The Least Worst Option in Irish Politics is only matched by the Least Worst of Irish Political Reporting.
Can you remember the lifecycle of a river from Leaving Certificate Geography? I Do. The River starts out in the Youth Stage; swift moving, eroding the detritus downstream in a rapid fashion with little or no concern for its own safety. Obstacles are engulfed, overcome and dragged into new fresh vibrant routes. The river may seem reckless but it’s at the centre of chaos where new discoveries are made. .
Next the River reaches the Mature Stage. Here the river starts to take cognisance of its environment. It no longer rushes as quickly to its destination, it meanders. The river adjusts to the environment and assimilates much more with the topographical constraints surrounding it.
Finally the River enters the Old Age Stage. Now the meandering river is but a small part of the valley floor it once dominated. It is not even unique anymore; it may find other rivers, lakes, floodplains, marshes and swamps inhabiting its environment. It cannot engulf these any longer, let alone erode the detritus; it can only plod along to the end. The area around it is flat and without ambition. It cannot muster any speed as the land no longer allows it. Finally the River reaches the sea, spent and used up by the land it set out to change once in its Youth.
Now let’s look at our Political Reportage. Journalists start of with the belief of Speaking Truth to Power. They open debate, hold to account, challenge obfuscation and optimistically feel their work can help broaden the public knowledge of the incompetence (or less often competence) of the Politicians elected to represent the citizenry.
Then as they mature they slowly start to Embed themselves among the Political Class, excusing their lack of impartiality as a means to get the inside story. The start to publish Opinion Pieces that seem less critical of individual politicians and more inline with the Governmental Policy of “Everyone’s to blame, so no one’s to blame” mentality. You might refer to this period as the Fox News era. They still say some harsh and challenging things; they may even offend one or two ministers. But gone is the Optimism, they’re now pragmatic. Where Political Corruption/ Incompetence were once a call to arms the Journalist now errs on the side of caution. They feel they’re playing the Politicians while ignoring how much poison they swallow in order to climb the ladder of preferred reporters.
Finally, they reach the Old Age: a stage where reporting dissolves entirely into Sound bites and Quotes from unnamed and anonymous sources. Essentially they print what their master dictates and maybe peddle a sideline in Gossip, kite flying and unconventional Political Apologist PR. They dismiss legitimate criticism using clichés of keyboard warriors and actually believe their pretentious pragmatism, which has eroded their ability to be free thinkers, is “the least worst option”.
It would be idealistic to think our Political Reporters would wade out of the turgid stream of inane pieces and venture up river to the where the water has the power to create change. Why would they, it’s hard to break out of a circle that you never knew you were in? These Journalists have families, mortgages, bills and health insurance to pay. Pragmatic Old Age River Reporting is understandable. And that would be okay, if the Electorate – who want better for their children, their futures and their country – weren’t being fed this stream of drivel as fact.
We are continuously beating about the head with the underlying argument that Our Politicians aren’t the Best, but they’re the Best of a Bad Bunch. That our Incompetent Incumbent Cohort isn’t really very good, but they’re “the least worst option”. Think about that. Any aspirations you may have need to be adjusted down because we must expect less from our Government. We as a country shouldn’t ask for more, we should be Pragmatic, like the Old Age River Reporter.
Tony Groves Jan 2016