Archive for February 21, 2015

Ryan’s video nasty says more about Late Late than Murphy

A pic of Ryan Tubridy and Paul Murphy taken from the RTE Player.

Let me tell you about The Late Late Show and fairness.

Next week, the show will feature several songs, one of which will be chosen as Ireland’s Eurovision entry.

The backing band and singers for one song are a girl band from Sweden, who asked me if I could find them a gig in Dublin on the Saturday.

I contacted Ryan Tubridy’s show and we agreed that it might be fun to have the girls go on the radio on Friday morning and then have Ryan’s listeners find them a gig for the Saturday night.

Then, yesterday evening, I got an e-mail to say that the idea was being nixed, as it wouldn’t be fair to the other acts appearing on the Late Late to highlight one on the radio show, and not the others.

Then Tubridy interviewed socialist TD Paul Murphy on the Late Late, and all semblance of fairness went out the window.

Tubridy is a terrible, almost comically bad political interviewer.

His only tactics are to provoke his subject and try to channel some semblance of righteous indignation.

But in trying to seem tough and uncompromising, he instead comes across as rude and ignorant.

His questions are aggressive, shallow and transparent, and when the subject answers them capably, he irritatedly talks over them and moves on.

Of course, this Paxman- (very) lite approach is the first thing the media handlers will tell the politicians as they prepare to face him.

Tubridy was entirely right to ask Murphy about his history, his political career, his penchant for protest and his numerous arrests.

And asking him to explain the footage of Murphy with the bullhorn during the “siege of Jobstown” was also journalistically valid, even if it has already been done to death.

But the decision to show the footage of an entirely separate protest, in which Murphy had no hand, act or part, was the most morally bankrupt editorial decision in a long time.

And given that we’re talking about Ireland here, that is some achievement.

The film of Murphy holding the bullhorn is journalistically valid because it gives the context of what happened in Jobstown.

The showing of the film in which president Michael D Higgins was called a “midget parasite,” under the tenuous logic that some of those shouting are known to Murphy, was all about subtext.

Paul Murphy supports water protestors.

Water protestors are violent, foul-mouthed people.

Paul Murphy is a violent, foul-mouthed person.

Deliberate or not, it was a nakedly political act – its message was “protesting is OK, but for the love of GOD don’t offend anyone or inconvenience our betters.”

But the question about the presidential protest had to be asked, you may say – but did it really?

Murphy has condemned the behaviour of those in the video (including those people known to him) on countless occasions.

About half an hour later, the game was up.

The jovial Chris De Burgh was sitting on the couch, singing his songs unprompted and telling everyone how great he was.

But here we had a man who had sex with a teenage girl while his wife lay recovering from a broken neck in one of the greatest scandals in Irish celebrity history, and he wasn’t asked about it.

So the dalliances of the millionaire class pass without criticism, while Murphy has to explain things that have nothing to do with him.

The problem, and it is a problem all over the world, is that journalism is now very much a middle-class profession.

The staggering lack of job security and the pitiful sums paid to journalists for their work mean that only those of independent means can engage in a career.

The result is that newsrooms – and the production offices of shows like the Late Late – have no innate understanding of what life is like for the working class.

Much is made of the influence that Denis O’Brien may or may not have over his newsrooms, but the fact is he doesn’t have to exert any influence at all.

All he has to do is ensure that he hires editors and journalists that share his view of the world, and the rest will take care of itself.

The working class voices are only ever solicited outside the dole offices or courthouses, or on YouTube clips when they finally get it into their heads to protest.

The result is that those who work with working class people and try to improve their lot, like Paul Murphy, are mistrusted and insulted in the media.

Holy Catholic Ireland, as it once was, has never been exposed to socialism or social democracy – the soon-to-be-defunct Labour Party is to the right of Thatcher on many issues.

So it would have been interesting to see what Murphy had to say about his own politics, his atheism (if he is an atheist), about education and health and the EU.

