Sunday 15 July 2018

Brendan O'Connor: Toxic chat on internet is starting to affect real life

Some things in life are too important to be decided by the rules of internet debate, writes Brendan O'Connor

Dossier: Kate O’Connell highlighted offensive statements by Barry Walsh.
Dossier: Kate O’Connell highlighted offensive statements by Barry Walsh.
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

The Late Debate on RTE Radio One is somewhat of an overlooked gem, at its best anarchic and brilliant. The sometimes confrontational, always righteous and rigorous nature of host Cormac O hEadhra, along with the fact that it is tucked away at 10pm on Tuesday to Thursdays, seems to create a safe space for people to be a bit more authentic than they might be elsewhere - a bit crankier, a bit more direct. It also forces people who disagree about things to sit down and face each other and listen.

I was half dozing off with it on Wednesday night when I was brought back to full consciousness by Aodhan O Riordain saying this during a discussion of homelessness: "I want to talk about the entire rhetoric which I think is poisonous… There's a nastiness to Leo Varadkar's politics. There is a nastiness to his politics. This comes from his campaign in order to become Fine Gael leader which, you know, denigrated social welfare recipients. We all know what the dog whistle of getting up early in the morning was all about and then this week, compounded last week by, you know, little innuendoes about housing agencies and what they do and what they don't do, we have this issue of, this idea at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis from the doorstep, saying homelessness is low compared to European countries so therefore everyone should really cop on."

O Riordain went on to suggest that this kind of talk was setting a certain tone, that then legitimises other such talk. So that, for example, in relation to Eileen Gleeson's comments about homeless people and bad behaviour, "the head of an agency from the State, I'm quite sure, now feels that she has licence to use, really, really, I feel, very, very damaging language".

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