Monthly Archives: October 2011

Why Provo Lies About The Past Are So Dumb!

I have never been able to figure out the reasoning behind Gerry Adams’ and Martin McGuinness’ insistence on lying about their past lives as IRA members and even less so now as it becomes clear that it was McGuinness’ insistence on doing so that led directly to Sinn Fein’s less than stellar performance in the Irish presidential election.

Whatever the rationale there can be no doubt now that for both men, and their party, the decision has been at best, stupid and self-defeating and at worst, a disaster.

First, take a look at McGuinness’ showing in the presidential election. This was billed as the election that could push Sinn Fein through the credibility barrier in the South and place the party on the cusp of government. The plan was simple: underline Fianna Fail’s fall last February with a result that said Southern politics have utterly and irretrievably changed; Fianna Fail is a relic of a dead past and Sinn Fein is the new, coming electoral force.

But it didn’t quite work out that way. McGuinness’ 13.7 per cent of the first preference vote was better than SF’s general election tally of nine months ago for sure, but as one shrewd analysis pointed out, that was not comparing like with like. The real and adjusted rise in SF’s vote was around two-and-a-half points, well short of the vote-doubling that the party’s managers had hoped for.

Not only that but Fianna Fail did what no-one expected and put on a convincing impression of Lazarus. The FF result in the West Dublin by-election, the creditable performance of Sean Gallagher, the ersatz Fianna Failer – despite the late-breaking brown envelope scandal – and the fact that Sinn Fein was outpolled in all but one of the Border constituencies, its home ground, all spoke to dashed hopes that Martin McGuinness’ candidacy would bring an historic breakthrough.

There can be little doubt that McGuinness’ decision to stick by the lie he told the Saville Tribunal, that he had left the IRA “in the early part of the 1970′s” – later finessed to 1974 since he was in jail on IRA offences until then – was his undoing.

No-one could quite believe the story that he walked out on the IRA all those years ago yet still carried enough clout to persuade his former comrades to end their war, become ministers in a British administration and destroy all their guns. Imagine the scene: the Army Council is in session when there’s a knock on the door. It opens to reveal the Chuckle-like grin of Martin McGuinness. “Hi guys!”, he says nervously. “You might not remember me but I used to be one of youse a while back. Those were some days, I can tell you! Listen I have a couple of ideas I’d like to run past you. Got a minute?”

It was never going to work and it didn’t. McGuinness was chosen to carry SF’s banner because he was the Provos’ Mr Nice Guy, the Chuckle twin who had tamed the raging bull, Ian Paisley and made friends with that sinister-looking Peter Robinson, a hero of the peace process who was so much more fun to be with than grouchy old Gerry.

Martin was probably expecting a gentle stroll in the general direction of Phoenix Park with much agreeable talk of how well he had performed in the Northern government and how pleased he was to have helped end the war. But instead his campaign was dogged by questions about his credibility and all because of the IRA lie. For sure there was an element in the Southern media predisposed against him – call them West Brits if you wish – but the lie about leaving the IRA in 1974 was a sheer gift to his enemies. Other, more neutral elements in both the media and electorate could hardly be blamed if they joined the sceptics. It was an election after all and elections are supposed to be about the candidates’ honesty and integrity.

Remember also that Martin McGuinness was the candidate and not Gerry Adams and why that was so. The Sinn Fein president and Louth TD has been lying longer and more profoundly about his IRA past than McGuinness, although to be fair the only reason why the Derry man is not denying any association at all with the IRA, as Gerry has been doing since at least 1982, is probably that pesky interview he had on the streets of Derry with the BBC’s Tom Mangold: “As the commander of the IRA Provisionals in Derry, can you tell us…..?”And so on, with nary a word of protest from the bold Martin!

Nonetheless look at the damage that lie has done to Gerry? It drove Brendan Hughes, his old buddy-in-arms, to complete distraction and, in my view, was the driving force behind Hughes’ decision to tell all to Boston College, detailing Adams’ part in leading the Belfast IRA and later the IRA nationally and not least the role Gerry played in the disappearance of Jean McConville, a revelation that has indelibly tainted the SF leader beyond repair.

