Mar 26, 2009

GUBU squad calling

It's been referred to as Cowengate, GUBU 2 and on twitter as #picturegate but the story of the illegal hanging of two nude paintings of Brian Cowen is what's buzzing on the Irish corner of the net. Is this the best public relations strategy in the history of the FFers or a major fuck up by people such as Michael Kennedy TD, who can only comprehend a situation when it is put in terms that he understands. His wife was kind enough to enlighten him on the grevious nature of l'Affaire Cowen.

But soon enough the smiles were wiped from our faces. Dear Leader's minions were up in arms when RTE had the temerity to report the news story.

God knows that we could do with a bit of a laugh – half the country has lost their jobs and the other half is being losing half their income on taxes. But the FFers have lost all sense of proportion and humour, assuming they had any to start off with.

Then Kennedy, the prince of village idiots, contacted RTE director general Cathal Goan and complained about bias and the obviously neferious ageda of RTE. Instead of telling Kennedy to go shite, RTE relinquished its last smidgen of credibility and apologised.

Let me reiterate that. The national broadcaster apologised to the Government for covering a news story.

The broadcaster received a number of complaints about the item on Monday’s 9pm television news, including one from the Taoiseach’s office. RTÉ had deemed the report to be inappropriate before complaints were received, a spokeswoman said last night. Consequently the report did not run on subsequent bulletins and was taken down from the RTÉ website, she said.

Here is the apology:

An impartial news broadcast on a publicly funded channel requires censorship and apologies? Difficult to believe of course since we allegedly live in a democracy, but it happened. Of course, this is the same government who claimed that dissent was unpatriotic. And this is the same RTE who requested Oliver Callan to ease up criticisms of Cowen on the satirical Nob Nation:

RTE has asked satirist Oliver Callan, of Nob Nation, to "go easy" on the Taoiseach stating that his increasingly controversial portrayal of Brian Cowen as a drunken buffoon "might be perceived to be a bit personal at this stage".

... Supporters of Mr Cowen are known to be upset at the Nob Nation portrayal of him as a hard-drinking and sometimes crude politician surrounded by Cabinet members who are also frequently portrayed in a similar manner.

Rumours which, by the way, are confirmed by the patrons of Doheny and Nesbitt's pub near Government buildings. Oh and by the way, the Government most certainly did not request that RTE censor Nob Nation. I'm sure they're insulted and appalled at the very suggestion. Yeah just like that time Conor Lenihan "assured" me that no one got a particular position through the old boys network. It's time to quote Hamlet, methinks.

So RTE apologies and proceeds to censor "in the national interest". The managers of Ireland Inc. throw their weight around like a pack of rapid rhinos, crushing freedom of the press in the process. Then the gardaí were ordered to the offices of Today FM with the dubious demand for emails and the artist information. “The powers that be want action taken”, Will Hanafin, was told.

At least one broadcaster in this country has the ethics to stand up to government bullying. Today FM refused to release any information without a warrant.

Mr Hanafin told The Irish Times he was “totally shocked” to be confronted by a garda. He said in “no circumstances could this be considered an appropriate use of Garda resources. It seems to me that the powers that be have lost their sense of humour.”

Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan criticised the Garda move. “At a time when the majority of gangland murders remain unsolved, to have gardaí spending their time investigating what amounted to a practical joke that offended the Taoiseach’s ego is a scandalous waste of resources,” he said.

“Today FM has clearly come under pressure to hand over e-mails about this matter, while RTÉ News has obviously been browbeaten into a grovelling apology. The way this matter has been handled is more reminiscent of Russia in the 1930s than Ireland in 2009,” said Mr Flanagan.

Wouldn't the gardaí be better served arresting the bankers, property developers and other criminals rather than persecuting an artist? Are we returning to the normalisation of a stagnant culture where books like "Brave New World" and "Gulliver's Travels" are banned? Are we regressing to the time when the powers that be decided that "Natural Born Killers" or "Clockwork Orange" was too corrupting for the Irish people.

Censorship is the enemy of democracy and with democracy, as with many other system, what is most important is the behaviour during the tough times, the bad times and the ugly times. That RTE is cravenly bowing to the government during this recession is a very bad omen for the future of democracy in this country.

Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are being stifled in this country. What the hell happened to our human rights? What the hell happened to this country where the Dear Leader is covering his government's ass at the expense of the people; where "I didn't read that part of the report" is an acceptable reply to accusations of incompetence; where a bank is nationalised to save one interest group and the Minister for Finance does not even report the report; and where artists are persecuted on trumped up charges?

I call for a general election now. I don't want to wait until Brian "I didn't read the report" Lenihan submits his third budget of the year. Third? Ridiculous doesn't even begin to cover it.

Out, out, out.

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