Do the Irish papers emerge with credit over how they handled Kevin Myers? You decide

The Irish Independent has at last joined the Irish Times in entering the row over  Kevin Myers, who has written for both papers in his time.

Former Indo editor Gerry O’Regan resorts to psychology and family background in Leicester and Ireland to explain Kevin’s “ inner rage.”  As his editor O’Regan says their relations were….

“unnecessarily uneasy and strained; his propensity to take umbrage at even the slightest criticism in time simply became tiresome.

It is a character trait which goes back to his early days on the ‘Irish Times’. Myers has written with great candour, how the late Douglas Gageby who was editor at the time, regarded him with scarcely concealed distaste.

And yet somehow, Kevin as a columnist survived the terms of both editors.

The Irish Times  has been  rather magnificent over Kevin, carrying the case for the defence and even enabling  Fintan O’Toole to criticise his own paper for how they handled Kevin’s departure from the paper more than a decade ago.

 For many years, The Irish Times gave Myers a licence to thrill its broadly liberal readership with the forbidden delights of contrariness. The paper did him no favours when it decided in February 2005, under the influence of a misplaced anxiety about being seen to censor dissenting views, to publish his column calling single mothers “mothers of bastards” and was then very slow to apologise for this gratuitous kick at the weak. What Myers learned from the episode was not to mind his words but that he would be indulged and rewarded for inverting the usual journalistic imperatives and using his formidable talents to afflict the afflicted.

The column has an accidental quality. He didn’t notice that he was doing something he generally avoids: insulting people who can answer back.

Myers’s problem, though, is that this stuff is everywhere now. It is no longer contrarian: the president of the United States spouts it. Far-right rhetoric runs on automatic pilot. You don’t have to think about it. And it is obvious that Myers didn’t and nor did his editors. It was just standard-issue bile. Even those who trade in it are bored by it.

But they failed to notice they were sleepwalking across a line. They broke the only rule that matters – don’t pick on people who can answer back. Jewish people have learned from the most abysmal experiences to be alert to the tropes of anti-Semitism and to call them out when they see them.

This damning by the faintest of praise leaves out two important points. First, while Jewish people answer back powerfully, the still unresolved row over anti-semitism and Ken Livingstone in the British Labour party is evidence both of the strength of their support and  the persistence of attacks against them.  In our societies it is dismaying that Jewish people still feel under siege and their numbers in western society are in decline. The contemporary conflation in parts of the Left between historic Zionism and the tragic Israeli- Palestinian deadlock  is grist to the anti-Semitic mill.

Secondly while Kevin’s assaults on the foundation myths of the Irish state are often rooted in disputes over the historical record,  they are made against some of  the loudest and sometimes menacing voices who most definitely can answer back.


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  • Neil
  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Thanks for adding. A further insight into a conservative polemicist donning the armour of arrogance and megalomania. How contrarian is he if he fears radicalism, pluralism, the future, the left, diversity, anti-elitism etc?

  • the rich get richer

    They sacked the Monkey and left the Organ Grinders in Place………

  • john millar

    Serious over reaction
    Myers referred to the Jewish stereotype of being good with /being careful with money and named a couple of prominent Jewish personalities/presenters . Had he referred to a similar Scottish stereotype and the traditional Scottish care of the bawbees whilst naming a couple of well paid Scottish personalities/presenters – would the same outrage have occurred. I think not

  • whatif1984true

    Over reaction to words. I so wish the media would be so quick and strong to the actions of the real evil in our midst be it politicians/terrorists/dictators. Media is the establishment.

  • ted hagan

    Were six million Scots systematically wiped out by the Nazi killing machine, never mind the millions persecuted and slain in the Soviet Union, often using the wicked propaganda line that the Jews were accumulating all the wealth at the expense of poor gentiles? I think not.
    Why on earth managed to drag the Jewishness of two presenters into a misogynistic rant about women’s salaries I don’t know.
    As Fintan O’Toole says, it was a poor, lazy, ill-thought-out, and especially nasty article deliberately meant to taunt. And the author has form.

  • Get The Grade Get The Grade

    “In our societies it is dismaying that Jewish people still feel under siege and their numbers in western society are in decline. The contemporary conflation in parts of the Left between historic Zionism and the tragic Israeli- Palestinian deadlock is grist to the anti-Semitic mill.”

    Maybe I’m way off on this but, from reading many comments on the Myers story, I’ve noticed a curious pattern of thought in regard to (non-Jewish) people’s attitudes towards Israel. It seems to me, people who would identify themselves as fervently right-wing and “pro-Israel” are more likely to be Holocaust deniers whereas the more left-leaning, pro-“Palestine cause” folk are more likely to accept that the Holocaust took place, indeed sympathising greatly with the suffering of the Jewish people in the 1940s.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    So the Jewish Representative Council is supporting him.

