was in government.

As reported in The Times in December of 2015, the government was seen to be financially propping up landlords given the latter’s increasing profits because of rent allowance.

Instead of tackling the issue of the cost of rents spiralling, as Minister for Social Protection at the time, Ms Burton also ruled out increasing the amount of rent allowance payable.

In the same article the Simon Community reported “a 20% increase in the number of people seeking help from its services since this time last year [2014].”

The seeds of the current rental and homeless crisis were well and truly sewn. Burton, it was reported, said she was “proud” of her government’s record on housing at the time. Is it any wonder that Labour and their message is toxic?

During the Seanad elections in 2016, two candidates who ran as independents had in fact strong links to the Labour Party. One, Luke Field, has held various roles in Labour Youth over the years, and is currently Labour’s Local Area Representative in Cork South Central.

Laura Harmon was the second “independent”, who was once President of the USI and would later hold an “advisory” role in Labour. She would go on to become Labour’s Women and Equality Officer in September 2015.

Yet during the Seanad elections, both her and Field ran as independents.

Regardless as to whether this was a move devised by senior Labour officials or decided by Mr  Field and Ms Harmon themselves, it speaks volumes to the tactics Labour and their supporters are willing to use. This includes turning up to the Raise the Roof protest.

Given Labour’s deceitful and all too recent history, any attempt by them or their supporters to rehabilitate themselves and their party must be resisted.

Any fight for equality must include denying a platform to those who have willingly deceived and harmed others, especially the most vulnerable, which is what Labour’s term in government did.

Ideological unity must not come at the expense of moral consistency. Labour’s attempt at entryism, a tactic used by movements such as the Social Workers Party and People Before Profit and who both have strong authoritarian impulses at their core, must be fought.

Otherwise any movement with a social conscience and heart is likely to be diverted by those attempting to appropriate the movement for their own, and not entirely honest or legitimate, purposes.

In the case of Labour, having lost the power they so assiduously planned to attain, it is obvious that they seek to align themselves with whatever group they can in order to erase their past grievances and rehabilitate themselves.

On Wednesday it was shown that their attempts are failing, and rightly so given the price we are all paying for the decisions they made and supported when in government.

Bryan Wall is a PhD candidate in the departments of sociology and philosophy in University College Cork. His interests are in citizenship, human rights, democratic and political theory, and the history of Zionism. Read his work here


From top: Gemma O’Doherty (left) with independent Cork County councillor Diarmaid Ó Cadhla (centre) and Michael Collins (right), an independent TD for Cork South West outside Leinster House on Wednesday morning; Bryan Wall

When Gemma O’Doherty announced her plan to seek a nomination for the presidential elections here, a collective guffaw emerged from certain quarters of Irish society.

Ms O’Doherty has made a name for herself, and powerful enemies, over the years by pursuing the truth no matter the cost.

When she confronted the issue of corruption in the Gardaí, specifically the issue of penalty points being wiped from the driving licences of high ranking members of the Gardaí, politicians, and even fellow journalists, her career with the Irish Independent was summarily ended by her superiors.

Having discovered that the then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, had penalty points wiped from his own licence, she, as any decent journalist knows to do, made sure to check the information that she had was correct.

This involved verifying the address she was given. She duly called to the address, knocked at the door and asked the woman who answered if this was the address of Callinan. When the woman, Callinan’s wife answered yes, Ms O’Doherty left.

Following this she was reprimanded by her superior at the paper, Ian Mallon, who told her that “the Commissioner was furious and had made a complaint of harassment” against her.

Mr Mallon was the deputy of the then editor-in-chief, Stephen Rae, who had recently been given the position after Independent News & Media’s (INM) acquisition of the paper.

Mr Rae had previously been the editor of Garda Review, the monthly publication of the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

As Ms O’Doherty herself would later relate, after she verified Callinan’s address and published her story regarding his penalty points being wiped, Mr Rae “had been ordered down to Garda HQ”.

It would later emerge that Mr Rae himself also had penalty points wiped from his licence.

Not long after the publication of her story regarding Mr Callinan, and having turned down a “request” to stop working on Garda corruption, she was made “compulsorily redundant”.

Ms O’Doherty sued INM, which owns the Irish Independent and whose largest shareholder is Denis O’Brien. She settled out of court, with INM paying her an “undisclosed sum” and covering her legal costs.

INM also issued a statement, in which they “acknowledge[d] the exceptional work of multi-award winning investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty for the Irish Independent during the course of a lengthy career.”

Her career with the Irish Independent over, she nonetheless continues to comment on and investigate instances of corruption in Irish society, most particularly surrounding the Gardaí and their involvement in the case of the disappearance of Mary Boyle.

She has also been an ardent supporter of the whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, the two Gardaí who raised the issue of the wiping of penalty points in the first place.

