Saturday 25 May 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'Reading from the gospel of the self-righteous'


Brendan Howlin, Labour party leader. Photo: Frank McGrath
Brendan Howlin, Labour party leader. Photo: Frank McGrath
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

Surfing television channels on a typical Saturday night is a truly bleak pastime. The chances of finding anything worth cuddling up with are as remote as coming across a busy off-licence in downtown Riyadh.

But if you stumbled into RTÉ One by chance over the weekend you would have come across a very singular cultural oddity: The 'Brendan Howlin Variety Show'. Or the Labour Party Conference, as the 'RTÉ Guide' would have it.

No podium, no sharing the platform with his comrades. Instead Brendan worked the stage like a stand-up comic, except without any funny bits. Not intentional funny bits anyway.

He spoke in the earnest manner over-spun politicians specialise in: that is say nothing in case you say anything at all.

Such telly, we're told, is democracy in action. But perhaps a bit too much of it. After all, Labour received less than 4.5pc of the popular vote in the 2016 General Election.

How does that earn it prime-time?

On that basis Peter Casey, who pulled in over 20pc of the vote a week and a half ago in the presidential contest, should have a television chatshow of his own.

Instead, his appearance on 'The 'Late, Late Show' had indignant evangelists from the Church of Righteous Liberals clamouring for the moral high ground with no thought for their own safety.

He had no right, they twittered feverishly, to free speech.

He's a racist. And a that-ist and this-ist. Disgraceful. And so it went.

Not that I feel any need to defend Casey, an empty vessel making garbled noises which, when they occasionally reach coherency, are offensive.

But he's as entitled to a soapbox as anyone else.

I just make sure I am somewhere else when he's on it.

There's a familiar pattern here, of course. Those who campaigned to retain the Eighth only a few months ago were vilified too. Free speech was a luxury that some Repealers didn't feel they were due.

Shutting down debate in our universities is another pet project. Coming along nicely, actually.

The irony, of course, is that these militant 'liberal' outriders of this brave new age are mimicking the absolutists of Church and State who reigned during the first half century of independence.

Archbishop McQuaid, for instance, might abhor their values but he'd certainly high-five them when it came to their enthusiasm for censorship and silencing debate or dissent.

But the irony will be lost on them. It always is by those who need to appreciate it most.

'Mr Mercedes' looking worryingly low on gas

Anticipation is a great thing. But sometimes it's as good as it gets. It seems it might be that way with the second series of 'Mr Mercedes', currently on RTÉ.

Written by Stephen King with Brendan Gleeson very much in mind, the original was a gripping, if quirky and occasionally tickling, masterpiece.

I'm only an episode into the sequel, so too early to make a definitive call. But it appears that it hasn't so much jumped the shark as swum the long way around it.

It looks like they have taken a perfectly formed, executed and resolved story arc and brought it back to life just for the sake of it. More padding than plot thus far.

'House of Cards' had dealt all its best hands long before Spacey's disgrace; 'Stranger Things II' was just more of the same old shlock and 'Bloodlines II', with Sissy Spacek, was ho-hum compared to the original compulsive binge. They just don't know when to quit, do they?

Irish Independent

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