Quotegate: Digital remixing, augmented news and the desire for honesty.

“They want control over their media instead of being controlled by it”Rupert Murdoch

The people formerly known as the audience are those who where on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation form one another – and who today are not in a situation like that at all” – Jay Rosen

Everything possible to be believed is an image of the truth.” — William Blake

Snapshot from Broadsheet.ie

Its been with not a little bemusement and amusement that I writing this. Over the last week or so, I’ve had no real idea that a link I shared of a remixed version of an Irish Times story was causing a bit of a hoo haw both within the Irish Times and on some political discussion forums including the London Review of Books and Micheal Tafts Notes from the Front. It seems to involved Irish Times staff including online editor Hugh Lenihan. To be honest I was mostly oblivious to this, and it was only when I saw quotes I’d fabricated being shared by my own friends on FB late in the afternoon on 17th May that I realised Id unknowingly given legs to a political punk. At that time I saw a piece on a piece on Broadsheet.ie on which later included this statement from Hugh Lenihan, and this really had me going WTF?

The link contained remixed quotes ‘from’ Michael Noonan’s speech at the Bloomberg Ireland Economic Summit, on Dublin May 16 2012 and can be seem at the bottom of the post. I added extra sentences, changes some others and completely flipped some of the actual positions/assertions made by Noonan. All of this took about 5-10 mins from seeing the original report and its potential for much merriment given the words Noonan did actually mutter. And lets face it, the man is a bit of a gift for this type of shizzle right? Its worth saying that I wasn’t sure I’d even sent out the link as the browser crashed when I pressed “publish” and I’d assumed it was just another bug heavy piece of browser script that didn’t really work. It kinda did I guess

And in some (maybe most)  sense this is non-story except for the fact that it points to some over lapping characteristics on our changing socio-political-media landscape that go well beyond my limited capacity for humorous (or not ) digital interventions.

Why was the IT forced to come out and say it didnt tamper with Noonan quotes? And why did people want to believe he said the stuff I’d attributed? Heres some of the reasons I think are part of the mix.

The collapse of the “official legitimacy” that is a necessary feature of a strong state – The last two decade has seem the collapse of public faith in institutional form of the Church and State. Much of this is to do with the unsilencing of church and state violence and corrutption and a re-rendering of public social imagination with regards hierarchical powers. In short many many people are tired of being fucked by people who claim to exercise political, social and moral authority over their lives. The bureaucracy of the state remains intact in so far as the limited role they play as sticking plasters for structural inequality and violence against most of us, eg criminal justice system, social welfare, health etc. Likewise the Dept of Finance acts as a strong adjunct to IBEC, the IFSC and the professional moneyed classes. The Dept of Finance should be properly understood as one irish node in the quasi legal architecture of financial capitalism that facilitates global tax avoidance and money laundering.

As such the state-as-a-function-of-neoliberalism is not near a collapse. However what is collapsing by the day at this stage is the legitimacy of the current power regimes, simply because they has run out of runway to justify there inability to do what “democracy” says on the tin. The Churches collapse in dominating a moral/ethical landscape, likewise the institutional forms of politics are de-legitimised less by arguments of the left, but by organisations and individuals who make the effort of getting videoed saying one thing before an election – just to get elected – and then do something completely different.

Clearly the exercise of power over doesn’t seek to justify itself to everyone. The official organs of the state are at war with most of us who live within its borders, even as those organs refuse to accept that enforcing poverty whilst billionaires grow richer is an act of violence. Those that refuse to be passive observers of either their own exploitation, or work in solidarity against the exploitations of others regardless of borders, tend to understand that appeals to the moral sensibility of those doing the exploiting is futile. We come together in extra parliamentary form, more often than not foregrounding the illegitimacy of professional political actors. Our political and intellectual position are misrepresented as something to be feared rather that publicly engaged with because, I would argue, of the fear of contagion.

Montreal, Quebec over 250,000 people come out to resist law criminalising political demonstrations

Hence the militarist response across Europe and North America to movements such as Occupy and M15. Riots cops kettle emerging social movements on the street, whilst conservative corporate media perform an intellectual kettling manoeuvre of its own, sealing off emerging politics of the street from ‘news consumers’.