When Ms O’Doherty earlier this  Summer announced her intention to seek a nomination for the presidential election, with her goal of running on a platform of anti-corruption and of being a “voice for the voiceless”, she was met with derision and contempt.

Kitty Holland, the Social Affairs Correspondent with The Irish Times, took particular issue with Ms O’Doherty. The latter has consistently pointed out that Ms Holland’s paper continues to engage in “property porn”, in spite of the last 10 years of austerity; much to the former’s chagrin.

Ms Holland responded to this by calling O’Doherty a “fantacist [sic]” for pointing out that her wages are likely paid by the money the paper earns from advertisements from property companies.

Ms O’Doherty is of course correct in her assessment, however.

Much research has been done on the issue of the Irish media’s role in inflating the property bubble during the Celtic Tiger, with the work of Dr. Julien Mercille of University College Dublin being second to none in this regard.

Also, during the banking inquiry the former editor of The Irish Times, Geraldine Kennedy, described in detail the paper’s reliance on advertising revenue from property companies.

She also mentioned the subsequent pressure her and her paper came under from these same sources of revenue after her paper published an article critical of the housing boom.

She told the inquiry that, “People from the property sector were saying it would rock the foundation of The Irish Times, we would never get an advertisement again and it was damaging the credibility of the country.”

That Ms O’Doherty was correct in her assessment was irrelevant. She had placed herself outside the bounds of acceptable liberal journalism and could be denigrated thusly.

Ms Holland continued her attacks, claiming that O’Doherty “Promises much and delivers little” and, more recently, calling her “delusional”.

This has been the pattern for the past two months in which O’Doherty has been accused of being everything from transphobic to an anti-vaxxer.

All of this, begs the obvious question: Why has there been such a reaction against Gemma O’Doherty as a candidate?

Part of this stems from her work uncovering corruption in Ireland. Corruption in Ireland has always gone on just under the surface. We live in a wink and nod society where malfeasance is regularly covered up and oftentimes not reported in the media.

That Jonathan Sugarman, for example, is not a household name puts our mainstream media to shame. Instead, people like Bertie Ahern, infamous for his corrupt dealings, are rehabilitated on the national broadcaster without comment or question.

Ms O’Doherty’s work in uncovering corruption puts many people in Ireland, who hold positions of influence in the government and in media, and the role that they play in ensuring that the status quo is upheld, on the defensive.

The fact that Kitty Holland can go from congratulating Ms O’Doherty on her victory over INM to lambasting her on social media shows how close to home Ms O’Doherty’s comments and work have hit.

In the case of Ms Holland and The Irish Times, it has to do with the role the paper played in inflating a property bubble during the Celtic Tiger and how it continues to do so today whilst we are in the midst of a rental and homeless crisis no less.

And while this may not be corrupt as such, it is a corrupting influence to have to defer to powerful groups for advertising income, as is the case with The Irish Times and the property sector.

Ms O’Doherty’s work on corruption also explains why the big parties consistently blocked her nomination at the council level.

Her work hits extremely close to home for many a stalwart of the two big parties. Her questioning of the received orthodoxy of the nod and wink culture made her a heretic in the eyes of many a loyal party member.

Granted, it was to be expected that she would come up against attempts to block her nomination and intransigence in general. But the political wall she ran up against must be almost unheard of.

Throughout the country her nomination was obstructed by voting blocs of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour. So while those who exemplify predatory capitalism are perfectly fine as nominees for the presidency, someone of O’Doherty’s ilk must instead be made to pay for the temerity of daring to be a good journalist.

During her appearance on a Broadsheet.ie special livestream on Wednesday the 26th, she made the point that “The party system has failed Ireland.”

She is correct in the sense that given her inability to receive enough votes for the nomination due to the big parties, it shows up the democratic institutions for how hollow they really are.

As has always been the case, representatives took it upon themselves to decide for the wider population instead of deciding with them.

Hence, we have the inherent contradiction of modern representative democracy in which elected representatives pick and choose which aspects of the public interest they themselves deem worthy of political attention.

A filtering mechanism such as this is a fundamental aspect of modern forms of democracy. It allows the leaders to encourage advocacy and debate within strict limits, which ensures the security of the system they oversee.

Any person who goes beyond these borders though is filtered out as a deviant or miscreant.

Ms O’Doherty falls into this latter category given her work and statements over the years. Therefore, the idea of her name appearing on the ballot paper next month could not be countenanced.

Politicians, the media, and journalists all played their part in ensuring that she would be unable to get the required votes for her nomination.

The media’s role in all of this is particularly egregious. For example, The Irish Examiner went so far as to publish a piece questioning her journalistic work over the years.

