Thursday, June 18, 2015

Challenging the propaganda machines

The expression on her face must have hidden how she really felt but, watching it, it was hard not to cringe.

Here was a national newspaper columnist, sitting in on a late night discussion programme All of a sudden, the presenter introduced the subject of the financial wheelings and dealings of the main shareholder in her group of newspapers.

There were four people on the panel, but it was impossible not to focus on her, not to hone in on her facial expressions and every word.

To her credit, she did not look as though she was about to die of embarrassment as she listened earnestly to the comments of the other three guests. Well  used to appearing on TV panel shows, she survived the ordeal with good grace and seemed relatively unscathed.

But it was impossible not to wonder how she must have been feeling inside.

Could she really give her full, honest opinion when her boss has been known to take legal actions against quite a number of journalists?

Was it better just to stare meekly at the floor as each of her colleagues on the panel made some pretty unflattering comments about the power her boss wields in Irish society?

A man with so much power that he almost gagged anyone in the country from reporting on the goings-on in the national parliament throughout the course of the previous weekend.

Even the State TV channel had been gagged.

The question of media ownership in Ireland, or any democracy for that matter, never seemed so pertinent.

And, ironically, one of the main news outlets to expose her proprietor’s misdeeds has a track record of political interference and phone-tapping on the other side of the Irish Sea.

How truthful is the news we receive on our TV screens or daily newspapers when you delve into the interests of those who control the media?

Could the journalist in question really write the truth about her boss when she knows that others have lost their jobs or been quietly moved aside for doing so?

If the Irish Water protests over the past year have taught us anything, it’s that social media can now expose issues which have been either ignored or distorted by the mainstream media.

Why is it that a dozen protesters sitting in front of a Minister’s car can be splashed as an  ‘Attack on Democracy’ across an entire front page?

While, weeks later, when the same newspaper’s major shareholder gags the national parliament the story is buried inside on page 22?

Funny, isn't it, that the man who controls the country's biggest paper also has a financial interest in the installation of water meters? Or is that just a wild coincidence?

When mostly peaceful protesters who are sick of austerity are labelled as the "sinister fringe", people lose trust in the media.

When they know that the main shareholder in the biggest newspaper group is making money from Irish Water, they have a right to question the motivation setting the news agenda.

Over the past eight or nine months, though, people have learned more about Irish Water through Twitter and Facebook than on the main evening news.

When news sources are giving them completely different versions of the same event, they have a right to question what’s going on.

But when an outstanding TD makes some hugely important comments in the national parliament, and virtually nobody has the courage to report what she said, you have to question how democratic the country really is.

An awful lot of people are well aware at this stage that Irish Water is a scam, set up to take money from as many people as possible to pay for the sins of the few.

But you’d never think that if you only relied on RTE or the Sunday Independent for your news.

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