Parade banned – public yawns…

NEWTON Emerson makes a strongly-worded case against Sir Reg Empey’s decision to pick the wrong battle to launch his leadership on – parades. Thérèse McKenna hops on a high horse in today’s Irish News and suggests Newt’s article is a horribly offensive diatribe that grossly over-generalises in its satirisation of the downtrodden Ulster underclass. It is, Thérèse. That’s why, even though both articles raise serious points, his is funny too.But is ordering journalists to “lay off” the rioting spides and telling the media that “parades should not be so high on the news agenda” dealing with reality (or any less high-handed than Emerson) – particularly when your own column is on the other side of a front page lead which talks of “fears” of a potential loyalist feud? But to single out any media outlet would be unfair. Fear and violence sells newspapers, which is why Thérèse is on a loser from the outset.

In addition, there has been precious little coverage of Drumcree recently, for the simple reason that we’re all bored to tears of it and it had lost its momentum. This morning, only Daily Ireland splashed with parades news (headline: Parade decision heightens fears). Like Orlaith McAllister’s tits, parades here have suffered from over-exposure in the media, and inevitably, what was once seen as sexy will appear mundane once the audience’s attention shifts to the next big thing. The backlash has started – if the parades issue was indeed built up with hype, maybe it can be knocked down by ignoring it.

But is all this really the “reckless approach” to reporting parades issues to which Thérèse refers? She writes:

Stories of what might happen, what hasn’t happened, what ought to happen and what won’t happen clutter column inches, serving to build tension and create a climate of fear and foreboding.

More nefarious, however, are opinion pieces that demonise and denigrate those whom we don’t understand. Stand up Newton Emerson, for last week’s tirade was beyond mischief.

A thousand curses with the alliterative force of bullets were rained down on “the dregs of society”, “our over-indulged under-class” who like to march and drink and annoy and wave their flags. Loyalist women were painted as cows in an extended metaphor that sneered at the common fashion for a cheap tan. Obesity – not a problem for people of class – was used as a stick with which to beat the men. Newton willed them all to go back home to their widescreen TVs (a dig at the desire for instant gratification of those who can’t see much of a future) and cease sullying his landscape.

Too easy. Much too easy to laugh at the most abandoned, most cheated and misled, most socially deprived people in the north. And just as the grumbling US liberal press loudly mocking the Bush-voting majority will not win over a single red-state heart, moderates in Northern Ireland shouting “ya boo sucks” at those on the swollen extremes only push us further apart.

Surely it would be more useful to seek the whys and wherefores, to conceive of root causes why July is a month for many to act out?

Maybe even to go for those directing the chaos, those who wish to keep their own in misery because appetites for violence will be slim if you plant the seeds of education, culture and pride.

Or aim higher – question the need for a glut of wasteful warehouse conversions for designer living on Easy Street when working-class loyalist areas are crumbling under the weight of ‘we don’t care’.

Or even dig deeper, wonder perhaps how fascists can daub graffiti on a wall in south Belfast and how it can stay up, bold as brass in foot-high letters, for more than a year. Graffiti that is word for word the ‘14 words’ motto of dangerous Iowan white supremacist David Lane. Word for word, only with ‘Protestant’ substituted for ‘white’. “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for Protestant children”.

Sounds reasonable but is, in fact, a right-wing call to arms.

Go for these people, don’t label a bunch of kids with little to do and nowhere to go. When you label people you curse them.

The labelled absorbs the myth, embraces the stigma and is set on to a spiral of self-loathing that perpetuates the problems you have tarred them with. So lay off.

While it would be interesting to see how those loyalist kids would respond to an Irish News columnist called Thérèse, it would be even more enlightening to read Mr Emerson’s own thoughts on the matter.