Enough has already been said about Kitty Holland, a journalist of high rank and large influence. Her former colleagues in the media also played the role of stenographers when they unquestioningly publicised Jimmy Guerin’s comments in which he described Ms O’Doherty as a “conspiracy theorist”.

Mr Guerin, the brother of murdered Journalist Veronica Guerin, was responding to Ms O’Doherty’s comments regarding the role the state may have played in the murder of his sister.

What the media failed to mention was that in an investigation 16 years ago for Village magazine, Vincent Browne and Frank Connolly revealed that the person who likely shot Veronica Guerin was given immunity from prosecution by the state.

In return for this immunity, evidence against John Gilligan was sought; Gilligan being the crime lord the Gardaí were convinced was behind the murder.

Charles Bowden, who it is likely “actually perpetrated the killing — firing several shots into the head and body of Veronica Guerin as she sat in her car” according to Mr Browne and Mr Connolly, also admitted to “having the gun that killed Veronica Guerin, admitted to preparing the gun for the killing, to seeing it after the murder.”

None of this damning information was reported by the media in the last two weeks in spite of its obvious relevance and importance.

Ms O’Doherty’s campaign was torpedoed by those intent on upholding the current political and social orthodoxy.

Her views being warped beyond recognition, along with beliefs being attributed to her which are completely at odds with the work she has done and the statements she has actually made, was enough to ensure the fact that her name won’t appear on the ballot paper next month.

In the society we currently live in, certain questions and topics can be raised, others cannot. So, while it might be perfectly acceptable to question the idea of the financial allowances that politicians receive, it is not permissible to question the very system that allows for such a lucrative structure to be created in the first place.

It means that we can question the excesses of society and our politicians, but never the framework or basis on which it all rests.

And while you may not agree with her views whatsoever, what Ms O’Doherty has endured over the last two months should at the very least give you pause for thought.

Her treatment at the hands of politicians and their friends in positions of power in the media demonstrates to us all the contempt that the media and political orthodoxy hold outsiders in, especially outsiders like Gemma O’Doherty.

Bryan Wall is a PhD candidate in the departments of sociology and philosophy in University College Cork. His interests are in citizenship, human rights, democratic and political theory, and the history of Zionism. Read his work here


From top: A Mural in Ranelagh, Dubliun 6 by the Greay Area artist collective depicting the forced removal of protesters occupying a vacant premises; Bryan Wall

When protestors, under the banner of Take Back the City, occupied a vacant building on North Frederick Street in Dublin, they most likely expected that the government forces would come calling.

Usually this involves threats of legal action with the protestors eventually leaving of their own accord or being removed, sometimes with force, by the Gardaí.

North Frederick Street was different though. Instead of the usual Garda presence, the activists were now faced by masked private security — mercenaries given the context — who were backed up by masked Gardaí.

As expected whenever masked security forces make an appearance, and after literally beating and cutting down the front door, the activists were abused and attacked by the masked men. Four ended up in hospital with a range of injuries, including neck and head injuries.

At least one suffered a concussion which “will need further [medical] attention”. The reaction from the supporters of the state and various government ministers has been par for the course, which is absolutely unsurprising.

But, and this is what many seem to have missed, indicates something much more dangerous and sinister: That the government has both contempt and fear for such activism and that they will stomp it down no matter how it looks.

Contempt for activists and protestors is nothing new in the Irish political milieu. When the anti-water charge protests were at their peak Joan Burton was quick to dismiss the concerns of the activists by referring to the expense of their phones.

Similarly, when Leo Varadkar said there was a “very sinister fringe” involved in the same anti-water charge movement he was, like Burton, displaying a contempt for the activists and protests.

It is fine to question government policy but only within the polite and constrained bounds of Irish political discourse. This means you make representations to your local politician and they do their best to see that your wishes are examined.

Of course, this all depends on the fact that the politician in question deems it worthy of their interest and effort to bring your issue to the attention of others within the political system. If it isn’t worthy, then democracy has spoken and the system has functioned as designed.

Filtering of political issues ensures that the “real” work of governing can get on in spite of the interests of the populous.

When you dare to go around this hierarchy and engage directly with the world then you can be deemed as deserving of nothing but contempt given your disavowal of a perfectly functioning democratic system.

In this way you can then be denigrated as “sinister” or as not truly representing the working class given your particular choice of phone.

In the case of North Frederick Street, the activists are too ignorant to warrant even talking to, therefore they can be dealt with by a private mercenary force.

But the contempt shown for them also betrays a fear of this kind of activism.

This fear exists because the activists in question have gone around the system. Just as the fact that engaging directly with the world and undermining the top-down political hierarchy results in a feeling of contempt amongst the ruling classes, it also engenders fear.

Fear emerges because activism of the kind shown at North Frederick Street demonstrates that the current representative system of politics, in which people and ideas are filtered out, is highly inegalitarian and undemocratic.

