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Irish Times Editorialises about Free Press

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | opinion/analysis author Thursday May 04, 2006 12:30author by Miriam Cotton Report this post to the editors

Daddy knows best

It would be hard to beat the condescension of Irish Times editorials most days, but they really excelled themselves yesterday - and on the subject of press freedom, what's more. BTW, we are all now 'citizen journalists' here on Indymedia.

"When the media writes about itself - the functions it performs and the travails of those who work in it - it often seems to others that a sense of perspective is somehow temporarily mislaid."

Indeed!

So went an editorial in yesterday's Irish Times, which makes it all the more remarkable that, fewer than two paragraphs later, it went on to say this:

"Where information is power, the power to decide who rules is best exercised by a well informed electorate. For the system to work with credibility, the mechanisms for informing the public cannot, by definition, be independent. Thus in successful democracies is the function discharged by the media, while not enshrined in the structure of the State like parliament or the criminal justice system, comes close to them in importance." [My emphasis]

Translation: corporate-backed press and corporated-controlled politicians are best placed to decide what the children (aka the electorate) should know and how we get to know it. That there might be any self-interest or bias in this tidy arrangement is not to be considered, let alone acknowledged.

Well, that is certainly one helluva perspective. Worryingly, no definition of a credibly functioning system is offered. This might be an oversight but then again it might not. Of course, this stuff is no suprise for those who regard the Irish Times as (for the main part) an FF/PD/IBEC daily press release, to read such pompous and outrageous paternalism.

Perhaps, though, a subconscious fear of the possible bursting of the corporate press/government bubble was lurking somewhere in the editorial writer's mind when s/he wrote:

'a savvy computer operator with a blog is difficult to silence - the citizen journalist is a growing phenomenon whose impact on the mainstream media may be profound'.

Who wants to silence the citizen journalist, then? Well, of course all the usual third world culprits are identified ('all of the Middle East, most Africa, much of South America and a fair swathe of Asia'.) The citizen journalist would be a welcome pheonomenon, in those places. Not one single mention of the wide-spread suppression of free speech which has been so atrocious in the USA since 9/11. No mention of the routine self-consoring of the Irish Times itself - and most European mainstream newspapers - and not one word about what happened to Frank Connolly and the CPI here in Ireland, to take just one glaringly obvious example of free speech, ruthlessly silenced.

I suspect that it is not just third world dictators who are finding the prospect of the citizen journalist 'difficult'. Make no mistake about what the IT is saying here. In the context of the 'responsible', fully-cooperative-with-government, corporate-backed, paternalistic western press whose wonders we have just been lectured about, this new and truly independent journalism is being carefully picked out as a potential threat to corporate-style 'democracy'. Otherwise, why not mention Indymedia.ie? Surely that is a glaringly obvious omission?

And WTF is a 'citizen journalist' anyway? Was there ever any other kind? What a splendid (if unintentionally revealing) term! It perfectly illustrates where the IT sermonisers and declaimers imagine they are coming from: they are a category of uber citizen - not quite the archaengels who are ministers and corporate CEOs but the cherubim and seraphim of our governing elite, maybe. We all knew what an incestuous and mutually-regarding world the mainstream press and government operate in, but you seldom find them making their smugness as blatant as this. Well excuse us, ladies and gentlemen, but we can hear you, you know.

The editorial begins its conclusion with a timid little bleat about the extraordinarily repressive legislation that is being introduced in many Western countires to counter 'terrorism' and urges that such moves be resisted. But in the context of an editorial which is itslef so cowardly, it is too little and too late. To make us all think we have just read something daring and challenging, the editorial finishes off by saying:

"One doesn't have to accept totally the great American journalist IF Stone's maxim 'Every government is run by liars. Nothing they say should be believed' but it is a good starting point."

In fact, Stone had it exactly right. And he could just as accurately have substituted 'newspapers' for government, if he'd thought of it.

author by Terencepublication date Thu May 04, 2006 16:32Report this post to the editors

Good points raised above.

