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Talking War

category national | anti-war / imperialism | feature author Sunday April 13, 2008 20:39author by Seán Ryan Report this post to the editors

featured image

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

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.

Fergal Keane
Fergal Keane

Patrick Smyth
Patrick Smyth

Joe Zefran
Joe Zefran

audio Audio of the debate - 2 hours approx. 16.86 Mb

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 13:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Ciaron O'Reilly
Ciaron O'Reilly

Harry Browne
Harry Browne

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar

author by Sean Ryanpublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 13:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Dahr Jamail
Dahr Jamail

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 22:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

RTE.ie have put up the video of this debate:


author by a-menpublication date Sat Apr 12, 2008 12:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

but do women in media not vouchsafe opinion on war?

PBPA seems the only group that truly does gender-balance their panels.


author by Miriam - MediaBitepublication date Sat Apr 12, 2008 14:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We tried very hard to have women panelists but there are very few working in war reporting and the few who are were not able to come.

author by redjadepublication date Sat Apr 12, 2008 14:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

thank you Seán Ryan for making an MP3 of the event - i wish all groups in ireland would make MP3s of their events - but to be frank, the audio sucks :-P

so I made my own recording
using http://rogueamoeba.com/audiohijack

.. .. ..

The Irish Times editor is editor is Geraldine Kennedy, it is a pity you couldn't convince her to come.

But there certainly are qualified female activists who could have spoken on the non-media side of the debate.

If I have the time I hope to write up a review of the whole show - well done to all involved, including the 'other side.' Very informative and many issues where revealed that I have not seen addressed in other similar forums on this issue. Pepe Escobar was correct when he said that kind of debate would be hard to imagine even in some western european countries.

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Sat Apr 12, 2008 15:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yup the audio sucks. I had two problems to overcome.

The first problem was that there were no speakers in the room, it was set up to broadcast live onto the web (lots of recording equipment but no playback equipment - and I'd not thought to bring a suitable cable to hook into Joe Zefran's equipment). So my mic (a very expensive one - but crap value for money) only picked up decent volume levels from the panel.

The second problem arose when I'd compiled the audio and brought up the volume somewhat of speakers other than the panel. The result was over 80MB in size, which meant either dramatically reducing the bit rate or breaking the audio into 5 parts. I went for the bit rate reduction thinking it'd be a crime to split up such an excellent debate. I might have over done it a tad :o)

I could have hosted the audio elsewhere or even have streamed it. Indy, to me, provides a location where my audio will stay forever (fingers crossed), I wouldn't trust any other hosting site in regard to this. Maybe in times to come regular audio posters wil be allowed to post substantial sized files?

But yup, there are very few places whereby a debate of this quality would happen. I dunno whether to be proud or disgusted.

I've included a link to the video of this event above in another comment, the audio's fine in that. I look forward to the day when RTE grows enough balls to screen what is essentially their own product.

author by Miriampublication date Sat Apr 12, 2008 16:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for your input on this - much appreciated. Geraldine Kennedy has never once replied to the many letters we have sent her about IT. Perhaps we should have invited her to speak but so far as Im aware she has never done any reporting from a war zone - and certainly not from Iraq.

The event was conceived as a discussion of the media by the media. For that reason we looked very hard for women war reporters and even tried the UK. There are few journalists in Ireland who have specific experience of reporting from war zones- not least because many papers no longer send reporters to cover them. Fergal Keane joked that The Independent seem to do most of their war coverage from the bar of the Shelbourne Hotel. We wanted to ensure as much as possible that the msm could not dismiss criticism on the basis that the person speaking didnt understand the reality of war reporting. We also wanted to put emphasis on the anti war campaign coverage and so invited Harry - again as a declared anti-war campaigner and experienced journalist, he has direct experience from both sides of the media fence - a combination that it's hard to find. Ciaron was the exception - with life-long experience of being written about in the media. That was the one overlooked possibility we had to invite a woman onto the panel. But Ciaron had already been invited before we had to give up on finding a woman journalist who was able to make it along. He did a superb job on the night so I find it very hard to express any regrets about having invited him.

author by Mariampublication date Sun Apr 13, 2008 18:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Congrats to mediabite, excellent work.

Re a woman on the panel, was Deidre Clancy invited? She would have been an obvious choice on the non media panel, and has journalistic experience also. While Ciaron Reilly has an interesting perspective, it would be different and more balanced to hear DC 's experience. If she was not invited, that unfortunately proves her point ( made on Route Irish thread ) that activist women have been sidelined within the alternative media.

author by Miriampublication date Sun Apr 13, 2008 18:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I wrote to Deirdre after she posted on the Route Irish thread to acknowledge that MediaBite had overlooked the possibility of having a woman activist.

author by gender Balancepublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 13:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It should be the first thing in your head when creating a panel. its that simple, it is not about tokenism.

Women experience war, women report war and women resist war.

This is a lack throughout Irish activism.

many Irish women would have an opinion on how war is reported in the irish and international media.

