“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.” ―Philip K. Dick
Image: Thanks to Eamonn Crudden
Update: 12:53. The paragraph about Garda leaking info to journalists around what was called the “rape tape” by traditional media has been amended following details from another person involved in the womens media support team at the time.
Update 13:57 Added info on Rabbles discovery that the Indo has substantially changed Paul Williams article without informing readers.
So now that GSOC, Martin Callinan’s police force – as he likes to describe it – and Alan Shatter and the DoJ have stopped slugging it out in front of us kids, maybe its time we all took a breather. It was quite the James Bond ride there for bit, but all official parties have made it clear that they want to Put. This. Behind. Them. Or sweep it under the carpet. Or make it go away. Or something. Anything to stop people talking about the elicit surveillance, or cops running a high level international heroin smuggler. Or focusing on the silencing of whistleblowers who are suggesting there are a lot of people sitting in prison after being stitched up by dodgy cops. Shatter has announced he is appointing a judge to “look into things”. Though he also said he is “satisfied that no bugging took place” because he hired an Irish security firm, who have a ongoing DoJ contract, to do a third sweep of GSOC. Cos like, you know, whoever was doing the bugging has been sitting on their arses praying that wouldn’t happen right?
- Move Along Now
“Hey numpties, look over there” says Independent News and Media, the countries largest media corporation. Whose chief editor used to edit the Garda Review. “It’s nothing” says Generic Crime Correspondent. “And stop pointing at us. We are just doing out jobs. Political correspondents get handed their stories all the time too”
- Getting annoyed with comments on Twitter. Mick to his credit has engaged and debated after the fallout of GSOC bugging
Sure I can understand people not wanting to lose Garda contacts for their stories. And if you aren’t pulling the stories in you could get sacked. Such is the pressure of contemporary traditional media workplace. I’m completely empathetic to that. But can we all stop pretending Generic Crime Correspondent is a position of public service, rather than an outsourced Garda media strategy. Actually doing a public service comes with a higher risk of getting sacked. Just ask Gemma O Doherty, sacked by INM for having the brass neck to investigate bent boys in blue.
Many people Ive spoken to – you could call them sources – see a macho culture not a million miles away from the macho pricks regular fixes of Smack Factor, were dope celebrities are created to sell newspapers. Generic Crime Correspondent wants to feel he is doing a service to democracy? Lets see. How about not making shit up. Or repeating shit made up by cops.
Yesterday morning we had Paul Williams on RTE literally talking non sense about how it was possible to set up a UK mobile phone network using a couple of phones from the UK. This was all false, nothing about it was true. It is simply not possible. La la land. I hadn’t planned on writing on any specific journalist
for fear of litigation as the issue is systemic but as Paul Williams likes to frame himself as the top dog I thought it might be illustrative to talk about my own direct experience. I dislike what Williams does not simply for his crimes against writing. Read his piece comparing GSOC and the recent stormy weather. Seriously. You have not read how bad crime fiction can get until you read it. But that’s not the big issue. Just look at what Rabble have uncovered. On the day William cries with another long winded moan about PC-ism, his bosses at the Indo have doctored his original article. Whatever about not following online etiquette of making updates, changes and correction obvious to your readers, this is a clear case of a media corporation of back handed sneakiness.
Its important to say too I don’t know the guy personally from adam. My opinion is based upon observing what he does, and a critical look at what function he serves. But its also based on times when his profession job and my personal experiences collided.
I’m sure he is a lovely bloke to many people. It is his ongoing role in shielding full examination of alleged police abuses that is problematic. My dislike is also shaped by his work as a crime journalist in 2011. Officers of An Garda Siochana recorded themselves laughing about using the threat of rape against two women they arrested walking along a roadside in Rossport. One of those women was a close friend. They both had been taking part in a protest earlier that day. Williams was working for the News Of The World, a news title shut down in direct response to widespread revulsion to its ‘journalistic’ practices. These included paying dodgy cops, hacking dead children’s mobile phones and blackmailing people. The paper closed because people organised online to shut down its advertising in a rare show of decentralised power against a massive media corporation.
