The power of Nolan – too much of a good thing?

It was interesting to see that there was as much comment on Nolan personally as about Pastor McConnell. I don’t see or hear Nolan that often but I thought he played a pretty straight bat on this one. I’m told he divides an already divided community, not on sectarian lines but between pro- and anti- Nolan. That’s quite a tribute. I bet opinion swings quite a bit just like a Nolan interview.

With Nolan we’re on a rollercoaster. Whether you like or loathe him depends on whether the sensation thrills you or makes you sick. He’s a natural, he has the quickest brain to mouth co-ordination on air I know.

Nolan is the nearest to a US style speech jock that the BBC dares employ. He can’t actually lead with his own opinion. So Instead of formal neutrality he swings between extremes, sympathising and stirring up, slapping down and mediating according to topic and interviewee. But this, the BBC would say, is him characterising opinions not speaking for himself. By getting under the skin he avoids the staleness  and dull ritual of so many News interviews. The problem of NI is that the same subjects have been repeating themselves for decades and interviewers and interviewees are too often on autopilot. I sympathise with them entirely.

Nolan can be wonderfully sensitive, like the memorable show on abortion.  However easy the target the self- inflicted demolition of Mrs Robinson was memorable. And like all good broadcasters he seems fearless whatever he feels inside.

The downside?  He lulls “ordinary people” into a false sense of security and then cuts the feet from under them. Does he make a bad situation worse? Does he stir  up false controversy or is he only holding up the mirror to nature?  Are we really that lying/ bigoted/plain bloody thick?  Is he debasing the political debate? (Speak up I didn’t hear you).

I’d guess that behind the breezy manner beats the heart of a sensitive and self critical chap. He is too aware of the collective psychology of his audience not to be acutely self aware. Was it just the angle of the opening shot or has he lost weight?

What he does is much harder than many people think, but once you get the hang of it you can become too pleased with yourself, you too can become formulaic, even if you’re as adroit as Nolan .  If you want to draw people out and they fear you ‘ll suddenly  slap them down, you may not get the best out of them. It can be a fine judgment and there’s always the risk of over exposure. Although he has a 5 live show his commitment to Northern Ireland seems absolute. While there’s plenty of mileage left in his knockabout, if  I were responsible for Nolan I’d give him some extended interviews with people who know what they’re talking about.  Explore new ideas and broaden the agenda with thoughtful people. They really  do exist. Too much if that is left to the God spots.

My own verdict on Nolan is mixed as I’m not a regular. I think it’s better to refer  to” it” the show rather than ” him” the person. When I hear it I’m  informed and entertained and  enjoyably irritated.  – and  let’s admit  we  like shouting at the radio and TV. We can feel superior without challenge. But I’m glad I don’t catch the show very often.  Too much exposure to  NI attitudes is depressing.

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  • Joe_Hoggs

    Sensationalism over substance would an accurate description of Nolan, the makings for a good show are here with a better presenter. He tends to bully too much and right or wrong seems to have a real axe to grind against the Unionist community.

    Interesting that when you Google his name what comes up, the same happens for William McCrea and Jeffrey Donaldson. It’s that old argument in this country about right and wrong.

  • Republic of Connaught

    I only watch it now and again but the Nolan show has a touch of the Jeremy Kyle about it, including the often wild audience members.

    Watching Vincent Browne or Noel Thompson surgically take apart guests is much better quality stuff. In saying that I think Nolan himself is a decent fellow, for all the criticism he seems to get.


    “Too much exposure to NI attitudes is depressing.”

    Agreed. I find even too much exposure to Slugger is depressing.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I agree too much exposure to Slugger can be depressing, I may ease off.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    ‘Too much exposure to NI attitudes is depressing.’

    These are not ‘NI attitudes’. These are unionist attitudes.

    Unionists are represented by parties (DUP, UUP, TUV) who occupy the same political space as the BNP.

    Nationalists, on the other hand, have no truck with fascism.

    Martin McGuinness and Mairtin O Muilleoir can publicly support Anna Lo, without worrying what nationalism’s backwoodsmen will think. They know that nationalism’s backwoodsmen abhor fascism.

    Robinson thinks his base is fascist. If there’s evidence that he’s wrong, I’d love to see it.

    Stephen Nolan has done society a service by exposing fascism right in the centre of the unionist establishment.

    Of course this is embarrassing to the unionist establishment. And it’s embarrassing to unionism’s courtiers, especially those who call themselves ‘journalists’ and who seem to feel the need to run interference for fascists.

