By Patrick Brogan
The dust has still not settled on the recent American presidential election. This is not surprising given the divisive nature of the two main candidates. The American media, by-and-large, did an extremely poor job of covering this election. Everything was covered with a particular angle depending on which candidate the publication supported.
The Media and “Fake News”
A lot of time and attention has been given to what has been dubbed as “fake news”. Much of this has been centred on the criticism of the Podesta emails and a controversy called Pizzagate that alleged there are paedophile connections to the Clintons. The Trump bandwagon went into overdrive, particularly online. The mainstream media branded these people as crackpots. The type that sit in their room all day wearing tinfoil hats. Maybe these claims are being dismissed too easily. The Catholic Church and the revelations of Jimmy Saville’s crimes have shown that paedophilia, if not practiced, is certainly covered up at the very top. Add to this Bill Clinton’s long established friendship with convicted child sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein.
There does appear to be double standards within the media and society when it comes to the Clintons and their campaign. Her supporters took to the streets to protest over Trump’s election because Hillary Clinton got more votes and therefore, should be the president. However, these same protestors were strangely silent when it became clear that Democratic National Convention rigged their election in Hillary’s favour. Then, The Washington Post and New York Times decided to cover over this with a fake news story of their own claiming Russian intelligence was behind these emails ending up with Wikileaks without offering any evidence. Hearsay from unnamed CIA sources was the best they had.
Many news sources, both in print and online, failed in the basics of journalism. Whether that’s the Trump-affiliated Breitbart and World News Daily telling outright mistruths, the Clinton supporting mainstream media glossing over certain facts or the likes of The Huffington Post and Mother Jones completely overreacting to events and taking them out of context, they are guilty. They all accuse each of spreading conspiracy theories and in a way, they are all correct. Also, has there ever been a time when the news was “real”? If you scratch the surface just a little you will find most news sources have molded their stories to fit an agenda somewhere along the way.
Yeah, it’s been a tough time for us news folk. It’s been worse for those that want reliable news but have nowhere to turn to get it. Social media still has a huge role to play in authentic news, despite the recent fake news scandal. On Friday, I was thinking where does the media go from this point. On Twitter, #promnotes and #OccupyNama were trending. #promnotes referred to the TD Joan Collins challenging the constitutionality of the promissory notes Anglo-Irish Bank, amongst others, secured from the Government and the #OccupyNama trend were the tweets about various artists and campaigners occupying Apollo House in Dublin to highlight the issue of homelessness in the capital.
Both are huge stories, probably relating to the two biggest issues in Ireland today. The micro and the macro. One challenges the bank bailouts that have bled the economy of Ireland dry over nearly a decade which led to the austerity measures and the other illustrates the impact this has had on those in society. A degree of irony they were trending on the same day, perhaps?
Why are the Promissory Notes Important?
For a few different reasons, but the main thing is they show exactly how austerity is doomed to fail. A promissory note is essentially an IOU drawn up between business and financial institutions and is a common occurrence with governments around the world as well. They are slightly more complicated than that, involving terms of repayment like dates and interest. If you want more information try Investopedia.
The crux of Deputy Collins’s arguement is that the promissory notes are unconstitutional. Under Article 28 of the Irish Constitution, this matter should have been discussed in the Dáil. Instead, parliament was bypassed. Joan Collins is not alone in her fear that this will set a dangerous precedent when it comes to legislating financial laws. The Government justified this by declaring it was an emergency measure and the same criteria don’t apply. If politicians are given carte blanche when it comes to financial laws, God help us all. They made a bad situation far worse, butchered the economy and let those most responsible off the hook. They truly are unqualified to handle the situation because their understanding of economics and money is seriously flawed.
The Journal and Stephen Donnelly have both said the money given back to the Central Bank is destroyed, taken out of circulation because it was created from thin air. There are many that claim this is how all money is created, but by private banks. The courts didn’t share the same view of the promissory notes as The Irish Times reported; “The six-judge court unanimously dismissed Ms Collins arguments that the 2008 law under which the notes were issued was unconstitutional because it permitted the minister to issue unlimited public funds without a Dáil vote.” Whilst the court was convening, the number of homeless people continues to grow at a terrifying rate.
If you’re not Irish, you probably never heard of Nama. The National Assets Management Agency was set up to protect the Irish property market after the financial crash of 2008. After its foundation in 2009, Nama took over the bad or at-risk property loans in order to stem the crisis. It has had a number of controversies since its creation, including Project Eagle, when Cerberus bought the Northern Ireland portfolio. Numerous economists have criticised the organisation claiming it makes no sense on a number of levels.
As Nama controls, or owns, the buildings that fall under its remit, many buildings in Dublin are vacant while the homeless die out on the streets. It’s this level of absurdity that has prompted Irish musicians like Glen Hansard, Christy Moore and Damien Dempsey, along with director Jim Sheridan and various other members of trade unions and homelessness advocates to form Home Sweet Home. As one of the founders, Brendan Ogle, said, as reported in The Irish Times; “We are going to go in, turn on the electricity, turn on the water, turn on the heating and gather up as many homeless people as need a roof over their head. This has been very well planned and the building is safe.” Some media have reported that the owners are taking legal action.
This is described as a citizens intervention and as the Irish taxpayers fund Nama, the Irish people ultimately own this building and have decided homelessness is no longer acceptable. I described this as a Dubin issue earlier, but the reality is this is a nationwide problem and one that successive governments had no contingency for. ^Very unlike Irish politicians.^
We Need Social Media
Although the Irish mainstream media covered these stories, they were wasn’t a whole lot of depth. This becomes more apparent when we look at the diversity of opinion on these topics on Twitter. Although the online publications and social media sites have come in for some heavy criticism in recent weeks, some of it deserved, social media and alternative sites still have huge roles in getting stories out in the public domain that the more established sources won’t touch with a barge pole. Since these sites came into being, the big boys have covered stories they normally wouldn’t have because they know the smaller independent publications will get there ahead of them.
There may be an awful lot of crackpots and conspiracy theorists out there, but we must consider that no other generation has ever had the almost unlimited amount of knowledge at their fingertips the way we do. It just means we have to sift a bit more to get to the good stuff. Alternative sites are hugely important and we must protect and cherish them.
Speaking of social media;