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The unsubtle joy of being a partisan hack: Election 2007, and now they’re all at it. May 17, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Election 2007, Irish Politics.


To my mind there are three great political resources for those of us interested in such things on the web in Ireland, above and beyond individual blogs. Slugger O’Toole and Irish Election both provide a comprehensive filter for a variety of viewpoints. And then there is of course Politics.ie. As a forum for debate it’s excellent. Sure, it’s dragged down by the anti-immigration crowd or those for whom the Second Dáil is the source of all political validation or those who believe 9/11 was caused by the US itself, or the Rosicrucians, or Fianna Fáil, or the Bilderberg Group or the Easter Bunny or… But overall it’s essential reading.

However, over the past month of so some fairly irritating noise has entered the signal, and by this I’m referring to the appearance of the entirely partisan hack. Now it’s not entirely without precedent. P.ie has always been adorned with a number of individuals whose devotion to their particular party line has bordered on the incredible, and perhaps it’s easy for those of us who’ve been through three or four political formations to take a longer view on such things. But even so, give me a break.

A thousand flowers are blooming, a thousand points of light. Problem is respectively they stink and they flare too brightly. The number of new posters appearing on Politics.ie is remarkable. These poster profess to a deep insider knowledge of the campaign, not merely of their side, but of their opponents. They talk of numerous friends ‘across the parties’ who are remarkably forthcoming about the state of their respective political projects. They hint at links to the media, to unreleased polling information, and so on and so forth.

Let me point you to some examples of the more egregious offending threads.

For a start we have the unsubstantiated rumour…take this one concerning the supposed purchase of personal cars by FF Ministers convinced that the Election is already lost.
Cars for Ministers…hmmm. That doesn’t sound likely, now does it? If only because most Ministers are fighting for their political status in…er…constituency electoral battles. And having some experience of how tenacious the most humble backbench TD will fight to retain their seat even, perhaps particularly, a Minister will do likewise. Those egos require constant feeding.

Okay, let’s consider the deliberate exaggeration of an opponents characteristics, behaviour, actions. Here for example is poor old (now, I know it’s difficult for me to write that description) Brian Cowen, lambasted for a ‘freakout‘ (by the way, how I love the way 1960s slang is reentering the language)
Dermot Ahern derided for ‘having a hissy fit on Drivetime‘ and so on. I listened to the first in it’s entirety and a bit of the second. Neither politician sounded in any way extraordinary, and Richard Bruton in the first….”interview”…gave as good as he got. So let’s put this down to shameless spinning.

Then there is shameless boosterism of a candidate or party. Here’s one I read earlier that deals with Enda Kenny at Westminster (incidentally, speaking of partisan, was it me or did his comments at Westminster on the 6 o’clock news yesterday tread deep into that sort of territory?). He is accorded a courteous reception which somehow becomes yet more evidence for the crushing inevitability that he will be the next Taoiseach. Not that he has been immune to attacks either, such as this thread which raises questions about his abilities in the most cack-handed fashion

Or there is the coat trailing assertion, such as this one about Eric Byrne (incidentally many years ago I was involved in student politics in a college in his constituency when he was but a councillor. I recall inviting him and all the other local representatives to the college to discuss matters of interest. He was the only one to turn up. I tend to remember things like that) not putting his heart into his campaign. A moments investigation will demonstrate that Byrne is working extremely hard, as indeed one would expect him to, to gain a seat for Labour, and for those of us entranced by the internet he actually seems to understand it and use it…

Or what of this about Joanne Spain which discourteously and entirely inaccurately alleges she is economical with the truth. More to the point the original posters in each instance when shown how incorrect such allegations are don’t bother to make any sort of an apology (incidentally the person who posted the Spain allegations is a secondary school student, but youth, like stupidity, is no defence).

Closely related to that is the allegation that a Minister, or indeed a member of the opposition front bench has been kept away from the public gaze for fear of upsetting the electorate. or Jim O’Keefe of FG lambasted for being replaced by Brian Hayes on Primetime.

Here the real problem is the lack of insight into the freewheeling nature of campaigns, particularly where they interact with the media and how this can pull anyone off course. Which makes one wonder just how much these ‘insiders’ actually know.