The McConville connection may not be the only reason Gerry Adams didn’t stand for SF in this presidential election but it was one reason and it is why once-fondly held hopes that he might end his days sleeping in the presidential bedroom have been dashed forever.

But for the lie that wouldn’t have happened and but for his own version of it, Martin McGuinness might still be regarded as the Provo leader who still had a vestige of rectitude. Instead, McGuinness will forever be linked to Frank Hegarty, the Enniskillen bombing, the use of human bombs – and of course the outrageous fib about leaving the IRA in 1974.

I don’t know why the two men embarked on their lies in the first place. I could never see any advantage to it and so many potential pitfalls it just didn’t make sense. The other thing is that it was unnecessary. Some reporters have taken the view that there was only two choices: lie about their IRA membership or admit it and risk a jail term. Not true. They could have done what a previous generation of Republicans did, men like Ruairi O Bradaigh and Daithi O Conail who would reply, when asked if they were in the IRA, “Mind your own business!”, or words to that effect.

Actually, it is not entirely true to say that I can’t think of a reason why they chose to lie because I can – although I don’t have smoking gun proof. Lying about his IRA links was sold internally at the time it started, during the campaign for the 1982 Assembly election, as something Adams had to do to frustrate a hostile media and it was okay because it was just a tactic, nothing more or less than that, just like car bombs or “up and unders” or personating in West Belfast or fixing the vote at the 1986 SF ard-fheis: these were things that had to be done to win the war.

And what that did was to make telling lies an excusable and acceptable tactic, a very handy device when the peace process began and it became necessary to sell one story to the British, Irish and American governments about the ultimate intentions of the Provo leadership and an entirely different version to their own grassroots.

But now the tactic has come back to bite those who devised it in the bum. I can’t say I have much sympathy for them.

So, Farewell Muammar al-Gaddafi

UPDATED BELOW

You weren’t a saint for sure, but you weren’t the worst either. I can think of many others in your region, in Bahrain, Yemen or Syria for instance, who were more deserving of your bloody & brutal end – but you did not have the leverage that the leaders of those countries enjoyed. Perhaps if you had allowed Al Qaeda a small foothold somewhere deep in the desert where they could have posed a threat to the US, or if you shared a Border with Israel or had friends in the Saudi Royal family, you’d still be living and ruling the roost. But you only had oil – and lots of underground water – and that stuff is so easy to steal.

You started off well way back in September 1969, determined to erase Libya’s shameful and violent past as a toy of colonial powers and to make sure that the country’s oil wealth was used to benefit the largest number of people. There aren’t many oil states around the world that can make that claim.

Gaddafi as a young revolutionary

You also stood beside other peoples who had suffered from colonialism. A lot of the time your choice of partners reflected well on you. You supported South Africa’s fight against apartheid at a time when major figures in the country I now live in who boast of their support for democracy, like Dick Cheney, opposed the release of Nelson Mandela from Robbin Island. At other times you made really bad choices, like Idi Amin for instance. But I could see where you were coming from.

Most observers think you overstepped the mark when you made Ronnie Reagan an enemy. That set you on the path to Lockerbie, UN sanctions and the near crippling of your economy. Then you let the West back in, smiled at the oil companies, opened the door to the IMF who liberalised your economy, impoverished your people and wrote the script that led to your downfall. Others say it was your sons, greedy for wealth and contemptuous of your people’s needs, that really let you down.

All this probably did play a big part in your tragedy but I suspect you made your big mistake at the start of your reign, when you took on Big Oil and won. What you did broke the stranglehold the Seven Sisters – Standard Oil of New Jersey, Standard Oil of New York (now Exxon), Standard Oil of California (now Chevron), Gulf Oil, Texaco, Royal Dutch Shell and Anlgo-Perisan (now BP) – held on the oil producing countries. By doing that you breathed life into OPEC and put spine into their backbone; almost single-handed, you opened the way for the 1973 oil embargo and the emergence of oil as a potent political weapon. You gave the Arab world real clout, a new self-respect and a pride in their power to bend and twist the economies of the powerful. I suspect the Western powers never forgave you for that and were always looking to get their revenge. This week they did. The bullets that killed you were fired by Libyans but the gun was put in their hands by NATO.

