We were ‘no-plat­form­ing’ be­fore any­one else

De­clan Lynch’s Di­ary

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Viewpoints -

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 on­ce­proud 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 re­lax­ezvous — 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 far­right 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.

‘We need to be vig­i­lant, given our own ter­ri­ble weak­ness for the drop of na­tion­al­ism ...’

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