herald

Wednesday 19 December 2018

nuanced

On Tuesday's Today with Pat Kenny, Misha Glenny, author of a book called Dark Matter: Cyberthieves, Cybercops and You, told Pat all about the ways nefarious internet criminals defraud ordinary punters.

It was a good-humoured conversation, with Glenny explaining how hackers and phishers operated while Pat asked pertinent questions.

"You know the way a guy will put up a picture of himself, he'll borrow a male model's six pack and stick his own head on top and try to find a girl on the internet only to lead to disappointment when they finally meet in the Odeon Bar?" Pat said, which was, by any standards, troublingly specific.

Glenny just chuckled and gave some amusing examples of fake online personas, but he was missing the subtext of Pat's question. ("Just be yourself, Pat!" I shouted helpfully from my radio-reviewing armchair.)

"Do cats have souls?" Pat pondered on Wednesday as Atheist Ireland's Michael Nugent and religious geneticist Miguel DeArce debated the existence of God or Thor or Zeus (Nugent felt all these deities were relevant).

It was a nuanced discussion with interesting points made by all three participants (including Pat), but after Michael introduced the issue of cat souls, it was the "ensoulment" of cats (Pat's word) that caught the imagination. "I think on this pretty intriguing question 'Does a cat go to heaven?' we will adjourn our debate," said Pat.

Do economists have souls? Do they go to heaven or hell or limbo (and I don't mean the Smurfit Business School)? On Sunday, The Dunphy Show was panelled up with Dan O'Brien, Peter Brown and Constantin Gurdiev, a whole gloom of financial types (a "gloom" is the collective noun for economists). The first half hour was a discussion of the presidential race, an entertaining waste of time given most of them dismissed the whole thing as "an X Factor event" (Peter Brown's words) that was ultimately irrelevant. Only former presidential hopeful Neil O'Dowd felt it was in any way important.

A listener called Darren got in touch to quibble with Dunphy about this. "I suggest you have two options: Sam Smyth or Marian Finucane, Darren," said Dunphy matter of factly, and soon the panel were in their comfort zone, jargoning away and interrupting one another about how doomed we were economically.

"Are you an austerity hawk?" Eamon Dunphy asked Yoda-like econo-hipster Constantin Gurdiev repeatedly, after Gurdiev had savaged the opinions of left-wing economist Paul Krugman.

"I don't know what an austerity hawk is," said Gurdiev, but then went on to talk sarcastically about "love [ing] cuddly soft animals", which made me think that not only was he an "austerity hawk" but he was probably even dressed as one, with feathers and a beak and everything.

By Tuesday, economics were shelved so we could gossip about Martin McGuinness and the presidential campaign.

Joe Duffy sounded slightly surprised when McGuinness topped Liveline's "unscientific" radio poll, and on Wednesday's Today with Pat Kenny Fintan O'Toole attacked McGuinness's murky past and his suggestion that his critics were West Brits. Then Eamon Dunphy, detoxed from economics, gave a spirited defence of McGuinnes on Newstalk Lunchtime and said that he would, in fact, vote for him though this might "cost me my job at Newstalk".



tribute

Curiously, the archive documentary RTE uploaded this week was a tribute to Fine Gael leader Richard Mulcahy. Recorded after his death in 1971, it featured Kevin Nowlan, Earnest Blythe, John A Costello and a young Brian Farrell. You could practically smell cigars and brandy as they discussed minutiae since lost to the broad strokes of history, but it was still relevant in one respect: Richard Mulcahy, like many of his generation, was no stranger to armed insurrection (although, as John A Murphy observed, Mulcahy's party were once considered "West British"). Mainstreaming our gunmen is an old tradition.

And as Olivia O'Leary put it in her excellent radio essay on Drivetime, unpalatable as many might find McGuinness's candidature (and I find it unpalatable), we can't expect Northern unionists to do business with him if we can't do the same. "We might not like it," she said, referring to the spectacle of McGuinness on the campaign trail, "but this was the deal."

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