The women were upset and angry once they realised what the arresting officers had done. One was particularly traumatised by what traditional media would call the “rape-tapes”. Neither thought it was funny at all that the men who had bundled then into a car could be hear talking about them. Nor did they think the rest of the country would think it was funny. And in support of the women, a few friends got together and made a point of ensuring the country did hear about it. And we succeeded. Most people were abhorred. Rape prevention and support services condemned the actions as dangerous and undermined women confidence in reporting to the police. GSOC was called in to investigate the matter. Though in this instance its was clear that GSOC and An Garda Siochana were working in tandem. (I’ll link the extensive report into this at the bottom.)
During the couple of days after we broke the story, we got a series of calls from journalists on one afternoon. All independently saying Paul Williams was going to “do a job” on the two women for News Of The World. It had been clear in all our dealings with traditional media up to this point that the women didn’t want their identity to be revealed. They felt they had done enough in bringing this to public attention, provoking a national conversation about policing at Corrib and also sparking widespread conversation across new media about rape culture. We were told that Williams intended to send a journalist and photographer. Earlier in the week a reporter from the Irish Independent turned up at one of the womens parents’ house in Dublin. That was the address that could only have come from Belmullet Garda station.
We highlighted this at a press conference. In response to this, the NOTW sent a reporter and photographer to a different address that one could find by Googling one of the womens name. This was a different address to the one she gave at Belmullet. The NOTW’s strategy was to rubbish the claim about Gardaí leaking the women’s details by saying: “We just found her address by Googling her name.” But it was a distraction strategy to hide garda leaking. But at the point of getting those calls, I was sick to the bottom of my stomach for my friends. We expected a fight back from police for highlighting their shitty behaviour. That’s what they do everwhere and everytime throughout history.
The crime correspondents? RTE sat on the recording for 24hrs without any comment. Their first report was Orwellian, mentioning that “something inappropriate was said to two women” RTE was later forced to run an apology over Paul Reynolds false accusations that the original digital file was tampered with. (As an aside, in 2010 GSOC didn’t even have the internal capacity to tell if a digital file had been modified. They had to draw upon a digital forensics officer from the PSNI. That’s the level of under resourcing)
Williams coverage of the community struggle in Co Mayo against a dangerous and untested gas extraction project is well known, documented and discredited. He has argued the provisional IRA, then the Real IRA and eventually the dissident IRA was really behind it. None of this is true. Like Paul’s description on RTE this week of how you can use a few UK mobile phones Dublin to set up a UK mobile network, his claims are easily rebuked. But his social capital is such that he gets coverage. Williams shouts louder and louder that he “stands over” his stories.
After Verrimus rubbished his pre-record he appeared on Newstalk doing damage limitation with more “standing over” his story. Is there not something incredibly narcissistic about a journalism that tries to sidestep the technical impossibility of ‘facts’ in stories by by appealing to the authors ‘credibility’? It sounded like when you were a kid and you’d ask a question and you get the response “just because”. It was infuriatingly unsatisfactory answer, right?
It’s not about the answers though. Lets not be fooled. Its about the dynamics of power to define in the specific context. Parents dont say “just because” because its an honest answer. They say it because it solves a problem. They say it because they can. Likewise Paul Williams saying the IRA were behind a large community-led national campaign, Williams was really saying its proper that the police be allowed to beat the shit of people without any close examination by the wider public. Its ok to illegally detain them and to fabricate evidence and to lie in the courts because, well these people have the whiff of ‘terrorists’.
People locally and from every county in the country who saw what was going on. People from every continent on the planet who recognised global pattern of extraction industry behaviour. People stood up against corrupt politicians on the make and fair weather friends like the Green party who dropped the issue as soon as they got onto government. People who opposed a monolithic corporation that has actually funded and armed people to kill humans so they can extract fossil fuels. These are the people Paul Williams calls ‘terrorists’. These ‘terrorists’ are my friends and comrades. These ‘terrorists’ are me.
Paul Williams might have market value. But so to does a protected heroin dealer with a lot to spill on the cops. Credibility, however, is a different beast.
There is also a touch of Willie Frazier about Paul William. Like Frazier, William seems keen to exploit the real pain and hurt of families to make a political point. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitised to the smell of parasitical political pain-drawing. Growing up in a low level war you get a really good radar for behaviour that seeks to make the most of a situation on the back of the blood and hurt of others.
On two separate occasions when Williams was wheeled out on RTE’s Mariane Finucane Show around the so called ‘rape-tapes’ he mentioned the families of two police officers killed by the IRA. I have yet to come across a more parasitical use of other peoples pain by a journalist in the south. Finucane herself said nothing. I’ll leave it to readers to form their own opinion on what it would be like to have the pain and memory of your murdered father, or husband being bandied about on national radio as part of a discussion on police joking about raping women.
