“all of this demagogic simplification leads to a cynical view of politics…”

I’ve just watched the public shaming of Father Pastor Jack McConnell on Nolan this evening. Actually, that’s not meant to be funny. I sometimes wonder where seriousness ends and pompous solemnity begins…

I spotted this quote on Paul Evans’ Facebook page a few days before this story broke, but it seems pretty well met to the occasion that’s in it from Pierre Bourdieu’s 1996 classic, ‘On Television‘…

…the journalistic field produces and imposes on the public a very particular vision of the political field, a vision that is grounded in the very structure of the journalistic field and in journalists’ specific interests produced in and by that field.

… there is a tendency to shunt aside serious commentators and investigative reporters in favour of the talk show host….. real information, analysis, in-depth interviews, expert discussions, and serious documentaries lose out to pure entertainment and, in particular, to mindless talk show chatter between “approved” and interchangeable speakers….. these people are always available…. not merely to participate but to play the game – and they answer all the questions that journalists ask – no matter how silly and outrageous.

To justify this policy of demagogic simplification (which is absolutely and utterly contrary to the democratic goal of informing or educating people by interesting them), journalists point to the public’s expectations. But in fact they are projecting onto the public their own inclinations and their own views…”

…they are more interested in the tactics of politics than in the substance, and more concerned with the political effects of speeches and politicians manoeuvrings within the political field (in terms of coalitions, alliances, or individual conflicts) than with the meaning of these…… all of this leads to a cynical view of politics which is reflected in their political arguments, and in their interview questions.

For them, politics becomes an arena full of hyper-ambitious people with no convictions but a clear sense of the competitive situation and of their opposing interests. [Emphasis added]

[If I get a chance I’ll try to get a YouTube of parts of the interview tomorrow sometime.]

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • The Raven

    Ah, Nolan. One half of the population cheers on our cheeky chubby chappy to shit on everyone that’s to blame for all our current travails, while the other half says they refuse to listen to or watch his programmes.

    And yet: is the BBC to blame if the Ringmaster merely entertains his baying, braying audience, while conveniently forgetting any of the other Reithian principles of education and information. The ratings game is all that matters. And we don’t phone councillors or MLAs about local problems any more – we ring Nolan.

    Thus was it ever, with variations on a theme, depending on presenter or programme phoned, or letter written to the paper. But Nolan? The key to listen out for here is the following sequence.

    Nolan ‘splodes with faux indignation
    Reasonable caller phones in, and say “y’know, you’re talking nonsense”
    Nolan says “uh-huh, thanks for your call”
    Daily Mail caller phones in
    Nolan gives ten minutes of air time

    There’s more, of course. The occasional redemptive “serious” interview replete with Nolan Soft Voice (TM); the “no don’t address your comments to me, I’m just the Ringmaster; Peggy from Ardoyne is still on the line, tell her how you feel” call-in with Nolan Reasonable Bloke I’m Just Asking The Question Voice; and the “we asked the minister to come on the programme but he’s not available” done with Nolan Slightly-sarky Chuckle Voice. Yes Stephen – sometimes, they have to be in places other than those which involve your facile questioning.

    Let’s not take away from the fella. He’s worked hard; he’s earned the right to take the seat in front of the microphone. He’s ‘the last chance saloon’ because all the civil servants and politicians have abandoned the general public, haven’t they?

    Despite everything you might want to happen, a health trust or education authority will not talk about an individual case; a male-dominated, fundamentalist-centred political forum will not back abortion rights or full marriage rights for the LGBT community; Twitter does not yet decide elections, and if Peter Robinson wants to bash Muslims, he knows exactly which part of the party vote will love it and back him accordingly; but yet this is what you’ll get fed to you on a cyclical basis from here to Nolan’s final show.

    It’s all about the misinformed confrontation. If you keep watching and listening to programmes of this ilk, you’ve only yourselves to blame.

  • Politico68

    Mick I cant access your link here in America land….could you youtube it maybe ?

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ll try. The vid will go up today, I will clip a section.

  • Mick Fealty

    One of the ironies is that the audience is left in the same level of ignorance about the subject as pastor McConnell. What we have here is a levelling down rather than a levelling up.

    Sharia in places like northern Nigeria is often the only enforceable code of law, whilst in other parts people live by pure custom. And there is that dark grey area between the two.

    I am no Islamic scholar, but surely there was an opportunity to raise the issue of the young woman in Pakistan who was stoned to death by her family?

    Actually perhaps it was a blessing that it wasn’t brought up! The pastor clearly is living in a bubble. But in the culture war climate of Northern Ireland, the BBC decided it was a matter of sufficient importance to seek a comment from the First Minister.

    Nothing too trivial etc etc.. Especially if it is going to damage the DUP. I would guess Jim Allister would not have been tricked into giving the answer Peter Robinson did. [walks away slowly shaking head]

  • Gopher

    I’m sorry you all give Peter to little credit that is why the DUP keep winning elections.

