Social Media and the Virtual Reality of the Irish Political Class: No 1

FearTo learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise” Voltaire.

We don’t see the people who are doing real things getting enough props. We often see politicians who are everywhere but nowhere at the same goddamn time. You know the kind of person: You see them everywhere on television but nowhere in front of your face. ” Chuck D

“Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits, in the classic formulation. Now, it has long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist, with whatever suffering and injustice that it entails, as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage of history either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must — namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority and remove them from the public arena. The question in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.” Noam Chomsky

It has been apparent to many people in this state, across Europe and much further afield that the professional political class are living in a sort of virtual reality. We have political system that has been described as corrupt in all areas of public life in the Mahon report. We have elected government ministers who come onto the state broadcaster stating clearly that lying is an electoral strategy, and we have political organisations that opportunistically use the massive rise in suicides in the state to try deflect the role their decisions play in the rising tide of material and emotion misery of our society. We have successive government ministers beholden to finance capital, and we live within a neoliberal politcal system where the power of capital continues to squash the possibility of genuinely democratic equality. We live is a state where tax laws are written by the same Irish legal firms that benefit from Ireland position in the global tax dodging network. The main political organisation in government, Fine Gael was explicit in saying any tax rises on the rich and on private corporations cannot be countenanced unless the most impoverished in our society got kicked a lot more so as not to upset universal kamra, the ever vague but omnipotent entity know as the “confidence of the market”.  Few professional political commentators ever seems to point out that if ‘confidence’ is the only thing holding this system up, perhaps the system itself is a fundamentally flawed concept and we need something completely different.  I dunno this might be a bit out there, but something founded upon care, compassion, social need might be a start. But I would say that being a left wing anarchist extremist. Maybe Im a dreamer. But Im not the only one.

Meanwhile back in the real world we have a government minister Kathleen Lynch, with responsibility for mental health saying she will consider setting up a support system funded by us to help TDs and Senators ‘deal’ with increasing levels of public anger, whilst at the same time slashing public resources funded by us on our public mental health. Then we have FG TD Mary Mitchell O Connor releasing a press release saying “It is impossible to quantify how many deaths have been caused or contributed to in this country by the negative elements of social media. The unconstrained venom being directed at individuals on Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube is undoubtedly doing untold damage.” The contradicitions may not be immediately obvious, but if suicides due to social media are “impossible to quantify” how can they be “undoubtedly doing untold damage”

No one can condemn serious attempts to look at how peer abuses amongst school kids affects them and to try to reduce harm, however people like Pat Rabbitte etc have specifically conflated bullying within younger kids with people being completely pissed off at the structural failings of our political and economic system.

There are no government press releases on suicides relating to the indignity, social stigma and powerless that often comes from being forced into poverty or unemployment, or from the multiple and complex fears causes by threatening letters sent by private money lending banks and organisations. Using the framework and logic of the public pronouncements made on social media as factors in death, perhaps we should ourselves should be creating our own counter narratives. Would the possibility of change and equality in our society be better served by properly describing many of the deaths as “assisted suicide” since banks and government decisions have help facilitate peoples decisions to take there own lives. Or should we follow the lead of people in Spain who now reframe suicide caused by the macro political-economic system as murder.

Its hard to know whether the attitudes and statements from government are founded on intellectual incoherency or collective psychological dishonesty, but it is as if the present political class feel that they have some intrinsic right to live behind a firewall of their own victimhood, sealed off from the social consequences of their actions on our lives. However their attitude to peoples ability to use social media tools and comment public spaces afforded us via Twitter, blogs, comments sections etc is telling. Nor is it restricted to Ireland. Its a global issue with very real consequences. This week Rashid Saleh al-Anzi was sentenced to jail in the ‘friendly’ dictatorship in Kuwait for sending a tweet calling for political reform and an end to corruption. This got reported in the Irish Times. Last week noted right wing ‘economist” Jim Power called for ‘less democracy and more benign dictatorship’ on Newstalk. His interviewer let this without exploring any of the implications for such proto-facist free marketeerism. Once again it was ordinary folks using social media technology that took up that baton.

We are basically being told to shut the fuck about our own existences, about our material poverty and our individual and social fears for the future. Even as we are being pissed upon, we are being spoken too ask the rabble, the mob, the motley children, to be scolded and put in our place by our more learned others. The instinctive response to that is a simple and clear “No. Fuck Them.”

Is it ‘polite’? Is its ‘nice’? No its not. Of course its not. There is nothing polite about introducing charges for people needed chemotreatment, there is nothing polite about hiding 25 years worth of meeting minutes of the Clearing House Group, there is  nothing polite about poverty or house eviction. Theres nothing polite or nice getting legal letters from money lender taking you to court whilst the coked up fuckers in global high finance and the Irish professional legal firms who screwed us over indemnify themselves with law and corporate structures they designed precisely for that purpose. So excuse us if we lose our decorum a little. There’s a war going on outside and its a war on our lives. Its a war of inequality and a war against democracy and justice.

Fuck’em for evening daring to demand I/you/we ‘be nice’ as I/you/we watch people around hurting and fearful. Fuck’em for trying to encourage us to internalise their bullshit worldviews and values and lack of social imagination. Fuck’em for being so stupid as to think we are not aware of what goes on around us. But saying Fuck’em is merely an emotional indicator, and on it own it is just a temporary release. The refusal to be bound by the logic of market democracy is an orientation. If we aim only to be able to criticise, rather than to change, if the limits of our desire are only to be able to tweet or make comment, rather than to act together to assert full authority over the decisions that affect our lives we will remain in an echo chamber of our collective dispairs. What we have now is the ability to be visible to each other in ways previously impossible. It will take more than 140 characters to really challenge unjust power but making a new meanings, new social imaginations from our own narratives, about our actual existences as they are now, is central to making what previously seem impossible possible.

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2 thoughts on “Social Media and the Virtual Reality of the Irish Political Class: No 1

  1. This piece unfortunately serves the distortion that it seems to condemn. At its root it is no more than a “whatabout?” i.e. the routine refusal – generally encouraged by media workers – to discuss anything unless some other issue or indeed a whole range of issues is addressed. It also adopts what I regard as a shared media “political theory” that the structure of society is the “political class” plus the “1%” versus the “people”. (*) Moreover, in its antipathy to the “political class” it dismisses all arguments and perspectives which “members” of that “class” share with others.

    A person can dislike as many politicians – and Declan Ganley too – as much as he/she likes but when the despised ones say that there are communication problems with media and social media in particular, that dislike is not relevant to their argument. For example, media workers and others have distorted what Pat Rabbitte has said about mass political communication and used the fact that it was Pat Rabbitte who said it to defend their practices, those same practices which this blog seems to deplore. The fact is that on this issue of political communication Pat Rabbitte is a damn sight closer to Noam Chomsky than his establishment critics.

    Pat Rabbitte should be roundly condemned for what he said about election communication. That condemnation should come particularly from the Labour Party because it relies on persuasion. However, that will not address the problems of interested citizens reliant on media – including social media – which are becoming swamped with lies, rumours, fantasies, rants, conspiracy theories, moral panics and common abuse.
    * http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/pat-rabbittejournalism-and-the-citizen/

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