Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Babies – The Wacky World of #Savethe8th Conspiracy Theories

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In early 1977 word circulated round West Belfast that abortion was a “British plot to decrease production of children in Ireland”. It came during the heights of Women’s Lib and period of intense efforts to roll back the 1967 Act in Britain.

The leaflet was allegedly produced by the Provisional movement and not to be outdone, censors in the Republic were busy combating the Saxon menace in banning Spare Rib Magazine. To this day posters on lamp post draw dubious comparison with England and say “don’t brings this to Ireland”.

There is certainly no doubting the extent of deviousness deployed by Britain on these shores. In what has turned out to be genuine state directed conspiracy at least 20 people had been murdered by the Glenanne Gang the previous year, however the abortion plot has scarcely been mentioned since. It is, after all, still a Westminster Act that prevails north and south. For now.

A more recent shade of this line was promoted by former PIRA Volunteer Gerry McGeough who published “The Hibernian” between 2006 and 2008. Under the tag line “Faith, Family and Country” the magazine contained a scorching mix of pseudo- Gaelic fascism, seeking a “return to Catholic Order” and featured regular contributions penned by members of Youth Defence. Alongside the machinations of British imperialism, abortion was also soon linked to a wider, often satanic, globalist conspiracy.

McGeough resigned from the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle in 2003 claiming the party “has been heavily infiltrated by homosexual activists and British double agents. A lot of republicans can’t fathom the liberal values of the leadership. They do not understand why they are pursuing a liberal British agenda. Immigration is a massive concern and there are a lot of people who are not happy with the level of immigration”.

McGeough was recently quoted by Reuters at last month’s Save The 8th rally having organised “several busloads” from Tyrone with the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Co-founder of The Hibernian was Charles Byrne who last popped up in 2013 when he and fellow Youth Defence activists had liberal priest Fr Iggy O’Donovan removed from his parish in Drogheda.

Sometimes dark forces really are out to get you.

A barely watered down version of this tradition continues with the Alive! newspaper available monthly in Catholic churches and through your letterbox since 1996. As a sort of ultramontane tabloid, Alive! is run by Fr. Brian McKevitt and comes with a disclaimer that the “content of this newspaper and the views expressed in it are those of the editor and contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Irish Dominican Province”.

McKevitt, who once compared masturbation to drink driving, set up ‘Women Hurt by Abortion’ following the original Eighth Amendment Campaign before it was reanimated recently by Catholic activists Bernadette Goulding and Lynn Coles. The lobby group left many bemused last year for sending not women, hurt or otherwise, but a US based male activist to speak at the Citizen’s Assembly.

There is no issue too big, small or indeed random for Alive! where singing nuns and the threat of nuclear submarines can sit along side the ethics of Christians practising yoga. The latest Hollywood blockbusters are dissected for anti-family propaganda and miraculous medal are flogged promising all sorts of cures.

The current issue claims no less than Karl Marx himself is behind the Repeal movement in Ireland. While many wish big daddy K’s influence was such in this country, his writing probably better explains vast changes in recent decades than causes it. Instead, the Catholic Right cling to various tales amounting to Walter Benjamin and Nell McCafferty hatching the sexual revolution from their hollowed out volcano lair.

Against this the Alive! editorial lambastes “indifference” claiming

“surrender before the first shot is fired: that has largely been the policy, or at least the practice, of the Catholic Church in Ireland over the past 60 years. Again and again she capitulated, barely showing a flicker of fighting spirit”.

It goes on to praise for Trump,  fascist Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán and three less flattering articles on George Soros.

Farage, Le Pen, Ganley and other far-right figures are routinely lauded in between advocacy of corporal punishment, rampant Islamophobia, and War-on-Christians outrage. A regular feature is sensationalist articles regarding medicine – particularly anything to do with women’s health and contraception. A young girl in Ohio sprouted hooves after going on the pill, and what have you.

Bizarre adverts for even stranger organisations offer training for young men to Fight and Defeat! anti-Christian forces. MEN of IRELAND are called to climb Croagh Patrick to stop abortion.

The Media Watch section and indeed much of each issue has been given over to the notion that prochoice sentiment is entirely media driven. While I tend to agree that Irish journalists saunter hand in hand with Satan, in reality, you can count on one hand the number of repeal supporters impressed by coverage of the issue and most of those work in the media.  The repeal newspaper conspiracy must be operating at such a high level given most editors and journalists know little about the  campaign itself.

Those running Savethe8th have invited American film makers here to make propaganda videos about the death of Savita. In 2013 they appeared in an advert for US Catholic television. They spoke in grave terms about a “tsunami of the culture of death racing toward Ireland’s shore” and the donations required to stop it. When questioned during Oireachtas hearings, Caroline Simmons, legal advisor to the Prolife Campaign, pretended to know nothing about it despite appearing herself.

