#IrishMediaWatch #GE20 : RTE 9oc News Wed 15.01.20

Mr Varadkar said he was very concerned about the case of a man who was seriously injured after the tent he was sleeping in was removed from the banks of the Grand Canal by an industrial vehicle. 

Housing issue dominates first day of election campaign
Paul Cunningham RTÉ.ie

Now that #GE20 is underway I’m planning to keep an eye on the national media outlets to see how they are covering the campaign trail, just to see how balanced the coverage is. For this first installment I have to say things were better than I expected.

On RTÉ’s Nine O’clock news Wednesday, the election featured third in their running order although the piece was related to the second story, about a homeless man who was badly injured by an industrial vehicle which was cleaning a canal area and apparently didn’t know the man was still in his makeshift tent.

This provided a segué into their election coverage as Leo Varadkar was questioned about it on the campaign trail, and in his remarks he suggested a statement from the Lord Mayor of Dublin was appropriate. In response, Micheál Martin accused the Taoiseach of politicising the tragedy since the Mayor is currently from Fianna Fáil.

After watching the quotes from the two men I thought “this is typical – on a classic progressive issue here’s the two Civil War parties finding a way to argue over anything BUT the search for real solutions.”. But to be a little fair to our national broadcaster, for this topic they did at least broaden the scope of opinion.

We also heard from Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who outlined his party’s plans to allocate actual money to address the problem of homelessness by way of improved social housing. The problem with that, of course, is that it’s all very well saying what you;d do if your party held a majority in the Dáil, but the odds of that are slim and none.

Eamonn Ryan of the Greens also chimed in, saying that this was a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Finally Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin appeared more interested in having a pop at RTÉ (re exclusion from debates, something I’d agree with her on if that were the topic) rather than comment on the situation at hand, although it is very possible that the clip was selectively edited.

So no progressive opinion in this piece, although Independent Councillor Anthony Flynn was interviewed for his opinion on the unfortunate homeless man.

VERDICT

As far as I’m concerned, any kind of election coverage that looks for opinion beyond the “Big Two” parties is an achievement by the Irish corporate media. I’ll give them 6 out of 6 for this piece – I wonder will anyone score higher between now and February 8? JLP

What is meant by "People want to keep their healthcare plans" (video rant)

One thing I left out from the above rant was something that was pointed out by Bernie Sanders in a previous debate that’s worth noting…many of the ads during the breaks at these debates are FOR the health insurance companies, and they are specifically designed to malign Medicare For All. Slight conflict of interest for the likes of CNN, yes? JLP

The "discussions" about a date for #GE20 took longer than the campaign will

Saturday, February 8. Just a few weeks for the Republic to discuss the issues of the day and vote for representatives in what will be the 33rd Dáil. Absolutely shocking.

Traditionally it is the sitting Taoiseach who gets to set the date, and I have no problem with this. But let’s be clear on what has actually happened in recent weeks – Leo Varadkar was consulting heavily with the so-called leader of the opposition Micheál Martin over the timing of the election.

Why? Because they have been in a virtual coalition government, that’s why. The official terminology is “confidence and supply” but the reality is that by abstaining on votes for legislation, Fianna Fáil have effectively been supporting Varadkar’s agenda. Now we are suddenly expected to see them as rivals yet again, while those who are actually offering a real alternative to the electorate are left on the outside.

Then there’s our system of voting on these shores. In my opinion, the “PR:STV” method we employ, while it includes the words “proportional representation” in its title and thus creates the illusion of being inclusive, is actually anything but.

In my opinion, offering voters the opportunity to choose a second option* does appear democratic, UNTIL you realise that most constituencies have the leading parties running multiple candidates. If you voted Fianna Fáil number 1, chances are you will also vote them number 2 if you have the chance. So, much like the infamous “first past the post” system used in the UK, the non-establishment parties are generally shut out.

What I would prefer is for something like a merger between the two systems. Currently there are 158 seats. Rather than 3-, 4- and 5- seat constituencies, I would have 158 x 1 seat ones (actually I’d prefer fewer TDs, maybe 150 or less). THEN we can use a simple PR method of voting where there is infinitely less confusion over counts, surpluses and transfers, plus we know for sure that over 50% of voters chose the winner. And to be clear – although I favour progressive candidates, should we employ this method and the FF/FG duopoly still prevailed, I could hardly complain about it, could I.

