The phrase “Jumping the Shark” describes the moment when a once popular television show tries to revive its destiny by staging a dramatic and invariably self-destructive twist in its plot or format. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when Irish political blog Slugger O’Toole made such a leap despite the publication (and eventual removal) of articles accusing Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar of anti-British views Having been animated His implicit inferior mixed ancestry is certainly a good place to start.
In the early years, the nominally Belfast-based website took on, initially a solo work, an editorial line largely sympathetic to the then mainstream parties of nationalism and unionism in the north-east of the country, the SDLP and the UUP, as well as the Alliance Celebrate Especially While They despise their rivals in the DUP and Sinn Féin. With the political mainstream in the disputed region becoming the new fringe in the ten years following the signing of the Peace Accords under the Good Friday Agreement, SO’T gradually became clearer in its ideological leanings, shifting from a moderate and relatively fair AP-style union-friendly Line to something closer to the editorial agendas of professing union publications like the Belfast Telegraph, or some of the more politically antiquated revisionist pillars of national newspapers like the Sunday Independent or the Irish Times.
Worse, part of Slugger O’Toole’s team appeared to be showing symptoms of a neo-right contagion that was rife in much of the conservative media in the UK and United States, including mandatory references to old-right favorite Jordan Peterson. Now we have days when the blog reads more like a parody of the late but politically toxic Brexit Central in its day or the somewhat disturbed Express newspaper in Great Britain. The commentary on Dublin affairs, oddly enough, echoes some of the anti-Irish conspiracy theories that have grown in popularity in Fleet Street and Westminster since the 2016 Brexit referendum. In a way, one could almost compare the ideological journey of some of the characters behind SO’T to that of the former radicals who now make up the libertarian’s motely crew – legal publication Spiked Online. Dissidents became reactionaries, not letting ideology trump logic or reason to look for good rhetorical barbs to shoot at their enemies, no matter how ridiculous they may be. Take the following lines from an opinion piece by Slugger O’Toole.
I was recently asked if I think the current southern government would last year round. I had seen chances that Micheál Martin would not last the whole year, but above all Martin is a stoic …
With the Brexit deal under pressure, its refusal to act on near-ubiquitous anti-British rhetoric could create a reasonable space for the kind of economic bailout that has always been needed from the start.
… With many Irish Americans working in prominent positions within the Trump administration, it is clear that Ireland is also very fond of its own bad boys (and girls).
… Reduce the Taoiseach’s moral objection to Sinn Féin as Ireland’s Trumpian project (promoting anti-British versus anti-immigrant sentiment) to a personal characteristic rather than addressing the essential issue.
This absence of humanity in the machine drives good people to tell them what they want to hear from populists like Trump and Mary Lou. And this silent complicity, as I would put it, is missed almost everywhere by those who claim to oppose it.
It’s easy to criticize Trump in Ireland, but Sinn Féin not so much.
For Harris (and I think I agree with him), despite his misfortune at the February ballot box, Martin is one of the few voices in Irish politics to oppose the wave of populist sentiment
These exchanges do not earn much favor with the Taoiseach elsewhere, but they show an understanding of North-South relations made possible by Sinn Féin’s ethnic-nationalist populism and the use of anti-British rhetoric by the previous government, i.e. H. Brexit negotiations.
Sinn Féin’s ability to speak directly to communal fears and feelings of economic and social abandonment, while claiming that they alone understand and care for them, has put them on a course for power, and thus the island on a course for conflict …
If this nonsense had been written by a British newspaper columnist, I would have dismissed it along with dozens of other articles written by right-wing journalists in the UK (and US) with no understanding or understanding of politics in Ireland. However, it comes from a blog that claims to offer an informed and balanced analysis of Irish affairs. Such news quackery does not offer either. It is just another manifestation of a native opposition to Sinn Féin and his policies, which has spread its British unionist and Irish revisionist roots on the new soil of Anglo-American “culture war politics”. The same opposition to the progressive republican politics in this country that is reflected in the mass of the Irish media, not in the (historical) fear of the ballot box in one hand and the Armalite in the other, but in the (fantastic) fear of it the ballot box in one hand and capital in the other.
This is the illusionary shark that the SO’T team wants to jump.