Please consider this an official complaint about the cringe-making “apology” made by RTE’s Brendan O’Connor on The Saturday Night Show of January 25th last and indeed about RTE’s inept handling of the matter in general since the original broadcast of the same show, featuring Rory O’Neill, on January 11th 2014.
The reason I make this complaint is because O’Connor was apologising for the comments made by one of the most entertaining and interesting guests he ever been lucky enough to interview on his usually catatonia inducing, televisual-tranquiliser of a chat show. I had read that ‘Panti’ would appear on the show and I was keen to see how the sketch would play out. When I realised I had missed the show I did something I’ve never done before and actually purposely switched to RTE’s +1 channel to watch. I found the sketch to be very entertaining and I was surprised to learn that there was also an interview with Mr. O’Neill afterwards. The interview was nothing if not entirely relevant to our society today and refreshingly candid and light hearted in its delivery.
Now, in my opinion, on the January 11th instalment of the show some very timely and diplomatically worded comments were made by that guest suggesting that the material published by certain ‘opinion piece writers’ and some members of a church affiliated ‘institute’ can be classed as homophobic. To the majority of the news literate, media savvy Irish people this did not serve as any form of glittering, rainbow-spangled, RTE Newsflash. Rory O’Neill has only said what the majority of right thinking people in this country have long known to be the case. So where is the problem? If the ‘opinion piece writers’ and their ilk at the odious ‘institute’ in question pursue their piteous cases through the courts they will come to learn what the expression “chickens coming home to roost” means. This will happen when their fear-mongering-hackery and distasteful, unverifiable, US right-wing, lunatic-fringe-fed claims, made in certain YouTube videos return to haunt them as evidence. This material would fully support Mr. O’Neill’s plainly well informed and entirely reasonable comments. The great thing about publishing any form of content is that you cannot ever truly erase all evidence of its existence after the fact to retract it.
While Rory O’Neill’s astute views may not be the views of a painfully impotent RTE, and indeed while RTE would like to apologise for any upset or distress caused to the pathetically self-indulgent individuals or organisations named or identified, it’s unacceptable to me that RTE should try to absolve itself of any culpability with regard to the naming and shaming of those in question. Displaying great decorum, the guest had deliberately chosen at first not to name anyone specifically. The guest made reference to ‘opinion piece writers’ and ‘internet comments section’ contributors. For the majority of the audience that would have sufficed; we all bloody well knew who he meant. Mr. O’Connor may be unaware of it but this was a display of something called diplomacy. Clearly, a gay ‘diplomat’ acting on behalf of the LGBTQ community is not someone that the offended parties were happy to see being given airtime by our national broadcaster. Unfortunately, RTE’s employee actually played directly into their hands when he enticed, no, encouraged his guest to name the individuals or groups to whom he was (very obviously) alluding. Some of us read the papers you see and have already formed our own opinions on such matters. Are we permitted to still do that in this country? Seemingly some of us are not. Far from making accusations of homophobia coupled with a colourful show of histrionics, Rory O’Neill delivered what was probably the best assessment I have ever heard of just how very innocuous homophobia can be made to appear to the reasonable onlooker. This is what allows homophobia, racism and the likes to be so pervasive. If people deliver a dose of homophobic commentary in what appears to be reasonable terms, it seems perfectly rational and acceptable to the innocent or inexperienced. Yet if one calls a spade a spade and publically describes this sort of recurring diatribe as homophobic material, one automatically becomes guilty of defamation. Really?
How RTE could have the sheer gall, or think it okay, to now further demonize an entire community by censoring and silencing (good luck with that!) a high profile representative of same, while simultaneously washing its hands of any responsibility for that is frankly beyond me. It’s also undoubtedly just as nauseating to anyone with any grasp of either fairness or balance. The apology was nothing short of a blatant insult to the intelligence of RTE’s viewers not to mention a pointed attack on a respected gay rights advocate. Call it what you will but the TV licence fee is a tax. Any financial compensation made to the so-called “victims” of the opinions expressed ought to be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee given its responsibility to guarantee “that the taxpayer receives value for money for every euro spent”. I have gleaned from the limited reporting on the matter, that part of my TV licence fee has just been handed over to an ‘institution’ which has spent a great deal of time and effort on a witch hunt of people such as myself in an effort to deprive us of equal rights. I’d like to know why I’ve been affronted in this way by a public service body that I annually contribute to the finances of, as a taxpaying citizen.
