Don’t Shoot the Messenger


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As a reprise of their considerable study of the Irish media’s part in helping to pump up the Irish property bubble, The Media and the Banking Bailout, David Manning and Miriam Cotton of MediaBite have provided another analysis of how the mainstream media in Ireland is now, in the wake of the disaster that they were involved in orchestrating, pointedly promoting a ‘deflationary’ economic point of view.

The deflation that has occurred as part of the collapse of the property market must now, elements within the media seem to argue, take with it that part of the economy upon which most people in Ireland rely.


According to Vincent Browne the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) represents “potentially the single largest transfer of wealth ever to take place at once.” The agency, established to “oversee the transfer of the dodgy loans held by the banks, loans amounting to €90 billion,” will take on billions of Euro in debt owed by developers. With the taxpayer essentially becoming liable for the commercial risk now realised in the ghost estates mercilessly documented by Eamonn Crudden in his short film ‘Wallets Full of Blood: Houses On The Moon‘.

Properties sold as investment opportunities and, often secondarily, as ‘a place to call home’ will now not only become the crash landing of negative equity, but the burden of additional tax. Taxes that will not be spent on public services, but set aside for the state financed bailout of a rich minority.

As quoted in ‘Houses on the Moon’, “What was built to keep people safe, is gonna trap them inside.”

Scapegoat the poor

By establishing NAMA, the government identified the primary cause of our economic difficulties. Not public sector inefficiencies; not uncompetitive wages; not excessive social welfare payments; not even reliance on low corporate tax rates. But reckless lending, by reckless financial institutions, to reckless developers, spurred on by a reckless government and all under the watch of a reckless establishment press.

So how does this inconvenient fact fit into the recessionary narrative? Not very comfortably it would seem.

In the weeks and months since the banking crisis was exposed the economic debate [has morphed] from an obsession with debts and deficits into a full-blown assault on the public realm that has more in common with Thatcherism than it does with mere fiscal prudence.”

For instance, The Irish Times’ Stephen Collins recently warned that “[t]ackling the public service pay bill and the social welfare bill can hardly be avoided.” Dan O’Brien of the Economist Intelligence Unit also told of the need to address “the elephant in the room” in the Irish public finances,” declaring that a “reduction in the minimum wage from €8.65 was “an open and shut case.” While Sarah Carey fretted about the potential impact of bank nationalisation, whereby the inefficiencies of the public sector might exacerbate the incompetence of the banking sector! “I accept that there are talented people in the public sector, but the inertia of government is more than they can usually bear. Worse, it’s contagious. Turn bank employees into public servants and I guarantee the malaise will seep in.”

A sentiment summed up in ‘Shock Doctrine-esque‘ clarity by an Irish Times’ Editorial writer: “Serious reform of the public sector – too long shirked by all political parties – was never more necessary. An economy in crisis presents a political opportunity to achieve that reform.”

Read the rest of part one of this article on MediaBite.

Also, here’s part 2 of the article in which they provide the point of view of those inside the media who have responded to the criticisms they have raised over the last year.

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Donagh is the editor of Irish Left Review. Contact Donagh through email:

2 Responses

  1. David

    May 29, 2009 5:00 pm

    I’ve just this minute come across this piece by Matt Cooper in the Irish Examiner, 8 May 2009. Crazy coincidence.

    Matt dealing with that ‘good’ criticism…

    Don’t shoot the messenger – the media has a duty to tell it like it is

    By Matt Cooper

    Friday, May 08, 2009

    The Government has told us there will be more tax increases in next December’s budget, that child benefit will be cut, that other social welfare benefits are under threat and that public spending will have to be cut. That is not a media construct

    IN the same week that George Lee – Ireland’s gloomiest economic commentator, according to some – has decided to test his popularity with the public, a hitherto largely unknown recruitment consultant sprang to prominence by sending out a mass email attacking the media’s alleged role in unnecessarily undermining public confidence in the economy.

    David Bloch runs a recruitment firm called Brightwater and having read an article based on his email in a newspaper, I asked him to join us on The Last Word on Wednesday. Bloch repeated his claims that the media is reporting everything that is wrong about the economy while ignoring the positives. He claimed a link between sentiment and the economy and said the media was depressing the population and thereby destroying the country.


  2. Speedy Gonzo

    May 31, 2009 1:30 am

    There are income differentials in the public sector, an obvious case being junior doctors and nurses on low salaries and enduring more onerous working conditions than the upper echelon senior staff and consultant specialists.

    In addition, I am aware of resentment towards civil servants, teachers and other categories of permanent pensionable employees by sections of the SME self-employed, and by that estimated 17 per cent of the citizenry who remained below the official poverty line during the celtic tiger boom. I lived among the 17 per cent.

    That said, I agree that the financial meltdown in Ireland, Britain, America and elsewhere was caused primarily by reckless lending and financial ‘product’ gambling by financial institutions. In Ireland first time home buyers were offered 100% mortgages and existing mortgagees were induced to take out loans to build porches, conservatories and things to ‘add value’ to their homes.

    More power to Miriam and others who are trying to make the public not forget that the lend-and-spend frenzy was continually applauded by media business commentators. The domestic and foreign property advertorial ‘supplements’ also made the newspapers fat. The media band played on until the meltdown became apparent during the past year.