So what will your legacy be? This is where I think the verdict will be unkind to you. You had a deep strain of pragmatism and that helped you survive for over forty years but you ignored it when when you shouldn’t have. Long before the Benghazi rebels reached for their guns you should have introduced real political reforms, recognised that you had outstayed your welcome and acknowledged the pent up rage & frustration driving the Arab Spring.

Even if that had heralded the end of your family’s reign, you would have been able to retire gracefully, with sufficient wealth to sustain your entire family and with the thanks of a grateful people and the Arab world ringing in your ears. You spent much of your life trying to bring down the tyrants of Saudi Arabia, of the Gulf and North Africa. If you had bowed out in the way you should have, the example you set would have done so much more to undermine and dethrone them.

But you didn’t and instead you have paved the way for the recolonisation of Libya. The same powers you overthrew in 1969 – the French, the British, the Italians and the Americans – will now be swaggering back into Tripoli, this time determined not to let the past repeat itself and intent on persuading Libya’s new rulers to acknowledge the debt owed to them. For that, Muammar, history is unlikely to forgive you.

So farewell then al-Gaddafi. I will always have a special place in my heart for your country and what it did to turn my life around all those many years ago. But you should have gone when you had the chance.

This interview, screened by the estimable Real Network News, gives a foretaste of what may lie ahead for Libya. Watch and become depressed.

UPDATE

Hillary Clinton, who had predicted Gaddafi’s death during a trip to Libya a few days before, jokes about the dictator’s brutal end with a CBS reporter and implicitly claims credit for it.

Double Standards at Slugger O’Toole?

Slugger O’Toole is Northern Ireland’s best known and most widely-read current affairs blog. Set up by Mick Fealty in 2002, it initially concentrated on Northern Ireland matters but has gradually expanded the breadth of its coverage, and its list of contributors, to include most points on the political and geographic compass. But there’s no doubt that it is Slugger’s coverage of Northern Ireland that brings the clicks.

Mick Fealty, founder of Slugger O'Toole

And Northern Ireland politics being what they are, there is no shortage of controversy about the stories that the blog posts, especially in the comments section where insults and abuse abound and often come close to violating the strict libel laws that operate in Ireland and the UK. Policing the comments section, and keeping Slugger O’Toole out of the libel courts, is surely one of Fealty’s more unenviable tasks.

Most of the time the system he put in place in recent years – requiring commenters to register and applying a ‘play the ball, not the man’ policy – seems to work and does so fairly, excluding the more egregious vilification. But like others who have had dealings with Slugger O’Toole, I have come across complaints of inconsistency and even double standards in the application of that policy, that those who are powerful, financially and politically, get a better deal than those who aren’t. Others say there are protected and unprotected species on the site, that is some journalists and public figures about whom criticism is rarely tolerated, much less abuse, and others about whom almost anything can be inferred.

Normally, I would dismiss complaints like this as sour grapes from people who came off second best in debates with opponents. Normally that would be my reaction, except I have personal experience at the hands of Slugger O’Toole and Mick Fealty that gives substance & weight to the complaint.

Back in April/May 2005 I was contacted by a friend in Belfast who suggested I have a look at some of the comments directed at me on one posting placed on the blog towards the end of April. There I read that I was “a sneaky little bully” who had no real republican sources but plenty in the security forces; that I hankered for a return to the days of “bombs and bullets” and that I had acted as adviser/policy developer and “consigliero” (sic) for the IRA leadership.

Now normally I would shrug off such slanderous nonsense. Ever since my book ‘A Secret History of the IRA’ was published I had been on the receiving end of mountains of similar abuse, mostly from Sinn Fein supporters who didn’t like what they had read between its covers. And there I would have left it except as I scanned the site I came across this, a comment posted on April 28th, 2005 by someone calling him or herself ‘Concerned Loyalist’ in response to other comments about a BBC Newsnight report that had named the membership of the IRA’s Army Council:
“Chris Gaskin,
You said that Newsnight have “put these men’s lives in danger”. How?
Around Christmas I named, on Slugger, the exact same 7 men as IRA Army Council members, but Mick took it off as he felt it could be libellous, which is fair enough……Concerned Loyalist”

I have to say that enraged me. Double standards in the treatment of people always do. Mick Fealty had moved immediately to protect the reputation of people who had directed a campaign of bombing, shooting & death in Ireland for many years yet had done nothing at all when I, a reporter of some standing, was called an IRA “consigliero”.