To show another way in which society can function will cause a “crisis of democracy” — something I have written about earlier — whereby people who have previously been denied a voice in society finally find an outlet for it.

These kinds of people must not be allowed to gain a foothold, however. Any demonstration of an alternative to the current system must be suppressed.

Hence, the contempt and fear of the ruling elite legitimates their use of force. And that is what makes the violent eviction of the activists on North Frederick Street an important moment in Irish society.

Unless you are willing to play by the neo-liberal rulebook, you will be crushed regardless of how it looks. The system, as it is, must stand.

Those rushing to defend the fact that masked Gardaí were defending a masked private security force miss this very point. For them, the violence inflicted on others will never reach them. Oftentimes, however, people find themselves involved in political or social movements where they never had been before.

This is becoming increasingly so as neo-liberalism and climate change pummel the majority of the planet’s inhabitants. So whilst right now they see themselves as being out of reach of the baton of state-sanctioned violence, this could change at any moment.

All it takes is for one small event to politicise that person and then they are not only within the reach of the aforementioned baton, but they are on the frontlines of a movement.

Instead of realising it too late they must be made to realise now, while there is still time, that fascist tendencies can be as close as only one legislative moment away.

In the aftermath of the eviction, the Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan, said that he would be in favour of legislation to ban the filming or photographing of Gardaí “as they try to go about their policing duties.”

Although the Taoiseach, when asked, said that the government had no plans to introduce such legislation, the mere suggestion of its introduction, by a Justice Minister, should be of great concern.

The concept of a masked police force supported by, or supporting, a likewise masked private security force is a central pillar of an authoritarian state. This is axiomatic and anybody concerned with politics understands this very simple concept.

That a Minister of Justice can advocate for a more or less anonymised police force means that he either has no understanding of democracy, and its obverse, or he does, and favours the method that involves the population being kept in line by brute force.

Although in the instance of Frederick Street no specific legislation was passed in order to violently evict them in defence of a property-owning class, it should be self-evident that the tools of repression can be used according to the whims of those who hold the monopoly on said violence. Here that monopoly holder is the state.

With the suggestion put forward by the Justice Minister in mind, it is obvious how the state resorting to violence and creating a framework in which it can flourish is, if not at the forefront of the minds of some government ministers, then it at least occupies some space in their range of tactics; out of sight but never out of mind.

Along with state violence the use of contempt and hysteria both play an important role in ensuring the success of the former. If this involves intimating or outright claiming violence was carried out by the actual victims, or suggesting that they are inherently violent given their specific set of political or social beliefs, then all the better.

Victimhood at the hands of state-backed violence is not a legitimate defence in the eyes of apologists.

Having the temerity to question how society functions is enough to ensure your place outside of the acceptable limits of political discourse. This being the case, the state and its supporters denigrate, obfuscate, and fearmonger to their heart’s content.

In the aftermath of the evictions, one group in particular has been singled out. An anarcho-communist group, the Workers’ Solidarity Movement (W.S.M.), have had their role in the occupation on Frederick Street highlighted by the state broadcaster.

As the WSM. pointed out, “any or all of the 17 groups that actually comprise Take Back the City” could have been mentioned, among other things, in the reporting of the eviction.

Instead, the W.M. was the only one named. Similarly, former politician, and now talking head, Ivan Yates decried the occupiers, labelling them as “anarchists” and thereby, in his mind at least, calling into question their motives.

That Yates unlikely knows the finer points of anarchist philosophy or theory is of no importance to the wider message. In his mind, anarchism is synonymous with chaos and violence.

In labelling the occupiers as “anarchists” in the derogatory sense he intends, the message is clear. Anyone who is an “anarchist” can be dealt with by masked men willing to commit violence on behalf of state power.

And given that the WSM. were the only organisation involved in Take Back the City who were named by RTÉ., the goal is clear: Undermining the activity of groups like Take Back the City but more importantly, attempting to counter the message that they send to people.

A message that tells people state power can be bypassed and that direct action is an inherently positive undertaking is a threat to a system which relies on the filtering out of certain groups of people.

Brendan Howlin, the leader of the Labour Party, has said that the occupiers and protestors of Take Back the City are “not something I would be associated with”, presumably lamenting the breakdown of the filtering process.

Given Labour’s recent history of its betrayal of the working class this is unsurprising. It is nonetheless maddening in its routine defence of the current political and social system which has seen homelessness and an artificially created housing crisis take hold of the country.

But these issues are unimportant relative to the fact that the system as it currently functions must survive; unimportant to the government and its apologists. If that means masked men working for private security have to kick down doors and beat a few protestors, so be it.

To try and bypass the system in order to create a more just society, or to even merely demonstrate in protest of such injustice, is to declare oneself worthy of a visit from men wearing masks.