That same year Renua candidate and Vatican Embassy campaigner, Mary Fitzgibbon investigated whether Clare Daly and Ivana Bacik were involved in the occult. Accusation of witchcraft surfaced again this year centred on Katherine Zappone and child sacrafice. A firm favourite of mine was recent suggestion that Micheál Martin’s surprise support for Repeal is based on the presence in his constituency of Pfizer, who manufacture misoprostol.

Extremism is rife. Some anti-choice campaigners can be found wondering if material in circulation is a ‘false flag’ given the nature of content and claims made. Others see larger organisations as too compromising and there were those asking if Youth Defence were even prolife at all.

In 2011, satirical site The Onion published news of an “$8 billion Planned Parenthood Abortionplex” complete with “amenities such as coffee shops, bars, dozens of restaurants and retail outlets, a three-story nightclub, and a 10-screen multiplex theater”. This spread with dismay through anti-choice corners online and was raised by two US Congressmen. Such is how these people have been conditioned to believe anything.

While some may genuinely believe George Soros eats infants and others get very Old Testament altogether – sincerely linking natural disasters and recent extreme weather to a decision to hold the referendum in May, the month of of Our Lady.

Others are simply opportunistic in how they sow disinformation but there an important distinction to make here. Many of the prominent, most committed voices are trained liars with absolutely no regard for fact or truth. Some are hardened, seasoned brawlers, others are cutting their teeth but all share the will to use dirty tricks if it will push the the right buttons. So much of their propaganda can be written off as crude but there is also a sophisticated, workmanlike element in how they use emotional triggers.

While billboards ventriloquising babies urging us to stand up and fight are straight from  first world war propaganda, long before the internet, anti-choice campaigns have been an epicentre of fake news. They have for decades exploited a lack of information around sex, reproduction and women’s health to spread fear and disinformation.

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommends

….a thorough review of sexual health and relationship education, including the areas of contraception and consent, in primary and post-primary schools, colleges, youth clubs and other organisations involved in education and interactions with young people. Sufficient time must be provided in the school’s curriculum for such education and it should be taught by suitably qualified personnel. The information should be provided in an impartial and factual manner that is independent of school ethos.

During the 2012 Republican primaries, Senator Todd Akin hit headlines with his thoughts on “legitimate rape” and claims that the “female body has ways to shut that whole thing down”. The fallout eventually hit our shores when focus came on the information and groups spreading it in Irish schools. A trail led back to Savethe8th founders at the Life Institute who were forced to hastily remove an identical claim from their own website.

Iona Institute affiliated Pure In Heart also deleted their website following media scrutiny and similarly dubious information has been shared in schools by ‘The Precious Life Guide to Sex.  A ‘Secondary Education’ company called Lifeworks lists Cora Sherlock, Ruth Cullen and other Prolife Campaign affiliates as directors.

Recent accounts show an impressive turnover of 64,700. This figure is important to remember because there is a lot more than ‘ethos’ at stake as the RSE in schools debate intensifies.

Perhaps one of the more impactful trends is how a global network of anti-choice websites have incubated and laundered far-right causes and talking points into the broader Conservative media before they eventually reach mainstream. In recent years you can draw an easy line of stories surfacing on fundamentalist US media before appearing in places like The Spectator or British Telegraph just as occurs with Fox News in the states. Given how easily this stuff reaches the US president, what effect here in Ireland?

Take for instance a persistent meme of recent years – the question of “why is no one reporting the Christian genocide in the middle east?”. A media industry arose around 2013 onward to ask this question over and over. People were far more invested in the notion of media black-out than concern for the crime itself..

Underlying this is a hierarchy of victims with Christians deserving greater sympathy and against this background, Iona Institute director David Quinn queried why LGBT persecution in Russia received significant coverage “instead” and there was suggestion that Christian refugees should be prioritised.

Racism and Xenophobia in various forms have certainly been recurring among many prominent though not all committed Irish activists. Anti-abortion is part of a broader political project for some but for many this is not the case and in today’s climate we must ask what is the effect of being plugged into networks where anti-choice content is produced?

In an age where single articles are shared on social media, a link to one everyday anti-abortion story will often lead to a menu replete with anti-Semitism, white supremacy and end of civilisation sensation. Supporters of the Eighth Amendment are very often only one click away from darker corners of the internet and this will surely have other consequences.