Anyway, that is of course more of a technical matter – what lies ahead right now is a shortened election campaign, with the ridiculous posters already going up on lamp posts within 24 hours of the announcement being made.

I’m going to do my best to follow the “campaign trail” as best as I can over the coming weeks and see what kind of promises these people will be making (if any) plus how the Irish media is covering it all. JLP

* – yes I know we can also vote for 3,4 and 5 etc but seriously, how critical are those choices when it comes to your ballot being counted?

And so the predictable corporate media takedown of Bernie Sanders begins…

We saw it with David Norris here in Ireland in 2011, when the Irish mainstream media took a letter of clemency the progressive candidate wrote 10 years previously as an excuse to associate his name with the word “pedophilia” on virtually a daily basis until he withdrew from the campaign.

It happened to Jeremy Corbyn from the moment he became the Leader of the Labour Party in 2015, with the tactics remaining more or less the same (although much of the attacks came from within his own party) although you can replace the word “pedophilia” with “Antisemitism” and it contributed greatly to an embarrassing election defeat last December

Now with Bernie Sanders showing himself to be leading the polls in Iowa, CNN is doing it to him, just a day before the last Democratic debate before the first caucus takes place.

The stakes were high when Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren met at Warren’s apartment in Washington, DC, one evening in December 2018. The longtime friends knew that they could soon be running against each other for president. The two agreed that if they ultimately faced each other as presidential candidates, they should remain civil and avoid attacking one another, so as not to hurt the progressive movement. They also discussed how to best take on President Donald Trump, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters. Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.

Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in private 2018 meeting that a woman can’t win, sources say
MJ Lee, CNN.com

The key words in the above quote are in the headline – “sources say”. To be fair to CNN, they at least tack them on, although being at the end, they could well be ignored. There is certainly nothing in the opening passage of the article itself to suggest that they are second (third? fourth?) hand reports of a private conversation.

As you can see, MJ Lee categorically states at the end of the quote : “Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.”

They do include a response from Sanders himself, albeit halfway down the page :

“It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

They do walk it back slightly today, quoting Warren herself who claims : ‘I thought a woman could win; he disagreed‘. An important distinction, yes? That immediately throws into question how this exchange was interpreted. HOW did he show his disagreement, Senator Warren? Did he actually say “I disagree”? Did he actually say something along the lines of “I do not believe a woman can win”? Or, as I suspect, did he happen to be shaking his head right after you said “I think a woman can win”? That COULD suggest disagreement, but it could also suggest he was shaking his head while forming his thoughts. We don’t know.

Whatever the strategically planted attempts to be ‘fair’, there is no doubt that the overwhelming slant of these articles is that there is a suggestion that “misogynist” is to Sanders as “antisemite” supposedly was to Corbyn (you hear nothing about it now he has said he’s stepping down as leader) and “pedophile” supposedly was to Norris (he’s still a Senator!).

The Young Turks, who are Bernie backers, offer this take on the story :

All of this leads me to believe that Bernie shouldn’t be the nominee, but only because I fear that if that were the case, the US corporate media would then consider Trump the lesser of two “evils” and continue to give the president’s rhetoric infinite free air time much as they did in 2016.

Since I primarily want that orange moron out of the White House, and it seems that the Democrat darling is Joe Biden, I would probably be supportive although I reckon it would be a smart move to nominate Warren as his VP, while publicly promising to adopt some of the progressive platform in the first term as a sweetener.

I would be satisfied with such an arrangement, although my ideal choice would have to be Bernie. It’s just a shame that the only reason not to have a Progressive government is that the corporations wouldn’t be agreeable. Even if it’s not in my lifetime, I hope a day will come whereby their objections won’t matter. JLP

Record-breaking hospital waiting lists left until late in RTÉ News broadcast, with little or no discussion #IrishMediaWatch

“The most frustrating part is that we know how to solve this problem: increase staffing and bed capacity, expand community care, and get going with the Sláintecare reforms. Instead, the HSE continues to enforce its rigid recruitment controls, starving hospitals and community services of the staff they need. Our members are rightly appalled by the conditions they are forced to work and care for patients in.”

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha
Trolley overcrowding 9% worse than any other year

To be clear from the outset, this is not a post about the Irish health service. I will do them from time to time on this site, but what I m more interested in is the coverage by the Irish Media, and that is my focus today, specifically that of RTÉ’s Nine O’Clock News on Thursday, January 2, 2020.

