Sunday 25 June 2017

Irish Times slammed by human rights leader over Alt-right article

The online piece by Irish-based US writer Nicholas Pell has caused a storm of controversy
The online piece by Irish-based US writer Nicholas Pell has caused a storm of controversy
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Irish Times has defended its publication of a 'fawning' article on the Alt-right movement.

The piece by Irish-based US writer Nicholas Pell  has caused a storm of controversy after it included a glossary of derogatory terms the white nationalist group uses to describe black people, women and people who may have changed gender.

The movement, whose members have been characterised as espousing neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist views, came to prominence in recent months due to its support of incoming US President Donald Trump.

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) said it had logged 37 complaints about the article via its iReport.ie racist incident reporting system as of 6pm on Thursday.

Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty Ireland Picture: Maxwells
Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty Ireland Picture: Maxwells

ENAR Ireland director Shane O’Curry said the level of complaints was “off the charts”. It normally receives just two or three reports per week relating to media racism.

“The complaints are a reflection of the public opprobrium the Irish Times has provoked in giving a platform to a blogger with far right sympathies and uncritically furnishing readers with a lexicon devised by the far-right as though it were fact,” he said.


Mr O’Curry said ENAR Ireland would be complaining to the newspaper.

Amnesty executive director Colm O’Gorman described the article as “dangerous”, “unbelievable” and “just extraordinary”.

He was not alone in condemning the piece, which has unleashed a barrage of negative commentary on social media platforms.

One Irish Times columnist, Maeve Higgins, tweeted that the article was “gross”.

Mr O’Gorman said it was a huge surprise that the news outlet “would publish what effectively is such a fawning piece about an ideology and a movement which spends most of its time preaching sneering hate”.

“I’m sure their own readers and people working in the Irish Times will be making those views very clear to their senior editors,” he said.

“For a start, if you want to convey what the ideology of the so-called Alt-right is about, you need to name it for what it is.

“It is a white supremacist, misogynistic ultra-conservative ideology that wants to put women and minorities in particular kinds of boxes and that wants to assert some view of white male dominant power as the norm and acceptable order.

“It is extraordinary that any serious publication would run a fawning piece that in no way names or challenges those obvious facts. It is bizarre.”

Mr O’Gorman said it was important for news outlets to give voice to very diverse views, but the Alt-right article had crossed a line.

“I often find myself passionately disagreeing with things that are written in the Irish Times and the Irish Independent, but they usually give me reason to reflect or to think or there is stuff to engage with there. That is really valuable,” he said.

“Nobody wants a media that just spouts a lazy, unchallenging or uncontroversial narrative. Nobody wants that.

“But this kind of stuff is just vacuous and worse than that, I actually think it is dangerous to give space to somebody who gives a fawning description of an ideology that is hateful and deeply misogynistic and xenophobic without in any way naming that is grossly irresponsible.”

Shortly after 12.30pm Irish Times Opinion Editor John McManus responded with a piece titled: 'Why we published Nicholas Pell’s article on the Alt-right'.

He conceded that there had been "considerable adverse comment" on their decision to publish the piece.

He said its purpose was to "stimulate and advance arguments about matters of public interest".

"The piece by Nicholas Pell met these criteria. At a minimum it decodes a lot of the Alt-right movement’s language and at best it gives a clear indication of its thinking and idealogy."

He continued: "The existence of the Alt-right cannot be simply ignored. It was a factor in the US election and is closely associated with figures in the incoming administration. We would argue, moreover, that anybody who seriously opposes it should want the public to know what the Alt-right really stand for.

"Ultimately we trust in the ability of our readers to make their own minds up. We believe they expect to read things from time to time that challenge them.

"Some of the language in the piece has clearly offended people which was not our intention. We felt on balance that that leaving it in gave a deeper insight into the nature of the Alt-right movement."

Mr Pell, a freelance writer who has previously been published by the Washington Post, LA Weekly and Playboy, defended his article and said he had “no regrets” about the way in which it was written.

He said he was “not Alt-right” but some of his views overlap with those of the movement.

“Mostly my overlap with them is seeing the establishment on the left and the establishment on the right take one on the nose,” he said.

He said he had voted for Donald Trump and was supportive of so-called “new right” European parties.

“I wrote this piece and I sent it off to the Irish Times. I honestly didn’t expect to hear back from them, but they emailed me back straight away and said 'we are going to run with it',” he said.

In relation to offensive Alt-right terms listed in the article to describe black people and people with gender identity issues, Mr Pell said these were not terms he would use himself.

“All I did was explain what these terms mean. People have been reacting like I created them,” he said.

However, he said he would not condemn the use of such terminology.

“I am not in the habit of telling people what words they should and shouldn’t say,” he said.

Asked if he was worried people might call him a racist, he said: “I don’t give a sh** if people call me that.

“I think ‘racism’ is a curse word that leftists use to shut down discussion.”

The original article received a mixed reaction on Twitter:





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