Like most Irish industries, the Soros conspiracy is an American import. The massive LIFENEWS have articles on the subject as early as 2003. White Supremacist Breitbart News have published nearly 25,000 articles tagged: abortion and over 2000 on Ireland. I need not explain the extent of dubious ideas currently being smuggled under the cloak of protecting ‘Christian values’, ‘religious freedom’ and so on. American and other involvement in Irish anti-choice activity is nothing new but it takes on a fresh dimension when common cause is found with frog waving online misogynists. Such alliances are already underway Stateside

The very first act of president George W Bush was signing an Executive Order limiting funds to prochoice NGOs and he left office lauded as “the prolife movement’s best friend”. His war received massive support from the God-fearing media. They have played a central role in fostering the post-911 racism and climate of white society under siege.

Irish anti-choice campaigns regularly write for these sites and disseminate content on social media. They have long been part of these networks and share common anxiety of about a way of life under attack.

Today’s columnists under the impression they are being clever ‘asking questions’ about Islam or political correctness must be aware that long before even the Daily Mail there are massive American outlets who wrote the rule book.

It is sort of quaint that the tedious Irish opinion page contrarian believes they are writing something original when following a template set down over a decade ago by news organisations quite literally built on a foundation of anti-feminism.

And this is what it all comes back to in the end.

Whether people believe the stings are pulled by RTÉ, billionaire investors or Satan himself, anti-choice conspiracies should be seen for exactly what they are.

Another form of sexism that seeks to erase the enormous amount of work women are doing.


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t4s

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#Repealthe8th | Are the Irish Media Up To The Job?

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For several years the Repeal campaign has been tediously lectured by journalists, columnists and self regarding political gurus. Pompous pages filled with advice no one asked for. Dire warnings and hollow concern. Dozens of hacks writing identical articles while accusing everyone else of being unprepared.

You need to follow the rules they say as centres of power ignore referendum results, European Courts and more cases than we should ever be familiar with. Tone it down and follow procedure insist the same people left reeling by the outcome of Citizens Assembly and Oireachtas committee.

Get off the internet they jeer as people turned a hashtag into a question on the ballot paper.

Throughout 2017 a cottage industry arose as journalists set out across America to find the ordinary people – as if residents of Nebraska or Idaho were some lost Amazonian tribe. RTÉ’s Caitríona Perry even delivered ‘Tales from Trump Land’ but no such survey of our own savage wilderness has taken place.

Instead, on the morning of the last general election one broadcaster reflected the overall mood in RTÉ studios remarking that the results “seem like they were from another planet”. This was but a rerun of 2011 when none saw the collapse of Fianna Fáil coming and in the era of Trump and Brexit need we labour the point of just how out of touch the professionals are from public opinion? Yes.

I fondly remember former Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy one morning telling us the marriage referendum was going to fail as Marian Finucane and her panel of experts nodded along. It passed by over 60% with a majority in all but one county. The veteran and highly regarded journalist had of course presided over the paper during the property bubble and bank collapse. Neither of which were foreseen across the entire media/political class, apparently, and she popped again in 2016 to insist that in the general election “stability in government will be the main issue in a majority of voters’ minds” before result delivered the lowest combined FF/FG vote in history and no government for 80 days.

Irish Water, Garda scandals, Siteserv, Tuam, Savita, James Reilly, one after another these clowns call the public mood wrong and after nearly four decades on the issue have the cheek to tell us people won’t vote for repeal.

Prochoice activists must to listen to these people pontificate about the “middle ground” but just how prepared are the Irish media for this referendum?

During the long run to Marriage Equality in 2015 both the Irish Times and RTÉ ran opinion polls including questions relating to custody, adoption and guardianship.

Why were these issues being deliberately shoehorned into the topic when trained, resourced and professional newsrooms were well aware these and other matters – for all couples and none – were dealt with separately by the Oireachtas in the Children and Family Relationships Bill.

Way back in 2013 Alan Shatter told the Dáil that

It is important we have this level of understanding and clarity. The referendum will be about one, and only one, issue and that issue is whether it is agreed by a majority of the people of the Republic of Ireland that individuals who are gay can celebrate a marriage. This is the only issue. […]

We should not be led into a debate about children.

The Children and Family Relationships Bill was an important, modernising and in an Irish context, radical piece of legislation reforming the archaic state of family law in this state. It deserved significant attention in itself.

Unfortunately following Alan Shatter’s departure from Justice, Francis Fitzgerald and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin completely dropped the ball in publicising it. Political sense alone would suggest that – with an eye on the referendum  – this was an opportunity to dispel unhelpful noise and myth, and do it early on. Instead legislation was published and  pushed through the Oireachtas several months late and just weeks before the referendum vote.

Was media ignorance and irresponsibility down to a tendency to take their lead from Leinster House….or was it the other way around?

