(Please note due to a reluctance to push certain media for reasons you’ll see below, and their refusal to allow for any balance that doesn’t scare for sales, I’m doing this independently of them. Therefore if you can afford it, feel free to share a coin or two at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/ewanmackenna or on Revolut at @ewan0k7m4. Thanks, Ewan.)
In February of last year, a reoccurring and worthwhile topic made its way back onto the Liveline airwaves.
One by one, Joe Duffy introduced distraught mothers who had lost their children to the effects of bullying. An old scourge with a very modern twist, one spoke powerfully about how the online epidemic meant her own daughter could never escape the hate.
“They tortured her online,” said this grieving parent in a selfless message that was a plea for others to stop popular pile-ons. “She was told to hang herself; she was even sent a video of a noose on how to hang herself. They would say, ‘Slit your wrists, nobody likes you’.”
It was one of those rare times when the show tapped into the brutality of the anecdotal, where these sort of real-life tales performed a sad heavy-lifting that the empirical cannot.
It wasn’t just that programme either, but a theme, what with Kathryn Thomas talking about the death of Caroline Flack – which perhaps wrongly was behind such a focus on the issue, but rightly drew much-needed attention to it. “I was just sitting here going, ‘What is it going to be like in 15 or 20 years time when my daughter is that age?” she asked. “What kind of society are we going to be living in?”
These of course are the extreme results of picking on people, but such actions have many effects and you can never know how severe a reaction it might cause. Ultimately, there’s no justification, no matter what the ends are to this mob mentality means. Be it in school done without malice, be it outside Tony Holohan’s house without intelligence, be it on prime-time RTÉ without care for the consequences.
Yet on Wednesday, via a lightning rod of a 26-year-old there to be sacrificed, the latter is where we went.
Some don’t know better.
But some really should.
There are numerous reasons why some pick on others. However those with prominence, popularity and power are almost always the catalyst for the gang, as they lead the crowd for some variation of self-gain. They can go after looks, feelings, belief, choices, mistakes or simply opposing views. For sure, debate all of that in a fair and balanced and cold and constructive way, but don’t humiliate the voiceless.
Especially when the rationale behind such attacks makes absolutely no sense.
Then again, this is just one more way in which RTÉ have weaponised serious issues, at times using them to show a soft side, at times contradicting themselves with fury and bile for ratings.
From the caring and be-kind dollar to the gallows dollar and back again.
There are few better examples of hunting with the foxes and running with the hares.
You’d think they’d learn, for if they truly believe the media has enough power to at least try and slow this bullying, then they should be even more aware that there is no more powerful tool to incite it, to enrage it, and to set it loose.
The angry and self-serving man builds his house on the sand. These days the worshippers still flock.
“This is not pub talk, it’s science,” howled Joe Duffy on Wednesday afternoon.
Thereafter, in a nonsensical hour about Callum Robinson who has had Covid twice, the conversation talked about how he wouldn’t get into Azerbaijan without being vaccinated (he has a Covid passport), how 15 months of vaccines have been great (vaccines began 10 months ago), how Robinson may really be a public figure to promote anti-vaxxers (what do we even put in these brackets), before Joe proudly told us that: “I respect his choice but if you’re not vaccinated you should stay in your bedroom”. (He also suggested we “take one for the team”, this in a year when he took home €392,494 while speaking to those losing everything and telling them we’re in it together.)
I get it.
Lie with dogs and catch fleas, but the problem with Liveline is that it not just captures much of the national mood, it creates and influences it. And while no doubt a hugely successful programme, that alone should not be the remit of the national broadcaster.
Can’t it do better? Sure, correct what is wrong, but do that on both sides rather than being a hustle through the brain-dead badlands, a proud strut through the carcasses of enlightenment.
For what little it’s worth, I think Robinson should get the vaccination. I’d advise anyone to, but advice and abuse are not the same thing. Like it or not, it is his choice, and even if it’s for the wrong reasons, the science remains. This is what’s been lacking throughout a testosterone fueled tearing apart of him.
What Duffy and his callers failed to mention once was that having Covid, according to experts and the latest data, gives you six to 13 times more protection versus two doses of Pfizer. This protects the person who had it, and protects those around them as much as is possible in a sphere where risk is always going to be a reality. It’s why the best minds in the EU decided to give the vaccine passport not just to those that have been vaccinated, but to those who caught it as well. Even an ultra-conservative around precaution and lockdown like Trinity College immunology professor Kingston Mills acknowledged this week that contracting Covid likely gives greater protection than any vaccine.
Go figure. As if our own immune reaction to viruses has meant we aren’t extinct after all these centuries.
