The Irish media, and the good kind of fake news

On Monday afternoon, I reported the existence of a video depicting unidentified men challenging the residents of a migrant camp on the Tolka River, near Ashtown, in North Dublin. Let me begin this piece, as is tradition, by alienating some readers who are inclined, as all humans are, to believe that “their side” can do no wrong: In the video, there is no violence, but there is, it is fair to say, a hostile tone. Demands are made of the residents of the makeshift tent village to explain both their presence, and their circumstances.

While the video ends in relative amity, with the men on both sides shaking hands and sharing their frustration with the state of the country, I must say that as a human being, I could not in good conscience endorse the behaviour of those who entered the camp, and behaved – at least initially – in a manner that could reasonably be perceived by the residents as threatening.

For better or worse – and too often worse – our taxes pay for a police force. This kind of job is theirs, and no good comes from citizens – even in this relatively peaceful way – usurping their duties. Questions about the men should properly have been addressed to the local Garda station, not to the men themselves. Political concerns can, and should, be raised without threatening, or even risking being perceived as threatening, other civilians.


In recent days, Gript has focused much of its coverage on the story, reported by Kitty Holland this past weekend, that there was what amounts to an armed attack on this same camp, on the same day, within just a few hours, by men armed with baseball bats, restricted breed dogs, and sticks. Let me be clear: Our reporting, including an interview with Ms Holland herself, makes clear that there is precious little evidence, at this time, that any such thing actually occurred.

The reaction to our coverage has divided into roughly two distinct groups: Those who value the truth, and those who value what I would describe as the “greater truth”.

For the former group, the details matter. I am in this group.

The Irish Times reported that Ms. Holland witnessed an attack by men armed with baseball bats, sticks, and dangerous dogs. Ms Holland herself, when pressed, says she witnessed no such thing. Notably, while she never directly claimed herself to have witnessed an attack, she was content to sit in media studio after media studio this week, and allow herself to be described as a witness, without ever pointing out the truth. I think she was, at minimum, deeply cavalier with the facts in allowing these statements to go uncorrected.

I would further argue that when you pair the word “attack” with the words “baseball bats, dangerous dogs, and sticks”, and claim that such an attack was witnessed, the obvious implication of the words is clear. It means that you saw people being physically assaulted.

My word on this need not be taken, by the way: The Irish Times itself, reporting on a protest that took part on foot of its coverage, carried this quote from an outraged reader: “One speaker at the protest, Myriam Point Marouki, said the “vile beating up of homeless migrants” was making everyone in the area “very fearful””

Now, where did Ms Marouki get the idea that there was a “vile beating up of homeless migrants”?

Could she have read “attack” and “baseball bats” and “dogs” and “sticks”, and “witnessed” and come to the blindingly obvious, if in this case unproven, conclusion? I think she did. And what’s more, I think we all know that she did.

The problem is, the Irish Times and its journalist did not witness any such thing. And I think that really matters.


This brings me to the second group: Those who are more invested in the “larger truth”.

The “larger truth”, to these people, is what they see, correctly or incorrectly, as a dangerous rise in anti-migrant sentiment. Read through Irish lefty twitter, and it won’t be long before you come across a dark warning that Ireland is but weeks away from some kind of mass murder incident involving a racist attack on migrants. This is the environment in which Irish journalists marinade, daily. If they are not left wing activists themselves, many friends are. The world seen through the twitter feed of the average Irish journalist is a world in which the far right is on the march, and it is the patriotic duty of every decent person to resist.

To them, the actual story of what happened that morning in Ashtown is much less important than getting the public to reject and be repulsed by what they are repulsed by, whether what they are repulsed by is real or imagined.

In this context, the facts of Kitty Holland’s story were secondary. The impact of the story was what mattered: It was not a news report, so much as a morality tale: Here, finally, are the monsters in our midst, now what are we going to do about them?

If you want to know why RTE jumped on this, and the Journal jumped on it, and the Irish Times itself souped the facts up beyond all recognition, this is your reason. It is not actually about the truth, so much as it is about the larger truth. Heck, as they see it, even if this story is not true, something like it is either probably true, or likely to be true soon. And it is time, in their view, for that great Irish pastime, the “national conversation”, where we all gather around the television screens, watch six people on RTE all saying the exact same thing, and come together as a compassionate nation, united against “hate”.

In this way of thinking, “fake news”, for want of a better term, actually becomes good and noble. Because the facts are less important than leading you, the reader, towards the correct conclusion: That in the Irish Immigration debate, the people raising concerns about immigration are the baddies, and their rhetoric is dangerous.

Think of it this way: If you could tell one little lie, or make one little exaggeration, and in the process stop the holocaust, would you do it? You probably would. If the people are mislead towards virtue, then the act of misleading itself becomes virtuous. Noble, even. This is the mindset, and it is not hidden. In fact, almost no attempt is made to hide it.

The problem arises when a monopoly on such virtue is held by one side, and one side only. And that is how it operates in Ireland: Fake news is virtuous when it serves our ends, and entirely despicable when it undermines “trust” in the authorities.

Because make no mistake: Had a story of identical sourcing been identically, eh, enhanced by some unapproved outlet, like Gript or (God forbid) The Liberal, we would presently in Ireland be having a debate about fake news. The very people now defending the Irish Times – like “misinformation” expert Aoife Gallagher, would instead be denouncing the shoddy reporting – though it is unlikely that terms so mild would be used.

But this time, it was RTE, the Journal, and the Irish Times, all telling you that an attack with dogs and bats and sticks was witnessed. So, it’s all good. The virtuous fib, and the greater truth, triumphs. Until it doesn’t.

Only an utter fool would take the Irish media seriously, when it complains about misinformation and fake news. They are the most persistent offenders in that regard, and have been for many years.

Personally I’ll stick with reporting the facts, as they are known, and offering my opinions to you openly about those facts, even when you disagree with those opinions passionately. As will everyone else, here at Gript.

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