January 2015 headlines in the Irish Times and Journal both tactfully announced that a “Gay adoption law” would be passed before the referendum. Both articles were spurred by government press release in response to a broadcast of Claire Byrne Live on RTÉ the previous Monday night. It was the maiden episode of what has become the most consistently barrel scrapping, sensationalist offerings on RTÉ Current Affairs.

In her TV review Laura Slattery observed that “Labour TD John Lyons looks forlorn as the debate is consistently dragged off in the obfuscating direction of children’s rights, surrogacy and adoption, and wonders if there has been some mix-up. This referendum is about marriage, right?”. This continued on RTÉ for another four months.

Eight weeks later in March, the Irish Times were still polling “on whether same-sex couples should be able to adopt?”. These polls are then picked up from newspapers for morning radio and around it goes again. Far from providing clarity and aiding an informed public ahead of the vote, splashing unrelated guff on front pages and airwaves had the effect of injecting doubt and misinformation into the news cycle. Breeding contention and unfounded fear.

study on ‘negative social and psychological impacts’ during the 2015 campaign found television and radio debates were even more distressing than the ubiquitous campaign posters and that “under the guise of “respectful debate” and “balance” a “megaphone” and “platform” for homophobia and prejudice was provided”.

Journalists and producers will argue the need to hear both sides however unsavoury ‘debate’ turns but this neat excuse sidesteps that it was not just the broadcast of malicious content and disinformation at fault. The biggest criticism during and since the campaign was that presenters were unwilling or simply unequipped to challenge assertions or steer proceedings toward something constructive for audiences at home.

However aside from unprepared broadcasters, Prochoice and other activists are by now well aware that programme makers in fact rarely set out achieve anything approaching informative, choosing instead the well worn comfort zone of simplistic binary and conflict.

Take January’s Dáil statements on the Joint Committee Report. In a debate mature as we could hope in Leinster House, TDs from all sides entered the chamber said their piece and left. Sin é.

Over on RTÉ however a video segment on Prime Time used footage of Mattie McGrath and Richard Boyd Barrett on their feet arguing while a voiceover spoke of “testy exchanges” and a “divisive issue”. The truth was nothing of the sort.

McGrath and Boyd Barrett were separately raising a procedural issue with the Ceann Comhairle, it was an argument about speaking time. That was the extent of trouble throughout the debate but in using this footage RTÉ Primetime quite deliberately mislead viewers into seeing conflict where none had existed.

This was culmination of a trend. The Committee on the Eighth Amendment was an imperfect, frustrating but none the less landmark process in Irish politics. There was no consensus on the desired outcome but most members were moving in the same direction at different speeds. Most were open to listen and engage. This was no small event for Irish politicians and abortion.

However each Wednesday radio bulletins invariably rang out with the antics of a minority who heckled, obstructed and listened to no else. Headlines were no better and with a few exceptions there was scant indication of what actually occurred over three months down in Committee Room 2. Members of the Oireachtas don’t easily emerge with ground shifting recommendations ranging from repeal, sex education and provision of universal free contraception. A lot just happened here but when the final report was published, short as it was, most went unreported on the main evening news as equal time is given to bare opposition of “no change”.

In January this year, RTÉ Drivetime ran a segment putting the Irish reproductive health regime in global context. Phillip Boucher Hayes remarked that he spend all day crunching the numbers. He could have just asked any number of activists who have been putting the word out on this for years. In so many cases, journalists are only behind politicians in catching with public opinion.

Activists are chastised, their work overlooked and dismissed while in January, Stephen Collins, Fiach Kelly and Pat Leahy at the Irish Times each wrote identical articles praising the Taoiseach’s supposedly genius strategy in softly softly bringing people along? Each tellingly over estimating the influence of Leo Varadkar in this campaign.

The effect of this mediated politics, so constrained and narrowed is proving to have effects beyond the humble electorate. It is not a leap to suggest these failures account in part for why much of the media and political class itself has been blindsided by Citizens Assembly recommendations, public opinion and just about everything else abortion related as the ground moved beneath their feet since 2012.

For years we were subject to speculation and debate about the emergence of new party in Irish politics. Endless coverage for Lucinda Creighton, Michael McDowell and whoever else. All the while, the most incredibly vibrant social movement touching every county in Ireland has emerged and the majority of journalists are unable to write about it.

Media comment has concerned itself not so much with the issues but with grave concern that this is happening outside perceived boundaries of respectable politics. This is ordinary people getting together and putting a most unspeakable issue on the agenda and soon to vote – in spite of the Normal Rules.