    But, what would Jews know about anti-semitism as compared with Irish media Hamas-supporting liberals?

  • doopa

    The reason that calling the two people in question ‘good with money’ is problematic is because it perpetuates a myth that Jews are somehow connected to the financial system. These myths have been used for thousands of years – perhaps most obviously in the case of Shylock.

    Regardless – making generalisations about people’s features based on ethnicity probably isn’t a great idea regardless of whether you think it is a positive feature or not.

  • john millar

    I think you are missing my point- Myers used stereotype fad he used a similar stereotype for a different grouping it would have probably passed without comment

  • doopa

    You say ‘similar stereotypes’ about Scottish people. Which stereotypes of Scottish people have been used to justify their extermination?

  • john millar

    “Were six million Scots systematically wiped out”
    They were certainly unkindly treated

    ” the author has form.” certainly has – however my point remains— it was a clumsy stereotype seized upon by the usual suspects who would have ignored similar stereotyping of less
    “protected” groupings

  • james

    There’s the rub.

  • james

    That’s rather the point, I think.

    Myers was certainly not justifying the extermination of anyone. But people are pretending he did.

    A worrying sign for the future of free speech.

  • murdockp

    Kevin Myers “I’m talking about the issue of female equality, like when feminists within the BBC talk about how they should be equal , nobody is equal – the woman who is making the tea or cleaning the floor isn’t equal to the star presenter and that is the issue.”

    I completely agree with his statement that equality does not exist. It is a utopic concept in the same way communism is.

    Northern Ireland is a classic example. How many people are working as fire men / women because their dad or uncle worked there. How many people know teachers who were given jobs in a school where a relative works or they know the parish priest well? How many sons and daughters of politicians get shoe horned into a position that is unreachable for the rest of society? How many children are turned away from a school place because their parents are not on benefits?

    How many celebrity children get jobs in the medial due to their parents? Would Dan snow on the BBC have gotten his job without his Dad being a TV presenter? Would Jay Rayner the restaurant critic have gotten his job without having a famous mother? Would a young photographer with better skills that David Beckhams son Brooklyn without fame be given a major book deal?

    In short he is right, there is no equality out there. Its a dogfight pretending to be equality and there is no worse place for it that here were the colour of your gang dictates the role you get to have in our society.

  • john millar

    The stereotype Myers used was financial probity – (as far as I can see he did not mention extermination ) -a Scottish stereotype if ever there was one ( It was the reaction which waved the holocaust)

  • mac tire

    There are problems when using a sterotype. When talking about Jews and money – they being ‘good with money’ is not always the sterotype adhered to.

    There are Jews with plenty of money, Jews with little money and Jews without money. Ask a chronic gambler who is Jewish how ‘good with money’ he/she is.

    A similar sterotype would be saying that Irish people love a drink and a bit of a shindig. While some may mean no harm in this, it’s not exactly true and many may take a certain offence to it as it has been used in the past to denigrate Irish people.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Houl on a minute;
    How can we be startled to find a siege mentality within Western Jewry when, as Myers pointed out in his article (the MAIN point of his article actually) the west turns its collective eyes from supposed regular bouts of holocaust denial?

    Surely we should expect to find such a natural reaction if we as a society allow such a view to go unchallenged?

    “You know Dave, as a Belgian I no longer feel comfortable here”

    “Why’s that Piet? Weren’t you impressed with the way Twitter dealt with that anti-Belgian celebrity?”

    “Well Dave, he was just a provocative contrarian, it’s those men in the churches that make hurtful remarks about Flemish people that worry me. When are you going to tackle them?
    Godskolere! Where did Dave go ?!”

  • ted hagan

    Myers got the reaction he was hoping for, I suspect, and got the punishment he deserved, as he himself has admitted. The two women he targeted, and used, in his quest to be ‘controversial’ were understandably pretty upset.
    The fact that he professes his admiration for Jews goes to illustrate what a cynical and nasty operator he is.

  • ted hagan

    The fact that he rejects the use of the term Holocaust doesn’t help his case. Myers knows what he’s doing by baiting people. He’s probably not antisemitic but makes a play for those who are. And there are many.

  • Get The Grade Get The Grade

    Irish liberals aren’t anti-semitic.

  • James Henry

    Gerry O’Regan has a rather eccentric view of Myers’ childhood: “gloom-filled 1950s Leicestershire” isn’t a very accurate description.

  • whatif1984true

    The most obvious point is that Jews have left NI. Why? I hope it was because they got fed up with the bloody minded intransigence of the locals. We are an embarrassment to ourselves both here and internationally, when will we start acting like adults instead of whingeing children.