From top: Oliver Callan; Anthony Sheridan
Comedian Oliver Callan is a confused man and his confusion is getting him into all kinds of trouble.
He’s in trouble because he doesn’t understand the difference between harmless political satire and serious political comment.
If Callan was an ordinary Joe Soap comedian his confusion would not be a problem. But Callan is not an ordinary Joe Soap, much of his income comes from powerful sources within the establishment such as RTÉ and The Irish Times.
The rule is simple: If you work for the establishment, you don’t attack the establishment.
There’s just one exception to this rule. If you’re a comedian you can slag off the establishment if, and only if, your comments are made within the strict confines of comedy.
Clearly, Callan doesn’t understand this rule.
Recently he tweeted a very strong criticism of the leader of the establishment itself – Leo Varadkar.
‘The arrogance is astounding. As covid19 kills scores and puts 500k on dole, Taoiseach [on full pay & exp] alleges without proof that workers are seeking layoffs to exploit benefits. The SF leader gloats the crisis proves she’s ‘’right’. Are we in this together or not??? FFS’
Somebody must have had a word in his ear. Perhaps a call from RTÉ or The Irish Times or maybe even a call from the Great Leader himself.
In any case, Callan quickly deleted the tweet with the following seriously pathetic excuse:
‘OK OK so I deleted my tweet referencing Leo’s comments on welfare applicants and Mary Lou’s opinion piece in IT. I wasn’t fair to either of them and if we are in this together, I’ll have to simmer down too.’
This wimpish but understandably self-interested climbdown was rightfully torn to shreds on twitter.
So let’s have a look at the difference between Varadkar’s comments and McDonald’s Irish Times article.
McDonald wrote a well balanced, well informed article on the current political situation focusing particularly on the disgraceful, anti-democratic exclusion of Sinn Féin from government formation talks by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
Varadkar, on the other hand, obnoxiously and without any proof accused citizens of exploiting layoff benefits.
But, according to Callan’s flaky logic, Varadkar’s vile accusation is no worse than McDonald’s reasoned political analysis.
This is the mindset of a man running in fear of those with power to damage his interests.
All went quiet then…for a while. Callan probably thought he was off the hook, that he was still in the establishment’s good books. But, once again, he made the massive error of mixing up satire with serious political comment.
In another tweet he described a speech delivered by the Great Leader as wooden and robotic.
Clearly, Callan was not getting the message – If you work for the establishment you cannot criticise the establishment.
To hammer home that message, the mistress of the establishment’s high moral ground was called into action, Irish Times columnist Kathy Sheridan.
Personally naming Callan, Sheridan did not mince her words:
‘Cheap, personal shots at politicians demean everyone involved.’
Callan, at last, got the message.
In an article that would embarrass even the most toadying, most servile supporter of the establishment Callan prostrated himself in a spineless effort to regain favour.
The Great Leader, who just days before was described by Callan as an arrogant robot, suddenly morphed into a man of passion for his country, a man who was going to deal with the [evil] ‘shinners’, a man who was determined to leave a legacy of greatness on history.
Climbdowns as abject as this only happen after a serious slap on the wrist has been delivered.
And to copper-fasten his total allegiance to his masters, Callan jumped on the bandwagon that is the establishment’s hatred of social media, a hatred second only to its loathing for Sinn Fein:
Here’s Sheridan’s comment:
‘Just the kind of hot take that characterises the swamplands of social media along with idiotic #notmyTaoiseach hashtags.’
And Callan’s servile parrot:
‘Social media…a place where the cringey hashtag ‘Not My Taoiseach’ trends with regularity.’
Ah yes, I think we can safely conclude – Callan has definitely been put back in his box.
Anthony Sheridan is a freelance journalist and blogs at PublicEnquiry.