What this means for future protests in Ireland is unknown but one thing is certain. Once used, private security in order to support state power is a genie not put back into its bottle.

And whilst this puts activists and protestors on the defensive in the short-term, if anything it shows how effective something like Take Back the City is and how fearful the state has become.

Bryan Wall is a PhD candidate in the departments of sociology and philosophy in University College Cork. His interests are in citizenship, human rights, democratic and political theory, and the history of Zionism. Read his work here


From top: Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan, who has called for regulation of social media; Bryan Wall

When we think of citizenship and democracy we tend to think of two interrelated aspects of human existence without which we would be at the mercy of the wider world.

The broad environment and other people would be construed as threats to our being. What citizenship and democracy purportedly offer us is a form of protection against those who would do us harm.

It also offers us a method of deciding, as equitably as possible, how society should function; what institutions to construct and uphold, what rights are to be formulated and supported, where the state ends and the nation begins, and, probably most importantly, who is to count in all of this.

The above is what we have been taught about citizenship and democracy. Reality, obviously, is more complicated.

Citizenship and democracy have never been as cut and dry as we have been led to believe. A hierarchy inherent in both has always existed.

When politicians and elites lament the crumbling, crisis, or destruction of democracy they often mean something other than what appears to be the case.

It usually means that citizens have taken it upon themselves to decide what it means to be a citizen and that no longer should they be constrained by artificial limits placed upon them by their predecessors in government and by their current leaders.

Those in power fear this and always have.

When the United States was in the process of being founded these fears motivated the Founding Fathers. During the debates of the constitutional convention in 1787 the delegates took it upon themselves to ensure that the common people would have their rights curtailed.

It was insisted upon that the “people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right.” Therefore, the “rich and wellborn” were to be given a permanent share in government in order to keep the masses in check.

The new government, it was argued, was to be constructed in order “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”

The majority, who had just won the Revolutionary War for those now debating the merits of democracy, and finding it lacking, were to become lesser citizens compared to the landed gentry.

James Madison put this explicitly, stating that “The states ought to be placed under the control of the general government — at least as much so as they formerly were under the king and British parliament”, in order to ensure a return to the previous oligarchic state of affairs and to protect the agricultural, financial, and land interests of the new ruling elite.

This is nothing remotely new in the history of revolutions and democracy. It was seen in the French Revolution and also here in Ireland. In both cases, after a successful revolution by the masses, their new leaders secured their new-found power by fortifying it behind new constitutional powers or ensuring that their patrons were protected and had unbridled dominance in the new state.

In Ireland the latter was especially the case when we see how the Catholic Church was effectively given free rein over the new state.

Political leaders and elites are more than happy to live with a state of affairs such as this. A form of citizenship and democracy that is highly constrained and differentiated along economic, racial, religious, or other lines, is perfectly acceptable to them.

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From top: Minister for Health Simon Harris (centre) and Fine Gael members at this year’s Dublin Gay Pride Parade; Bryan Wall

In The Road to Wigan Pier George Orwell wrote that “having to do everything at other people’s convenience” is an “inherent” part of being working class. To know that you are less or not equal to someone else. That you do not count and are not worthy of being counted.

The working class do not act, they are “acted upon”, he wrote, being forced “down into a passive role.” A bourgeois person, on the other hand, has no such forces acting upon them or obstructions in their way.  Such a person “goes through life with some expectation of getting what he wants.”

Although this is somewhat hyperbolic, Orwell would know of such things, himself being of middle class/petite bourgeois origin and having had the education to prove it. He wrote that the attitude of the middle and upper classes towards the working class is one of “sniggering superiority punctuated by bursts of vicious hatred.”

The Road to Wigan Pier is arguably Orwell’s best work. He went to the coal mining towns of the north of England and not only described the conditions and people he saw there, but lived in them and worked with them.

Its appeal is that he was forthright in his descriptions which are equal parts horrifying and uplifting; the former given the squalor and filth that the miners and their families were forced to live in and the latter given the kindness he was shown and solidarity he experienced from those he lived and worked with.

Orwell is long dead but the conditions he described are still with us. The sense of hopelessness is too. The working class, having long been abandoned by the parts of the Left, have fallen down the memory hole. Issues other than class emancipation have taken the lead.

Over the last four decades, but particularly in the last two, identity politics has increasingly become the banner under which many on the Left have campaigned and marched.

What happened? How did class politics become passé?

One possible explanation is the increase in those attending third level institutions over the last few decades. In Ireland, according to the HEA. (Higher Education Authority), the number of students in the country stood at 225,628 for the 2016/17 academic year. The HEA. also reported that this translated into an increase of “10% over the last five years” alone.

