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A rush to moralise? March 10, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Brendan O’Neill of Spiked joins the Tuam debate in the Irish Times. He writes:

Such is the morally charged climate around the Tuam home that anyone who keeps an open mind as to what happened there risks being denounced as an apologist for horror. But we must keep an open mind.
If we look calmly at what is actually known, then it seems that while the home was an awful, tragic place, it was not necessarily a site of insanity or evil.

But the problem is that the facts, the unadorned facts, of the case are such as to evoke a sense that the awfulness and tragedy of the place- unimaginable to most of us as they are – shade into something profoundly worse. A stunning lack of respect for those who were shut away in these places and for their children. And even his own words go quite some distance in pointing up just how grim the circumstances are:

The evidence we have so far suggests life in the home was exceptionally difficult and, of course, utterly unjust: these women had committed no crime. We also know the infant mortality rate was terribly high, no doubt as a result of poverty or institutional neglect, or both.

What he does, though, is argue by taking some individual and limited examples of rhetoric (drawn from Twitter and so on, as if that is what characterises the totality responses to the issue) in relation to ‘holocausts’ that that characterises the broad response to Tuam. But that’s a rhetorical device in itself – not least because he has to go back to 2014 to find two very specific usages of the term. One doesn’t need to see Tuam as representative of a ‘holocaust’ to have a sense that it represents something uniquely awful all on its own terms.

Opinions may differ over the following:

As an atheist, I have no interest in defending the Catholic church. I want to defend science, rationalism, and approach history in a measured way.
You see, this is the terrible irony of the Tuam ghouls. In running ahead of the facts and turning this into a black-and-white morality play, in which they star as paragons of decency against hellish nuns, they reveal that they share something in common with the Old Ireland they claim to hate: a preference for moral zealotry over reason.

It’s a bit difficult to see where science and rationalism come into this as is. And the morality play has already passed through town, again and again. When the Taoiseach of this state has himself in the Dáil chamber this very week and argued (albeitly to my mind in far too studied terms) precisely that Tuam was abysmal it seems almost trite to complain that those who are shocked and express that shock are ‘ghoulish’.

After all, given we have had case after case, one doesn’t have to believe all nuns were hellish to know that some were. One doesn’t have to dissent from the idea that the homes were of their time to still see that they were awful, unjust, exceptionally difficult (all O’Neill’s words), that even on their own terms they were particularly, appallingly, grim – they wasted lives, in every sense. One doesn’t have run beyond the facts of the matter to position this within a context where women and their children were marginalised, made as other, removed physically and in other ways from the society because their pregnancies showed up the hypocrisy of that society. One doesn’t even have to hate the Old Ireland, but rather acknowledge that in amongst the good and bad there was the awful. The truly awful. And the point is well made in comments btw that there is a further aspect to this, that a society and religion which placed children and mothers at its supposed centre while allowing actual children and mothers to be treated in this way achieves a level of hypocrisy that is hard at any remove to stomach, and that that religion exercised that power into the contemporary era and attempted, and still does to an extent, to shape social policy in this state.

I know three people who have been directly touched by this. I read O’Neill’s words and I think of the pain and anger of one person I was talking to about this only this week, whose own mother died in one of these institutions and not that very long ago.

That person is no ghoul, they have seen this, and are acquainted with previous instances of this, how could it be otherwise? This is their lived experience. And there’s one other aspect. Even the nature of the burial, in the grounds – and tellingly unconsecrated ground, in and of itself speaks of the sheer detachment of these processes – the wish to conceal, to keep away, to remove.

Perhaps most importantly, none of this is new, whatever O’Neill might like to think, none of this is entirely unexpected. The IT notes how in the Bell in 1941 there as an article on how high the death rate of ‘illegitimate’ children was in the 1920s. And how in Mary Raftery’s and Eoin O’Sullivan’s book, Suffer the Little Children from 18 years ago noted that ‘the sheer scale of the system has in part resulted in the strange public silence on these institutions for most of the 20th century’.