No justification is proffered to those beaten, teargas, detained simply for taking to the streets of their own towns and cities. Instead justification is proffered to others, via messages of demonisation and misrepresentation. From the perspective of states in a fast moving economic and political crisis this is tactic can have immediate success. But tactics are not the same as strategy. Now in Ireland and across the Eurozone, the fears of contagion are not simply about money, debt and default, but rather about people getting ideas from each other about changing the world around them. And if anything is clear over the last 12 months, many millions of us are hungry for ideas and willing to act on them.

An increasingly socially literate population experiencing the worst affects of an economic crash – we did nothing to create – increasingly sees the politicians as ill-developed middle-management bureaucrats dazzled locally by the sniff of power and self enrichment at home whilst acting internationally with fear and stage fright. And nothing assists a persons rising political literacy than living ever more fearful whilst being repeatedly mocked and lied to by the very people who are handsomely yet specifically financially rewarded to serve us. Likewise nothing improves economic literacy than counting out food rations for the family whilst billions are handed to financial organisations who only exist to make money by moving money around.

There are different forms of literacy. Hypocrisy always looks the same (picture from Labour election campaign in 2011)

Meaningful democracy – the ongoing process whereby people as equals make decisions about their collective futures on the basis of fully informed consent – is not simply broken. Its an illusion. Michael Noonan as Minster of Finance exemplifies this.

The man is consistent it has to be said. He has lied his bollix off since taking office, after an election campaign which his party lied their way through. Nowhere better is his lying apparent than his spin around events surrounding the €3.06 Billion handed to the ECB/ICB covering what it had handed out to the moneylending gamblers of Anglo at the end of March. We got a deal with the ECB he said, when in fact the international press nailed this deal for what it was, moving our money around between accounts that was the hallmark of Anglo, the bank whose cooked books precipitated the run on Irish banks. Noonan didn’t even bother sending ANY documentation to the ECB in support of a write down of these debts, all the whilst telling the public he the Irish state is engaged in meaningful negotiations. Not even a fucking PDF attached to an email . A week later this same guy announced that he has “asked” the high paid flyers of the merged Anglo/Irish Nationwide zombie bank, rebranded as IBRC, to take a wage cut. Currently some are on wages of excess of €150-200,000. We are paying for them. They told him to fuck off…..

What ever about the specifics of Noonan that make punking him not so difficult, the collapse of official legitimacy should be welcomed as it opens up a public space for many things including the re-imagining of collective ethics and public morality based upon a more democratic dialogue on the type of society we want. We start by rejecting what we don’t want. This is where the battle of ideas is and other are lining up. The profile of the militarist ‘soft’ racism of neo-conservatists like Declan Ganleys Libertas act as a warning though that the collapsing of official legitimacy need not be replaced by something progressive, something rooted in egalitarianism either. Its all in the game.

The existential crisis facing media corporations. The crisis facing media corporations including Irish Times, The Indo etc is grounded in a confluence of changing social behaviours and practices, technological changes and broken business models. Technological developments such as the internet and social networks, and the no cost sharing they facilitate have fundamentally changed how people consume and share information and ‘news.’ In fact the dominant paradigm of “consumption” as what people ‘do’ with ‘news’ only makes sense when there is a defined product to consume – or indeed a defined product to do the consuming. Nowadays communication technology allows us not simple to consume, but to share, criticise,reply, comment, critique, augment, share and reply again.

Pat Kenny likes to sign off on his RTE TV slots saying “Morning Ireland sets the news agenda for the day tomorrow morning”. Now its not completely wishful thinking on his behalf. Such sentiments are kinda enlightening. But increasingly this is becoming less of a fact.