In 2016 the OECD. reported that 52% of Irish people between the ages of 25 and 34 had a third level education versus the OECD. average of 42%. In terms of the socio-economic backgrounds of those attending third level, only 5.5% and 5.6% of were from “Semi-Skilled and Unskilled” categories respectively. By comparison, 18.3% were from the “Employers and Managers” category.

A further 11.2% came from the “Higher Professionals” category. What this tells us is that despite the introduction of free third level education in Ireland — although it is not so free any longer — it remains an arena of the middle and upper classes.

Simply put, we have a highly, and traditionally, educated middle and upper class in Ireland.

Apart from being troublesome in and of themselves in terms of class inequality, these statistics also imply another important issue when it comes to politics.

As has been noted in academic studies, “[O]ne of the most consistently documented relationships in the field of political behavior is the close association between educational attainment and political participation.”

The same people are also “significantly more likely to engage in forms of direct action, such as demonstrations and petitions.”

What this means, then, is that the middle and upper classes are going to study in third level institutions in greater numbers than others, and in turn are more politically active and engaged. Statistics are quite clear on this.

With all of this in mind is it probable that those who acquired such levels of education are likely to question the very system that enabled them to attain, and take political advantage of, their education in the first place?

An answer is not needed as the rise of identity politics at the expense of issues of class and capitalist exploitation is proof enough of the above.

Political activity, in general, is the realm of the middle-and upper-class then. This goes some of the way to explaining why identity politics has become the linchpin of many protests movements over the last few decades.

These days the annual Pride parades have become devoid of any radicalism that their origins suggest. Instead we see corporations line out in demonstration of their professed, and optically profitable, stance in favour of LGBT. rights; likewise for various political parties who not only want to attain office, but stay in it.

Political parties who gut the funding for education, health, and housing will be seen represented by their lackeys at the parades; an attempt to hide the former with the latter demonstration of their putative commitment to equality.

Another, and more likely, possible reason is the influence of party politics where identity issues are seen as easy fixes relative to the wholesale refashioning of society and/or revolution along more egalitarian lines which would involve some form of decapitalising. Identity politics means extending rights to those who may not have had them in the past.

Class politics, on the other hand, demand that society itself is refashioned. All things considered and with all of the possible outcomes weighed up, which is the easier win: Extending rights that already exist to those who have historically had theirs denied to them, or a dismantling of the entire system of exploitation in which people are expendable, unworthy and at times invisible according to the vagaries of the neo-liberal market system?

Any person who questions the idea that this dominance of identity politics may be harmful towards the wider class-based egalitarian movements is taking a substantial risk. There is a large possibility that the identity politics commissars will not be pleased and will duly do their best to ensure that said critic or commentator knows their place in the scheme of things.

Last year, one Irish author and researcher found this out after they had their article questioning the effectiveness of identity politics published in The Irish Times.

They were quickly met with accusations of using the same arguments that alt-right and M.R.A. (Men’s Rights Activists) groups use, with no evidence to show for this accusation.

The author of the piece in The Irish Times has since had attempts to have their appearances at university events and literature festivals blocked because of what they wrote.

Reactions like this only prove the point made by social theorist Nancy Fraser nearly twenty years ago in an article related to this issue.

She wrote that “questions of recognition [i.e., identity] are serving less to supplement, complicate and enrich redistributive struggles than to marginalize, eclipse and displace them.” Furthermore, she noted that identity politics tends to create a problem of “reification”, in which one must adhere to the identity model of political activism and organisation.

One must “elaborate and display an authentic, self-affirming and self-generated collective identity,” or else they will be accused of “disloyalty.” “The identity model”, she writes, “thus lends itself all too easily to repressive forms of communitarianism, promoting conformism, intolerance and patriarchalism”, thereby enforcing “separatism, conformism and intolerance.”

Aviva Chomsky has also mentioned this adherence to the identity model in her article from August 2017 on challenging racist violence. It is worth quoting her at length:

Over the years I have come to see more and more of what Adolph Reed calls “posing as politics.” Rather than organizing for change, individuals seek to enact a statement about their own righteousness.

They may boycott certain products, refuse to eat certain foods, or they may show up to marches or rallies whose only purpose is to demonstrate the moral superiority of the participants.

White people may loudly claim that they recognize their privilege or declare themselves allies of people of color or other marginalized groups. People may declare their communities “no place for hate.”

Or they may show up at counter-marches to “stand up” to white nationalists or neo-Nazis. All of these types of “activism” emphasize self-improvement or self-expression rather than seeking concrete change in society or policy.

They are deeply, and deliberately, apolitical in the sense that they do not seek to address issues of power, resources, decisionmaking [sic], or how to bring about change.

At the height of the Occupy Movement in the United States, journalist Chris Hedges also noted the problems with identity politics and its role in denying the working and lower classes visibility in the political movements of the last few decades.

Occupy was started by the children of the middle and upper classes who now found themselves victims of the very system which gave them the advantages they enjoyed up until that point.

