Liar, liar, or just following Peace Processing orders…

Newton Emerson with a (satirical) rendition of the branch man Times reader and his source…By Newton Emerson

This article contains information of vital importance to the reader. However, under no circumstances should the reader stop reading and act upon the information until he has reached the end of the article. If the reader stops reading then the writer might stop writing and further vital information could be lost.

That information is as follows: the writer wishes to inform you that your pants are on fire. Do not stop reading! Perhaps the next paragraph will reveal that your shirt is also ablaze. It is too late to worry about your pants now. Their loss is regrettable but these things happen during times of conflagration. What matters is preventing further tragedy. Remain calm and await the information contained in the next paragraph.

That information is as follows: the fire in your pants has now spread to your shirt. Do not stop reading! The writer is clearly a highly reliable source who could supply crucial intelligence about equally unpredictable future developments. Also, you were warned about the initial fire so you are now largely responsible for the secondary fire. Remain calm and await the information contained in the next paragraph.

That information is as follows: the writer admits that he started the fire in your pants. Do not stop reading! You have been aware for some time that you are dealing with a flammable situation and the only way to handle it effectively is to collect more information. The writer is your key source of such information. If you abandon the article now you will simply be a person whose clothes are on fire. Is that what you want? Well, is it? Do you want other readers to point at you and say: “That guy got burnt by his source”? Remain calm and await the information contained in the next paragraph.

That information is as follows: the writer admits that he set fire to your pants using a lighter he purchased with your money. Do not stop reading! When you bought the Irish Times this morning you had no way of knowing that the cover price would be wired directly into the writer’s bank account and used to pursue a criminal enterprise. However, a trail of evidence now exists linking the wallet in your pants to the fire in your pants. This makes it all the more important that you continue reading this article in case the writer reveals further details about future arson attacks. Remain calm and await the information contained in the next paragraph.

That information is as follows: the writer believes that any attempt to call the fire brigade will result in a spate of arson attacks on your jacket, your shoes, your tie and possibly even your hair. Do not stop reading! The blaze which has spread from your pants to your shirt is nothing compared to the threat of this looming inferno. Only you can prevent disaster by refusing to call the fire brigade and trusting the writer not to set fire to any more items of apparel while he considers supplying you with one more piece of information. Remain calm and await the end of the article.

That ending is as follows: Are you dead yet?

First published in The Irish Times, Thursday 25th January 2007.

  • mickhall

    Wonderful! Oh dear.

  • Sam Flanagan

    Hilarious!!!! congratulations on your wonderful writing abilty.
    Could you please turn your attention upon the subject, “Why do Unionist politiicans not call for public enquiries into IRA/MI5 collusion!!”.
    Especially since Mr Freddy Scapattici is still alive and could be compelled to give evidence.
    We shall not forgive, We shall not forget!

  • Bemused

    A return to form for the Newt. YOU THE MAN!!!!

  • Greenflag

    Brilliant 🙂 It’s the way he tells them . Newt ‘the Gecko’ Lizardian is back in form 🙂

    ‘That ending is as follows: Are you dead yet?’

    Update – ‘and if not why not ‘?

  • mm

    i thought it stupid and pointless myself – but then maybe that’s the point…

  • Dougal

    The Newt’s well on form!

  • query




  • Quaysider

    I’d like to hear Ingram’s opinion on how accurate a summation this is of the handler-informant relationship…

  • belfastwhite

    Satirical!……Dont make me laugh.

  • headmelter

    The return of the man that never came back.

  • Quaysider

    Don’t you mean the return of the man that never went away???

  • Sam Flanagan

    What about Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Quaysider??

  • DK

    Does point out the moral conundrum of relying on intelligence from scumbags – do you keep waiting for the next piece of news in the hope it is good, while ignoring what is bad? What does that make you?

  • ingram


    quote I’d like to hear Ingram’s opinion on how accurate a summation this is of the handler-informant relationship

    The relationships between Handler and Agent are like a marriage some good, some not so good, and some adulterous!

    Newt is a very clever man.



  • mickhall


    Sounds much like an arraged marriage to me, one in which the husband always sides with his mother against his wife?

  • Rory

    I found the piece quite clever and mildly amusing and I am not normally a fan of Newton’s work.

    I have been thinking recently on the question of satire and the role it plays and whether in fact it can serve the very thing it seeks to bring to the light of mockery, by acting as a safety valve that diffuses the pressure of publiv opinion and weakens its demand that the state be required to alter its bad behaviour.

    I think satire perhaps has a useful function in first drawing attention to state misdeeds that are not yet widely known to a public audience and of course this vehicle can help protect the writer from the censorious libel laws which conspire to protect powerful wrongdoers. But when the public is already sufficiently concerned about an issue as to be demanding redress I can see that satire can become a useful tool for weakening public demands through idle humour.

    I think, for example, of the mass public outrage at the Iraq invasion and how very ordinary people combined to create the biggest by far mass demonstration ever witnessed in London and how all that anger and concern has failed to stop Blair and how that sense of failure is now poorly compensated by the dubious pleasure of joking about Bush’s speech patterns or Blair’s holiday jaunts.

    But these are only some of my thoughts on the matter and I have not come to any kind of dogmatic conclusion as I am mindful (as we have seen on other boards here) how a sense of failure and disappointment can warp one’s thinking and I am no more immune to that possibility than the next man.

  • mickhall


    I think you have a point, Thatcher and Spitting Image also springs to mind and few have been ridiculed more in the UK and RoI than Ian Paisley, yet it seems to have done him little harm amongst his support base.

    I wonder if the satirists might be better targeting situations rather than individuals, but then they might come up against charges of racism.

    I suppose the best way to look at this is to understand that politicians deal with political decisions and satirists make us laugh, to expect the latter to actually change things is expecting to much. The best they can do is make us aware, then it is down to us and those we choose to represent us.

  • Plum Duff

    Excellent piece.

    As a certain warmonger said a while ago, ‘Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know’.

    Sums up the whole murky business.