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Myers? It’s not him… it’s us! August 11, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I don’t think there’s much purpose to be served by trawling too much further over the Myers issue. Kathy Sheridan and Fintan O’Toole both had good pieces in the IT which undercut a lot of the pretensions of his defenders – of which there are many. But perhaps one last voice added into the mix from that latter category is illuminating.

There was a two page spread in the SBP at the weekend where various people weighed in with arguably only Gillian Nellis offering an entirely critical account, while Barry J Whyte was more critical than might be expected but perhaps pulled his punches slightly. Tom Lyons by contrast argued that ‘there was an unpleasant visceralness to some of the criticism aimed at the 70 year old. Some will say that he deserves it.. but there is a nastiness to much of the criticism’. Which makes one wonder has Tom actually read any of Myers stuff?

Meanwhile more intriguing is Anne Harris who offers that Myers is clearly not anti-semitic. But the problem is that his pro-Semitism seems to be based on similar enough conceptual ground to others who take a much less benign view. Indeed I’ve noted here previously that there’s something tooth-grindingly condescending about some supposedly pro-Semitic views – with their exaggerated praise and inflation of supposed ‘positive’ traits. As someone else pointed out here it’s analogous to the condescension directed at women by some men.

She then decides that papers hire provocative columnists to provoke… ‘and readers read them in order to enjoy nice warm feelings of righteous indignation’. She continues: “Those commentators who rushed in to excoriate Kevin Myers might remember that they are playing the same game themselves. Fits of morality on a daily basis can damage the health. “

What that means is difficult to discern. But let it be.

Soon we are on to what she describes as the Sunday Independent’s ‘long waltz with the peace process’.

Twenty years ago, John Hume asked the Irish people to accept the IRA’s and Gerry Adams credentials on his say-so. In sometimes furious debate, the Sunday independent subjected those credentials to severe scrutiny. It’s fair to say some of the scepticism still stands today and the near annihilation of the SDLP bears ominous witness to that.

This is so problematic I’m hard pressed to know where to begin. Given the full-blown hostility of the SI to the the peace process the idea it provided ‘scrutiny’ is near-laughable. Not that scrutiny shouldn’t have been provided but outright antagonism and hostility is not the same thing. A good friend has suggested at times the sort of rhetoric emanating from that quarter was potentially very dangerous to people like Hume. Difficult not to agree. And to argue that the political eclipse of the SDLP is somehow equivalent to the train of misery that was the conflict (let alone that it has been annihilated, it’s weaker, much more so, but it prevails) or that political conflict is equivalent to armed conflict, is risible.

We’re on to ‘extreme individualism’ by way of Karl Popper. Apparently Myers et al supply, to quote Popper, ‘originality of thinking, whimsicality, even – if you will – eccentricity, [which] are necessary in the defence against evil’. Some would balk at that description given what was said about children out of wedlock or women or… well Jews. One might wonder what definition of evil is being used here.

She doesn’t hesitate to talk about how ‘Anti-Semitism is one of the great evils the world has know yet seems always to be with us… permanent vigilance against unconscious anti-Semitism is more difficult, as the Myers controversy proves’. She’s right, it is one of the great evils and it is unconscionable, but then she rather undercuts her own argument by the near immediate following:

Because great columnists have a lot in common with great comedians, boundaries are never uppermost in their minds. Does anybody seriously think the writers on SNL – lifeline since Trump’s election – worry about boundaries?

Sheesh. Comedy is one thing, satire another but linked, but a columnist in a paper is the equivalent to that? And it is obtuse to try to argue – having just mentioned the greatest generational challenge this island faced prior to Brexit, and then the fight against anti-Semitism, as a touchstone of the seriousness of endeavour that Myers et al are supposedly engaged in, that it’s all about the lols.

Time then for some finger wagging about how anti-Semitism is the issue exercising those on the other side of the Irish Sea whereas ‘the bulk of the comment on this side of the Irish Sea has been on the misogyny. So our everyday sexism radar is on the button, but our radio frequency on anti-Semitism is clearly lagging behind. Why?’