I think it is worth stating the obvious as well that newspapers are a form of broadcast media and thereby give their writers immense power to influence, shape and manipulate public opinion. The reason they are broadcast is simply because there is effectively no means for two way communication. Some people might argue that letters to the editor negate that argument but that is not so, because the letters may or may not appear, can be edited and appear both at least a day or more later and nearly always out of physical context with the original article. Thus the 100k people reading something today in the Irish Independent aren't likely to notice a correction 3 days letter in an obscure letter that may or may not appear.

Additionally, if we consider that the top 5 selling newspapers in the country reach significant portions of the population, we can see how the corporate controlled agenda can greatly influence and affect what people know or don't know about a given matter. Not only that, when those same readers then discuss subjects of the day with their work colleagues, friends and family most of their ideas and information will be lifted directly from the printed page. I notice this all the time when either I discuss things with people or happen to overhear conversations about various things.

Not only that what people deem acceptable to discuss on a daily basis follows quite closely what has been in the media that day or previous days.

It would be wrong to infer that all of public opinion is shaped by newspapers, but certainly in conjunction with Radio and TV the vast majority of it is. And most of these all sing from the same (corporate/govt) hymn sheet or press release. Notice too how frequently 2 or 3 newspaper will often use the exact same news source for some types of reports, particularly international ones.

The rise of other sources of news predominately from the Internet in the form of blogs, forums, independent news sites like Indymedia and sites of freelance writers are clearly a threat, but so long as the majority don't use them the corporate media and government are safe. It is certainly in their interest that all such sites are regularly disrupted and discredited by trolls and liars.

author by Davy Carlinpublication date Thu May 04, 2006 17:04Report this post to the editors

Quote - 'The rise of other sources of news predominately from the Internet in the form of blogs, forums, independent news sites like Indymedia and sites of freelance writers are clearly a threat, but so long as the majority don't use them the corporate media and government are safe. It is certainly in their interest that all such sites are regularly disrupted and discredited by trolls and liars'. -

- Spot on.

Quote -'a savvy computer operator with a blog is difficult to silence - the citizen journalist is a growing phenomenon whose impact on the mainstream media may be profound'.

- Hit the nail on the head there - '

AND SO -

- From an Indymedia Ireland ' Citizen Journalist'

- http://www.indymedia.ie/

And from a 'Blogger 'Citizen Journalist'

- http://davycarlin.allotherplaces.org/?m=200601

' I say- quite simply - THAT IT IS ONLY BEGINNING AND WOULD URGE ALL TO JOIN IN IN OUR NEW REVOLUTION!

author by MCpublication date Thu May 04, 2006 17:25Report this post to the editors

I'm not sure what relevance the links you gave have to the article. Have I missed something? Or perhaps you put the wrong ones in?

author by MichaelY - iawm - per cappublication date Thu May 04, 2006 17:40Report this post to the editors

Just a few ideas to contribute to the very valuable posts above:

1. Following the editorial outlined above, the attacks on Indymedia by the Indo hack(s) and the discussion that followed re: the Limerick Leader articles, am I right to suggest that the independent media outlets, and the people working in them, are beginning to have an impact? Are beginning to threaten the establishment media?
2. On both the party-political front [debate SWP + SP, the Campaign for the Independent Left and the flirting of some independents with SF] as well as in the anti-war front [alliances, regroupment, PANA calling meeting re:coalitions, the Unmanageables],the Rossport front and the anti-poster ban front , am I right in pointing out that there is a sense/need of linking forces together - and all involved feel/know that this process requires a strong and well organised outlet for sending out info into our people, educating, debating, to use an old maoist expression, beginning to swim like a fish in water? Elections may be still a year away but the wind that's blowing is giving all of us lots of confidence.
3. Arising from the above, would it not be a good idea for the Indymedia comrades to launch a debate and follow it up within a few weeks with a full one or two day conference inviting all the political and activist forces, north and south, Dublin and particularly non-Dublin, to partake and commit in making Indymedia that 'mass' outlet?

As I said, just a few ideas? Any takers - any comments?

author by Davy Carlinpublication date Thu May 04, 2006 18:42Report this post to the editors

{NOTE - I had really serious problems trying to get this up - but it is up}

I am unsure if I have engaged with u directly before, but I have followed your interventions over time. And on that matter I would say that although I have not always agreed with u, I nevertheless respect not only the fact that u do engage but also the manner in which u have sought to do it – an therefore in that light, on your points.

