Real de­bate needs a wide range of voices

Eilis O’han­lon

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - GUIDE -

FOL­LOW­ING the down­fall of Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein, RTE Ra­dio One’s This Week asked whether sex­ual ha­rass­ment is as great a prob­lem in Ire­land too. Un­for­tu­nately, a promis­ing premise amounted to noth­ing more than a pre­re­corded vox pop with mid­night rev­ellers in Dublin; an in­ter­view by the same re­porter, John Burke, with a pro­fes­sor of women’s stud­ies; fol­lowed by a stu­dio dis­cus­sion with the head of the Rape Cri­sis Cen­tre, and Chil­dren’s Min­is­ter Kather­ine Zap­pone. An op­por­tu­nity for a se­ri­ous de­bate on an im­por­tant is­sue was re­duced in­stead to a se­ries of well-in­ten­tioned ges­tures.

The only way to ex­plore these is­sues is through more ro­bust de­bate, but broad­cast­ers are un­der­stand­ably ter­ri­fied of the con­se­quences of al­low­ing a range of views, so re­treat into timid­ity in­stead.

One starts to feel huge ap­pre­ci­a­tion for even the slight­est dif­fer­ence from the stream of uni­form opinion. Take Mon­day’s edition of BBC Ra­dio Four’s Woman’s Hour, dur­ing which one US jour­nal­ist ex­plained that, for sup­port­ers of Don­ald Trump, the pres­i­dent is “their mid­dle fin­ger to the es­tab­lish­ment”. This oughtn’t to be such a hard con­cept to grasp, but even that sounded rad­i­cal in the oth­er­wise deaf­en­ing cho­rus of car­toon­ish anti-trump pos­tur­ing that passes for anal­y­sis on the air­waves.

The fall­out from the sen­tenc­ing of for­mer sports­writer Tom Humphries on charges of groom­ing and abus­ing a 14-year-old girl of­fered some other ex­am­ples. Out­rage at Humphries, and the friends who pro­vided him with char­ac­ter ref­er­ences, was both jus­ti­fi­able and nec­es­sary in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math; Matt Cooper on To­day FM’S Last Word led the charge, and his anger was heart­felt, gen­uine.

But Live­line went a bit deeper, with one caller on Tues­day try­ing to un­der­stand why Humphries’ friends might have been “duped”, point­ing out that abusers can be ex­tremely ma­nip­u­la­tive of those around them. That’s how they get away with it for so long. Joe Duffy fol­lowed up the next day with more har­row­ing sto­ries of oth­ers who’d suf­fered, in­clud­ing Karen Leach, who was abused from the age of 10 by her swim­ming coach Derry O’rourke, who is now, she says, “liv­ing free in Amer­ica”.

It made for hard lis­ten­ing, but was in­dis­pens­able to un­der­stand­ing the im­pact of abuse, and no one han­dles these dif­fi­cult themes as sen­si­tively as Duffy.

By com­plete, and con­so­la­tory, con­trast, Slow Ra­dio on BBC Ra­dio Three fea­tured five Watch sound­scapes IT NOW un­der the col­lec­tive ti­tle Med­i­ta­tions Hardy Bucks From is on A the Monastery, RTE un­til recorded with monks from three abbeys in Bri­tain.

Six The Na­tions first pro­gramme Rugby is on 3Player ex­tolled un­til the virtues of De­cem­ber si­lence, quite 16; ironic on a medium such as Sim­ply ra­dio which Nigella pumps is on BBC out iplayer id­i­otic - cur­rently chat­ter not 24 hours avail­able a day. to “Imag­ine view­ers in Ire­land. a world with­out cars, with­out aero­planes,” said one monk. “It’s heaven.” Next night, the sub­ject was prayer, and that was a paean to si­lence too. “Take away the words, and take away ev­ery­thing else, and what’s left, we be­lieve, that’s God, some­where, some­how.” One doesn’t need to share the monks’ re­li­gious faith to ap­pre­ci­ate such a beau­ti­ful pro­gramme.

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