Now they found themselves facing an uncertain future; laden with debt from student loans, no well-paying or well-meaning jobs, environmental collapse, and a political system that was indifferent to their fate. These groups arose and founded Occupy.

But, as I wrote earlier, this is not unique in the sense that political activity and participation has predominately been undertaken by the middle and upper class in the past.

The difference was that now they were experiencing the same things that the working and lower classes, people of colour, and other minorities, had been experiencing for decades at that stage.

When they took to the streets they ran up against some hard questions that were being asked of them by the very people they had ignored in the past.

As Hedges noted: “while the working class was being destroyed, they [had] busied themselves on inclusiveness” in the past.

And now that they were engaging in direct action against the same kinds of issues they had previously ignored there emerged “a kind of scepticism of the Occupy movement by many in marginal communities because they said well, ‘Where were you?’”; where were you when market discipline was being enforced at the expense of basic rights and human dignity? Jump forward a few years and we have an explanation for why Donald Trump is now president of the United States.

Hillary Clinton represented more of the same; more of the corporatist backed neo-liberalism that has destroyed the lives of millions. Bernie Sanders may have offered a way out, or at the very least some hope.

Given what we know about how the DNC. (Democratic National Committee) ensured that Sanders lost the Democratic Party presidential nomination, is it really any wonder that Clinton’s fate was sealed and Trump’s ensured?

Trump’s claiming to be outside of the realm of politics as usual, and claiming to care about the lives of those who have suffered for the last four decades, was enough to win him the presidency.

Clinton’s words, and those of her fellow Democrats, were seen as hollow and meaningless to those who had been promised time and again that they mattered and that their lives mattered while business, and inequality, continued as usual. Trump was a way of personifying this anger.

As one study notes, the election “results support the claim that Trump’s appeal to the white working class was crucial for his victory.” Identity politics, as it has been practiced up until now, gave us this result.

However, at the end of all this a caveat is needed. All of the above is not to say that identity politics are not important. Of course they are. In any egalitarian and truly free society the rights of all are a function of the rights of the individual. What this means is ensuring that all of us have our rights upheld, including rights regarding our personal identities.

A problem only arises when identity politics shoves class politics under the carpet and out of sight and out of mind, which has been the case for the last four decades.

Identity politics without a class dimension is a hollow facade and the same applies to class politics without a foundation in protecting the rights of individuals as individuals.

Thus far though, identity politics has been a convenient way for those claiming to be egalitarian to decry the supposed privilege of others without questioning their own very real class and economic privilege.

Moral elitism and smugness is not going to create a viable movement, let alone an alternative, to neo-liberal exploitation at the hands of global conglomerates supported by those in government and others in positions of power.

For any viable movement to emerge it has to cut across class and identity without subordinating the former to the latter. Until that happens the working and lower classes will continue to be ignored and lash out when they can. How many more Trumps can we take?

Bryan Wall is a PhD candidate in the departments of sociology and philosophy in University College Cork. His interests are in citizenship, human rights, democratic and political theory, and the history of Zionism. Read his work here


From top: Israeli  Prime Minister President Benjamin Netanyahu and other Likud lawmakers in the Knesset after the passage of the nation-state law last week; Bryan Wall

In 1896 Theodor Herzl published his pamphlet The Jewish State. In its pages was contained his vision of how to acquire the land of Israel and what would be the content of the state.

His writing covered details such as the kind of government the state would be based on, as well as the more mundane such as how many hours a person would work per day.

He also made references to the area in which his future state would be founded. Being located in the Middle East, he wrote that the state could play an important role for the Great Powers of the time (Austro-Hungary, Britain, France). Once founded, Israel would “there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.”

As for what was to be done with the native population, he was also quite clear in this regard.
Herzl was a man of his time. He was a liberal and a social democrat but the particular milieu lived in ensured that he held non-European states and their peoples in low esteem.

Thus, his proposition for dealing with the population of Palestine was influenced by the era of colonialism in which he lived:

“Supposing, for example, we were obliged to clear a country of wild beasts, we should not set about the task in the fashion of Europeans of the fifth century. We should not take spear and lance and go out singly in pursuit of bears; we would organize a large and active hunting party, drive the animals together, and throw a melinite bomb into their midst.”

Jump ahead two decades and we come to Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Jabotinsky was an advocate of what was to become known as Revisionist Zionism.

His arguments for the creation of Israel were a logical extension of Herzl’s Political Zionism. Jabotinsky called for an “iron wall” beyond which the local population would not be able to pass.

Being a metaphor for military and demographic superiority, Jabotinsky was clear when it came to how the state would be created and how it would ensure its fortunes.