  • Kevsterino

    Well, free speech comes with a myriad of consequences. Not all of those consequences are good. When a Christian minister leads his flock to believe that among them, live Satan’s minions, he has to be ready to accept some responsibility if they act upon that ‘knowledge’. To me, the ministers remarks seem blatantly irresponsible. But, to be fair, a lot of what the evangelical world offers I find to be just as unpalatable. So it goes…

    But a First Minister has a different responsibility, for once he is elected, he becomes ‘everybody’s’ First Minister. He should have at least tried to offer some comfort to his Moslem constituents that his government intends to treat them with the same respect and dignity afforded to everybody else in Northern Ireland. But that sort of responsible behavior seems to lie beyond his grasp.

  • fordprefect

    Nolan would be at home on the likes of FOX “news”, the Sun and other sensationalist publications and programmes. I agree with ROC, that his radio and tv programmes have a touch of the Jeremy Kyles about them. He loves winding people up to get ratings of course, the moronic politicians here are no match for him as they have to be careful that they toe the party line when he starts one of his rants or when he tries to provoke them into a row. George Galloway showed how Nolan can be left speechless. Having said that, I was surprised that Galloway didn’t put that maniac in the audience in his place when he told Galloway to “go back to Britain”! All he had to say was: “according to the likes of you, I am in Britain”. The worst show (to date) I ever seen Nolan doing was the one with Kate Carroll (widow of PSNI man Stephen Carroll) his bringing her to the street where her husband was shot, and asking her: “why do you keep looking up that direction”? (knowing rightly that, that was the direction the shots were supposed to have been fired from), putting his arm around her and repeating it knowing it would get tears from her was absolutely sickening.

  • fordprefect

    BTW, what did Joe Hoggs get a yellow and red for?

  • Taoiseach

    The media in general and Nolan in particular have a lot of responsibility for creating these situations. A remark make by a preacher in one church which would have quietly been forgotten becomes spread all over the country. Nolan loves the fake concern, generate the crisis, pour petrol on, blame all round, and then wash the hands and head of to Las Vegas with all the money the BBC pays him for this display of ego.

  • fordprefect

    Taoiseach, agreed.

  • Granni Trixie


    Thank you for expressing positive (insightful) points about Nolan it doesn’t happen often – I expect your own professional experience informs your view of his work.
    People here that I talk to tend to be negative about it mainly because he is perceived solely as a shock jock.

    Though not an enthusiastic fan myself I do actually admire a lot what he does and agree with much if your sentiments. In particular I give him credit for what amounted almost to a one man band against punishment beatings in a context where journalists tend to accept them as the norm ie ‘not ‘news’. When the subject was being debated say with the mother of a working class kid under threat he was terrific dealing with people phoning in to say things like”the scum deserved it”. In his own way he seems consistent in his morality.
    He is also to be admired for being a hard worker – working class lad who has made it.

    AND for sticking with 500 calories a day to lose stones and stones!

  • Turgon

    “Robinson thinks his base is fascist. If there’s evidence that he’s wrong, I’d love to see it.”

    Billy Bilgrim has always had an obsession with unionists as “fascists.” Once upon a time it was the RUC being Nazis now we have all unionists as fascists.

    “Nationalists, on the other hand, have no truck with fascism.”

    Well of course and the likes of Raymond McCreesh (he of play park and Kingsmills fame) was not taking part in fascist typed murders: oh no.

    Then of course we have Sean Russell IRA the man from the 1930s / 40s who was so opposed to fascism that he died on a German submarine in 1940 (of a burst ulcer). Do not worry though so opposed is Irish nationalism to fascism that there is a nice statue of him in Dublin.

    Of course blood sacrifice and all that would have no similarities at all to blood and honour: oh no.

    The reality is that both communities in Northern Ireland have members of all political positions and none. Extremists on both sides have at times taken a liking to identity typed politics which has veered towards ultra right and / or ultra left ideologies which are analogous in terms of their violent outcomes.

  • DC

    Some people may say there are good Stephen Nolans, that may be so, but I don’t trust him.

    He amplified this story in pursuit of his Sony gong.

  • gendjinn


    Accepting a few guns to fight a common enemy does not compare with the British government’s support of Nazis:
    * Remilitarisation of the Rhineland without opposition.
    * 40 new German divisions in violation of several treaties, no complaints.
    * Gave them Czechoslovakia.
    * and on, and on, and on.

    Your state loved and supported Hitler when he was murdering Jews, the handicapped and politicians.

    Your logic buries your beloved state far, far worse than it does the IRA.

    The reality is that both communities…

    No Turgon, the reality is that your favorite party is the party of fascists in the north. The reality is that it is unionism leaders that openly espouse religious, ethnic and racist bigotry, over & over & over again.

    But please continue, your comedy routine is pure gold 🙂