You've probably never heard of Julien Mercille. He's a Canadian academic working in UCD and the author of The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland. He recently made a presentation to the banking enquiry on the role of the Irish media in the property bubble leading to the banking crisis. His main point is that it is still the interests of elites that are mostly reflected in editorials and news stories, while those of ordinary people are often left out. You can read his presentation here. This mightn't seem a particularly controversial point but it led to a barage of criticism from senior figures within the media. Here's a sample:

-A “messiah” and “self-appointed guru”, and also “an obscure academic” (Gerry O’Regan, ex-editor of the Irish Independent).
-“The finest conspiracy theorist I have heard in a long time” (Geraldine Kennedy, ex-editor of the Irish Times).
-A “man of the hard left” (Dan O’Brien, Irish Times)
-“I attach no credence whatsoever to Dr. Mercille and his views regarding the Irish Examiner. They are from a planet I neither recognise nor inhabit and they do not apply to the Irish Examiner” (Tim Vaughan, Irish Examiner editor).
-“Far left”, “not a media academic”, and has “never worked in the Irish media” (Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner journalist).

 

Two things are striking about these responses: one, they are personal. They don't contain any arguments in response to what Mercille has said. If these responses were all we had we would probably not want to read any further about this Mercille bloke. He would come across as a bit of a nutcase. His voice would be killed off and excluded. Two, they are unanimous. They all agree that what Mercille has said is not worth listening too. They have all gathered around their victim and killed him off with their words. They have left him for dead.

As readers of these comments and also, of course, as readers of newspapers in general we always have a choice. We can join in with the chorus of denunciation so that the words on the paper, or on the screen as the case may be, become words floating around inside our heads, thoughts that we begin to repeat in conversations. We can begin to crowd around the victim like these journalists. Or we can pause and decide to take a closer look at this 'nutcase'.

The Passion narratives in the gospel present us with the same choice. They show us how we either follow the crowd in killing off the victim or we can take a closer look at who it is that is being killed off this time. One of my seminary teachers once said "We don't read the Bible. The Bible reads us." The Passion Narratives reveal very clearly how it is that we, in oh so subtle ways, participate in the killing off of the voice of innocent victims around us. We may be standing close, like Peter, or further away like Pilate but before the Passion the whirlwind had swept all of us, unknowingly, into a unanimous spiral of destruction around the inncoent victim.

But wait! Julien Mercille an innnocent victim? Isn't that stretching it a bit? A white, western, highly privileged intellectual! It does seem strange but only until you realise that perhaps what the journalists are attacking is not Julien Mercille but the perspective he has chosen to represent with his words. The unseen underbelly of Irish society, largely poor, who have been most affected by the sheer inhumanity of austerity but whose perspective has been effectively airbrushed out of mainstream newspaper narratives. In one of Mercille's studies (available here) he found that despite the widespread unpopularity of austerity because of its human toll, his study found that the media have been unrelenting cheerleaders of austerity. In over 400 editorials and opinion pieces studied only 12% opposed austerity.

In the Easter story Jesus sees clearly what we do, killing innocent victims, and freely submits himself to it but he also forgives us and by forgiving us releases us from the chains it places around us. For we now have a choice. We can no longer plead innocence. Jesus has revealed to us our murderous side but he has also released us from it. We can continue to stand around with the mob in the silencing or we can take our place with Jesus beside those whose voice had been hidden since the foundation of the world.

- Dave Donnellan

   

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