Sunday 23 October 2016

Anton Savage: Not liberal? Well keep your mouth shut and head down 'til you learn

Darren Scully with Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Darren Scully with Taoiseach Enda Kenny
woman on facebook
BBC has apologised to MP Alec Shelbrooke for claiming he was 'resting his eyes' during debate in Westminster Pic: BBC Twitter
Graham Norton

Modern liberalism has lost its way since it became the establishment.

Originally, liberalism meant an openness to other people's views and lifestyles and an active fostering of free speech.

Not any more. Now it means selecting a set of people who are 'liberally acceptable' and supporting them, while pummelling anyone who expresses a differing viewpoint.

The modern movement is a long way from Voltaire's "I do not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it". It's more "I disagree with what you say and will attack you personally until you stop saying it, and anything like, it ever again".


Look at what happened when the country discovered that RTE's Jonathan Clynch was adding a 'Rachel' to his names and was 'gender fluid'.

Very few people said anything negative. Publicly. But all across the country, private conversations began "I know I'm not meant to say this, but..."

Anyone who was sceptical about, or opposed to the idea of gender fluidity knew that to say so in the wrong public context would result in them being set upon. That's not good.

People neither change, nor open, their minds as a result of being silenced or attacked. Change happens through dialogue and conversation. If those are stifled, minds stay closed and the owners of those minds seek fellow travellers - people who will share and reinforce the very views the liberal majority want changed.

The same process happened with the public discourse about the refugee crisis. In private, the conversations between fellow travellers happened about 'migration' versus 'asylum'. In public, few took the risk of commenting.

One of those few was Kildare Councillor Darren Scully who wrote to a newspaper (and subsequently appeared on my radio show) to suggest that the father of the little boy found dead on a Turkish beach had taken an unacceptable risk with the lives of his family and was seeking prosperity rather than safety.

Scully has a bit of form when it comes to public pronouncements on delicate issues - it was he who ended up resigning as Mayor of Naas because of comments he made about Africans (which he apologised for and retracted).

Whether or not he's right about Aylan Kurdi's father is not the point - we can be sure he is not the only public representative to hold such a view. But he may be the only one without the survival instinct to keep his mouth shut.


Since he made his comments he has unsurprisingly been attacked for being a 'racist', just like anyone who was silly enough to question 'gender fluidity' would have faced cries of 'bigot!'

An actually liberal society would be one where we have the collective capacity to say "I don't agree with you, and here's why", instead of leaping to immediate ad hominem attacks.

The last eight decades have taught us that repressing people (thankfully) does not change them. So rather than forcing the closed-minded into dark corners to self-reinforce, how about applying the same openness and respect to them, as is demanded of them?


Some things are better in person. Like almost everything on Facebook



Facebook is 'working on' a dislike button. Working on? It's a website lads, not a hadron collider. If you want to put on a dislike button, just frigging do it. The button is meant to address those difficult moments when 'like' may not be appropriate; 'My mother has just died' - Anton likes this.

They say it's going to be an empathy button, maybe even a 'hug'. Here's a novel idea; get the hell off Facebook. The fact that anyone is countenancing expressing condolences for bereavement over a website shows how insane the whole thing has become. No-one needs to catalogue their lives on their own personal webpage. No-one needs to update friends and family on their every move and every crappy picture. No-one needs to remove the healthy barrier between 'private' and 'public'. No-one ever needs to receive virtual sympathy and e-hugs.

We are now in the bizarre situation where not only do people offer condolences to each other on Facebook, they go so far as to express sadness on the pages of dead relatives. Private expressions of affection to someone, posted to them posthumously and publicly.

If you have a friend who is close enough to you to be able to supply real sympathy then they should damn well do it in person, or at least in private.

In some instances, technology can extend the reach of human warmth - skyping an adult child on the far side of the world shortens the distance to a bearable degree. But technology can't replace human warmth. Too often that's what it gets used for. A friend is someone you talk to, not a status. The last thing we need is a new way to avoid those conversations.

The new button Facebook really needs is one which says 'off' - and it should be placed somewhere prominent.


Deaf MP blunder shocks BBC


A Bad week for the BBC. They tweeted a picture of Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke looking like he was slumped over asleep during a debate in the House of Commons. They posted the picuture and suggested that he was "resting his eyes".

In fact, Mr Shelbrooke is partially deaf and was leaning his head nearer the speaker in the back of his chair. Unsurprisingly the picture was re-tweeted and re-tweeted until another news reporter posted an almost identical picture, with him in the exact same position only with his eyes open, showing that 'sleeping' was actually 'blinking'.

The BBC tweeted "heartfelt apologies" for what they said. Hopefully they'll henceforth concentrate more on reporting and less on trying to be smartasses.


Graham Norton said what now?


Graham Norton has tweeted a denial about quotes allegedly from him in the Radio Times. His tweet said that he hadn't done an interview in three months and had no idea where the quotes had come from. That is a shame. Because they're great quotes. X-Factor "seems so long now, it's endless. Also, the people aren't very good, so to all the judges' comments of 'I'd buy your album tomorrow' you think, 'You're never having an album'. You wouldn't throw 50p at them if they were busking in the Tube".

It's very odd that an apparently respectable magazine can get it so, so wrong. Although, even if he didn't say those words, you'd think he'd spot good copy when he sees it and claim 'em.


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