I sent the following letter to numerous Irish national newspapers this morning. Needless to say, I don’t expect any to publish!
My wife and I, both in our 70s, were delighted to receive a call from the HSE last night and immediately attend the CIT mass vaccination centre just a few Kms away. It was the end of a long day in which many hundreds of people had already been processed by the selfless doctors, medics, administrators and guides, yet the atmosphere was efficient, calm, professional, supportive and friendly. It struck us that this is the real Ireland which is calmly and resolutely working to end this crisis.
If we listened uncritically to the media we might be tempted to believe there is another parallel Ireland where chaos and anger rule. That the Irish have given up and must be given more freedom if we are to succeed in beating this virus. I suggest we need to give voice to the majority. Instead of constantly undermining the national effort, looking for mistakes, equating small errors to overall process failure and giving equal voice to minorities and naysayers, we should be better reflecting the majority view. It’s clear from the data that the overwhelming majority are ready and willing to stay the course. We understand the strategy and are not constantly calling for clarity. This is particularly relevant to the national broadcaster, but equally all media channels that would do well to critically examine their role in the national effort.
It’s not just in Ireland that minorities seem to hold sway. It happens worldwide in democracies.
The BBC famously strive for balance and many will remember during the Brexit debate in 2016 the BBC strove so hard for impartiality that no discussion, debate or talk couldn’t include some Brexit supporting lunatic and truth was an obvious casualty. Obvious to everyone except the BBC perhaps! The level of the debate was well illustrated by Boris Johnson’s contribution, “We export French knickers to France… Are the French really going to put tariffs on our French knickers when we buy so much of their cheese and their champagne? Of course they’re not!” Similarly whether the imaginary £350m (Brexit cost saving) claimed by Johnson and Gove would ever be spent on the NHS was not treated as a lie for the BBC to repeatedly expose, but “a reasonable opinion”. In essence the BBC’s policy was that all opinions merit equal coverage, and the public might as well give up on fact or evidence-based argument.
Today it’s evident that this policy is the new normal everywhere. It applies increasingly to Covid19 but equally climate change where it’s also a major challenge because there are many lobbyists that continue to peddle climate nonsense as unchallengeable fact.
For example, here in Ireland (from the Irish Times) we have a university professor, Dolores Cahill who until recently was regarded as one of the world’s leading scientists in the area of proteomics (the large-scale study of proteins). Her work has been cited almost 6,000 times in academic studies and she has been involved in a bewildering array of scientific boards, councils and taskforces. Her return from Germany to Dublin in 2003 was regarded as a coup for the Irish scientific community. Eighteen years later, the immunology professor has become one of the leading purveyors of Covid-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories, not just in Ireland but around the world. The impressive resume of the UCD professor, along with her many appearances on conspiracy theory podcasts and YouTube channels, means her views are now frequently cited as proof that Covid-19 is simply an overblown version of the flu and that preventative measures such as face masks and vaccines are just not ineffective but dangerous. Not surprisingly there is “widespread frustration” over her comments and that public statements from senior professors challenging her misinformation had been “sorely lacking”. And incredibly she is still employed by Dublin City University because evidently they cannot fire her for non academic activity.
However, again here in Ireland, (from the Journal.ie) polling carried out by Amárach Research on behalf of the Department of Health shows that despite being more angry frustrated in recent weeks than at any stage over the past 12 months, the largest proportion of the population believes that the current (very tough) level of restrictions is about right. Out of 2,200 people who were asked on Monday of this week the extent to which they are obeying restrictions on a scale of 1 (indicating ‘not at all) to 7 (indicating ‘very much so’) , the average score was 6.3 – consistent with levels seen last summer.
It seems that in spite of all manner of efforts to undermine the national effort, the silent majority are sticking with the programme. And that’s what my wife and I observed yesterday.
Good for you, David—and glad you and your wife are now vaccinated.
Here in the US, our very sensible and responsive leaders are bravely trying to hold back a rising Covid onslaught—while politically motivated governors eagerly throw caution to the wind. Appalling!
Nice letter. More than ever newscasts are about ratings. Controversy sells, as giving equal weight to a variety of viewpoints so as not to alienate a particular audience. I find myself wondering what they are teaching in journalism school these days.
Thank you Carol. Yes, and in our case the national broadcaster increasingly positions themselves as having the responsibility to “hold the government to account!” Extraordinary!
Actually the letter was published in two of the national papers, so my expectations were exceeded. However I must say the atmosphere here since Easter has been quite fevered and ill tempered as the lockdown continues into its fourth month! Tis a long march . . .