Today, we are all Denis O’Brien. But not like that, however much Newstalk commands it. I mean more the way you become someone by inhaling them.

It is not that there are particles of O’Brien’s corporeal form general over Ireland and we breathe them in the way we breathe in a foul stench. It is more in the field of language, where every grunt and squiggle feels freighted with O’Brien’s presence.

By ‘Denis O’Brien’ I don’t really mean the person: not the bumptious fat boy on the make who fears the country is falling to the communists, who gloms onto the desires and vanities of wealthy elites and nudges them in his direction, who trousers untold riches from the bounty unleashed by privateers as state-owned assets are sold off and rented back to the population, who trawls the bottom billion for bargains and then flips the sale to even bigger billionaires. Who cares about him? Yes, he’s Denis O’Brien all right, but so are we.

Turn on your tap and fill a glass of water and drink it. Does it taste like Denis O’Brien? No? Take a small sip and hold it in your mouth and think about how you’ll be paying for this soon. Don’t swallow until you’ve sluiced around the idea that water charges were a recommendation of the McCarthy Report, and the most instrumental cheerleaders and legitimators of the McCarthy Report were individuals in the pay of Independent News and Media and Newstalk (including, perhaps, Colm McCarthy, if he doesn’t write those columns simply for the good of his health). How’s that water tasting? Swallowed it yet?

When your neighbour who has been out of work since the housing bubble burst tells you the way of sorting out the country is to slash the health budget by €10bn and privatise all the semi-states and sack all the useless civil servants and bring in some people into government who really know how to run a business, is it your neighbour talking? Are you sure? Can you hear anyone else?

What do you think about the Moriarty Tribunal? Do you think it was an awful waste of taxpayer money that demoralised the population and hasn’t really revealed anything other than the fact that lawyers are very expensive and civil servants are useless and businessmen are very competitive and when the difference between winning and losing is using a bit of influence on a venal politician, it is a natural enough occurrence for a red-in-tooth-and-claw go-getter to offer some sort of inducement?

Do you know who else thinks that?

8 Responses to “Denizens”

  1. 1 Donagh March 23, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Yes, entrepreneurs are supposed to be energy producers, changing the world based on their vision and dynamism, little power stations driving the economy forward. But the analogy with radiation poisoning is a good one, as his opinion pollution is invisible and transforms the victim in subtle yet devastating ways. But of course, as you say, it’s not Denis O’Brien the person, but the type of people he represents although admittedly it’s a small but powerful group, as the slab indicates.

  2. 2 Hugh Green March 23, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for expropriating Denis O’Brien the person.

  3. 3 Hugh Green March 23, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, when I say ‘expropriate Denis O’Brien’ I mean his assets, not him. For starters I don’t know who owns him so that we might expropriate them of him. Though I am not agin it in principle/

  4. 4 Donagh March 24, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Well, of course, I’d taken it as read that he should be divested. But just wanted to agree that O’Brien represents those who are using the crisis for their further enrichment, and that we shouldn’t get fixated on the individual and their character although that is all that is discussed.

  5. 5 Pope Epopt March 24, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I became bored with Moriarty in fairly short order. Capitalism as normal, not much we didn’t already know.

    I always suspected however, that the main purpose of the Tribunals being set up as lawyers’ feeding troughs was to demonstrate that open government is just too expensive, don’t you know, and ensure that nothing similar ever happens again.

    This doesn’t seem to have come off – there is some complaint about the costs but I guess that since the bank guarantee it’s chicken feed and doesn’t register any more as excessive.

  6. 6 conallg March 27, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    I think the Sindo survey on Moriarty’s report is a real puzzler, but might explain the nature of the O’Brien PR campaign:

    “On the substantive issues, it is clear that public opinion is with the tribunal, and its chairman. Asked if they believed Mr O’Brien gave money to Mr Lowry, 87 per cent said yes, 13 per cent said no; asked if they believed Mr Lowry helped Mr O’Brien secure the licence, 89 per cent said yes, 11 per cent said no; asked if Mr Lowry should now resign as a TD for Tipperary North, 88 per cent said yes, 12 per cent said no.

    However, the public is somewhat sceptical as to whether all of the facts were established: 55 per cent said yes, 45 per cent said no.

    There is huge cynicism in relation to broader questions surrounding the Moriarty Tribunal and tribunals in general: asked if they believed anybody would be successfully prosecuted following the Moriarty Tribunal, 91 per cent said no, nine per cent said yes; 88 per cent said the taxpayers did not get value for money and 67 per cent said tribunals of inquiry should not be used in the future.”

    Caveat: it’s a Sindo poll, so unreliable. Nonetheless: a huge majority believes Moriarty’s fndings, but a substantial minority doesn’t find them entirely credible. Vast majority fatalistic about the consequentiality of the report.
    The public gets it – findings of the Moriarty are true and consistent with what we know about how this country works. But it’s not ‘actionable intelligence’.
    Seems these doubts about the efficacy of the tribunal were the aim of the O’Brien spin operation, not the vindication of the accused parties.

  7. 7 conallg March 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    In short, a formal separation of truth and credibility: this is what O’Brien spin achieves. Actually, this is what neoliberal ideology has been working on for over three decades.

    • 8 Hugh Green March 28, 2011 at 9:58 am

      However, the public is somewhat sceptical

      That ‘However’ seems to support what you’re saying. Here the Sindo seems to think the public is contradicting itself: whilst the public has been shown to believe the findings, it must be pointed out that it also thinks that the full story has not been told, which may mean that if it got told the full story, its belief could change.

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March 2011

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