The collapse of advertising revenue due to the economic repercussion of the shadow banking crisis is another major problem. Specific investment decisions of groups like the IT have been disastrous. The entry of UK papers – often with essentially the same content as UK editions with substitute Irish wraparounds – has divided up a crowded market. Circulation figures suggest across the board drops

Compounding all this, the normalising of neoliberal ideologies has become deeply embedded as working practice within media corporations, substituting journalism with what has been called churnalism. Journalists, like other workers are demanded to produce more for less with precarity a used as threat. Some dodgy practices of professional journalism itself also has had an eroding impact on the notion that corporate media as either politically neutral and ethical. For example whilst the closure of the News Of The World may have provided News International to rationalise its operations (read sack worker) its worth noting that ordinary people using crowd-sourcing google spreadsheets and using Facebook and Twitte had succeeded in having all advertising pulled from the paper before its closure was announced by Murdoch.

Capitalist/management modes of thinking about this perfect storm still ‘cannot compute’ what this means for possible escape routes of this existential crisis and for finding new business models. Much less do these speak about what the social implications of the interaction between technical changes and changing social practice. The IT has just opened up comments sections, coming very late quite an old notion. Indymedia first provided an tech framework for greater new participation in 1998, the Irish ‘paper of repute’ still has a limited commenting function more than a generation later. All of these factors add up to put tremendous pressure to “innovate” – the term business use when trying to publicaly describe the strategic process of not-knowing-what-the-fuck-to-do. Others media entities such as Storyful has sprung up to generate capital from the nexus between popular citizen-based production/journalism and more traditional journalistic/corporate forms. Essentially they make money selling the producer rather than their stories to media majors, from what I can make out.

Nothing capitalist media managers have done has reasserted that quintessential role of mainstream media as a tool of politics in mid to late 20th century politics; the almost exclusive exercise of power over the creation of “official” public meaning, and the marshalling of ‘common sense’. In many senses we are in a period where Chomsky’s thesis of the manufacturing of consent is more and more widely understood, paradoxically at the moment the practice of such thesis itself is under threat.

And they know this themselves. A public that intuitively mistrusts politicians very easily mistrusts media entities that seem unable to articulate the reality of living with and in growing social poverty. Instead the consolidation of messaging and message management as a political act – with the acquiescence of Irish professional journalism almost wholesale with few exceptions – is perhaps the inevitable outcome of a trend, first made public policy by Tony Blair. Tanned Tony himself yesterday appeared at the Leveson inquiry to answer questions about the cultivated relationships between media corporates, PR personnel and social policy messaging. He made few interesting comments but this is worth a look Here in Ireland the nexus of PR, politics, media church and state is perhaps best shown to but the fact that the Chairman of RTE Tom Savage, is also owner of a PR company, The Communication Clinic whose clients include FF and FG politicians as well as the various arms of the Catholic Church helping them draft a media response to the fact the Church covered up the rape of kids. The Communication Clinic themselves became news last year when it was alleged that one of the former employees , who subsequently committed suicide, experienced workplace bullying. The Communication Clinic tried to hush it up, threatening Broadsheet.ie with legal action And again today the find themselves as news again

The recreation of common sense: the function of a political remix.

So maybe this is all a bit academic, or too high falutting for what in essence was an accidental punk, even if it did caused the “Paper of Repute” to make public statements and clarifications about its editing process. But recently Ive been taken with the idea of political remixing, co-opting the political and (im)material labour of the Irish state, adding my own (im)material labour and sharing it out. The idea isnt original, subvertisement has been around for along time. Most of this takes place in urban settings within the physical architecture of the city. Increasingly however the emerging online public space of the internet more generally and social networks in particular is becoming another fora in the battle of ideas. The function of political remixes, from my own perspective is to make comment using already existing material.

About a month ago, I made this edit of the Irish Governments Stability Treaty video

The fact that it has over half the total views of the official video perhaps suggest more about the states level of social media strategy that it does about the virality of the remix, but it seems incredible that the relative difference in resources between myself and the present government should not see much greater difference in recorded views.

I guess what I been saying above is that a confluence of events means that ordinary people with not lots of resources can seek to make an impact on public-political discussion in ways not possible or easyily imaginable 20 years ago. And sometimes you can do that without even meaning to at all.


