Amid the outrage that has swirled all week around the shocking events in Strokestown, it’s becoming clear that underneath the justifiable outrage at the manner of the eviction in Falsk, and the apparent ruthlessness of bankers when it comes to repossessions, something equally insidious and dangerous has been taking place.
And, as if it were needed, it is further proof of the chasm which exists between the mindset of a media elite in Dublin and those of us who live and survive beyond the M50.
Indeed, such has been the bias displayed by certain quarters of the traditional print and broadcast media in the last few days that as a former national newspaper editor and foreign correspondent in the UK and Ireland for 25 years, even by the standards of ‘fly by your pants’ journalism, I’m shocked and disgusted by my colleagues, and it takes a lot to say that.
Almost within hours of Sunday morning’s events, The Irish Independent had already fingered “dissidents” as being responsible for the revenge attack against the security personnel shipped down from the North. As someone who’s edited these kind of stories, it was bewildering to see that The Indo had no evidence for its claims, nor any clarification as to whom these “dissidents” were. Republican, Loyalist, it didn’t matter.
The same newspaper within a day then extrapolated its bias by wheeling in a “notorious crime family” as being part of Sunday’s dawn attack, again with no evidence other than unnamed and not even quoted Garda sources, and further cemented its claim of “dissident” insidious control of events.
The aroma of creative license began to waft in the air. To a lesser extent, The Irish Times and broadcast media, especially RTE News, tried to play as straight a bat as they could. But hidden beneath their coverage, there was still a sense of them puting a perfumed handkerchief to their noses as they surveyed the “mad Rossie culchies” out West.
Ironically, it was the often derided tabloids, The Irish Sun and The Irish Mirror who gave the fairest and most accurate accounts, as far as they could, of what took place, and the real sense of outrage many of us in rural Ireland feel.
In fact, it was only these two tabloids who even reported the now notorious moment when one of the security personnel boasted about being “British” on a video clip in response to why he was helping evict an Irishman from his own home, a clip that has gone viral.
So, there have been calls to boycott The Indo, which is fair enough, and their reporters have been told to “f**k off back to Dublin” while reporting from outside the Falsk premises.
In fairness, and I’ve been there, it’s not the individual journalists’ fault. I know from experience that, when a publication has a mindset riddled with bias from the very editorial top, at times you have to fall into line. It ain’t pretty, and might leave a bad taste in your mouth of which you’re not proud, but it does help pay the bills at the end of the month.
No, the reason for such skewered coverage is the simple fact that not only does the Dublin media elite not, in the main, understand the outrage and solidarity that rural communities feel at times such as this, they just don’t care.
And in doing so, they ignorantly risk further compounding the decline in newspaper sales, in effect shooting themselves in the foot: because it has been to social media that the majority – even my 81-year-old mother on her mobile – have turned to search for the truth about events at Falsk.
With a glimpse into the Looking Glass, the traditional media have been Twittered-Out when it comes to this story.
Further proof: within hours, the Irish Daily Mail, for which I once worked, condemned everything that had happened at Falsk as protest masquerading as “criminality”.
No wonder their sales are falling through the floor like soup down a plughole.
Because if a newspaper, like a politician, loses touch with its readers, its constituency if you like, it loses everything.
And even more so when paltry propaganda masquerades as competent journalism.