If it is “an important part of democratic debate that people must be able to hold dissenting views on controversial issues” then by redacting the interview to remove Rory O’Neill’s totally valid comments which are PATENTLY HIS OPINION – and an opinion many would share – RTE has entirely contradicted itself and undermined its own closing assertion. In pandering to those injured parties who were allegedly defamed by someone which the odious ‘institute’ would have my ‘mammy’ believe to be a wicked, grimacing, Disney-like drag queen and homosexual deviant, RTE has delivered STILLBORN the chances of any such dissenting views likely being aired in the future. This comes at a time when a referendum on marriage equality is fast approaching. RTE has now done more to stifle the voice of the Irish LGBTQ community in the Irish media than the ‘institute’ could have hoped to do alone.
RTE has very clearly been cowed by shameless, fundamentalist bullies who expect to be permitted to serve up their inimitable class of bile about an entire section of modern Irish society with impunity and through every channel of media available to them. Yet, those same people appear to believe that they mustn’t be called out for this and collectively flew into a strop when they couldn’t handle a single return volley, delivered in a defiantly upbeat tone, by a solitary gay man. At least the subsequent events illustrate that they couldn’t handle it without crying foul play and rushing to the sides of their legal counsel to demand that the speaker, with an opinion contrary to their own regularly exercised view, be immediately and retrospectively censored. How completely and utterly pathetic in the extreme was that reaction from anyone purporting to be a “journalist”? I won’t even broach the subject of my revulsion for the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s connection to this story because that is quite literally the straw that broke the camel’s back.
RTE has disgraced itself with initial excuses about Tom O’Gorman’s passing as reason for editing the version of the show available online; this was unforgivable in my opinion. It has also caused grievance to its own guest who had the temerity in daring to mention the great, walloping, elephant in the room that is homophobia in Irish society and more controversially, in Irish media and social media commentary. This should be merely the beginning of a conversation but it appears it is not one that certain such ‘elephant herders’ relish engaging in on equal terms.
Worst of all though, RTE has miserably failed its benefactors, i.e. the entire TV licence fee paying public, which it is reputed to serve and represent as both our media flagship and national broadcaster. In my view RTE’s position as claiming to be representative of, or serving, the Irish public as a legitimate public service broadcaster is now entirely untenable because it patently no longer speaks for – what I maintain to be – the majority view of the population and, outrageously, will censor some of that population at the bidding of particular groups. The audience on The Saturday Night Show of January 11th broke into rapturous applause in support of Rory O’Neill’s assessment of the opinions of certain characters mentioned. Would those characters have us believe that all of these people, and the very many who agreed with them at home, are anarchistic deviants on a quest to destroy either the reputations of journalists, ‘institutions’, or indeed marriage and society as we know them? To my mind, RTE has now relegated itself to the comical and passé realm of the “French letter”, the “fallen woman” and the “love that dare not speak its name”. Welcome everyone to DeValera’s Ireland of Cultural Conservatism, in The Year Of Our Lord, 2014.
In this particular household RTE is now seen as a confirmed irrelevance. As a national media outfit RTE now resembles little more than a toothless, pallid and flaccid embarrassment to the real people of modern Ireland. FLACCID, much like the case made by those RTE has defended at the expense of its own integrity. The sooner Irish society is free from the bogeyman tactics of glorified hacks and the self-righteous Opus-Dei-Wannabes RTE has acted to protect here, as well as from the taxpayer leeching gravy train that is RTE itself, the better for us all.
To quote a great Irish man: “I just … you know … just … feck off! Get the hell out of my life! Get out of my life!”