Tuesday 17 September 2019

Declan Lynch: 'We were 'no-platforming' before anyone else'

Cartoonist: Jim Cogan
Cartoonist: Jim Cogan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

We seem to be enjoying this little phase in our island story, in which we have somehow found ourselves looking like the grown-ups in our relationship with the UK - yes, despite the fact that their nationalist folly might cost us a lot of money, we are enjoying the higher aspects of it, the aesthetics.

There he is now, in the mind's eye, our old friend John Bull slumped in the back seat of the car after another hard night, while we drive him home, shaking our heads sadly at his chronic inability to control himself after he's had a few.

Yes, we like that scene.

It is undisturbed by any concerns on our part that if Britain and America and Italy and other such once-proud nations can be up to their necks in nationalism, and all the badness that it brings, we might need to exercise just a bit of caution about it, in our own country.

No, we've sorted all that out. That's fine, now.

In fact we are embarking on a period of centenary "commemorations" of the War of Independence and other such delights, with a disturbing air of relaxez-vous - last week RTE 1 had an episode of Ar Son Na Poblachta, which described the atrocities of Bloody Sunday at Croke Park, with reconstructions of the appalling things that the Brits did to good people on that day. The murders of various Brit "agents" on that morning will presumably be described in more detail next week - which is, shall we say, a bit out of sequence. Because if I were a young man watching this at 7 o'clock on a Tuesday evening, I might already have joined the IRA by the time I'd seen what happened, in the actual order in which it happened.

So at an official, and indeed, an unofficial level, instead of thinking that we need to be particularly vigilant in this regard, given our own terrible weakness for the drop of nationalism, we are thinking instead of how far we have come. We are raising a discreet toast to ourselves.

Which is probably not a very good idea on our part, given that we really do know this territory, we know how a small number of dedicated nationalists can cause pandemonium - and that was long before the internet made it much easier for them. It is an almost unrivalled expertise that we have indeed, and one that we are wasting in our desire to savour this position of ours, as the designated driver who has to give all these mad neighbours a ride home.

And I don't exclude myself entirely from this way of thinking, indeed we would not be human if we did not feel these tremendous levels of undiluted scorn for the Brexiteers and their mendacious gibberish.

But lest we forget... we've been there, about five minutes ago. Those posh Brexiteers are the equivalent of our Ailesbury Road armchair republicans, and the terrible newspapers who supported them remind me of the late Bill Graham's immortal line, that the Sunday Telegraph was "the An Phoblacht of the shires".

Indeed one of the better pieces of journalism I've seen in recent times was not by a journalist as such, but by a kind of internet consultant called Lee Bryant, who tweeted a thread in which he outlined how easy it is for the far-right and "bad actors" in general to get past the "real" journalists with their ridiculously ancient beliefs in the mythical "balance".

"UK is not Bosnia of course," he wrote. "But neither was Bosnia till 1992. There is a chance the UK will break up if it crashes out, and then who knows? But the media continue to give attention and credibility to the bad actors marching us towards the cliff."

Ah yes, the bad actors, we've had a few...

Bryant recalls how Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, "was laughed at. Funny hair. Mad poetry. But if they had their time again, Bosnians would no-platform the hell out of him".

"No-platforming" is something which is now supported by most progressive people - we saw the enthusiasm for it when the Web Summit was forced to un-invite Marine Le Pen. Indeed most progressive people can now make a detailed case against the wisdom of giving any kind of a platform to nationalist extremists in the hope that they can be "out-argued" by the journalist.

And this is the real reason why we Irish should be feeling good about ourselves these days, because by "no-platforming" the IRA with Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, it now seems that Conor Cruise O'Brien was massively ahead of the curve on this one.

That almost nobody in public life in Ireland has noted this, or cared to mention it, is… interesting.

Sunday Independent

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