It is not just that regime journalists live in a bubble or don’t care to inform themselves. They genuinely do not understand how this campaign has played out. It is beyond their entire conception. This is what happens when your idea of politics only extends to the ritual of posters on lamp posts.

 


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Radio Round-Up

Welcome, and a happy new year.

Dublin Digital Radio has grown into a formidable enterprise since its launch in 2016. The schedule today includes a serious variety of talented people pushing the forefront of Irish broadcasting. Check out http://listen.dublindigitalradio.com/

Catch up with the Oireachtas Retort Show below. I’ll be back next month as we look forward to the year ahead. New for 2018, all past and future episodes will soon be available direct to you on itunes, Stitcher and podcast apps.


 

In conversation with Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, Turlough Kelly on his ‘The 4th Act’ documentary ahead of the Dublin International Film Festival & ongoings in the Gardaí with Richard McAleavey

Brexit, Borders and Britain’s Meltdown with Richard McAleavey

March for Choice Special with Linda Kavanagh, Stephanie Lord & Máiréad Enright

Catalonia and Spainish Nationalisms with Richard McAleavey

Corbyn and the British Election Special with Rosa Gilbert

General Election with Richard McAleavey and Sarah Clancy

Appropriate Women with Mairéad Enright and Niamh Puirséil

Citizens Assembly & Maternity Hospital with Sinead Redmond and Richard McAleavey

Trump, Populism, Citizens Assembly with Richard McAleavey and Stephanie Lord

Cop On Comrades with Dr Anne Mullhall

Holy Orders

An upcoming conference from the Iona Institute proposes to tell us ‘How we killed God’ or…

….how ‘Official Ireland’ is ruthlessly pushing all consideration of God to the margins of Irish life. Christians are allowed no place in public debate, and God is rarely spoken of in public any more. So far as Irish public life is concerned, we have effectively ‘killed’ God. Except we cannot do that of course, so we do the next best thing; we pretend he is ‘dead’.

Never mind that I type this during the angelus.

John Waters will be speaking, fresh no less from his appearance replacing Frankie Gaffney at a Mens Rights Activist conference.

There purpose of this event is to promote David Quinn’s new book. A collection of the same five newspapers columns he’s written over and over since 1994 bound and repackaged in time for the Christmas consumer market. Who said god is dead, huh?

Rumors of decline in the convents is also greatly exaggerated.

Via the Workplace Relations Commission this week we learn a nun intervened to prevent a woman getting a teaching job despite being the strongest and only internal applicant.

Objection was on grounds that she was an “unmarried mother” and her “lifestyle did not reflect the standards of the school and would send out the wrong message to the young female students” . During the competition process the nun “set out to denigrate the candidate and diminish her status as a candidate”.

The same nun also denied someone else a promotion on the basis that he was protestant and it would, she says “send the wrong message”.

“One very impressive and clearly appointable candidate emerged… When the scoring sheets were completed this candidate was ahead of the others who had presented for interview… ‘However, given that the candidate was a member of the Church of Ireland, his scores were revised downwards to place him in third place overall”.

This was all in the last six years.

The complaint emerged following a protected disclosure. See full details here.

Both schools involved are part of Ceist, a Trust established by religious orders while the Ryan Commission was still ongoing so they could put assets beyond the reach of the state and abuse redress.

The Trust controls about 30% of Ireland’s secondary schools and board members include several representatives from religious orders, former senior civil servant, senior banker and Ronan Mullen for good measure.

Michael Colgan’s World

Michael Colgan wields enormous influence within his own sphere. An industry particularly susceptible if not sustained day to day on abuse of position and boundaries. It is easy understand how he gets away with it on his own turf but he also is part of another very small group of people in this country.

A regular on say, Marian Finucane’s Sunday morning panel and the person whose phone rings when the papers or media want a spokesperson for ‘the arts’. A lot of dinners, launches and lunches. Engagements, meetings, consultancy and so forth.

Ministers speak at festival openings.  In bars, golf and rugby clubhouses during the bubble there was plenty boasting of the tax benefits investing in film and arts can bring. Accountants bringing people and worlds closer together. Just as we saw during the banks, you have a very small group of people always bumping into each other all the time.

Colgan would be rubbing shoulders regularly with the same journalists, editors, judges, politicians, wealthy types and bosses styling themselves as patrons of the arts. Different entourages with similar post codes. These circles are a close as we have to a who’s who. The top tables of theater are overwhelmingly middle class after all. He is part of a set and one that is looking the other way on a weekly basis.

Within this he seemingly made no effort to hide his behaviour and typical of people like him, took pleasure in humiliating his victims publicly. Flaunting his impunity and their powerlessness. Words like ‘bravery’ grate a bit in this and other contexts but having experienced that silent indifference, the knowing dismissal, it really is a massive things these women are doing.