    I’ll go with a different angle UKIP got 25,000 votes in the election Peter was simply insuring that his party wern’t going to lose any votes in subsequent elections. No other party can use the language of Northern Irish parties and get away with it and no Northern Ireland party can use the language of the DUP. SF as Marty found out to his cost have to moderate theirs because of the South.

    Peter was just being smart again and basically saying follow that UKIP if you dare. The UUP might lose votes to UKIP but I cant see the DUP now.

  • Mick Fealty

    Wrong thread Gopher!!

  • Gopher

    Are you sure Mick?

    “Nothing too trivial etc etc.. Especially if it is going to damage the DUP. I would guess Jim Allister would not have been tricked into giving the answer Peter Robinson did. [walks away slowly shaking head]”

    Dont think Peter was tricked and its interesting a week before an election with UKIP standing the Pastor gives that sermon mentions a hero of Unionism Enoch Powell and gets blanket coverage then a couple of days after when UKIP want to be at the electoral pact table, Peter undermines their bargaining position . I think you will find Peter has tricked the BBC

  • cynic2

    “And we don’t phone councillors or MLAs about local problems any more – we ring Nolan.”

    ….because most of them will do nothing while one mention on Nolan and MLAs start asking questions

  • Gopher

    Trouble is Nolan is becoming a one trick pony and getting played like a violin.

  • cynic2

    But who is the demagogue?

  • cynic2

    “If you keep watching and listening to programmes of this ilk, you’ve only yourselves to blame.”

    Yes…they are really for the poor and the little people and we can ignore them because we know better. Now back to the Proust

  • Nolan is not about news, he is about entertainment. Focus is on creating emotional clashes that ensures people want to ring in and push up the ratings. It is not exactly cynical, but it is formulaic, and in the McConnell situation it has the perfect NI combination of religion and politics. In all this, the middle is reduced to ritual condemnation, while the extremes have a field day.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yep, spot on as ever TD!! The medium is becoming the message. Collegiality of the parliamentary assembly is coming under fire in because our public reps are having increasing difficulty in figuring out not just what people want but, more importantly, how to deliver it…

  • Joe_Hoggs

    How about super injunctions?

  • Brian Walker

    Shaming is in the eye of the beholder. I think his play of the simple pastor will have won him sympathy, Residual respect for this kind of religion among the uncommitted produces limited criticism, like the first audience member who said the sermon was only ” a bit strong.”

    What also struck me from the few vox pops was the lack of familiarity with the hellfire sermon my sort of person (1!) loved to hate and satirise in the 1960s. This row tells us that it rumbles on still.

    It was fine for Nolan to confront the pastor with the representative of the Muslim society of Britain. But it’s a pity that they didn’t give over the whole programme to cover two other things; one, the connexion of the faith itself to the violent extremes of jihad, “honour” killings etc. and the fear of spillover into our society – a connexion that tends to be fudged by the Muslim spokespersons . A justified fear of militant Islamism transfers over into mainstream Islam whose laws, even though selectively applied can cut across state law and do indeed emphasise difference. And difference begets fear and fear hostility. Fear is real.

    Secondly more debate was needed about what the affair says about Northern Ireland today We’re familiar with the old fundamentalist practice of presenting a bill of indictment and calling it a verdict, just as we know how proud such men are of their own ignorance (“ Sharara “). But the wretched pastor is the monkey not the organ grinder.

    The refusal of the DUP to take part should not have had a veto effect on the programme For not trusting Muslims, read across to not trusting Catholics and the underlying fear and suspicion that remain with us still. “I love the person but not his belief” “ Give them a decent house and they’ll behave like good Protestants. ” “I’d trust them to go down to the shops and give me the right change. “

    This is the condescension of the cynical or the unaware. But we are not talking about Paisley in 1960. What is publicly acceptable has changed even for the fundamentalists and the DUP.

    I think Robinson does or did attend the Whitewell tabernacle himself. The pastor asked one good question. Even with the elections safely over why did Robinson intervene with such a throwback he knows will cause controversy even among unionists ? We need to know.

  • Zeno

    Nolan could be good if we could just get rid of Nolan himself. Imagine the same show with someone who is sharp enough to think on his feet. Some of Nolans questions and his reactive questioning in particular borders on the moronic.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Yes Nolan is very poor on what could be a good programme.

  • The Raven

    The soundbite-led, piss-poor investigative nature of such programmes is not solely aimed at “poor people”, but if that’s how you perceive things, Cynic, far be it from me, etc.

  • Gopher

    The talk at the Ahogill Habsburg Society annual Mary I and Felipe, Prince of Asturias betrothal dinner was Cameron was f****** livid after that Downing St garden Party which would explain a more sheepish Robinson today. It seems if you want to play with the big boys at Westminster you have to leave the happy clappy racism at home.