But no. Instead, we are treated to standard reactionary journalism that ensures that the Irish working class will always pay the piper, but it will never be allowed to call the tune.

The Nazis came for Expressen – but we will not be silenced

Yesterday they came for Expressen.

And I must speak up.

I saw Thomas Mattsson, the newspaper’s editor, a couple of weeks ago.

I was getting out of a taxi to go into their offices and take part in a web TV broadcast about the closing of the transfer window.

He was on his way home, another taxi standing waiting for him, its engine idling.

And as he left, his briefcase swinging loosely as he hurried from the revolving door to the kerb on a chilly night, I thought of how lucky we are to live in a society where, despite the Internet bubbling over with violent threats made against them by extremists. controversial figures like Mattsson do not fel the need for private security.

But on Friday they came for Thomas Mattsson.

And they came for my friends at Expressen.

Many European newspapers would rather not be reminded of their editorial equivocation in the face of Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s, but since 1944 Expressen has made a point of calling it out.

Mattsson is the latest in a long line of editors that has backed his journalists to the hilt as they dragged Nazism into the light.

And in a country where one in eight now vote for a party with its roots in the neo-Nazi movement, the work they do is more important than ever.

It is easy to get lost in the myth of Scandinavia as a peaceful paradise of social democracy – while that ideology has undoubtedly had an enormous effect on societal structures, there have always been those who feel that they have more in common with Hitler than Olof Palme.

Politics is seldom beautiful, but the reaction of Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg in the wake of Anders Behring Breivik’s murderous rampage in Oslo and Utøya was to call for “more openness, more democracy.”

That moment of political beauty quickly wilted for Stoltenberg when, at the next election, the Norwegian people used their votes to put the far-right, anti-immigrant Fremskrittspartiet – of which Breivik was previously a member – into power.

Freedom of speech – Thomas Matsson (Expressen) and Jan Helin (Aftonbladet) hold up a t-shirt calling for the freeing of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak

The powerful surge in support for racist parties in Scandinavia makes the work of Mattsson and his main competitor Jan Helin at Aftonbladet all the more important.

Helin’s newspaper spent much of the week exposing public figures who spread hatred on the Internet via the country’s most popular forum Flashback. 

Over at Expressen Mattsson’s scribes were busy documenting the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska Motståndsrörelsen), many of whom have been convicted after attacking an anti-racist demonstration in Kärrtorp.

It was a bonanza week for lovers of in-depth reporting, but the latter’s work was ultimately more interesting, exposing the Nazis for what they are; far from being the “master race”, they are a collection of conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers, violent petty criminals and thugs, as evidenced by their reaction to Expressen’s reporting.

On Friday, three men connected to the Swedish Resistance Movement were arrested close to the Expressen offices, on suspicion of making threats against a group.

This was later expanded to include preparation to commit aggravated assault.

In short, the police believe that they were preparing to attack Expressen employees.

In my years of reporting in Scandinavia, I have gotten to know many of their reporters well, as well as reporters from many of the country’s media outlets.

I have stood in front of a camera with Axel on countless occasions, and waited in the sunshine at the bottom of an Olympic ski slope with Oscar.

I have played football against Robert Pires in Kiev with “Disco” Danne, and scouted bizarre photo locations in Dublin with Carl and Petter.

I have pitched reportage and program ideas of wildly varying quality to Anders and Daniel.

I have stood with Daniel S in mixed zones all over Sweden and talked about “The Shield.”

And outside the D4 hotel in Dublin we convinced Niall Quinn to photo-bomb our live reporting from Landsdown Road.

I have contributed to Expressen’s reporting from the Husby riots, appearing with Niklas on their Prime Time show.

Some are colleagues. Many are friends.

And I will report with them and for them again, on sport, news, politics, on Nazism, Islamism, emigration, immigration and everything in between.

Because I will not be silenced.

And Expressen will not be silenced.

And nor will the rest of the journalists working hard to fulfil the democratic duty of the Third Estate.