Quote – ‘am I right to suggest that the independent media outlets, and the people working in them, are beginning to have an impact?

To some extent, yes, they are Michael, although not to the extent of threatening them. -
On the issue of ‘attacks on Indymedia and some of its activists.

Well that is to be expected from such, although not all the time such can be viewed simply as attacks. But when the case, and if it had of, or does ever get to a stage that it is getting out of hand, then, complete Solidarity, of course would be forthcoming I believe, not only from those who regularly use Indymedia, but indeed from many many key activists

From across from what is termed as the entire ‘progressive movement in Ireland’, Bloggers, Journalists, Trade unionists, Community, Women’s, ‘Gay, Minority Ethnic, Human rights, legal rights activists and campaigners - through to elected representatives, Anarchists, Socialists, Liberals, Republicans, Greens, and many more. –

I believe Indymedia will see such stand at their shoulder and lend all such solidarity called upon– if needs be.

Although on reading recent stuff the ‘Indymedia Crew’ are more than able to deal with any such attacks themselves – as has been generally acknowledged around the activist networks.

Your point of working together well I am all for such, not only have I continually voiced it over the years but have carried it through in practice – although personally speaking, I have no interest in standing in elections.

As for making Indymedia a mass outlet, well I am all for that, {and Indymedia and all associated are doing an excellent job as it is} - and indeed I do my wee bit by actively linking to it through the networks, and urging others to also engage on it..

Indeed for oneself I have ensured that it contains the definitive engagements, accounts, writings {and links to} - all actions and other writings I had done since becoming an activist. –

- and so one therefore can realise what good stead I hold Indymedia, its ‘Crew’ and its progressive users in .

Just a few thought for now.

author by Davy Carlinpublication date Thu May 04, 2006 18:46Report this post to the editors

MC -
Simply the opening pages of each- D

author by Davy Carlinpublication date Thu May 04, 2006 18:52Report this post to the editors

Two words did not go in {to closure} in below sentence -. the sentence should read for above

Quote - To some extent, yes, they are Michael, although not to the extent of threatening them to closure -.

author by j. swintonpublication date Thu May 04, 2006 20:38Report this post to the editors

What other kind is there ?
Well maybe this kind ....

"There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

"There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

"The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

"We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

Related Link: http://www.answers.com/topic/john-swinton-journalist
author by Davy Carlin - Organise!publication date Fri May 05, 2006 10:53Report this post to the editors

'j. swinton' - interesting link

Hi Michael,

On your final point, I had forgot to ask - How do you think that we can make Indymedia a mass outlet? Any suggestions, ideas? ATB - D

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Fri May 05, 2006 11:09Report this post to the editors

Might be interesting to discuss this at the Teacher's Club, on the 13th.

We could organise, fundraise and print stories from Indy with Indy's permission and the donation of pieces from Indy contributers. Excess money could be injected into Indymedia and the print version to grow both. No advertising no supporting politicians or parties and no profit.

A few posters wouldn't hurt either.

author by MichaelY - iawmpublication date Fri May 05, 2006 11:21Report this post to the editors

Hi Dave,

Good to see a thoughtful response - will dispose of the pleasantries but thanks for the comments - appreciated.
Was just looking at the pics from Athens and the ESF gathering there posted by Paula Geraghty in Indymedia and thinking - where else and how else would I have access to such material here in Dublin? Just in the office, checking my mail and Paula's work makes me feel I should have gone there...anyway...back to reality.
Your question about Indymedia has two aspects:
The first relates to the (political) decision and capacity of the Indymedia collective to move towards such a direction...this, obviously, is a huge undertaking. I cannot comment on that further - response awaited.
The second relates to the patent need of all the (left/progressive) activist forces in the country, on both sides of the border, to have a unified, well run, efficient and accessible area where their views, activities, objectives and strategies can be available to the public...and this area to be advertised, promoted, moved to schools, communities and workplaces. Used by the young and the not-so-young. In a growth prespective. My own limited view on this is that if this was available, and seem to be working in a non-sectarian, open and democratic manner, it would be used very quickly by all concerned. Indymedia today is, to some extent, playing this role anyway. I really hope we can build on this gradually...thus the idea of a conference (or a series of meetings nationally) on the subject with specific contributions and workshops. A 5 year plan? Lol!
One small quip to your message...the establishment media is perceiving the threat...but it is only a distant threat as yet...nothing akin to "closure".