I am not a person who likes to contemplate suing. I dislike the libel laws which I believe are constructed more to protect the rich & powerful and to hide their excesses from public scrutiny than to prevent malicious commentary about innocent people. I didn’t want to sue in this case but I did write to Mick Fealty asking that the comments about me be removed. My first letter was ignored but eventually a lengthy correspondence ensued. However it wasn’t until the end of July that the matter was brought to an end, admittedly in a less than satisfactory way, and the comments removed. The Army Council got immediate satisfaction; I had to wait nearly three months.

Last week, Mick Fealty removed another posting from his site that concerned myself, but this time most definitely not at my request or wish. I had given an interview to an Irish-American website called TheWildGeese.com about the

Dolours Price, pictured several years ago

ongoing legal and political struggle to prevent the US authorities from confiscating archived interviews with former IRA members, notably Dolours Price, lodged in the archives of Boston College on behalf, we suspect, of the PSNI. But we don’t know for sure who is behind this as the subpoenas have, in echoes of the days of the Star Chamber, been sealed to maintain secrecy.

Those involved in our campaign had been investigating the background to the subpoenas, and particularly how the authorities in Northern Ireland and the US had come to know that Dolours Price had been interviewed by Boston College, whose project to collect paramilitary oral history had been overseen by myself. Over the past months we had worked out the following explanation for events:

♦ while a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Dublin, Dolours Price had been interviewed on tape by Allison Morris of the Irish News paper in Belfast about the background to the disappearance of Jean McConville amongst others. The interview took place at her home when she was on weekend leave from the hospital but technically still under its care;

♦ that during the interview, one of Dolours Price’s sons arrived unexpectedly, realised what was happening and that his mother was in no fit mental state to be interviewed and asked Morris to leave. She didn’t, the son contacted one of his aunts who, by phone also asked her to leave; she again stayed put;
♦ that on learning of the interview the Price family had asked the Irish News not to run the interview because of her distressed & unreliable mental state;
♦ that the editor of the Irish News agreed a compromise with the Price family, that “the juicy bits”, as one family member put it, would be not be used;
♦ that the editor of the Irish News, Noel Doran had kept his side of the deal but his reporter Allison Morris had not and instead had passed her tape of Dolours Price onto a friend, Ciaran Barnes in the Sunday Life tabloid newspaper in what was a blatant betrayal of the arrangement agreed to and honoured by her editor;

♦ that Ciaran Barnes had written a report with all “the juicy bits” most definitely included and wrote his report in such a way that it appeared that he had been given access to Dolours Price’s interview with Boston College and that the details of his subsequent report in the Sunday Life, including her alleged role in the disappearance of Jean McConville and others, had come from that interview;
♦ that Ciaran Barnes most definitely had not been given access to Boston College’s archive and that neither he nor anyone else knew what Dolours Price had said in her interview which was given when she was in a much healthier and rational mental state;
♦ that Dolours Price did not have, and could not have had, a copy of her interviews with Boston College and therefore could not have been the source for any tape recording of herself given to Boston College. The only copies of interviews carried out for the Belfast Project on behalf of Boston College were lodged at the Burns Library on the campus in Boston with access limited to the librarian, Dr Robert K O’Neill;
♦ that Ciaran Barnes’ motive in behaving in this way, to infer or otherwise suggest that he had been given access to Boston College’s tape, was to hide the fact that his information had come instead from Allison Morris’ tape and that Morris’ role in betraying her source Dolours Price, and undermining her editor, would remain hidden.

Allison Morris receives the British regional press award for Daily/Sunday reporter of the year on May 12th 2011, a few days after subpoenas were served on Boston College. Her portfolio of winning articles included her interview with Dolours Price

Be in no doubt about the seriousness of all this. In order to justify the PSNI’s subpoenas against Boston College, the office of the US Attorney in Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz cited the Sunday Life report as a causal factor for her legal action and took Barnes’ inference that he had listened to the Boston College tape to a higher level, saying:

“Ms. Price’s interviews by Boston College were the subject of news reports published in Northern Ireland in 2010, in which Ms. Price admitted her involvement in the murder and ‘disappearances’ of at least four persons whom the IRA targeted: Jean McConville, Joe Lynskey, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee…..Moreover according to one news report, the reporter was permitted to listen to portions of Ms. Price’s Boston College interviews.”

