Tuesday 25 October 2016

Student hacks learn an important lesson

Published 21/02/2016 | 02:30

Hysteria: The UCD revenge-porn story turned out to be entirely false
Hysteria: The UCD revenge-porn story turned out to be entirely false
Not convincing: Donald Trump

If you listen to their leaders, there has never been a tougher time to be a student. For the rest of us, there has been surely never been a tougher time to have to listen to them.

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We live in an era of endless moral hysteria, where rumours which once would have been little more than urban legends are now spread through social media until they develop real-world gravitas that has a real impact on people's lives.

Take the recent UCD revenge-porn panic.

The story, even when it first appeared, had more red flags than a Chinese political convention.

We were meant to be believe that 200 agricultural science students had taken to defiling the innocent young belles of Belfield and then posted pictures of their naked conquests, replete with rude comments and nasty remarks.

Sometimes, when a story seems too good to be true, that's because it is.

That's a lesson journalists usually have to learn at their own cost, and the student hacks at the UCD campus magazine certainly walked into their own baptism of fire when they ran the story without any evidence other than some unsubstantiated gossip.

In this case, the very idea of 200 young farmers somehow cutting a swathe through UCD's chaste female population should have seen the flags raised, but none were - a classic example of group think.

After all, if you express doubt about such a yarn, does that mean you don't care about the victims, even if there aren't actually any victims?

The mainstream media were quick to hop on the story because it perfectly fits the perfect storm of moral hysteria - innocent young women being victimised en masse by young men who are increasingly portrayed as dangerous sexual predators in student life.

When it emerged, inevitably, that the whole story was, as anyone with brains could have told them, a big steaming pile of bull poopy and simply a campus legend that had grown legs of its own, the clarifications were rather muted.

In fact, even when an investigation by college management into the story revealed that there was absolutely no evidence of such a thing happening and the whole kerfuffle had been nothing more than "unsubstantiated hearsay" (in other words, gossip), the UCD Students' Union, rather than express relief that they didn't have 200 deranged, priapic junior farmers engaged in some weird version of the ploughing championship, were furious.

Even better, they were furious that some nasty types - rapists, probably - had suggested that there might have been an ulterior motive for creating the controversy. According to their wonderfully irate statement, they were shocked that: "It has even been alleged that the entire situation was manipulated by the Students' Union to advance their consent campaign."

Ah yes, what a remarkably odd coincidence that this utterly fake story breaks around the same time that the same SU is trying to force compulsory consent classes on its students, presumably on the grounds that anything Trinity does, UCD can do better.

So, just to recap - UCD's SU wants compulsory consent classes to ensure there is never a repeat of the thing that never happened.

Today's students are no brighter or dimmer than their predecessors, it's just that their leaders can sometimes seem like cretins who suffer from oppression envy. It's almost as if as if they look to America and the UK, where even Peter Tatchell is denounced as a bigot, and feel a pang of vicarious indignation. Interestingly, the one lesson the UCD SU have learned from the mess is that they want to eradicate 'lad culture' on campus.

They'll be burning books, next.

Quotas - the war cry of the loser

I know it's not very fashionable to admit it, but I love election campaigns.

I'm not referring to the canvassers interrupting your dinner (although there has been a rather odd lack of canvassers calling to my door this year), or the tedious Groundhog Day that is watching RTÉ's coverage.

No, I love it for the fact that it reminds all of us of democracy, flawed though it is, and remains by far the best option for national governance.

But, secretly, I like the fact that it brings out the cranks, lunatics and single-issue candidates who spend years in bitter isolation before emerging like a mayfly of madness for a brief moment in the sun.

Have a look at your next ballot sheet and you will see them - the lonely and unloved candidates who want to have the Virgin Mary enshrined in the Constitution or the people running on a platform of insisting that all official Dáil business is conducted in Irish.

These are the unsung heroes of democracy; the people with a burning interest in something nobody else cares about.

It's a chance for cranks to shine and where would we be without cranks?

Maybe they simply hadn't thought of it, but none of these people ever seem to demand they benefit from a quota system.

Yet that is what exactly what Migrants For Ireland want.

Their manifesto, which uses the word 'demand' so many times it's like a ransom note, also calls for a 10pc quota for migrants on all statutory bodies, 5pc quota for migrants contesting elections and they want at least one migrant in the Seanad.

Truly, they have become more Irish than the Irish themselves.



Not convincing: Donald Trump

Bernie's mad. Hillary's bad. And Donald is dangerous to know.

That's the positively delightful electoral feat on offer for America this year, assuming Ted Cruz doesn't steal the Republican nomination.

Let's hope Cruz doesn't sneak the nom - because whatever about the rest of the field, he reminds me of Greg Stillson, the Presidential candidate from Stephen King's The Dead Zone who wants to bring the world to nuclear war.

It's probably fair to say that Donald Trump's words have convinced many people that he's not exactly fit for Presidential office, but you could equally say that Clinton's actions have had the same effect. After all, she repeatedly broke the law with her cavalier approach to classified material - an offence which has seen senior figures sacked for less.

If it was up to me, I'd love to see a Trump V Bernie face off.

Let's have an election based on ideas and conflicting principles - rather than simply handing the keys to the Oval Office to Hillary because she thinks she deserves it.

Capitalism versus communism - a clash of ideas and may the devil take the hindmost.

Oh yes, that's the kind of blood sport we could all get behind.

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