Fraternally - Take care

author by MichaelYWatchpublication date Fri May 05, 2006 11:33Report this post to the editors

Few of the Idymedia editors are grizzled enough to be aware of Michael Ys past. Hes on the make at the moment and hes got Indymedia in his sights. Some of the editors are in organistions who have members old enough to remember Michael Y in his Revolutionary Struggle days. Ask them about him.

author by MichaelY - iawm-per cappublication date Fri May 05, 2006 12:00Report this post to the editors

Phew

Hey Dave, hey Sean

Has our discussion reached such a stage, or has such a potential, so as to 'threaten' already some anonymous 'observers' who can't even spell properly?

I am sure the Indymedia editors can speak for themselves on any subject...and our past is what we carry - some of us with pride, especially those who don't hide any skeletons in their closet, others with trepidation and fear.
'Sights' - 'make' - obviously a perceptive and interested observer with a certain 'je ne sais quoi' in his/her use of English. Lol.

author by redjade - {only 1 of indyjmedia}publication date Fri May 05, 2006 12:10Report this post to the editors

'Beware Of Michael Y'

I really don't care about his 'past, instead I'll argue or agree with his words based on their ideas.

———

'would it not be a good idea for the Indymedia comrades to launch a debate and follow it up within a few weeks with a full one or two day conference inviting all the political and activist forces, north and south, Dublin and particularly non-Dublin, to partake and commit in making Indymedia that 'mass' outlet?'

MichaelY, this is just my opinion as 1 among other Indy Editors, I think the call for a 'Mass Outlet' is a bot of a misconceptualisation of Indymedia.

Indymedia,ie is not the Socialist Worker nor is it the Irish Times - a mass appeal of finely tuned propaganda with simple massage meant for mass consumption and for the common denominator. It is a thousand different and differing messages and messengers.

What indymedia needs to expand, more than anything i think, is a team of net-savvy trainers to go out and connect with organisations from the NGO level down to the local community orgs on how to write a press release, write a simple story about their issues, take photos and size them for uploading, how to make an mp3 audio interview using their computer and so on.

Indymedia is a tool for activists and not a newspaper.

The reason that Indymedia.ie is visited by 130,000+ people each month is because the Mass Media no longer is capable or willing to report on what people care about. The old top down media no longer works and increasingly looks biased and aloof to outside input and participation. Mass media is a filter - indymedia is only the 'publish' button.

Reaching out to people and groups so that they have the confidence to click that 'publish' button is the real world difficulty. This takes time, but is not difficult.

author by Davy Carlinpublication date Fri May 05, 2006 12:23Report this post to the editors

Some interesting points Sean, although, I believe, that is would take a fair bit of work and time for it to become a .mass ‘outlet’, although it depends on ones definition of ‘mass, {and outlet} as Indymedia could already fit into some such individual definitions on 'mass'.

This due both numerically and ‘Representatively, in regards to ‘all the differing strands of the ‘Progressive Movement, and others – that use Indymedia Ireland already.

Alright Michael, Yep Paula’s pics are sound, I have been to a few such before -from Genoa to Geneva.

Well, I also think that a strategic plan, over a few years, can begin to move Indymedia to ‘bigger and better’ things. Again it is for ‘all’ of us to take part in this, not only through discussing it but to ensure that it is not just left to those activists who already use their valuable time to ensure the smooth running of Indymedia – therefore more hands on support such be given for such a long term plan. This should be done throughout the ‘Movement’ and at all ‘’levels getting activists, organisations etc, to participate in and to get involved in whatever way they can on and for Indymedia.

It is about getting the word out and self involvement at whatever level

On your last point Michael’ – {of that post}

Quote - the establishment media is perceiving the threat...but it is only a distant threat as yet...nothing akin to "closure".

I had already stated as you state above – { by answering the point you had asked previous in suggestion to such ‘open media threatening the established media}

Again -

Quote - To some extent, yes, they are Michael, although not to the extent of threatening them to closure -. .