A future Israel would be safe and secure when

“the Jews become the majority” as once the natives accepted this, and realised they would not be able to rid themselves of the Zionist colonisers, they would strive for peace with their new Zionist overlords. He was realistic in the sense that he knew that “we are seeking to colonise a country against the wishes of its population, in other words, by force.”

With this in mind it should come as no surprise that Israel has now passed the Jewish nation-state law. If anything it should come as a surprise that it has not happened sooner.

Perhaps facts on the ground have dictated this, such as the increasing amount of illegal Israeli colonisers in the West Bank and Golan Heights over the last three decades.

The Bill, which was passed by 62 members of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), declares that:

“The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.”

Furthermore, it states that:

“The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

The reporting of the law in the mainstream media has, as usual, been less than stellar.

Commentary has ranged from tepid narration to an occasionally decent article that does more than call the law “controversial”, with the The Irish Times, the BBC, and CNN being guilty of this journalistic languidness.

They were joined by the New York Times, the “paper of record”, whose anaemic reporting referred to the law as “divisive”.

Others such as The Atlantic, Democracy Now, and the Irish Examiner did more than simple transcribing. In these cases the law was reported as “formally sanction[ing] discrimination against minorities”, “a hate crime”, and as making “Israel officially a sectarian state”.

Although many of us find this kind of honest reporting laudable it is still short-sighted. This is because it ignores the larger history of Zionism, the history of Israel, and its treatment of the Palestinians.

Having lived under an occupation and Zionist-framed law since 1948, the passing of the law makes very little difference to the lived experience of the Palestinians.

It is just more of the same; albeit under the veneer of legality. Ownership of land has always been restricted to Jewish citizens, with military laws being used to repress Palestinians and confiscate their land decades before the introduction of this law.

Citizenship being limited to Jewish people only is nothing remotely new, with the state having been defined as the state of the Jewish people since its founding, something the mainstream media seems to have either missed or ignored. Such a definition has even caused problems for Jewish citizens in the past.

For example, in 1962 Shmuel Oswald Rufeisen (Brother Daniel) sued the state in order to have it recognise him on his identity card by his nationality and not his religion, the latter of which was, and continues to be, standard practice.

He was a Polish Jew who had converted to Catholicism during the Second World War. Now a monk and no longer identifying as Jewish, yet still wanting to be part of the “Jewish destiny” in Israel, he moved there. Having given up his Polish citizenship he wanted to acquire Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.

His argument was that even though he was no longer of the Jewish religion, he was Jewish by nationality and therefore entitled to citizenship of the state. His application denied, he then petitioned the High Court of Justice, who also denied his application.

In spite of this, he was eventually granted an Israeli identity card which recorded his nationality as “Not Clear”.

As the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand has rightly pointed out, “It was categorically denied that there was no Jewish nationality without its religious shell.”

It was no longer the individual’s decision as to whether or not they were Jewish. The state would decide who could be a citizen and that, like everything in the state, had to be refracted through the prism of Zionism.

In the context of the new law then, we are simply seeing some legal formalisation of what has been standard practice for decades. That the media does not understand this historical context, and has ignored it, either intentionally or unknowingly, is unsurprising.

The reasons for this are many and have been covered by others such as Howard Friel and Richard Falk. What is more important is the fact that the law is being reported on outside of the historical context in which it has been written and passed.

Outside of this context the media can portray the law as merely a recent deviation in the history of an otherwise “liberal and democratic state”; the only one of its kind in the region, as the well-worn talking point goes.

The media can also portray it as a protective measure in light of the recent events, both in Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, and elsewhere in the region.

But by understanding the history of Zionism we can also understand two things in particular. Firstly, the history of Zionism, going back to Herzl, makes it clear that a demographic and military superiority was needed in order to found the state.

An “outpost of civilization” was to be created using “melinite bombs”, despite Herzl’s apparent liberalism. Legalities aside, the needs justified the ends. Secondly, Jabotinsky’s writings also make it clear what actions were going to needed in order to secure the future state.

An Iron Wall of Zionist supremacy was what would ensure the creation and security of the state. Anything less would condemn the project to the dustbin of history.

With this in mind, we can see how the nation-state bill is nothing new or unique. It is merely a continuation of the colonialist strategy that was theorised by Herzl and his acolytes, and put into action by Jaobotinsky and his adherents; and ironically by his ideological enemies such as Ben-Gurion.

The Palestinians have suffered regardless of this new law and will continue to do so no matter what legal formulas are created. That the wider media does not report or understand this demonstrates their blind spots, ignorance, and obsequiousness to state power.

While they transcribe, the history of Zionism continues to discriminate, segregate, and deny basic rights to those it deems unworthy.

Bryan Wall is a PhD candidate in the departments of sociology and philosophy in University College Cork. His interests are in citizenship, human rights, democratic and political theory, and the history of Zionism. Read his work here

Pic: Getty