When shit hits the fan though, this set are close to immortal. So very well practised when it comes to closing ranks, obfuscation and rehabilitation, if necessary. We have recently seen reaction to a convicted rapist. We should be used to the treatment of those who rock the boat. In most areas, groups or organisation, in big and small ways,  its is ensured that people understand the consequences of standing up.

So for many, instinctively there is much more than the reputation of Michael Colgan at stake. It is a matter of survival.

So now the stage is set for a familiar act.

The nature of these allegation, as we know, adds a whole other motivation for this episode to be contained.

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Reaction to Hook only looks like a “witch hunt” because these people are never challenged.

Anti-feminism has long underpinned the popularity of George Hook’s radio show on Newstalk. It has all gone too far, too fast, too soon, we are told, but despite tales of matriarchal mind control, having a go at women has always been big business and there is a significant audience out there nodding along in their tedious comfort zone.

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Only within that bubble could anyone avoid seeing how this crap is anything other than  going through the motions. The big talk and hard act scarcely concealing how gratingly unoriginal all this bullshit truly is. Only within this narrow minded posture could Hook’s comments be seen as out of the blue or responsibility for rape be up for discussion.

Women are regularly demeaned as the most conventional sexism is dressed up anew with dubious scientific ‘studies’ and tabloid moral panic churned out for afternoon broadcasts.  Hook’s show actively sought thinly veiled women-as-societal-honour items for the sake of entertainment and yet this week we are told it is Hook himself the victim of a “witch hunt”.

This is but the latest chapter in an ongoing series. Every Irish media organisation increasingly and deliberately trades on outrage but haven’t yet figured out what to do when not in control or indeed the target.

In the Irish Examiner, Michael Clifford claims that there is “absolutely no room for nuance” and “no room to ask Hook what exactly he meant or where he’s coming from”. One could only arrive at this conclusion under the impression that this is somehow a new or novel issue to be teased out.

What fresh and welcome insight can you offer about responsibility when women already spend an inordinate part of their lives getting taxis short distances, traveling in groups, checking in when they arrive home safe. The list is endless with further exhaustion having to constantly justify yourself in the face of professional and paid ignorance from people like George Hook.

Nicola Furlong was 21 in 2012 when she was assaulted & murdered in Japan. During the trial, an RTÉ radio report reiterated court arguments about skirt length. That’s what your judgement and victim blaming sound like. The same defense as a rapist.

Reaction to Hook, Waters, Myers, etc, only appears terrifyingly over the top because these people are so unfamiliar with being challenged. Right across the media and elsewhere, people who so spectacularly fail to do their job continue to prosper. Business journalists who couldn’t see a speculation bubble in front of their face and political reporters shocked by election results. Time and again we see these people completely misjudge the public mood and outcome of events.

Nothing changes and pushback then only appears like an ugly mob because effective accountability & means to challenge perpetual inaccuracies, incompetencies and worse are deliberately non existent. The people in position of power in this country are some of the last on earth we should entertain lectures on taking responsibility.

All this against the backdrop of a wannabe Taoiseach running campaigns vilifying the unemployed and vast sections of society being told to suck it up as they are driven into poverty.

The private lives of single mothers on housing lists and those of people dying on the street are splashed all over newspapers to mitigate damage to the powerful just as TDs campaigning against police malfeasance have confidential information handed over for headlines.

Noirn O’Sullivan finally departs in disgrace and will be paid €90,000 a year pension plus €270,000 lump sum. Having overseen an organisation that really does actively ruin people’s lives.

But instead we are told it is Hook and others that have been “destroyed”, “banished”, “torn apart” and even ‘lynched’.

George Hook has a side operation for himself as the face of Irish Rugby Tours LTD running packages for traveling fans. Company accounts say directors were paid €191,803 last year. For Hook’s punditry on RTE and other engagements he was paid through his own Foxrock Communications LTD which he wound up pocketing €903,660 as the only shareholder. None of this includes his Newstalk salary or indeed fees for playing host to events for the ruling government party.

Hook is popular on the lucrative after-dinner and conference circuit with agents boasting that he is “3-time winner of the British Chambers of Commerce ‘Best Individual Speaker’ award” and that “Hook’s appearance at a Dublin Chamber of Commerce breakfast brought the highest attendance in the history of the event”. No coincidence that Hook’s brand of chavanism would be so popular with the bosses.

Wealth aside, men like George Hook have a very cushy existence. Sometimes too cushy. After departing RTÉ, Hook had a bit of difficulty finding his way into the Aviva stadium. Confusion arising as he had spent the previous few years being chauffeured from his front door to a separate non-public entrance. That’s certainly the mark of someone deserving money and airspace to talk shit about the “real world”.

