Consider what follows to be McGuirk’s first law of Irish Journalism: If a campaign is described as “a grassroots campaign” in the Irish media, it is a reasonable assumption that the campaign is being organised by about fourteen state-funded NGO groups on the political left. By the same token, if a campaign is genuinely grassroots driven, and being organised by ordinary citizens, you can be relatively sure that somebody will report that it is actually being “co-ordinated and organised” by “far right groups on Telegram and Facebook”.
We had a good example of that law in action yesterday morning, in what might be the most contemptible piece of “journalism” since the pandemic began, from our friends over at Journal Media:
ANTI-COVID GROUPS organised a campaign on Telegram and Facebook to contact the National Parents Council (NPC) to complain about schoolchildren having to wear masks, The Journal has learned.
The NPC has received thousands of calls and emails since news of the planned changes were announced last Thursday…
…While some of the calls and emails may have been legitimate, there is evidence of a coordinated campaign designed by far-right Covid deniers to bombard the NPC, which is the only representative organisation for parents of children in primary school.
The language there is interesting, is it not? “While some of the calls may have been legitimate” tends to imply that a call from somebody who responded to a suggestion from other people to call in and protest… is not legitimate.
That would be an unusual precedent to set, in Irish life, given the frequency with which Irish NGOs urge people to call and email their TDs. Indeed, there is a whole petition platform – uplift.ie – which co-ordinates that activity. Is none of it legitimate, per the Journal?
The Journal, and its writers, seem to be blissfully unaware that these Telegram and Facebook groups, of which it speaks, urge people to act in a particular way all the time. For example, many such groups urge people not to comply with covid regulations. Or not to wear masks. Or not to take a vaccine. In all of those areas, those groups have had little success. Might it be possible, then, just possible, that in this instance, those groups have struck on an issue which genuinely concerns people and makes them want to contact their representatives?
A cynic might well argue, incidentally, that the people at the Journal are well aware of that fact. And that, faced with a popular revolt against something culturally preferred by the kinds of people who read and work at the Journal – putting masks on children is, after all, beloved of American progressives, and therefore taken as an automatic good in that section of Irish society which takes it cues from the New Yorker – are eager to delegitimise genuine opposition by linking it to the “far right”.
None of this is journalism.
Note, for example, that the Journal does not speak to or interview a single parent who is worried about putting facemasks on their children. The people sending the emails to the National Parent’s Council are denied any voice in their reporting. The only people given a voice are those who wish to denounce those parents as part of some far-right campaign.
Over the weekend, Gript published a piece by one of those parents – Margaret Byrne. Here is what she said, about her deaf son:
A deaf child will only ask a certain number of times, ‘I am sorry, can you say that again? If they are even aware that they have missed something. When a child is placed in this kind of situation long enough, where they cannot make sense of what is going on around them, they will naturally withdraw.
If a mask-wearing Tony Holohan was to sit down in a room full of other children with my child, and speak to my son, he might have some inkling of the challenges that his mandate is creating. Would he care? I am no longer sure. The evidence suggests NPHET are increasingly clinically detached from ordinary reality.
It makes little sense that masks would be introduced for primary school children at this point of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. has published a large-scale study of COVID transmission in American schools which found that student masking was found not to have a statistically significant benefit.
Is Margaret Byrne “far right”? Are those who share her concerns “far right”?
What the Journal did yesterday morning was embarrassing, insulting, and shameful. For a news organisation, it explicitly has no interest at all in reporting the views of whole sections of the public, and invests all of its resources and energy instead into delegitimising those people as some kind of far right threat to the nation.
And of course, Journal Media is well funded, these days, by the European Taxpayer, to prop it up. Gript, by contrast, does not get a penny, except that which we receive from you, our readers. Your support is badly needed, and always appreciated. Please do, if you are angry with that abomination of an article in the Journal, send us a few quid each month. It makes a huge difference, and it will annoy the Journal’s
writers campaigners no end, besides.