Mary Lou Mc Donald, Ailbhe Smith, Joan Collins, (Leftish)

Mary O Rourke, Liz O Donnell, ger Kennedy (Right- and editing Irish coverages)

author by third class citizenpublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 14:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mary Kelly immediately comes to mind,

I di d not attend this event in utter disgust at the exclusion of any women on the panel.

author by -publication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 17:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Glenda Cimino- I mean there are many women in anti-war, for some reason this does not translate
into power. go compute it...

there is an anti-war movement, an independent media movement and not one woman could
be found.

Elaine O Sullivan.
Dee Clancy.
Ailbhe Smith.
Glenda Cimino.

O, lets just go on strike!

author by Mariampublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 18:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Margaretta D'Arcy, documenting anti war for years? A wealth of experience like hers should not be discounted either!

author by another manpublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 19:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Both Ailbhe Smyth and Deirdre Clancy would have been excellent and could have taken the space occupied by Ciaron O'Reilly. Dunno about Glenda Cimino, who is only known to people around the IAWM. I have no idea who Elaine O'Sullivan is - who dat?

Anyway, it's a shame that either Ailbhe or Deirdre wasn't asked but I guess it's something to note for the next time. Can't roll back time.

author by Ciaron - Ploughshares/Catholic Workerpublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 20:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Both Ailbhe Smyth and Deirdre Clancy would have been excellent and could have taken the space occupied by Ciaron O'Reilly"

Thanx for volunteering my space dude. I went through the "Gentleman Jim" guidebook in Grade 7 under the Christian Brothers I think chapter 3 covered giving your seat up for a lady. Is that the point you're making here?

People who attended -panelists, organisers, audience - seemed happy with my contribution, so don't fret. Just put me down as a token member of the working class. I don't know most of the possible alternates listed above or if they are still active against this war. I guess I get these gigs (they are rare in Ireland I don't think I got many invitations in my 5 years based here....I created most of my own gigs on a soapbox in Temple Bar) because I have been a direct actionist for 30 years. This either displays incredible consistency or a lack of imagination.

When I accepted this invitation a couple of months ago, I didn't know the gender, ethnic, class make up of the panel and I didn't (and don't) care. I thought it was an RTE/media gig not an anti-war gig. I have a policy of never knocking back a speaking gig, so I took it. Unless I missed something I think it was a media gig.

Related Link: http://www.peaceontrial.com
author by Third class citizenpublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 12:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"I created most of my own gigs on a soapbox in Temple Bar) because I have been a direct actionist for 30 years"

"I don't know most of the possible alternates listed above or if they are still active against this war"

Maybe you should to get down off your soap box and try to listen to others .I followed the cw5 trial and noticed the women being overshadowed by yourself and Damian Moran .You made bad decisions while on trial without consulting them for instance the radio interveiw on democracy now your second or third day into trial to name one.May I add that this is not a personal attack but a statement of fact.

It would seem women in activism are given as little regard as elseware in this society.Sad.

author by Ciaron - Ploughshares/Catholic Workerpublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 12:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Maybe you should to get down off your soap box and try to listen to others .I followed the cw5 trial and noticed the women being overshadowed by yourself and Damian Moran"

You should try soapboxing, you've got to listen and there's a lot of scope for interjecting. You have to think on your feet, but that would quite you thinking at all which you fail to do this with this comment.

How could any of the defendants overshadow anyone else when we were being fully represented?
We all had our party piece testimony and that was it. The first trial collapsed after my testimony but I can hardly be blamed for that. Being fully represented was something I argued against at defendant meetings and deferred to.....I put my position, I listened, I deferred and was reluctantly represented (very unusual for plowshares community to be fully represented - at our New York B52 trial we represented ourselves)

"on trial without consulting them for instance the radio interveiw on democracy now your second or third day into trial to name one.May I add that this is not a personal attack but a statement of fact."

How do you know they or the legal team weren't consulted? This interview worked to our advantage on recross examination as it was pointed out that Bishop Gumbleton was sharing the phone booth and interview with me and we were able to point to his presence in the courtroom and outline his opposition to the war.

If you think middle class professional women are in a stronger social position than working class men with criminal records, we would have a disagreement.

There is a war on, people are being killed today by troops passing through your airport. The anti-war movement in Ireland might be long over but the war continues and is about to escalate.

Yes the Irish left is predominantly male but is also painfully middle class and timid. It ran a mile from the Ploughshares and now it is running a mile from the Raytheon 9. Being on such a panel is not some kind of award ceremony or vanity project it was an attempt to inject some activist politics into a disengaged society. Disengaged to a large part by the role of the media.

It doesn't sound you were at the event, I haven't heard any complaints by anyone who was. It doesn't sound like you've watched the debate here....go back do that and come up with some real criticism about what I said. There's not a lot I can do about my gender but if you have any relevant criticism I'll take it on board and try to amend my beliefs and behavior.