It didn’t and doesn’t matter though for science to the most modern of zealots has become about what suits them. So instead of actual facts, we’d the caller who said every life is sacred before telling us five million had died and she was nearly five million and one – which of course ignored the 179,157 living lives she was chalking down as dead – and it emerged later she was never actually diagnosed with Covid. There was the caller that said if Robinson or any person not vaccinated happened to get Covid, it wasn’t just an off chance they would die, which statistically makes no sense. There was the constant play-back of Jurgen Klopp’s view amidst talk that we should only listen to medics and scientists.
This was not quite Neil deGrasse and Alain Aspect having afternoon tea.
Instead, it was the slow and rolling boil of anecdotes, sob stories, ignorance and idiocy.
All the while our host led the conversation like a terrible singer who wouldn’t let go of the microphone during the karaoke at a birthday party.
But perhaps the highlight of all this was the guest who as a christian said he initially decided against vaccination based on the old testament, and then realised that maybe God wanted him to best protect himself. Duffy’s verbal nod of “yeah, yeah” accompanied him.
Not so much an arbitrator of fair opinion and proven fact, but an attack poodle.
David McSavage’s version of him was coming alive.
That religious angle is apt though, for this is the new church where these people worship. Aside from what Robinson had to endure not just on radio but on social media via such radio, he had become an unlikely magician, pulling back the curtain on these fanatics.
That’s because there are large cohorts who could only escape their own agendas for so long during the pandemic. For a while the science and data and deaths and numbers suited the fear-mongering but what we are seeing now in terms of all this is it was never about that.
Such sense and logic only happened to align with a cultish ideology for a little while.
Now that they don’t, they’ve been jettisoned.
From two weeks, to protect the vulnerable, to vaccinate the over-65s, look at where we are. And not just Callum Robinson being placed on the slab during a Catholic-like lynching. For if Liveline is supposedly the cheap cheese, the stale bread that sandwiches it is advertised as the hard and serious talk of RTÉ.
That element was no different, in fact its reputation may have made it worse.
On Wednesday morning, Claire Byrne was ready to get her claws into the West Brom player in the company of Clíona Ní Cheallaigh (the Trinity professor widely ridiculed at Christmas for wanting you to freeze your grandparents with a good icy draft). Not once was such natural immunity mentioned nor was the fact that to play he had to follow the procedures via many negative tests.
Ní Cheallaigh instead focused on the pseudo-psychology of what she saw as manipulation of his ignorance and by the end wanted to rule over all sports and ban those who don’t take the vaccination from the sort of exercise that might help them against Covid.
Come the evening Drive Time show, it was still Robinson. Minister for Sport Jack Chambers was brought on to what was the leading national issue, despite this being the apex of the greatest batch of crises arguably in the history of the independent Irish state. He was probed and prodded about the government potentially stepping in and stopping Robinson from playing for the national team. The notion via the questioning was that a 10-year-old might have seen him merely answer a question and refuse to be vaccinated as a result.
It’s telling that a station that has been returned to profit by a pandemic clings to such bias, and it’s ironic that these same presenters so angry at the decisions of others also continue to happily work with those who partied away maskless in a crowd illegally when there wasn’t even a vaccine.
But they are hypocrites.
On that. On this. On mental health. On stoking the clan. On online bullying. The lot.
They decide what is fact based on what is best for them to the extent that misinformation has become a term not to highlight inaccuracy, but to put a stop to what doesn’t fit in with their interests.
They’ve led a crowd like the Pied Piper of Hamelin behind them too.
By now it’s a brainwashing that needs deprogramming. A money train that needs derailing.
Indeed think about where all this has gone via their indoctrination. About the moving of posts and about where we have reached in the blink of an eye against the context of merely protecting the vulnerable.
Robinson is protected and has a protection for others. So protection is no longer the issue.
He was never statistically vulnerable, so that’s not the problem either.
It’s not even about getting that golden critical mass vaccinated, for the numbers that queued were more than anyone could have hoped, and still these people cannot rest easy as they go after the stragglers as if a US border guard after a black man with a lasso.
It’s not about the science. It’s not about the law. It’s not about the expert advice.
Instead this has become about not just demands but how those demands are to be met.
Nothing is enough so still they preach and humiliate if you don’t do exactly as they scream. I say jump, you say how high. In that way it has become about complete control.
So much so it’s not even that no dissenting voices are allowed, no voices are allowed to confront angry accusations formed in pseudo-science and quackery. For they are the only voice so listen and accept.
“Should he represent his country,” howled Duffy rhetorically as a grand finale?
Should RTÉ, as national broadcaster, Joe?
7 October, 2021
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