Well clearly it’s us, not Myers. Yet who wrote the piece? Him, not us. And even taking her point as is, the reason so much comment has been about the sexism is that Myers has form in that regard but has never been called out in quite the way he is in this instance. Actually I don’t think Myers is anti-Semitic, though the comments were as noted above tooth-grindingly condescending and could sound anti-Semitic. I think there’s a laziness there, a sort of – well, ‘virtue-signalling’ of the right, the assumption that saying that Jews have x or y or z characteristics rather than human beings with all the frailties and strengths of same is what has to be said and so it should be said and hitherto he’s never had any pushback on the matter whereas to neutral ears it sounds barmy and ironically one step away from much more noxious rhetorical narratives. But the concern this side is that the misogyny is largely excused, the ST didn’t see fit to mention it. That’s just business as usual. And the problem is reading Kathy Sheridan and O’Toole, being that that that keeps occurring.

But for her it is, predictably, inevitably, us. She concludes…

Myers comments about Jewish women broadcasters and money were repugnant without a shadow of a doubt. But in that frantic triangle of editors, columnists and readers, are any of us whiteout guile? [ I do not think that latter word means what she seems to think it does in this context – was ]. And the carnage around his unconscious anti-Semitic comment exposes one big question. How innocent are any of us?

There now.

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Comments»

1. Ramzi Nohra - August 11, 2017

Not particularly relevant here but I learned recently Kevin Myer’s father was in the IRA. Is this common knowledge? It somewhat surprised me.

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Starkadder - August 12, 2017

Myers said this in one of his columns:


My father was in the IRA when he was a young man. He went to the grave without ever telling anyone of this, including my mother. Only 20 years after his death did an old IRA man, Dan Foley, tell me that he had served in the same IRA unit with him. The few remarks I recall him making about the IRA of later years were only dismissively contemptuous

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/an-irishman-s-diary-1.57727

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WorldbyStorm - August 12, 2017

My father was in Sinn Féin in the 50s, as he used to say ‘when it was neither popular nor profitable’! In Meath too. What was interesting was that he had little or no time for PIRA or the armed struggle but a bit more for the WP (in part because he later worked in Tallaght and through his work knew a fair few activists there). But in a way for him – oddly like Joe’s da, FF became the eventual political position, as he’d see it pragmatic but with a sheen of social conscience. I think Clann na Poblachta would be the perfect party for him had they survived (he was anti-partitionist but also resigned about the reality of the Unionist majority as was). He liked Haughey not for the cute hoorism but for the French like dirigiste approach (and that’s a sort of sub topic isn’t it, how Haughey could play on traditionalism but also a kind of modernism of that period).

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2. Joe - August 11, 2017

I’m a two nationist cos my da, God bless him, was a Haugheyite FF nationalist. It all figures.

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3. Dermot O Connor - August 11, 2017

It was gruesome to listen to Myers on that BBC5 interview, saying how the Jews were the smartest people in the world, maximize your potential, blah blah blah.
His point about Nobel prizes was accurate BTW.
The fact that couldn’t access google for the 5 seconds needed to verify the statistic (20% of all Nobels, only 0.2% of the world population) suggests that he was really under stress. The interviewer could have had a research assistant do the 5 second search for her if she’d been interested. She made a glib aside and moved on; best to let him keep digging his own grave. And he did.

Some observations on Myers M.O.:

1. Elementalism (Korzybski): Myers talks about Jews as a homogeneous group, and doesn’t seem to know or care about the split between Ashkenazi,Sephardim, Yemeni, and Mizrachim, etc., or difference between them (how many Sephardim win Nobels? (only 12 out of the 197 won by Jews, as it turns out). How many Hasidic? Does it matter?) – Myers never goes beyond talking about ‘The Jews’ as though they were a monolith.
Does he know or care about mistreatment of Sephardim and Mizrachim (by Ashkenazis) in Israel?
Islamophobes do this of course, talking about Islam as though it was a singular entity (no doubt Myers has dished out the same approach to ‘Islam’ and ‘Arabs’). Note that Myers uses elementalism a lot – single mothers, africans, republicans, women; it’s his mental default to see the world as made out of blocks, and draw his warped ideas from that. ‘Intellectual’ myarse.

