Friday, October 04, 2013

4-Oct-13: An Irish op ed as a microcosm of a larger pathology

Irish Times, October 3, 2013
The mainstream media rarely perform in ways that match their self-generated expectations. A lack of genuine objectivity, an inclination towards the politically-correct and to knee-jerk liberalism ("stand up for the weak, resist the strong and let the chips fall wherever"), editorial and reportorial silliness, poor grasp of the facts and a shortage of the necessary passion to uncover them, and - in far too many cases - insufficient professionalism are all parts of the problem. It's by far a much larger issue than can be addressed in a brief blog post, and a serious one.

We often feel the need to remind ourselves of how things are. This morning offers up one of those moments, by means of a sickening piece of scurrilous op-ed writing in the Irish Times yesterday. (We will provide the link to anyone who asks; we prefer not to embed the link here.)

Someone we greatly respect wrote from the UK this morning urging an informed response from an Israeli source. We wrote this to him in reply just now:
There are times when the sheer mindless foaming-at-the-mouth prejudice of people like this hater need to be left to stand alone for open-minded individuals to see and to reflect on. Responding by means of dialogue almost always has a legitimizing effect, as if his were just one of a number of acceptable viewpoints in a robust society. In reality, this article should never have gotten past a responsible newspaper's editorial processes. That it did is the outrage, and not the distorted, invented and unverifiable facts.
The Irish (not uniquely, sad to say) have a problem which cannot be solved by delivering up counter-facts in a he said/she said way. That would be a mere sticking plaster when surgery and long-term therapy is called for.
The problem is systemic. A systemic response - starting with the Church and schools that teach journalism like the School of Communications at DCU, both of which ought to be approached - is called for. Anything less is futile and (forgive me) self-deluding.
Based on experience in other places - and without inquiring into his background or past achievements, we have the sense that the Irish columnist who wrote the article linked in our second para thinks he did something to benefit the Palestinian Arabs by writing what he wrote. With people blinded by their own hatred of the other, alerting them to factual errors and the weakness of their basis assumptions is often a waste of time, as well as being a kind of unjustified megaphone for their hateful viewpoints. Far better to invest that energy in thinking about what's wrong with the system that makes that hatred a reality, and pondering how to remedy that.

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