In other words, Ms Ortiz was saying: ‘We are demanding these interviews at Boston College because we have reason to believe, thanks to Mr Barnes’ journalism in the Sunday Life, that they include her confession to the disappearance of Jean McConville and others. Furthermore because Boston College evidently gave Dolours Price’s interviews to Ciaran Barnes or Dolours Price gave them to Barnes, the promise of confidentiality given to all interviewees had been broken and Boston College could no longer claim the protection of that promise. So please hand them over right now!’

Ciaran Barnes

Thanks to their deception and trickery Allison Morris and Ciaran Barnes have substantial and direct responsibility for this attempt to raid the archives of Boston College, an effort which has the potential to imperil the future of oral history in the United States, destroy Boston College’s invaluable historical archive and put myself and my researcher Anthony McIntyre in countless difficulties. A straight line can be drawn, in other words, between their behaviour and the subpoenas served on Boston College. Without the former, the latter could and would not have happened.

It was for this reason that in my interview with The Wild Geese website I said that “Boston College is the victim of journalistic ethics that are on a par with Rupert Murdoch’s hacking operations”. Notice, I did not say News International’s criminal behaviour but their ethical behaviour. And what I meant was that the deception of Morris and Barnes and Murdoch’s hacking shared the same disrespect for and mistreatment of sources in the search for headlines, a sensational story and professional advancement.

There is substantial reason to believe that Ciaran Barnes also broke the section of the Press Complaints Council’s code of behaviour which states, inter alia: “The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information…..”, while Allison Morris could be accused of contravening the section which says: “They (reporters) must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them…..”

This is a story that asks very hard questions of the Northern Ireland media. There are other reasons why the story is of considerable public interest, or rather questions that arise about the PSNI’s handling of this affair which make it so:

♦ Have the Irish News and/or Sunday Life been subpoena’d by the PSNI to hand over Allison Morris’ taped interview with Dolours Price?
♦ Does the Allison Morris tape still exist or has it been destroyed?
♦ Did the PSNI ever make any effort to discover if there was a tape recording of Dolours Price’s interview separate from those in the Boston College archives and if so, when did they make it? Was it immediately after the reports appeared in the Irish News & Sunday Life or did the PSNI wait, and if so, for how long?
♦ Has the PSNI ever attempted to interview Allison Morris and/or Ciaran Barnes about these matters?
♦ Does the Irish News have any other record or proof of Allison Morris’ interview with Dolours Price? If so, what is it and a) has the newspaper handed it over to the PSNI or b) has the PSNI subpoena’d it or even inquired about it?
♦ Has the PSNI handled this matter in such a way that local media sources remain unaffected and unharmed by their inquiry while the brunt falls upon Boston College?

These are all questions which, as I say, make this a story of overwhelming public interest in Northern Ireland, especially as society there grapples with the vexed problems of how to deal with the past. My interview with The WIld Geese was immediately noticed by Slugger O’Toole contributor Mark McGregor who recognised its significance and wrote it up in a lengthy blog which he posted on the site at 7.24 pm (Belfast time) on Monday, October 11th. It stayed there for three hours or so, after which Mick Fealty removed it.

Mick Fealty has yet, at the time of this posting, to make any reference to this incident on his blog much less explain why he acted in the way he did. I am told that he did this because of a fear of legal action against his site. Perhaps he will now come forward to explain so we can judge whether the threat was a real one or, as often happens with more powerful, influential and affluent parties, it was merely a bluff to kill off the story before it spiraled out of control.

In the meantime here is the post that was removed from Slugger O’Toole. Enjoy.

“Mark McGregor,  Mon 10 October 2011, 7:24pm

“When I asked ‘Did local media have a role in the Boston College case?’ I noted how articles by Allison Morris and Ciaran Barnes appeared central to the case being pursued in the US courts by the Attorney General to access oral history archives on behalf of an unknown wing of the British State. Their articles remain Exhibits 1 & 2 in the case.