None of this is new. It is hardly contentious to suggest that Tuam isn’t anomalous but rather is symptomatic of broader dynamics. The problem with pieces like the one linked to above is the sense that they’re tut-tutting at people as they argue ‘you don’t really have a problem, or if you do it’s not as big a problem as you think, and even if it is keep quiet…’. Which tellingly makes is much more similar to the situation and attitudes prevailing at the time these institutions were in operation than O’Neill’s strained effort to compare supposedly identical zealotries… But when the facts themselves are so strikingly grim…

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Comments»

1. GW - March 10, 2017

Fairly pathetic article. Just another version of ‘shut up about it, why don’t you.’ You moralist, you.

The process of opening up the widespread clerical sexual abuse of minors is beginning in Poland, as I think I remarked elsewhere. I hope that has more impact more quickly than the tortuously slow progress in RoI.

Liked by 1 person

2. Ed - March 10, 2017

The Irish Times might as well have included a turd in their latest issue where O’Neill’s article was meant to be; it would be a lot easier to wash your hands clean afterwards than to banish the memory of his smug drivel from the mind, and it would have provided far more intellectual nourishment. They obviously didn’t see any need to revise their ‘daring’ approach to commissioning after hiring a neo-Nazi sympathizer to write about neo-Nazis recently. As always when they justify this crap by talking about the need to include dissenting points of view, you have to ask: where was the ‘9/11 was good, actually’ op-ed in 2001? Or the ‘ISIS have a legitimate cause and the Paris attacks were entirely justified’ op-ed? And I’m fairly sure the IT got the whole way through the Troubles without publishing a single article that said ‘the Provos are in the right, I just wish they would plant more bombs’. Some things need balance and some things don’t; it’s invariably the point of view of people without power that needs to be balanced, funnily enough.

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RosencrantzisDead - March 10, 2017

where was the ‘9/11 was good, actually’ op-ed in 2001? Or the ‘ISIS have a legitimate cause and the Paris attacks were entirely justified’

It is Living Marxism. O’Neill has definitely written something like this, although the latter article probably says the French deserve it because of their weak liberalism and attempts to integrate have failed – Islam is irrational and must be destroyed ::froths at mouth::

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3. Phil - March 10, 2017

Apparently O’Neill wrote something in 2014 to the effect that the stories were all speculation and we shouldn’t rush to believe them. Now it’s more, OK, so it’s true, at least some of it, but let’s not rush to believe *all* of it… Pity’s sake.

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4. irishelectionliterature - March 10, 2017

O’Neill and co are just being contrary on the issue for the sake of it and for the publicity. I really can’t understand (bar it being clickbait) why any paper would publish such stuff.

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5. CL - March 10, 2017

““A great many people are always asking what is the good of keeping these children alive? I quite agree that it would be a great deal kinder to strangle these children at birth than to put them out to nurse.” — Doctor Ella Webb, June 18, 1924, speaking about illegitimate children in care in Ireland at the time.
The story of Doctor Webb’s comments was in the Irish Times that day in 1924. It was allowed to go without outrage or question….

If the Nazis did it we’d be outraged and talk of genocide would swirl.
The Irish state did it to its own children – murdered them by the thousands by neglect and hate….

As Catherine Corless, the noble campaigner who against all the odds and cover-ups exposed the Tuam babies scandal, said last week: “The county council knew at the time there were remains there, the local guards knew, the religious knew. And yet it was all nicely covered up and forgotten about.”
http://www.irishcentral.com/news/tuam-babies-it-would-be-kinder-to-strangle-these-illegitimate-children-at-birth

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6. dublinstreams - March 10, 2017

if the Irish TImes was interested in the facts why id it publish something in its Opinion section where its already said it doesn’t check facts.