A cushy existence playing the hard man all the while your act fits neatly into ruling interests. These people sustain themselves for years, clogging space at the top by never challenging established and viciously guarded power. Each week Newstalk feature an item where celebrity boss and bikini fancier Bobby Kerr is on hand to answer listener’s questions on matters employment like pensions, maternity leave, and so on. This regular segment is an unintentional indictment of the grey areas and information deficit that allows workers to be exploited. Curiously, people are never advised to join a trade union.

Power will always side with power. The sympathy for George Hook is just the same as that recently found for the Sisters of Mercy when people then too said “enough” regarding the new maternity hospital.

The Sisters of Mercy who profited on the back of forced labour and imprisonment. The Sisters who were just one cog in a machine and culture that banished not the likes of George Hook but exiled women from their own families and communities to Magdalene Laundries and out of the country. That continues the denial of rights under the 8th Amendment.

According to Irish society what was the reason for all this?

Because women “got themselves into trouble”.

Cop on Comrades

We are a group of activist women from a wide variety of backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Last week, a good number of the left-wing men we work and organise with seriously disappointed us. These men – our friends, our fellow trade unionists, activists, writers, organisers, and artists – shared and commented on a reductive and damaging article written by Frankie Gaffney, which was published in the Irish Times.

We live in a world where our advantages are tangled up with the things that disadvantage us – some of us are working class, some queer, some of us are poor, some of us come from minority ethnic groups or have disabilities or don’t enjoy the security of citizenship. As well, some of us have had a multitude of opportunities in our lives while some of us have had to fight our way through. It is an obligation on all of us to honestly look at our different positions within the structures of oppression and privilege under patriarchal racial capitalism. It is only by acknowledging all these differences that we have any chance of imagining and building a better world that includes us all.

Working-class ‘straight white men’ in Ireland don’t have it easy these days. They never did. They are ignored by a political class that couldn’t care less about them. They should have a say in the decisions that affect their lives, but they often don’t.

However, that doesn’t make them immune to critique. We all have to examine ourselves as oppressor as well as oppressed – because we are all both. The response to the article felt like a silencing to us and we are writing this because we are way past putting up with that. You will see from the names on this letter that we are women who have been in the thick of things. Whether in political parties and organisations, education, trade unions, or grassroots and community-based movements, we are tired of being accused of ‘bourgeois feminism’ and of betraying the struggle when we raise our voices. No campaign in this country could survive without women, without us – our work and energy and knowledge and organising have been instrumental in all the progressive movements in this country. When we say we need to be recognised and respected within our movements, we need you to listen.

The article expressed the view that identity politics is good for nothing except dividing movements, using language and narratives that have been made popular by MRA (Men’s Rights Activist) groups and the alt-right. According to such narratives, straight white men are the new most oppressed group. This ignores the struggles of women and others at the sharp end of misogyny, racism, anti-trans and anti-queer violence. It aims to silence those who will no longer tolerate the violence, abuse and marginalisation we have suffered for so long. These alt-right arguments have been used by people on the left to support the view that women, and feminists in particular, are to blame for the rise of the far right – for instance, for Trump’s election – and for neoliberal capitalism, which is seen as having damaged working class men in particular.

In this version of events, straight white men are made to feel uncomfortable about being ‘born this way’ by social media-fuelled ‘political correctness’. They are too afraid to say what they think or express opinions for fear of online retribution. Men who claim to be silenced in this way might try a week or even a day as a vocal woman or person of colour online and see how they deal with the rape threats and threats of racist violence that follow.

We are not concerned here about one opinion piece by one person. Rather we have all been aware of the increasing trend towards this particular new type of silencing of women from our supposed fellow activists on the left. The arguments mounted here and elsewhere are apparently to criticise some of the worst aspects of ‘call-out culture’, as well as the lean-in type of so-called feminism that disregards class and race. Yet they seem to be used now by some of our left-wing activist comrades as an excuse not to deal with the complexities of gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation in our political organising. These excuses, when accepted, prevent us from seeing clearly the state of our movements – who is taking part in them, who is heard and represented, who is doing the work. These are massive issues that have to do with how we are creating mass movements, which need to be addressed and faced to ensure that people of different classes, races, ethnicities, sexual orientation and gender have not just a voice but leading roles in our struggle. Without this solidarity in working together, we are simply imitating the oppressive structures we want to fight – the structures that say “not now, your life comes second.” It is not the straight white men who are being silenced when this argument is made.