And before I get to that particular episode, I should probably make my feelings known about RTÉ in general. Of course I don’t have a problem with the existence of public service broadcaster, but I do believe that the Irish one is, shall we say, far from a shining example of how one should be organised. I am opposed to the continued charging of a license fee and I feel RTÉ tends to approach broadcasting from a perspective of what I call “elitist group-think”.

But all of that said, even I can’t complain about their lead story on their primetime (lower case ‘p’ so as not to be confused with their current affairs programme with an upper case) news show leading off with news of the untimely passing of Marian Finucane. She was well respected both inside and outside Montrose and this was definitely news to be leading off with even if wasn’t on RTÉ.

That said, I still have issues with the sequencing of stories on this particular half-hour broadcast. After an extensive report which chronicled Finucane’s career, there then followed coverage the Australian bush fires, talks in the north on the resumption of the Stormont Assembly, and the appointment of Hillary Clinton as ambassador of Queen’s University, all before the commercial break.

When they returned, there then followed a further segment on Finucane where anchor Eileen Dunne interviewed a former colleague. Personally I feel this was unnecessary. There will no doubt be several tributes on the network in the coming weeks and that would be the time for such interviews.

I feel that time could have been allotted to a more intensive discussion on a report released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation which offered alarming statistics. Instead when they did get to the issue all they could fit in were brief quotes from representatives from the INMO and the Irish Patient’s Association (essentially saying “the numbers are bad”) as well as one from Minister for Health Simon Harris (essentially saying “when you look at it another way, the numbers aren’t so bad”).

Normally I am annoyed when an important topic such as this is covered with soundbytes from politicians representing just the government and the “opposition”, which these days is technically Fianna Fáil even though they are in what I call a “virtual coalition” with Fine Gael. But this report didn’t even have that.

In an ideal world, the Progressive viewpoint should always be heard when the topic is the public health service, as this is one of the movement’s main priorities. But even talking points from one of the so-called “principle left-wing” parties such as Sinn Féin and Labour would have done in my opinion. For the record, the piece on the RTÉ website follows a similar vein.

Maybe I’m alone in wanting the full range of debate on key national issues when it comes to our national broadcaster? But I think not.

Trump' hypocrisy (and Fox News' effectiveness) exposed in one of his shortest tweets of 2019

We returned to blogging yesterday as part of a New Year’s Resolution to post more often about Irish politics, but of course that doesn’t mean we’re just going to ignore the US President altogether!

Even the fleas on the dogs in the street know that when the US Senate eventually gets around to having a trial on Trump’s Impeachment, he’s going to be “acquitted”, mostly because of the extremely high bar of 67 out of 100 votes required to do so.

Another thing we all know is that Trump is going to Lord it over everyone once that happens. He will see himself to have moved on, to be fully exonerated, and if anyone should bring up the subject again, they are nothing but sore losers. Anyone who has followed his twitter account over the past few years will know this will be his way of thinking.

With that inevitability being established, let us consider his way of thinking in the above tweet. It was originally posted as a follow-up to one where he essentially praised himself for the way the storming of the American Embassy in Baghdad was handled by the US troops. This message was a little sting in the tail to serve as “red meat for his base”, so let’s explore his premise shall we.

There were a total of TEN investigations into the 2012 terrorist attack on the US government facility in Benghazi, Libya, but by far the most significant was Trey Gowdy’s one for the House Select Committee, which ran for two years and included over 8 hours of tesitmony by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. All suspicions that the investigation was a political exercise (witch hunt???) were confirmed by Republican congressman (and current House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy when he said on Fox :

 “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

Investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attack

Although the exhaustive investigations did find areas where the government departments could have performed better, there were no conclusive findings of serious wrongdoings against anyone, including Clinton. Or to put it another way, she was EXONERATED.

Yet here we have the President still referring to it (sidenote – on his first attempt at the tweet he spelled Benghazi wrong) and thanks to years of Fox News constantly finding infinite different ways to brainwash their viewers into believing “Benghazi > Death of US soldiers > Hillary’s fault” regardless of the actual findings, it still proves an effective weapon for him today.

Since he is so keen to invoke the Benghazi situation, perhaps that means he himself is willing to testify about Ukraine before the Senate? And since his current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also a leading figure in Gowdy’s committee, he should be more than willing to do the same?

I won’t hold my breath. And while Trump’s ability to get away with blatant hypocrisy is indeed scary, I’d be much more worried about the role of Fox News in this narrative.