On one of his outings on Marian, Williams tried to batter away rape jokes as dark humour. “99% of what i say when I’m in certain company would get me thrown in jail” Now that’s some statement. 99%? That’s beyond rhetorical exaggeration. Its 100% crapola Like I say market value is one thing, credibility very much another.
So what about the actual institutions?
GSOC, An Garda Siochana, and the representative state are, if you believe the hype, institutional arrangements that are meant to serve all of us equally. But really, hand on heart, how many of us believe it? It’s not that the bugging of GSOC makes us feel our really great democracy is under threat. Merely it is a yet reminder of what we already know and what already has officially noted by the institutional realm. Shatter’s attitude thus far has been the standard official state response to those challenging the behaviour of state bodies. The first instinct is never to listen, to enquire, or encourage. Instead is a long established cultural reflex that glowers “How dare you!!”
Depending on the specifics, this instinct manifests itself in different way. If the claim of wrongdoing/corruption/injustice emanates from a respectable broadsheet (or you are the head of a body with thats meant to hold An Garda Siochana to account for its abuses of power) the big guns, in this case Shatter and Callihan, are wheeled out. They smear, and misrepresent and semantically lie to protect themselves and their institutions. The other institution fights back, tries to hold its ground. But such intra-institutional scraps tend to be choreographed or at least have their own rules. Rebukes are given out, and metaphorical blood letting occurs but within relatively defined and controlled limits. Too much out-of-control truth telling in anger can get very problematic very quickly. An all this is well and good when the debate is framed and mediated by a mostly compliant indigenous traditional media.
But that now is suffering from undernourishment as corporate owners extract as much wealth as possible without killing the goose entirely. The strongest pieces within traditional media in the last week around GSOC have all been opinion pieces. The media ecosystem has changed forever though. From the outset of the story over a week ago the meaning of what happened and its implications dominated political discussion on horizontal mass communication, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums. The analysis on social media has been far more critical, radical and incisive too the extent it has had a gravitational pull on traditional media coverage.
“Its all in the game” Omar Little
Making institutional respectability respectable, somehow natural and decreed. Making authority and obedience seem inevitable and necessary whether it social policy or pepper spray. This is the primary function of the game. These illusions are reproduced and often internalised. They stop critical examination of any imagined possible democracy. The rub is this. Until we as a society stop thinking about those that have power to over our life and liberty as our betters, we give up the power to change jack shit, and we renege on the responsibility to try.
The behaviour of the central characters since the bugging story broke has been the polar opposite. What they ultimately are seeking to protect is institutional respectability and authority. It is important we learn to not respect a police force that covers up this. It is really important we not respect a police force stands accused of running high level heroin smugglers and fits up people. These folks are closing rank for a reason. And its not anything to do with equality, justice or democracy.
Its worth highlighting some other official responses to state and allegded police abuses being called into account. Very few illicit immediate responses from either sitting Ministers of Justice or Garda Commissioners. Compare this to how the many families seeking resolution, answers and justice after the death of their children, their kith and kin in Irish police cells.
As has been shown by the experience of the families of Terence Wheelock and Brian Rossiter something very different happens. When evidence at the very least suggests police violence within a police station have contributed to the death of a human being one would expect full, transparent and timely intervention by the state. Instead as we have seen the police instead intimidating family members who try to get answers about the deaths of their loved ones. We have seen Ministers of Justice drag heels and rebuff families. We have seen evidence disappear from Garda stations. You cant unknow this nor forget it when you think about policing. Over 200 people turned up to a public meeting in a hotel on O’Connell St in December 2008 to talk about the reality of day in day out police brutality. After the panel spoke, person after person, mostly but not exclusively from the floor spoke out about mistreatment and violence. For about three hours solid. Almost exclusively, but not all young males from Dublins inner city. These voices we rarely hear in traditional media, or on Facebook or Twitter for that matter.
I could and will write more. But I will pose some last questions. Perhaps not asked too often by ‘people like me’. How corrosive is it for people to work in a police force whose culture prioritizes loyalty to the institution above honesty. How dehumanising is it to sign up for all the best of intentions, and find yourself working in a culture of Omertà? Where the protection of institutional respectability is based upon the hiding of violence,and lies. All the while fronted with stripes of ‘legitimate’ state authority?