Heres the actual article as I changed it

The article with changes highlighted is below but can be found in its original context here which can be found here .The original IT piece is here.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan today warned voting Yes in the upcoming EU fiscal treaty referendum on May 31st would be a “leap in the dark” and a “dangerous leap but that Irish citizens should take it”. [Original said a NO vote was a jump in the dark ]
He also told a Dublin event that no other European country but Ireland would be able to pass a referendum on the fiscal treaty. “In all other countries people are concerned about growing inequality. In Ireland we need to keep focus on more important issues of corporate profitability and tax protection we offer international organisations. This is not the time for drastic moves to the left simply to suit populist demands for simplistic idealism of “social justice” [All this is a fabrication designed to be as close to Noonan implicit ideology]
The Minister said the mood did not exist elsewhere in the European Union that would allow for the passing of a Yes vote and there was no mood for a vote on the matter in any other European country.
The Irish people were very well informed about the proposed treaty and it was a common topic of conversation throughout the State, he said, adding: “Though there are parts of the country where they (the No Camp) haven’t a clue about the treaty.” [Added]
A Yes vote would send a very strong and positive message about Ireland’s ability to run its own affairs to the world and would add greatly to the confidence people had in the Irish economy. He said the contrast to this would be the world’s view of Greece and its ability to run its affairs.
He said perhaps it would have been a good idea if Greece had had a referendum on its restructuring programme as had been proposed some time ago.
“Maybe they should have a referendum now,” the Minister said, adding that the vote should be on whether it wanted to stay in the euro, including the conditions that would apply. Mr Noonan said all member states wanted Greece to stay in the euro and that he believed Greece could stay in the currency if it sorted out its democratic position and committed itself to the restructuring programme through which it had received €180 billion of European taxpayers’ money.
He said he did not believe it was guaranteed that Greece would leave the euro and that the country’s problem was now a democratic crisis rather than an economic one. Asked about the effect of the departure of Greece from the euro, he said Greece was very far from Ireland and there were few economic links.
For Irish people doing their weekly shopping, “apart from feta, what other Greek items do you put in the shopping basket?” Mr Noonan said. “Though I must admit its a long time since I put anything in a basket myself” [Added]
Addressing a conference on the economy in Dublin, Mr Noonan said he did not believe the new French president, François Hollande, would make any new push to have the Irish corporation tax rate changed. He said the new French president recognised that he had to deal with the French deficit position as well as the need for growth.
Economist Alan Aherne, who is a member of the Irish Central Bank, said having an austerity programme without growth was like “having an operation without an anaesthetic”.
Mr Aherne said that “as matters stand”, the Irish banks have enough capital. He said Irish banks might be able to use the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to directly capitalise banks. Both he and Mr Noonan said if the Spanish banks are directly capitalised by the ESM, then that mechanism should become available as a “retro-fit” for Ireland. Ireland borrowed money from the troika so it could invest it into the Irish banks. This means the debt now forms part of the Irish debt to GDP ratio.
Mr Noonan said the treaty “promotes financial capitalism”, and would prevent future Governments from spending and borrowing excessively from future generations to finance “reckless and unsustainable” budgetary policies. He argued that there are no other alternatives saying “the No camp want to turn Europe into North Korea” [Added]
“These rules will ensure that never again a Government will be able to increase current expenditure on the back of growth in unsustainable tax receipts from, for example, property bubbles,” he added.
Responding to suggestions that the rules would lead to Ireland’s budgetary and fiscal policies being decided in Brussels or Berlin, he said that the Government of the day will still be “free to decide” what level of public services that they wish.
The Taoiseach, also speaking at the Bloomberg Ireland Economic Summit, said the fiscal compact would ensure no future government here or in Europe could misuse the people’s money. He said deposits were returning to Irish banks and continued to flow back.
A Yes vote would encourage continued investment in Ireland, he added.

4 thoughts on “Quotegate: Digital remixing, augmented news and the desire for honesty.

    • Thanks Dan,

      Much appreciated

      I really should have included those details in the post. But I’d rambled on a bit long already and forgot to include it.


  1. They separate the people and make us believe that we have different problems.Both in Greece and Ireland our problem is corrupted banks.When the bankers were earning there was no profit for the people of our countries.Now they are losing we are the ones that must pay for their greed.
    Greetings from Greece! 🙂


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