Monday, October 09, 2006

The Nasty Sty - That Other Corruption in Irish Public Life

The Star - more sewer than gutter journalismIs it just An Spailpín Fánach, or are other people becoming distressed and depressed with the shocking lack of standards in Irish media and Irish public life generally?

This hasn’t to do with money – I’m talking about old fashioned things like manners, respect for other people, for due process of law, for keeping a civil tongue in one’s head. Right now we don’t seem to know what is and what isn’t acceptable in public discourse and in our interaction with others.

The headline on this morning’s “Irish” Daily Star is “Stop this Bullshit.” The bullshit in question has to do with the Republic of Ireland soccer team, whose fans are, famously, de best in de wurrld. An Spailpín is generally grumpy in the morning; his humour is not improved by being sworn at in the newsagents, which is what this newspaper is doing this morning. It’s absolutely shocking that the Star would print this on their front page, it’s shocking that newsagents would stock it, to say nothing of display it, and it’s shocking that people are now so low and beastly that they would tolerate it. This is sewer, not gutter, "journalism."

A friend of An Spailpín, recently returned to Dublin, was on an escalator in the St Stephen’s Green shopping centre yesterday, Sunday morning. There was a child of ten or so on the step ahead of him. He had a patch on his jeans, which displayed a clenched fist with the middle finger extended in a familiar pose. In case a passer-by was unfamiliar with sign language, the legend under the patch spelled out its message – “Fuck you,” it said. Nice.

It’s hard to blame a child as children, by definition, know no better. But presumably this youth has at least one parent, or some sort of adult in a supervisory role, who thinks it’s ok for his or her child to wander about with “fuck you” emblazoned on his trousers. And if, as appears increasingly likely, there’s a whole tribe of them out there then God help us all.

It seems that the worst thing you can be accused of in Celtic Tiger Ireland is hypocrisy. We cannot tell young people not to swear because we swear ourselves; to forbid the young people to swear would make us hypocrites. To disallow Ger Colleran to print the world “bullshit” on the front of his newspaper is hypocritical, as “bullshit” was exactly the way the game was being described in the pubs of Ireland on Saturday night. To disallow Mr Colleran the full richness of the language would not only be an act of hypocrisy but an act of censorship, something else we abhor.

Hypocrisy is not a noble character trait. As a virtue, it pales besides being charitable or good natured or delivering soup to the wretched of the Earth. But there are worse traits. Demagoguery comes to mind. Poor parenting. Ignorant behaviour. Just plain bad manners, showing an utter disrespect for your fellow man come to mind. Maybe as nation we ought to make a decision on which we consider the lesser of two strains of bullshit, before we’re overcome by the stench arising from wallowing in foulness.

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