2. Essentialism: to talk about a group as though they had fixed qualities. Similar to elementalism, and about as useful/dangerous, especially in the hands of a fool. Having seen the world as made up of elemental blocks, the fool assigns these blocks inherent qualities that they must have.

3. Special Pleading. Poor Kevin, it’s so unfair to judge him on the basis of one poorly written article, you should try to understand him and his worldview, take a more nuanced approach. In other words, to extend to him a courtesy that he has not extended to others. Petard, hoisted.

4. Intelligence as virtue. The most infamous attacks against Jews weren’t based on the idea that they were stupid, but the idea that they were clever, scheming, cunning, running the banks, swindlers, etc., so emphasizing Jewish intelligence is a hallmark that he shares with anti-Semites. A lot of Myers’ defenders in the Indo comments section don’t seem to realise that the ‘cunning Jew’ isn’t anti-Semite trope #17, it’s anti-Semite trope #1.

*

On a tangent about IQ / Meritocracy, and why obsession about ‘intelligence’ is the road to hell:

The adulation of ‘intelligence’ feeds into a nasty form of ‘meritocracy’, in which a ruling class gets to regard its own position as deserved (Oh, middle class Dublin, I have not forgotten). A handy quote from John Ruskin – so doubts about IQ uber alles go back a couple of centuries:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/is-the-premise-of-meritocracy-immoral/397106/

“What then! Do you think the old practice, that ‘they should take who have the power, and they should keep who can,’ is less iniquitous, when the power has become power of brains instead of fist?”

*

A nice recent piece on the Baffler about the misuse of intelligence to justify all kinds of political/social nastiness (the paragraphs refer to characters in the Great Gatsby, infatuated with their own ‘intelligence’).

https://thebaffler.com/salvos/outsmarted-perlstein

…people who congratulate themselves for how intelligent they are for knowing that there is a limit to their intelligence are, well, after all, just another sort of snob. Nick muses to himself: “I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.”

What finally saves this infinite regress of observations from solipsism is this hard, concluding bedrock: the bottom line here is fundamental decency. And what the story goes on to reveal by turns is that, even as we moderns spend enormous amounts of our conscious energy making evaluations about who is sophisticated and who is simple, who is well-bred and who is arriviste, and who is smart and who is dumb, these are entirely irrelevant to the only question that ends up mattering: who is decent and who is cruel.

I put a lot of html in this, pray that the html doesn’t break!

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WorldbyStorm - August 11, 2017

” In other words, to extend to him a courtesy that he has not extended to others. ”

In a way, and agreeing with your post entirely, isn’t this the key point. This is him and his approach. He must be given a pass all the time, others get none.

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4. The Broken Elbow - August 12, 2017

The Sunday Independent hysteria about Hume-Adams was not founded in any concern that Sinn Fein would gobble up the SDLP but that SF was disingenuous, effectively lying, had no intention of ending its war and that Hume had been conned into accepting SF’s bona fides and that all along the Provos were planning to resume war when the task of debilitating and demoralising constitutional Irish politics had been achieved. This theory was accepted by the Ruth Dudley Edwards-Michael Gove school of neoconservatism in its entirety. I had one celebrated confrontation with Gove over this myself. The point is that they were spectacularly wrong, so wrong that they now are rewriting this history and claiming that the absorption of Hume’s party into SF is proof they were correct when all it proves is the triumph of constitutional nationalism over the Provos. After all whose clothes are Adams et al now wearing?

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WorldbyStorm - August 12, 2017

That’s a very very interesting point re the way in which RDE et al are rewriting the SI history.

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