As several commentators on the Cedar Lounge Revolution have noted, the Irish Times’ ideologically schizophrenic stance towards the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis has become increasingly noticeable in recent weeks, with both editorials and posts showing a degree of consideration express the Darwinian argument that we should just “go ahead” and learn to live with the pandemic without the need for substantial regional or national restrictions. While not quite an anti-lockdown stance, the paper has nonetheless begun to turn more to the “herd immunity” theory, or at least a scientifically biased version of it, which initially caught on with authorities in the UK and United States . And what Sweden pursued to its own considerable disadvantage in terms of life and prosperity.
However, few people believed that the newspaper would enable an expensive full-page advertisement to be published by a disreputable organization, funded by libertarian think tanks and billionaires in the United States, that attacks current health regulations to fight the pandemic. The ad in the self-proclaimed filing paper makes a number of scientifically false or misleading claims and has been welcomed by the country’s far-right tendencies as confirmation of their position – and tactics. And while most newspapers maintain a firewall between the news and sales teams, anyone familiar with the inner workings of the Irish Times will know how porous that wall is. The timing of publishing implicitly lockdown-skeptical editorials and explicitly anti-lockdown functions is no coincidence.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of liberal – in contrast to neoliberal – media in Ireland, which is why the crisis in our island nation will only worsen. Not just the spread of the virus itself and the horrific effects it is having, but also the increasingly irrational and unscientific behavior in the press by some of our elected politicians and their fellow travelers. Such actions open spaces for ideological toxins that public opinion can invade and poison. Evidence of this is the latest statement in The Burkean, a conservative college magazine that has now become one of the Americana mouthpieces of the domestic neo-right.
Yesterday’s newspapers reported clashes on Saturday afternoon at the anti-lockdown demonstration “Let Ireland Live”. Unusually, the media also widely admitted that it was instigated by left street activists through an informal alliance of football ultras and left-wing Republicans. Billed as an explicitly nationalist event, the planned demo was quite successful despite a significantly increased threat from the left in front of the gates of the Leinster House.
With successful speeches from Justin Barrett of the National Party and other personalities, the day went well despite the deterioration, with the initial skirmish merely guaranteeing public attention rather than preventing the demo from occurring. If the previous half-dozen nationalist demos in the past 6 months have been wins for the right, it looked like an effective stalemate, with the resulting media storm greatly benefiting the right.
… the right to allow to benefit from the anti-lockdown unrest.
Ironically, even the liberal press gallery was forced to report on the very clear violence of the assembled black bloc, in contrast to the generally more peaceful nationalist participants. The online comment from the left focused on journalists who had the boldness to spread the fact that violence was the sole responsibility of the left and the left who came with the aim of disrupting a legitimate gathering.
Without the additional variable of left-wing protests, the event would have occurred below the media radar, with the black bloc’s presence merely putting the demo on the front page of national consciousness, with coverage largely sympathetic.
To be clear, we have staff members of fascist groups who are taking advantage of the current Covid-19 crisis by defying government mandated (and popularly supported) restrictions to deal with the situation where mainstream Irish people The media praised their “sympathetic” reporting and used this praise as a means of legitimizing their activities. And the Irish Times’ decision to accept the publication of a full-page advertisement by a controversial organization whose goals coincide with those of reactionary law adds weight to this campaign of false legitimacy.