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7. ivorthorne - March 10, 2017

I can appreciate the idea of a newspaper wanting to make its readers aware of opinions that are outside of the norm and the “alt-right”/fascists should feature – but not with opinion pieces. By all means, interview them, challenge them but don’t just hand them a loudspeaker then shrug your shoulders. Then again, it works better as clickbate when you hand them a blank canvas.

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8. Mat - March 10, 2017

Remember when Brendan O’N was involved in Living Marxism? Didn’t they have to shut down after alleging ITN faked footage of the Serbs holding Bosnians in concentration camps?

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Starkadder - March 11, 2017

Aye.

“Reporters Penny Marshall and Ian Williams were each awarded Ł150,000 over the Living Marxism story which called into question ITN’s coverage of the Bosnian war.

The left-wing magazine was also ordered to pay Ł75,000 to ITN for libelling them in a February 1997 article.

ITN said it would pay its damages to the International Committee of the Red Cross to continue its humanitarian work with the victims of conflict on all sides.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/677481.stm

“The image was taken by most people as evidence that the Serbs had been running a genocidal operation in northern Bosnia, but Living Marxism disagreed….The article seemed to accuse ITN of having fabricated the image. ITN sued, in spite of the unwritten law that journalists never sue their colleagues, and when the case came to court three years later, won.”

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n13/jenny-turner/who-are-they

Now, there were good arguments against Western military intervention in the Balkans wars, but you do not make them by falsifying crimes committed by one of the belligerents.

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WorldbyStorm - March 11, 2017

“Now, there were good arguments against Western military intervention in the Balkans wars, but you do not make them by falsifying crimes committed by one of the belligerents.”

+1

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9. shea - March 11, 2017

i heard this story later than most during the week from a few people very angry over this on the nuns killing hundreds of kids. That perception is out there. Is that factually what happened?

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dublinstreams - March 11, 2017

where did they hear that?

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shea - March 11, 2017

No where. The authors article is called ‘rushing to moralise ahead of the facts’ some posts on here are dismissing the premise. Iam just saying i’ve heard it.

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dublinstreams - March 11, 2017

“a few people very angry over this on the nuns killing hundreds of kids”. why did they tell you that?

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WorldbyStorm - March 11, 2017

What is it to you DS if someone told shea that? If you agree and you have information to support it offer a link. If you disagree and have information to the contrary offer a link. This continual 20 questions approach of yours is kind of distasteful given the topic.

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shea - March 11, 2017

people like to share opinions and emotions on current events.

Sorry but where are you going with this.

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WorldbyStorm - March 11, 2017

+1

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10. dublinstreams - March 11, 2017

He’s talking about people talking about the story and made an extraordinary claim so I want to know where the people he was talking to got the impression that they relayed to him. Is he accusing them of moralising, adding grist or greatly simplifying the story to the point of misinformation… Its exactly on topic and I wouldn’t have to ask twice if he answered my simple question the first time.

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shea - March 11, 2017

i did answer your question. I said ‘no where’ thats the point the author of the article is making.

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dublinstreams - March 11, 2017

Sorry I wasn’t clear whether they had heard or read that accusation or they were making their own up.

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shea - March 11, 2017

the point of the article discussed, linked in the very fist line of this thread is that conclusions are being arrived at where the factual information doesn’t support it. That there was a ‘Holocaust’ in my case that ‘nuns killed hundreds of kids’ .

As this little spat shows it is possible to read or hear something and conclude more was said than actually was. Why, i don’t know.

http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/rush-to-moralise-over-tuam-has-run-ahead-of-the-facts-1.3002786

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11. Chet Carter - March 11, 2017

Brendan O’Neill seems to be the ultra libertarian spokesman on all things Irish in the UK. His attitude towards what went on in Tuam is consistent with how him and his Revolutionary Communist Party comrades write about allegations of child abuse made against establishment figures in Spiked magazine. Their attitude being move on, nothing to see here.

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