We are working-class women, women of colour, migrant women, trans women, Traveller women, disabled women, queer women, women who are sex workers, women with children, and women who are none of these, active in our communities and committed to an anti-capitalist struggle. We are well aware that a right-wing, neoliberal distortion of feminism and what is called ‘identity politics’ exists. We know this because it erases our experiences and struggles and we resist this erasure through our work as activists every single day. It is distressing and enraging that we also have to fight against the bad faith of fellow activists on the left – mostly men, sometimes women – who, for their own reasons, blur the distinction between this kind of middle-class neoliberal faux-feminism, and a truly radical feminist politics that has class struggle at its very core. This hurts us because it erases and undermines our realities, our suffering, our analyses, and our organising, and gives more strength to the powers that are ranged against us. For many of us, it is heart-breaking to look at some of the men around us and realise that they are nodding in agreement with this erasure of their working class women friends and comrades.

Most of us have grown up learning to appease men. How to give them our space, how to deal with the fact that they dominate any political discussions, that they are paid more, heard more and believed more. However, most of us expect that the men we work with in all the social justice movements we are part of should have at least considered how they are complicit in this domination when they refuse to recognise that it exists. Patriarchy forces men into roles that damage them as well as us. Most of us have men that we love, admire and respect in our lives and for that reason, not only because it damages and diminishes the life experiences of women, we should all be fighting patriarchy together.

Niamh McDonald
Zoe McCormack
Jen O’Leary
Aline Courtois
Emily Waszak
Theresa O’Keefe
Sinéad Redmond
Aislinn Wallace
Hazel Katherine Larkin
Linnea Dunne
Natalia Fernandez
Helen Guinane
Maggs Casey
Stephanie Lord
Anne Mulhall
Eileen Flynn
Ellie Kisyombe
Elaine Feeney
Wendy Lyon
Sarah Clancy
Brigid Quilligan
Emily Duffy
Clara Purcell
Aoibheann McCann
Aoife Frances
Shauna Kelly
Eilís Ní Fhlannagáin
Dearbhla Ryan​
Michelle Connolly
Siobhán O’Donoghue
Aoife FitzGibbon O’Riordan
Stephanie Crowe Taft
Denise Kiernan
Aisling Egan
Donnah Vuma
Kate O’Connell
Natalia Fernández
Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird
Mary McAuliffe
Marie Mulholland
Margo Harkin
Avril Corroon
Juliana Sassi
Ailbhe Smyth
Kate McGrew
Ciara Miller
Aoife Dermody
Emer Smith
Francisca Ribeiro
Jerrieann Sullivan
Marie McDonnell
Kathleen Gaul
Liz Martin
Laura Lee
Roisin Blade
Kerry Guinan
Gráinne O’Toole
Edel McGinley
Máiréad Enright
Erin Fornoff
Sarah Fitzgibbon
Cliona Kelly
Ciara Fitzpatrick
Bronwen Lang
Shonagh Strachan
Dervla O’Neill
Hilary Darcy
Jane Xavier
Emma Campbell
Clara Rose Thornton IV
Linda Connolly
Nomaxabiso Maye
Rosa Thompson
Liz Nelson
Eavan Brennan
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Elaine D’alton
Anne Rynne
Elaine Crory
Jodie Condon
Clare Kelly
Catriona O’Brien
Meireka Radford
Lisa Keogh Finnegan
Fiona Dunkin
Lelia Doolan
Jacinta Fay
Mary O’Donoghue
Mariel Whelan
Aine Treanor
Flavia Simas
Meabh Savage
Noirin Lynch
Claire Brophy
Liz Price
Linda Kavanagh
Linda Devlin
Aileen O’Carroll
Anita Koppenhofer
Vicky Donnelly
Marianne Farrelly
Aisling Walsh
Ronit Lentin
Sarah Ferrigan

References:

Power in Society

 

Women of colour suffer more under austerity:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/28/toxic-concoction-women-colour-pay-highest-price-austerity

Women hit harder by cuts than men

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/austerity-feminist-issue-women-will-be-hit-twice-hard-men-cuts

Suffrage & Socialism:

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/century/century-women-and-the-vote/suffrage-and-socialism-links-with-labour-1.553467

Women & Class Privilege:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/31/gender-pay-feminism-working-class

Why Class is a Feminist Issue:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/class-is-a-feminist-issue/

WHITE PRIVILEGE AND MALE PRIVILEGE:
http://www.collegeart.org/pdf/diversity/white-privilege-and-male-privilege.pdf

https://thewalrus.ca/on-cultural-appropriation-canadians-are-hypocrites/

More women attempt suicide than men
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/21/suicide-gender-men-women-mental-health-nick-clegg

http://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HSP00612.pdf (pg 10)