“Mick later followed up noting a Private Eye article that states:

The subpoenas are based on a false claim that one of the interviews with Price, published in the Sunday Life newspaper in February last year, was based on an interview with the Boston College project

“Now Ed Moloney in an interview with TheWildGeese.com goes much further placing Morris and Barnes central to this case and seemingly with questions to answer:

In February 2010, Dolours was in a psychiatric hospital in Dublin and while there she contacted the Irish News in Belfast and said she had things to tell the paper. That weekend, she was given leave to go home, but she was technically still under psychiatric care from the hospital. The Irish News’ journalist Allison Morris arrived at her home and tape-recorded the interview. Dolours told a story about her involvement in the disappearance of several people in 1972, including Jean McConville. Toward the end of the interview, one of her sons arrived home and realized what was happening. He told Morris that his mother was a psychiatric patient, was taking drugs and was not in a fit state to give anyone an interview, that whatever she said was totally unreliable. He demanded that the interview end and that the tape not be used. Morris refused. He then phoned his aunt, who repeated the demand and was again refused. She then phoned the editor of the Irish News, and, after much discussion, he said that he would use the interview but agreed to keep “the juicy bits” out to minimize the damage to Dolours Price, which he did. We believe that what happened next was that Allison Morris betrayed Dolours Price and reneged on the agreement with her family and passed the tape on to a friend, Ciaran Barnes, who worked in the Sunday Life, a tabloid Belfast newspaper. He wrote up the story with “the juicy bits” very much in, and, in order to disguise the fact that he had got the information from Allison Morris’ tape, wrote the piece in such a way that it appeared that he had gained access to Dolours Price’s taped interviews at Boston College, which needless to say was impossible. It is on the basis of this deception that the subpoenas were served on Boston College, that the information in Barnes’ article came from BC when it didn’t. The information, in fact, came from the Irish News tape, which was passed on, in contravention of an agreement with Dolours Price’s family, to Barnes. Whether the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) have ever tried to obtain the Irish News tape is a mystery, which no one seems able to solve. But there is no doubt that the subpoenas served on BC are based on a lie, that the admissions Dolours Price allegedly made and which were reported in the Sunday Life came from Boston College. They did not. …

This is what the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney (Carmen M. Ortiz) had to say in her subpoena (see page 4 of link) to justify the demand for Dolours Price’s interviews: “Ms. Price’s interviews by Boston College were the subject of news reports published in Northern Ireland in 2010, in which Ms. Price admitted her involvement in the murder and ‘disappearances’ of at least four persons whom the IRA targeted: Jean McConville, Joe Lynskey, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee. See Exhibits 1 and 2. Moreover according to one news report, the reporter was permitted to listen to portions of Ms. Price’s Boston College interviews.”

That last sentence is a lie. He (Barnes) was not and never would be permitted access to Boston College’s interviews. Boston College is the victim of journalistic ethics in Belfast that are on a par with Rupert Murdoch’s hacking operations, and you can quote me.”

[emphasis added]

“Given Moloney’s statements questions may arise at the Society of Editors, Regional Press Awards as they declared Morris DAILY/SUNDAY REPORTER OF THE YEAR based on a three piece portfolio of work including that Price interview.

“I closed my initial blog with – Given the use of these articles to expedite the subpeona, it is surprising these publications and journalists have not been more proactive in examining this issue, their role in its advancement and just how valuable their articles are as a possible central plank for legal action. Moloney’s claim of an integrity issue may go some way to explain the reluctance from both journalists and publications to examine the role they had from the outset.”

A Question For Martin McGuinness

Here’s an interesting question to put to Martin McGuinness, one that has nothing to do with his IRA associations. I have read him saying that on the day Sinn Fein nominated him as the party’s candidate for the Aras, he was actually inside the Wall Street stock exchange alongside Peter Robinson discussing job promotion for NI with the exchange’s executives. It appears to have been his way of countering the insinuation that his violent IRA background would make him unfit to hold such a high office as the Irish presidency.

Not long after that hundreds and then thousands of demonstrators took to nearby streets in “Occupy Wall Street” protests against Wall Street’s corruption, greed and stranglehold over US politics. It is the first manifestation of public anger in this country at Wall Street’s ability to escape punishment for their wild, unchecked financial excesses which plunged the US and European economies into such a deep recession, impoverishing millions of innocent people.

