anti-war / imperialism |
Sunday April 13, 2008 20:39 by Seán Ryan
Seán Ryan reports on a frank and open discussion with the Mainstream Media with regard to how they report the war. Organised by Miriam Cotton and David Manning of MediaBite
, and hosted by DIT, the discussion featured both working journalists and anti-war activists.
Pepe Escobar - Asia Times / Real News Network
Dahr Jamail - Independent Journalist
Patrick Smyth - Irish Times Foreign Editor
Joe Zefran - RTE.ie News Editor
Harry Browne - DIT lecturer and journalist
Ciaron O'Reilly - Anti-war Activist
Fergal Keane - RTE Journalist
View the debate streamed at RTÉ.ie
Download the MP3 at archive.org
As a person who’s against the facilitation of the US war machine, I’d have arranged such a debate whereby the panellists would have been allowed to, if not encouraged to, to viscerally gut each other. From watching last night’s event, I know that this would have been completely the wrong approach, it would have widened gulfs rather than seek common ground. Instead, the facilitator, Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times and The Real News Network, put quotes from the mainstream media to the panel and called for these to be discussed.
Eamonn Crudden, independent film-maker, opted out of the discussion when it was alleged that the panel was unbalanced with regard to numbers and thus fairness. This left us with a panel where each side had three members. Personally, I’d been looking forward to hearing Eamonn, who has a habit of constantly surprising me, by illuminating issues in ways that I could never hope to be able to. Nonetheless, I must admit that I was still delighted with the debate and how it went.
I won’t go into too many details of the content of the debate as I recorded it and would prefer folks to hear what actually occurred, rather than offer a second-hand view of what went on. I will say this though; I came away from this event thinking that if the mainstream media had been as honest and open in their respective fields as their journalists were, in offering what they had to say last night, I’d have no major issues with them. Don’t get me wrong, I disagree totally with some of the viewpoints expressed, but there’s nothing wrong with folks having differing opinions, it encourages growth. Growth is what I feel resulted from last night’s talk. Thank the heavens, that I had nothing to do with organising this, it would have been highly entertaining but growth wouldn’t have been the outcome.
Speaking for the mainstream panel we had: Fergal Keane of RTE, Patrick Smyth of the Irish Times and Joe Zefran of RTE.ie
Fergal Keane surprised me. He’s a man with a passion for what he does. Had some poor unfortunate solicited my opinion on RTE journalists before last night, I’d have generalised and said that they churn out the same tired shite time and time again and that they must hate themselves and their lives. Whilst I still hold this opinion on many of them, Fergal has shown that I might be wrong (about hating themselves and their lives that is). Fergal struck me as a journalist who lives to bring us the news and I just wish that RTE would broadcast journalism with the heart and indeed the clarity shown by Fergal. Again I completely disagree with a lot of Fergal’s viewpoints, but at least now I see why Fergal holds these views. His honesty and readiness to admit that they are views rather than divine revelations has the effect of disarming conflict.
Patrick Smyth, Foreign Editor of the Irish Times, a good speaker and indeed very open to discussion, provided a calm and collected picture that sadly, is mostly missing from the Times. For me the difference between the Patrick Smyth who spoke last night and the Patrick Smyth I encounter in the Times is context.
Joe Zefran, News Editor for RTE.ie is a guy I’ve taken a like to. He readily gave me a hand setting up my audio equipment when I first arrived and offered to email me a copy of the audio if my recording didn’t work out. Joe was the comedian of the group - and I don’t mean to take from his intellectual input into the discussion by saying this - he managed to diffuse one or two tense parts of the talk with his quick humour. Readers will have to listen to the audio to hear how he spun the meaning of the word “claim.” I found his input to be both rational and thought provoking.
Batting for the home team we had: Ciaron O’Reilly of the Catholic Worker, Harry Browne of Village Magazine and lecturer at DIT, and Dahr Jamail independent journalist and author.
Ciaron O’Reilly was the same old same old, that is to say, brilliant. His incredible wit and speed of thought often astonish those around him. It was no different last night. His knowledge and insight regarding international conflict makes him a very hard man to contradict. This plays a vibrant contrast to the fact that the mainstream media in Ireland often play him and his equally brilliant Ploughshares fellow activists as common and mindless thugs. Ciaron’s depth of knowledge and insight left anyone who’d have disagreed with him without the means to do so.
Harry Browne. What can I say? Harry’s obviously an intellectual but with added the ability to come off as ‘one of the lads.’ Harry’s passion for and comprehension of the issues, often to be found in Village magazine, did not desert him last night. He was an essential ingredient in this panel.
Dahr Jamail, independent journalist and author of the acclaimed book “Beyond the Green Zone,” is a journalist, one of the very few, who’s actually chased down his material personally in Iraq, well beyond the Green Zone. Dahr’s incredibly gutsy methodology is well coupled to his ability to explain what’s going on in no-nonsense terms. I’d be very happy indeed if Irish broadsheets were to pick up on Dahr’s work, rather than constantly relying on wire services and unnamed US officials. To sum Dahr up: wow!
Finally, but far from least, we had Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times and the Real News Network, acting as both the referee and the inquisitor. This was a paradox he played with keen ability and insight. Though he admitted to not being very familiar with Irish mainstream journalism, he is very familiar with how it works (or from my perspective, how it doesn’t work). His easygoing approach and indeed his cache of knowledge on this subject facilitated a very lively and amicable discussion.
All that’s left for me to say is: well done MediaBite, I’m very impressed. MediaBite has lived up to what for me is its ethos because of this event. It is the conscience of the media. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Audio of the debate - 2 hours approx.