Related Link: http://www.peaceontrial.com
author by auntiewarpublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 12:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ciaron at least is quite rational.

Some of the suggested women aren't very. (you probably know who I mean)

(Some like deirdre clancy would be excellent)

There are plenty of daft irrational men too. We don't want those either.

We just want a rational person who can speak, be they man or woman.

Ciaron did that job admirably.

The last thing the cause needs is somebody being daft in a public talk

What is most important here? tokenism or the cause itself?

author by disappointedpublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 16:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Congrats Ciaron, sounds like the debate was very worthwhile. I hate this "must have a woman regardless of how good they are" shit. The content of the contribution is much more important than the gender of the contributor. You’re right too about the middle class being uncomfortable with working class speakers.

author by co-ordinatorpublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 18:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The thread is about Talking war- and only men are intelligent and savvy enough to
do so- the women afterall are in the kitchen thinking about the childer.!

why is everyone talking about Ciaron?


author by Ciaron - Ploughshares/Catholic Workerpublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 22:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You'd hope the thread would be by people who were present, or watched it online, critiquing the debate.

The issues being about how Ireland has been lulled by the media, and other factors (like lefty opportunism and piss poor leadership in the anti-war movement) , into accepting 1 million troop movements (Irish Times) on the way to an illegal war, 1 million dead Iraqis (Lancet Report) and 4,000 dead young Americans most of whose last port of call was Shannon Airport.

The thread unfortunately has departed into the machinations of a small pc subculture. Maybe it's easier subcultural battles than the countercultural demands of sustained resistance to the war.

We have no anti-war movement to get disappointed in, we have a remnant. It's a joke that the Irish government have spent 7million euros over the last two years policing a nonexistent movement from making incursions into Shannon Airport..

Fair play to all those folks who maintain a public opposition from the monthly vigil at Shannon to the weekly presence at the GPO to the Raytheon 9 facing the music.

Why is this thread attacking me? Although mainstream women journos were approached they refused the offer to put the Irish media's case at this debate. That is not my problem. Some anonymous dweeb suggested I should have been replaced....I challenged that. And people who weren't at the debate, or bothered to watch it online ,have interpreted this as an invitation to an ass kicking party. I met a student today who was at the debate, she suggests 40% of those who attended were students of the institute from a broad variety of schools.

So yes let's start commenting on the debate "Reporting War" rather than getting lost in identity politics.

Related Link: http://www.peaceontrial.com
author by Miriampublication date Wed Apr 16, 2008 19:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm sorry that the substantive issues the debate was about seem to have been sidelined here.

We wanted to set up a deabate that was demonstrably fair and unbiased. We invited people to participate so as to ensure that would happen - i.e. that the mainstream media would have a fair and reasonable chance to describe its role, across a broad spectrum of views in reporting the war and also that those who were critical of them would have a fair and reasonable chance to say what they thought msm had got wrong.

We did our very best within that to ensure gender balance but for the main part that was not possible through no fault of ours. As Ciaron has said, this was intended as a 'media gig' primarily. I'd happily take up the issue of underrepresentation of women in news reporting but please don't confuse symptoms with causes here. That there are so few women in war/foreign news reporting is not our fault.

author by Radioheadpublication date Thu Apr 17, 2008 02:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The RealPlayer on my system had a critical error half way through the introductory ad, so video on RTE was out. When I clicked More Info, nothing happened. Same happened in IE and Firefox..

Redjade's audio has better sound, but the quality is terrible - i.e., it keeps skipping. The length of his hijacked audio is 1 hour 15 mins, as opposed to two hours in the original.

So, unfortuneately, no dice.

Personally, I've only heard of two people on the panel - Ciaron O'Reilly and Feargal Keane - does this really matter?

I found Mariam PC's condescention of Ciaron as having an 'interesting perspective' but he's not a woman type thing, to be patronising to women, also. It is the message that counts - if only I could hear it. I don't see much difference between the substance of Kate Adie or Feargal Keane, between Brian Farrell or Miriam O'Callaghan, between Thatcher and Reagan, Condy Rice or Colin Powell.

Re Seán's technical problems - and fair play, by the way:
I've found that on the editing programme Adobe Audition, you can Normalize or otherwise amplifyquieter sections with adding to file-size. kbps remains the same.

For events that aren't amplified, or even just street-sounds, there are two alternatives that I've found ver good.
a). Using a Panasonic clip-mike (stereo) which cost me E30 and $50 when I've bought it (twice after losing the first one). No battery needed
For voice interviews, even in the very loudest of environs, A little Sony condensor mic (takes a walkman battery) which cost about E100 -

b). Sony do a batteryless clip mike that costs about E80 and has a clip for brilliant stereo ambience and far recording, and for unidirectional.

I've all three mikes, but only names of make, not model. The thing is, going against conventional wisdom and expert advice, I find that the right cheap mike is as good as anything out there and it's more expendible should anything or anyone befall it.

author by Miriampublication date Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is viewable here:


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