On the importance of playing the ball…

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has been having some problems with posters not keeping the simplest rule in the Slugger book: play the ball, not the man! (Imitation, flattery, and all that good stuff). We have had plenty of experience on that matter. I recall sitting up till nearly 2 o’clock one night (you know where the tip jar is ;-)) refereeing a sustained (and highly unscrupulous) attack on the integrity of one NI journalist. But in the end such wanton attackers should not win out on the right of the blogger to blog what s/he chooses, and others to have a proper debate! Stick to your proverbial guns Mairtin!

  • John Maynard

    I assume Mairtin was horried to discover that his readers have no time for a Protestant – even if Ms McKay’s political opinions.
    I also assume Mairtin is referring to one or at most two responses. [Man please John]

  • Pete Baker

    Well, without “fouling the ball”…

    “It’s possible to denigrate someone creatively and humourously . I shold know. I’ve made a career out of it (according to my unkind critics).”

    Máirtín’s kind critics might have said that, his unkind critics would suggest he made his career in an entirely different way..

  • John Maynard

    The level of self-congratulation in that blog is amazing. Is this just his idea of tabloid style, or does he really have that swelled a head?

  • Pete Baker

    That’s a rhetorical question, John, right? ;o)

  • Surely it’s fouling the man which is the problem, not ‘fouling the ball’…

  • Pete Baker

    Indeed, El Mat.

  • John Maynard

    Pete – not entirely a rhetorical question. I’ve been reading the thing and it really is so up itself it’s astonishing. Why?
    There are two extremes of blogging style that I’ve noticed – at one end you have the knowing self-deprecation (perhaps its own form of arrogance in a way) and at the other comes the I’M THE GREATEST HEAR ME ROAR style of emotionally-stunted teenage recluse. Mairtin’s blog clearer tends towards the latter. In fact, if he translated in into mobile phone-text, he could slap it straight up on Bebo.
    Is this really a man who owns five newspapers?

  • overhere

    surely there are sites for these people who instead of wanting to have reasonable discussions just want to spew invective. Places such as “our wee country” and “love Ulster” spring to mind.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed overhere.

    John, you did read the subject of the post. General slagging is neither informative or entertaining. If you have a valid criticism, give us it straight, and relate it to detail. Please?

  • A genuine question from an occasional visitor to Slugger. When the topic of discussion is actually about a person, for example, one of the recent threads started when various notables in NI politics/culture have died, is it then not appropriate to didcuss the person in question?

    Trying to avoid the attention of the many, many trolls on this site (Slugger comes across as a reunion site for LOTR extras at times…), I will avoid names, but I can recall threads for a deceased politician that degenerated into farce when some people raised factually correct details of that person’s life that were seen as insulting by some people. There was no debate about the facts themselves, but the fact they were mentioned, and called attention to less well-known aspects of the persons life, were seem as disrespectful by some. Surely, if the subject of thread is a specific person, it is reasonable to allow people to discuss that person’s life in detail, and comments can help to be subjective and personal in that case?

    Mick, if you could this up, I would appreciate it

  • overhere

    What is LOTR (having a bit of a blonde days here)

  • Nevin

    [i]Stick to your proverbial guns Mairtin![/i]

    Taking the Mick out of Máirtin is ‘playing the ball’?

    What if man and ball are one and the same?

  • kensei

    “What is LOTR (having a bit of a blonde days here)”

    Lord of the Rings.

    God, I feel like I’ve dirtied myself.

  • Sorry, overhere, LOTR = Lord of the Rings

  • Mick Fealty


    Very good question. Fiona touches on it here over the issue of Mary Harney’s mother.

    From my own point of view, when the dispicablity/laudibility of the person becomes the subject, we are missing the point. If people can point to past or current actions, then I’m more inclined to let it past.

    Spleen is not an Irish only vice. But spleen and spleen only is the kiss of death to informative online debate.

    From a selfish point of view, I mostly want to hear things I don’t already know. Or things I already know, put in a more challenging thought provoking way. Is that so bad?

    But I think it would be good to hear other people’s view on this rather than hear me pontificate at length on what is in and what is not.

  • Mick, thank you for your reply, it is appreciated.

    In response to your comments, I think that we do need to respect the private lives of others,
    but politicians, in opting for a public role, open themselves up for greater public scrutiny. Their private lives, and past actions when they were not polticians, are of public interest, as it gives greater insight into the people they are, and indicates how trustworthy they are. Knowledge about these individuals can’t be hidden away simply because it doesn’t suit those of a particular politics/persuasion. Please note, I am not talking about tabloid muckraking into a person’s sexual history, or anything of that nature. I am thinking in particular of previous political associations, past criminal convictions, and business dealings.
    As Nevin put, when the man and ball are one and the same, then such information should be considered on the thread, and shouldn’t be censored, either by self-censorship by individuals aware of the information, or by attacks from others who feel it is disrespectful.

    PS, apologies for the dire spelling!

  • never liking it up them

    Is this a call for playing the ball not the man from the managing editor of a newspaper which conducted a petty campaign of victimisation against a fellow journalist, up to and including contacting his employer with details of the times when he was updating his site on working hours which were also published in the paper? Leading to said journalist’s sacking? Why, yes. Yes it is.
    Oh, the humanity.

  • John Maynard

    This is also the proprietor of a newspaper that has lost two court cases in recent years against personally defaming journalists on other papers, including one who was called a police whore for getting in the back of a PSNI Land Rover and another who was the subject of a made-up letter claiming he was an MI5 agent.

  • John Maynard

    PS: Both journalists in question are Catholics from West Belfast.

  • harpo

    ‘Why contributors can’t make their points, acerbic and all, without fouling the ball is beyond me.’

    So says Máirtin Ó Muilleoir.

    Is this a GAA thing? ‘Fouling the ball’?

    I thought this was all based on soccer, and in soccer when you commit a foul, you don’t ‘foul the ball’. You foul the opposing person.

    The context is of course that while it is fine if you boot the ball into row z, committing a foul by putting the boot into your opponent is unacceptable.

    On another point, I find it odd that as a man in the words business, he says this: ‘That means trying to keep personal invective and gratuitous abuse to the bare minimum’.

    He doesn’t say ‘let’s have no personal invective and gratuitous abuse’ and thus indicates that he has some minimum level of such behaviour that he finds acceptable.

    The former is an easy to understand rule (none of it is allowed), the latter depends on where the level that constitutes this ‘minimum’ is set.

    Again, is this a GAA thing, meaning that while technically no fouling is allowed, the referee will allow some, so long as it doesn’t rise above what he sees as his minimum level of it.

    I’d like to think that Slugger’s ‘zero tolerance’ soccer policy is better. None means none. It’s clear. Either this is a GAA thing on the part of Ó Muilleoir, or he’s been influenced by Italian soccer referees.

    The use of ‘gratuitous abuse’ is interesting too. Is ‘regular abuse’ fine, but gratuitous abuse is frowned upon if it rises above his minimum level?

  • John Maynard

    Now come on Harpo, you know exactly where Mairtin draws that line.
    It’s regular abuse when he does it, and gratuitous abuse if anyone else does it.
    He’s hardly alone in that belief, of course. But most people are self-aware enough not flaunt it.

  • jesus wept

    What an absurd little man. As much a product of the vicious parochial nature of that failed statelet as the B Specials and all the ridiculous British funding bodies his group depend upon to exist.