There are undoubtedly journalists living in fear this morning, but the only fear I have is of living in a society where Nazis can go unquestioned and reporters can be silenced by their threats or their violence.

Yesterday, the Nazis came for Thomas Mattsson and my friends at Expressen.

In fact, they came for all journalists who would hold them to account.

But we stand together.

And we will not be silenced.

 

 

Stop watering down drink debate

Of three deaths of Irish people I know of recently, alcohol was a factor in at least two of the cases, and arguably the third as well.

And when I say alcohol was a factor, I don’t mean the price of a cheeky Cabarnet Sauvignon.

But as Ireland ramped up a debate about minimum pricing levels, middle-class columnists were busy mis-framing the debate as being about the price of wine, rather than an issue of culture and excess.

The Journal, The Irish Independent, the Irish Times and the Irish Mirror all noticeably led with the effect that such a policy would have on the price of wine – and not on the cheap beer and naggins that people young and old now tank up on before they go to the pub or club.

The Late Late Show had a fairly anodyne, ill-informed discussion on Friday (“people in northern Scandinavia drink because it’s dark and they are depressed…” being one nugget of non-wisdom dispensed by the two well-to-do women Ryan interviewed), all the while avoiding the elephant in the room.

And though there are undoubtedly middle-class homes where mummy necking the Pinot Grigio is a problem, the scaled of the national issue is deeper and wider than that.

Much deeper.

And much wider.

Irish people have a deep attachment to alcohol.

We see it as a human right.

We long for the day when we are old enough to drink in pubs, and many of us go on to exercise that right as often as possible for the rest of our lives.

We drink, on average, the equivalent of 468 pints of beer each per year.

Many of us will lie and say that we drink way below that, which brings us to another problem; sure, there are those who drink less than that, which means, that there are those who drink a lot more.

An awful lot more.

Ireland’s drink problem is not a glass of wine, although that is an ideal we will all gladly hide behind if it means we don’t have to confront the staggering level of alcohol abuse in our country.

Ireland’s real problem is the smell of drink off the fella marking you on a Sunday morning, stinking of stale beer and vodka and Red Bull during the only hour’s exercise he gets in the week.

And when he leaves a pitch surrounded by beer ads, he’ll go straight to the clubhouse for a curer.

Ireland’s real problem is every child shouted into silence this morning by a parent with bad breath and a worse headache.

It is every little girl watching a Frozen DVD and hoping that, sometime before lunch, a mother or father might struggle down the stairs to feed them before trudging back again.

It is every kid looking at an empty sideline as they line up for a soccer match, where the dad who promised to be there either couldn’t get out of bed, or was stopped by the police on the way to the park and found to be over the limit.

It is every teenager who gets a pay packet on a Thursday and heads to the pub, believing that the only real way to reward yourself for a week of labour is a feed of pints, and then make a show of yourself.

It is the fat guys and girls gathered in the pubs to watch the rugby team, Liverpool, the Dubs or whatever you’re having yourselves this weekend who, if they were honest, have little interest in sport, but a huge interest in finding another excuse to be in the boozer.

I don’t drink anymore, and haven’t for five or six years. Pretty much the last time I was out I had a great time, but suffered badly from a hangover for days afterwards.

What had an even greater effect was that a young man who was also out here in Stockholm that weekend never came home at all.

After that, I stopped drinking because I have two children that I wanted to come home to.

And when I was at home, I didn’t like the person I was after I had been drinking.

My children deserve better, and my “right” to a good time, as I perceived it back then, in no way trumps their right to a father that loves them and and cares for them and does things with them.

Ireland’s problem with alcohol will not be solved by minimum pricing.

It may never be solved at all.

But it won’t improve until we stop this fake narrative about the price of wine and start talking about the real problem.

We drink too much, and most of us won’t admit it.

We are too tolerant of people who drink too much, and those who make money out of them and their misery.

And while we are pretending to be responsible adults about it, we are hurting those who have done least to deserve it.