Indeed any journalist worth their salt would be on Indymedia on a daily basis – as I know many many are.

On your last post, ‘ I am sure the Indymedia editors can speak for themselves’– Sound - ATB, D

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Fri May 05, 2006 12:27Report this post to the editors

How about organising a few courses to organise these skills? And in turn how to teach them.

Just about everybody can smell the bullshit as the realities of the war on terror, capitalism etc become apparent. The for sale media is fast losing its credibility. But they've got lots of resourses.

We've got to add to the pressure on them. Roll as many snowballs as we can.

Software wise Indy does not have competition. That's definitely pressure and it allows pressure to be exerted in many ways. But it's not as efficient as it could be. To get Irish people to contribute individually or collectively, we must go into the streets and drag them in. I suppose in time Indy can and will do this via its efforts confined to the web. But we can influence the time element. We haven't got much to lose and a boot-strapping mechanism if it works could cause wonders. At worst Indy gets some negative advertising. And indy has chewed up and spat out a lot worse.

We should move to the next level.

author by Davy Carlinpublication date Fri May 05, 2006 12:28Report this post to the editors

An essential point

'What indymedia needs to expand, more than anything i think, is a team of net-savvy trainers to go out and connect with organisations from the NGO level down to the local community orgs on how to write a press release, write a simple story about their issues, take photos and size them for uploading, how to make an mp3 audio interview using their computer and so on'.

author by MichaelY - iawm - per cappublication date Fri May 05, 2006 12:48Report this post to the editors

I am delighted this debate is beginning to walk on earth.

The idea of Indymedia developing a set of net savvy comrades to go out and work with activists is an excellent one. Many would benefit and only good can come out of this.
However, and on an equally important basis, what must develop simultaneously is the need for the activist organisations to be aware of the possibility, discuss internally their creative use of Indymedia and be prepared to engage. In this regard, Sean's comments are very useful.

IT training for our people at large, which is very close to my working life, encounters the same two parameters: one, the need of good trainers, but, two, the work necessary so that users understand and internalise the need to be trained. And this is not automatic...activist organisations in Ireland in the main are, at the moment, peopled and managed by individuals who have left their '20s and '30s behind long time ago. There is fear there, there is worry, there is unsubstantiated paranoia on PCs and the Net....not to be talking of division, fragmentation and at times bitterness between sections. Work is necessary to approach that aspect sensitively and work with it - rather than against it.

Thus my idea of an open gathering of the clans.....to be continued

author by El Grecopublication date Fri May 05, 2006 12:53Report this post to the editors

'IT training for our people at large, which is very close to my working life'

It used to be printing. The times they are a changing. Theres a need for organistions to meet alright and have a discussion about Michael Y including his past activities and what he is up to at present. We might try and fill in those missing years. Older activists let us know what you know!

author by MichaelY - iawm - per cappublication date Fri May 05, 2006 13:13Report this post to the editors

Dear friend,

Lets have a drink, somewhere public, and I will answer all the questions you may have. In the meantime, leave this thread because the issues under debate are far too important. The El Greco pic attached is for your info. Lol!

Feelings
Feelings

author by MCpublication date Fri May 05, 2006 13:37Report this post to the editors

I cannot see the relevance of Michael Y/El Greco posts to this thread - am I missing something? The subject of the article is how free the press is - not organising activists. It is against guidelines to derail threads like this so I'd be grateful if you could find an appropriate thread. Thanks.

Meanwhile I've been busy putting a challenge up to Jon Snow on Medialens, this being World Free Press week. Link here:

http://www.medialens.org/board/

But it is necessary to read the Medialens interview with Snow first, if you are interested:

http://www.medialens.org/articles/interviews/jon_snow.php

Will he respond? Bets anybody?

Can't recommend Medialens enough - some great material there for anyone concerned about freedom of the press.

author by dav - toirtappublication date Sun May 07, 2006 11:36Report this post to the editors

I enjoyed your letter to John Snow, no doubt he will repsond in a 'pithy' manner, but to be fair to him, he has more time for criticism than most. Whether he takes any on board is a different matter.

Here's my two cents on the Irish Times yoga assisted back patting:

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/75899

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