The Irish media's crocodile tears for America could not disguise the sneaking anti-Americanism, says Eoghan Harris
ALTHOUGH I was sick to my stomach at the attack on America, I could not bring myself to sign the book of condolences at the American embassy. After all, I might get caught on an RTE camera and so become part of their crocodile tears.
And I do not believe that much of the Irish media share the Irish people's sense of profound shock. Take RTE's ambivalence about the Colombian connection. At the start of the week, as I watched Charlie Bird's soft report about our Boys in Bogota, I wondered if RTE would ever return to being a reporter and stop being a player.
By the end of the week I was asking a related question. How could RTE and the Irish Times reflect the anger of the man and woman about the attack on America, given that the canteen culture of Montrose and D'Olier Street is poisoned by anti-Americanism?
Anti-Americanism is now the default ideology of the radical chic Irish intelligentsia which run RTE and the Irish Times. But anti-Americanism is only part of the politically correct politics that cuts them off from the public they pretend to serve.
Judging by recent issues of the Irish Times colour magazine, their politics can be summed up in a single sentence. Soft on Sinn Féin, they hate America, Israel, Unionists, and women writers in the Sunday Independent a gynophobia they share with the Taliban.
In fact, I am fairly certain that many decent Arabs were far more outraged at the attack on America than, say, Brian Keenan of the IRA, or indeed some of the PLO supporters who rule the roost in RTE and the Irish Times. After all, apart from one verse, each sacred section of the Koran begins with an invocation that stresses the supreme importance of pity: In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
As a lifelong admirer of Arab and Muslim culture, I believe that Islam is no more responsible for the attack on America than the SDLP responsible for the Real IRA's bombing of Omagh. But like the nationalist community, north and south, the Arab world is not short of sneaking regarders. Neither are the newsrooms of RTE and the Irish Times. Both sets of sneaking regarders share the same sick political culture an atavistic anti-Americanism.
The Gulf War revealed the grip of radical chic politics on the minds who control the Irish media. Since then, the situation has got worse. Most of the media in Ireland are now as massively and mindlessly anti-American and anti-Israeli as they are suckers for the propaganda of the PLO.
If you doubt that, you could not have been reading the Irish Times, listening to the Last Word or watching RTE News last week. The dust was still rising from the fallen towers of the World Trade Centre when these three outlets revealed their editorial line would be exactly the same a combination of cursory condemnation followed by the party line from Fintan O'Toole and Robert Fisk. Since both of them are groupies for the Guardian's anti-American affairs, this never went much deeper than the slogan, "America bad, everybody against America good" and the danger of America dragging us into their righteous retaliation. As a programming policy, it lacked both morality and a feel for the public pulse.
If your friend is murdered, you do not call to the house and say that your main worry is that they might drag you into their search for justice. You say you're sorry, and that when you have buried him you will help them track down the killers. And then, very softly, you hint that a cool head will help.
Fintan O'Fisk offered no such sympathy. Instead of of support for America we got selfish insensitivity. And this programming policy of Fintan O'Fisk was followed with Stalinist similarity by all outlets. If you opened the Irish Times, you could read Fintan O'Toole calling America arrogant and merciless. In the Irish Independent you could read Fisk saying much the same. On the Last Word we had to listen to loose talk about "loopers in the White House". Meanwhile, in the real world, the Bush Administration was showing calm restraint.
It was the same story on RTE. Turn on Prime Time and Fintan O'Fisk was in full flight. Naturally no robust defence of America's right to retaliate could be expected from RTE News. But at least we could have been given a sense of the human and historical drama. To be fair, Mark Little did a fairly decent report from the Middle East. But Carol Coleman, who is completely out of her class as a Washington correspondent, totally failed to capture the sombre sense of tragedy.
From start to finish, apart from the fine contribution of President McAleese, RTE could not shake off its reflexive anti-Americanism long enough to fully reflect the national mood of solidarity with the USA. But it wasn't just what Fintan O'Fisk said, it was the way he said it. While Fisk was appropriately appalled at the atrocity, he somehow subtly conveyed the impression that some sense America had itcoming.
And that's not just my jaundiced view. In a thoughtful and temperate article in last Thursday's Irish Times, Richard P. Delevan, a native New Yorker, living and working in Dublin, challenged the smug assumption that we in Ireland are allies of America in the global battle with terrorism. In particular, he took on Fintan O'Toole, father of Irish political correctness, and current favourite pundit on both the Last Word and Prime Time.
Delevan started by making an important distinction between the instinctive solidarity offered by ordinary Irish people and the almost automatic anti-Americanism of the Irish media. Most Irish people have been generous in their expressions of sympathy and solidarity and for that, all Americans are grateful. But under the surface, as demonstrated in yesterday's Irish Times editorial, and Fintan O'Toole's column of September 12, lay mixed emotions and a prejudging of any American response as unjust and excessive.
Delevan was dead on tar-party line
get. From the far republican right (check out the pro-Saddam propaganda of An Phoblacht) to the far republican socialist left (check out the left wing of the Labour Party during the Gulf War) our political life is saturated in anti-American sentiment. And it goes all the way to the top.
Bertie Ahern can blow all he likes about our special relationship with the United States. But the record reveals it as so much bluster. Abroad we have one of the worst anti-American voting records in the United Nations. At home we have a media that is as mindlessly anti-American as it is instinctively anti-Israeli.
How did this happen? We were not always so anti-American. No, this sickness is a recent one. And there are three main reasons for it. And all of them are rooted in our sick notion of republicanism.
First, there is the neurotic notion of neutrality which leads naturally to antipathy towards Nato. This means that while we sleep safely under Nato's shield we do nothing to protect our neighbours. We are like a delinquent layabout who will not leave home, and only lifts his head from the pillow in the morning to shout at his father not to slam the door on his way out.
Second, there is a strong streak of anti-Semitism in our support for the PLO against America's ally, Israel. Given that our grandfathers refused to give the Jews refuge from Hitler, do we never think of pausing for a moment to think how and why Jews had to set up the State of Israel?
Lastly, we are anti-American because we have never shaken off the old socialist habit of seeing America as the centre of world capitalism. But without America and capitalism, there would be no democracy and the world would not be a bearable place. Without America, capitalism and democracy, we would be living under the fascist rule of Hitler's descendants or living in terror like those who live under the Taliban.
Apart from the face of the fireman dourly going to his death, to my mind the most moving sight of the week was the cloud of coloured umbrellas carried by the capitalist workers of the IFSC as they stood in the rain outside their own small glass tower and mourned their colleagues on the far side of the Atlantic.
There are many worse things in the world than buying and selling for a profit. As Ruairi Quinn rightly reminded us on Prime Time, there are many good sides to globalisation, which, of course, is only another name for the capitalism which feeds us, clothes us and sends our children to school.
Fintan O'Toole is not a fool. He must know that America and capitalism are conditions of democracy. So why does he sit on the fence in a fashion which angers decent Americans? Sometimes he does more. At the end of last Thursday's programme, a caller said that whatever about Gerry Adams, he would never walk the White House lawns again. Producing a populist snicker to please the politically correct at home, O'Toole said smugly: "Well Marie, that's one thing we can agree on."
Why is Fintan O'Toole so proud of not being persona grata with a democratically elected President? What's wrong with walking on the White House lawn? And why, in the week that was in it, can't he see that his smug political correctness about America and capitalism comes across as both childish and callous?
Fintan O'Fisk and friends never seem to have thought out the alternative to American capitalism. If they did, they would see that without it, democracy would die. Anti-Americanism is as much an abomination as anti-Semitism or anti-Arabism. After last week's atrocity, decent people should abandon it now and forever.