Wednesday 22 November 2017

Radio: Forget that poll, it's time for some genial daftness

Referendum posters
Referendum posters
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

As with the recent UK election, production deadlines mean you may know the referendum result by the time you read this. I, at time of writing, do not.

I hope it was/is a resounding Yes. Obviously I'd accept the democratic will if not, but honestly, I wouldn't be happy about it.

I suppose it comes down to this: I do not, and cannot, agree that each side here has equal merit. In fact, from listening to debates, discussions and sometimes flaming rows on radio over recent weeks, I find something irredeemably depressing and dismal about the No side. We seem almost like different species of animal sometimes.

That's been one of the most informative things about this campaign, as experienced on radio: it demonstrates how fundamentally unalike people can be, despite living in the same country, speaking the same language and so on. Our worldview is poles apart, and no amount of "on the one hand, on the other hand" balance will change that. We are not the same.

From my perspective, they've almost all come across as self-righteous, preachy, fearful, arrogant and, yeah, dismal. And very strange in ways.

This obsession with how others behave, the creepy busy-bodying into people's private lives, the preoccupation with the mechanics of reproduction/sexuality, banging on about it in endless detail, using these terms like "natural procreative capacities" that no normal person would ever think to use - all part of what Eoghan Harris calls "gynaecological gross-out" - it's so weird, it's pretty much incomprehensible.

(No doubt their perspective is the opposite, and they see the likes of me as foolish, immoral, deluded or whatever. Which is fair enough.)

The funny thing is, I started this campaign neutral-ish, albeit - I will admit - well-disposed towards the concept of same-sex marriage. Over a few short weeks, the No people have driven me from relative indifference to quite impassioned partiality. That's how infuriating they were to listen to.

I know you're not supposed to say that. You're meant to give the detached, intellectually sound line of "I respect your view and right to express it and dah-dee-dah".

But the guts don't work like that. In there, in the blood, it's: "I respect your right to express this opinion, yes… but in this case it is wrong, wrong, wrong, and you are equally wrong, and I will never agree with you, and I have zero interest in listening to you explain it to me. You are wrong."

(In fairness, I think I have a good reason for this. My opinion, regardless of whether someone likes it, doesn't impact on their life, negatively and profoundly and directly; the opposite isn't the case.)

The main referendum debate I heard this week was on The Right Hook (Newstalk, Mon-Fri, 4.30pm). Lining up, tag-team style, were Gráinne Healy of Yes Equality and ex-TD Pat Carey, versus John Waters and barrister Patrick Treacy.

As these things go, it wasn't the worst. There was a bit of raised tempers, but on the whole it was civilised and reasonable.

And you know what? It didn't change my mind one iota - I still thought, throughout: "You are wrong, wrong, wrong and I'll never accept this viewpoint" - and I'm damn sure it didn't sway any No voters either.

You'd nearly wonder what the point of all of this is? Is it just people making noise, babbling on, anything to fill the silence and the schedules?

I'm aware that lots of listeners enjoy this confrontational stuff, but for me, radio is too beholden to it. It's an artificial construct, a simple-minded thesis-antithesis clash of opposites… when frequently, there is no real opposition, or it's all much more complex than supposed. Worse than that, these debates are very often wearying, dispiriting and - again - dismal.

Anyway, it's a done deal by now. Tonight, though, you can forget about the Constitution and discussion and "natural procreative capacities", and tune into the ultimate daft distraction: the Eurovision Song Contest.

Bowman: Sunday (Radio 1, Sun, 8.30am) dipped into the archives for some audio reminiscences on the contest. Julian Vignoles - RTÉ's "Mr Eurovision" for a number of years - Terry Wogan and John Waters, again, had noteworthy, funny and/or perceptive things to say about it. And nary a gynaecological gross-out in sight.

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