Politics » The Feral Media

I’ll come now to what bugs me. Governments must be held to account. Yet, I sometimes rail against the blanket intolerance that you sometimes see. Here is an example. There are two ways of looking at Brian Lenihan’s little row with AIB this week. He put his foot down and inisted that Colm Doherty’s salary was limited at €500,000. Or he ceded to the bank by allowing it to pick its own man for the job. Biased assimilation came into play here. It’s the intellectual laziness of choosing the argument that happens to fit your own argument.

I don’t care much for the accusation of intellectual laziness, since many complex but bogus arguments are the product of intense intellectual application. It does not help the argument on display here that the accusation of biased assimilation is introduced via the assertion that ‘there are two ways of looking at Brian Lenihan’s little row with AIB’, since it does not require much effort to realise that there are more than two ways of looking at the situation. But by declaring arbitrarily that there are only two ways, you can narrow things to fit the terms of your own argument.

Nonetheless, the point made in the comment that there is ‘moral shrillness’ in journalism, particularly in relation to politician expenses, seems sound enough to me, though I have no idea what ‘intolerance’ means in this regard.

But there are very good reasons for journalists to produce morally shrill pieces on political expenses. One is that politician expenses are a relatively cheap source data by comparison with expenses accumulated in the private sector. If top executives are gorging themselves sick in top restaurants using their expense accounts whilst simultaneously cutting worker wages and funding lobby groups to advocate wage cutting (and I happen to know for a fact that this happens), news journalists are unlikely to get round to reporting on this because a) the cost of reporting on such a matter is too high relative to reporting on information provided on request by the state; b) news outlets have no incentive to investigate anything other than the most egregious instances of such behaviour, since to do otherwise would hit the appeal of the outlet to potential advertisers, and even in cases where such behaviour comes to light, it would tend to be on account of involvement of some politician or other, and would be therefore effectively subsidised by the state; c) media reproduces the interests of its owners, among which one might find an interest in representing government as evil by contrast with virtuous and dynamic private enterprise, and a denial of the existence of class conflict, except in the grotesque form of corrupt politicians and their cronies the faceless bureaucrats versus the common man who only seeks to earn an honest crust.


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November 2009
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