As far as I know Martin McGuinness has not said a word about the OWS protests, although I stand ready to be corrected. But one of Sinn Fein’s staunchest allies in the US, Republican Congressman Peter King of Long Island has, and this weekend joined the growing right-wing chorus of condemnation cum mockery of the Wall Street protesters. Speaking on a radio show hosted by Laura Ingraham, a favoured megaphone of the American Conservative movement, King had this to say: “It’s really important for us not to give any legitimacy to these people in the streets. I remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy. We can’t allow that to happen.”   You can hear more of that interview below.

Earlier this year, in an exercise designed to pander to anti-Muslim sentiment in this country, King hosted a series of Congressional hearings about the so-called radicalisation of American Muslims. The hearings were widely condemned by liberal opinion as inflammatory and racist and also highly selective, since he did not include in his investigation other home-grown extremists, like the more numerous, well armed and manifestly violent White supremacist and other hate groups in this country. Since King was the most prominent Sinn Fein supporter in America, the party was asked for its reaction to his hearings and as far as I know said nothing.

John Kennedy’s cartoon captures Peter King’s mendacity pretty well:

Once again it would be beneficial to hear Sinn Fein’s attitude to Peter King’s views, this time on the need for the media to suppress coverage of the OWS protests. After all Sinn Fein presents itself to the Irish voter as the friend of all those who were victims of the Irish banks’ casino capitalism and has vowed to defend their interests and punish those responsible for impoverishing so many Irish people. And here is their biggest fan in America calling for people with those exact same views in the US to be gagged. So what does Sinn Fein, and particularly Martin McGuinness think of the OWS protests? Are they, is he on the side of the protesters or on the side of Peter King & the Wall Street executives with whom the SF candidate for the Park was recently closeted? T’would be interesting to know.

The Smile On The Face Tells A Story

It is election season again in America. Having run rings around Obama, Republicans believe he is there for the taking in 2012 and opinion polls say they’re right, he’s fated to be a one-term President.

Elected on the promise of bringing change (which meant undoing George W Bush’s disasters at home and abroad) Obama instead gave America more of the same; his foreign policy and embrace of neoliberal economics were indistinguishable from both of his predecessors, Bush & Clinton. As a result the economy is in the tank, the GOP refuses to help him get it out of the tank (and why should they?) and Obama’s disillusioned liberal base has all but abandoned him.

At this late stage, Obama has decided to move “left”, demanding higher taxes on the wealthy and talking the language of class warfare. Is this a genuine shift or merely a meaningless, cynical tactic to re-energise the voters who embraced him so readily in 2008? “Yes, We Can” replaced by “No, I won’t” and now superseded by “Yes, I Really Will This Time”?

Former New York Times reporter, Chris Hedges has written that what the voters bought into in that election was ‘Brand Obama’, a skilfully constructed advertising and marketing campaign designed to persuade voters they were buying something very different than the usual politician. No accident, he says, that at the Association of National Advertisers annual conference in October 2008, the Obama campaign “was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com.” The product was the same old rubbish but dressed up to appear exciting, new and promising.

If true that means Obama is mostly a phoney and a fraud, concerned not with substance but appearance and image. When I first saw the following video I was struck by the same thought. And also a little awed by how much discipline and training  must have gone into Obama’s performance – awed and a little horrified. Enjoy! (Best viewed in full screen)

Occupy Wall Street – The Interview Fox Wouldn’t Air

When your coverage of a protest against corruption, greed & inequality demands that you portray those involved as mindless, work-shy hippies with such a confused political philosophy that they haven’t even worked up a list of demands, what do you do when you encounter an articulate, intelligent protester who is a) able to explain fluently just why he and thousands of others have taken to the streets and b) won’t pander to the media’s caricature of the protest? Answer: lose the interview. Which is exactly what Fox News’ Greta van Susteren did when her interviewer encountered Jesse LaGreca (see below). US media coverage of the Wall Street protest has oscillated between ignoring it, pouring ridicule on it and, more recently, sounding the alarm and warning of the dangers it poses to American capitalism and Wall Street bankers. Taking it seriously and asking why it is happening has yet to feature in any prominent way.