Could it be that they too are…you know…lying?

Meanwhile on the fringes we have partisans of the smaller parties or none doing their best to co-opt this internet ‘site of struggle’. My favourite? Someone who really really likes an independent candidate in Cavan-Monaghan (disclosure of sorts, I also really like that candidate, he’s a sound man, but even so I have the strangest urge to stick my fingers down my throat when I read some of this stuff…),

And then there are pure disinformation campaigns run by the shameless or the witless. Take for example this example concerning rival candidates in Louth.. and here.

Hmmm…clearly doesn’t understand IP numbers. And in any event, the disinformation is so useless what possible interest could it serve? Unless it’s a double bluff, that we’re meant to think one person is doing it, when it’s actually their opponent, or perhaps it’s a triple bluff and we’re meant to think it’s the opponent when it’s actually the first person, or perhaps it’s….

But, overall it makes for a chaotic and rather dispiriting experience. What’s interesting is the way in which it is the semi-anonymous forum of P.ie which permits such behaviour. Blogs can be no less partisan, but due to their longevity this is understood and accepted. Indeed their very longevity gives them a credibility that posters (particularly those who sign up on the eve of the election) lack.

It has to be said – and read back over the Latest Discussions list if you don’t believe me – that overwhelmingly this sort of stuff is dominated by anti-FF threads. Which is entertaining and illuminating as regards the supporters of both FF and FG.

And perhaps in that it serves a useful purpose. It’s certainly determining where my lower preferences aren’t going. And for that I particularly thank…. nah, they’d know themselves if they had the slightest bit of cop on.


1. Pidge - May 17, 2007

Seamas, of Joanne Spain fame, is only fourteen, in fairness.


2. WorldbyStorm - May 17, 2007

Hmmm… which kind of makes it worse. There’s no self-awareness on the part of these guys as to just how negative the impact of their activities is to many of us.


3. ejh - May 17, 2007

The same thing happened to John Harris” “Now Who Do We Vote For?” site at the last UK election. Despite being set up to help Old Labour people find candidates to vote for (and debate their merits) it was soon crawling with people from all sorts of political parties telling us how their party was right about everything and everybody else’s was not only wrong but venal with it.

Which might or might not be true, but wasn’t really what the site was there for….


4. Wednesday - May 17, 2007

I haven’t been on p.ie for a week now (just moved house, no broadband yet, and neither time nor inclination to read it at work). Thanks for letting me know I’m not missing anything.


5. Craig - May 19, 2007

“Sure, it’s dragged down by the anti-immigration crowd ”

To be fair now some of the more smugs members of the pro-immigration crowd on p.ie can offer replies and posts that are every bit as obnoxious and condescending. If you don’t agree with them, you’re either stupid, a racist or both. There is little attempt made to actually make reasoned argument in favour of (mass) immigration. Interesting that you only find fault with one side, WBS, old boy! You are generally even-handed and observant, so you should have noticed it…

There is in fact a lot of childishness on politics.ie, and there isn’t always much in the way of proper debate.


6. WorldbyStorm - May 19, 2007

There are people on P.ie who take a balanced view of the area of immigration, and you and I know who they are, even if they tend towards being critical of it. That’s fair enough, indeed it’s essential. But, in the main, I’ve also observed that there is far too much generalisation, repetition of rumour and scare-mongering from the anti side of the fence. But… really some of the stuff, i.e. about ‘secret’ welfare benefits, unfeasible population projections and often simple xenophobia is both foolish and close to racism.And yes, there are those who – I wouldn’t describe them as pro ‘mass’ immigration – who are too vehement in their critique of a reasoned position.


7. Seamas de Faoite - May 24, 2007

Pidge i’ll have you know i’m 15 and as for worldbystorm no one proved me wrong. infact on both points i was right but i was the only person to actually have the balls to say it. SF think people are afraid of them i’m not.


8. WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2007

SdF, it’s not for others to prove you wrong, it’s for you to substantiate your allegations.
You didn’t do so, and it’s not about ‘balls’, it’s about being serious politically.
As for SF thinking people are afraid of them. Hmmmm. I think you’re projecting wildly. But either way. Think about what you’re doing. It doesn’t lend credibility to Labour.


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