The despicable treatment of Clare Daly and Mick Wallace by the Irish Times in its Easter Saturday edition is more than simply evidence of the wretched state of the Irish mainstream media: it is also a reflection of concerns gripping the 26-County establishment.
The sanctimonious piece by Naomi O’Leary was titled, without any obvious irony, “Stars of state media” by a newspaper based in a state that ruthlessly enforced its Section 31 legislation for decades.
The article in question was printed over a two-page centre spread claiming that the two are “popular figures in media controlled by authoritarian regimes.” The message the reader was expected to take from this was that the pair are tools, knowingly or otherwise, of governments deemed undemocratic by both the Irish Times and Western powers.
Had this article appeared in one of the tabloids pandering to a sensation-seeking readership it would be possible to dismiss it as just another nasty piece of journalism to be binned with the rest of the rubbish. However, this was no run-of-the-mill scribbling hoping to beat the editorial deadline: by the writer’s own admission, the article had entailed ten months of research—considerable time devoted, therefore, to establishing the entirely unremarkable fact that Daly and Wallace are frequently interviewed favourably by Russian, Chinese and Arab broadcasting networks.
Such is the degree of anti-Russian hostility being generated at present that merely reporting that politicians are being interviewed by Moscow media is deemed sufficient to undermine their credibility. Yet this in itself does not explain why this research began months before Russia invaded Ukraine, nor does it explain why China and the Arabic-speaking world are also in the mix.
Whether conscious or not, the underlying rationale for this article lies in the changing dynamic in the global order and in this case the response by the Irish establishment to what is happening. Having spent decades ingratiating and submitting itself to and within the Western capitalist model, Ireland’s ruling caste has no appetite for having its privileged position disrupted or challenged.
Nevertheless, to paraphrase a former British prime minister, the winds of change are blowing, whether they like it or not. The axis of global economic power is shifting, away from the United States and western Europe towards China, Russia, and their allies in the Middle East. For decades the United States has been the leading global economy. Now, however, the latest statistics from the World Bank in Washington show that China’s GDP is—depending on which of two calculations is used—either the largest or second-largest in the world.¹
Worth keeping in mind when reading these reports is that GDP calculations are more than a little subjective, as they measure services as well as manufactured goods. This is more than a matter of semantics. Services, including the financial sector, are often transitory and always vulnerable to erosion, and make up a much greater portion of the American economy than that of China. Consequently, the long-term prospect is that, all else being equal, Beijing will displace Washington as capital of the world’s wealthiest and most industrially productive great power. And all that under the direction of a vibrant Communist Party.
Compounding the capitalist world’s anxiety about losing out economically is China’s foreign policy, exemplified by its “belt and road” project. Described as constructing a 21st-century Silk Road, China is investing abroad in infrastructure that is proving as beneficial to host countries as it is to the benefactor. Implemented for the most part in less-well-off regions, this initiative has, not surprisingly, won support among countries weary of and damaged by the heavy-handed, violent and rapacious exploitation of US-led capitalism.²
Consequently, it is no exaggeration to say that the free-market economic system as defined by the United States, Britain and the EU has not faced such a fundamental challenge to its hegemony since the immediate post-war era, a time when Soviet-style communism was gaining support among working people everywhere. The difference now is that the new kids on the block, namely China, Russia, and their Middle Eastern allies, are not exhausted and depleted by a savage war necessitating decades of basic internal reconstruction rather than high-tech export-led development.
What will not be different, though, is the response from capital to the challenge. As in the past, imperialism will employ the twin strategy of fifth-columnists and open military engagements, coupled with aggressive McCarthy-style propaganda. It is this latter tactic that we are now experiencing, and not just with this latest attempt to vilify Daly and Wallace.
Ireland’s mainstream media are owned or controlled by the ruling establishment and invariably serve the interests of their patrons. As mentioned above, there is nothing new in this assertion. The tendentiously censored coverage of the Northern conflict was a perfect example of this in practice, a situation where the modus operandi was to control and indeed create the narrative in order to control the response. So, rather than identifying the conflict as the result of a failed and repressive state, the Provisionals were deemed the sole culprits, thereby facilitating a selfish “do-nothing” response from Dublin governments.
In the latest manifestation of this narrative-controlling strategy, we can expect more of the same type of treatment inflicted on the two Irish politicians. The stakes are high for the ruling class, and the outlook is uncertain. In common with most free-market economies, Ireland, north and south, is experiencing the damaging impact of inflation, a situation that will last for many months and possibly several years and, as always, inflicting most harm on working-class communities.
Under such circumstances and conditions there is the real possibility that the spectre of a Connolly-inspired solution reinforced by developments in the East will become attractive among a majority of our citizens. In fact as we go to press there are those organising a festival in Dublin to celebrate the life and work of the said James Connolly. Not only that, the organisers have invited Daly and Wallace to speak.
What can one say? Well, it’s simple: a plague on the mainstream media’s McCarthyism, and on to the Workers’ Republic!
1. Caleb Silver, “The top 25 economies in the world,” Investopedia, 3 February 2022 (https://bit.ly/3ELtqLm).
2. See, for example, Ian Neubauer, “In Solomon Islands, Australia’s largesse faces China challenge,” Al Jazeera, 4 April 2022 (tinyurl.com/2hsef22v).