By Jamie Bryson
In today’s Irish News the old ‘trick’ of bestowing nationalist activists with the superficial veil of independence is deployed again. The relevant article- which really seems little more than anti-DUP campaigning to fill a page- once again platforms self-identified nationalist activist Brian Feeney in entirely neutral terms merely as a ‘commentator’.
In addition, it prominently platformed ‘FactCheckNI’- an organisation whose independence has long been in doubt given the activist background of many of those behind it- in relation to purportedly ‘independently’ (and the Irish News made much of this supposed independence) fact checking an issue relating to Brexit.
It failed to disclose that FactCheckNI between 2018-2021 received a whopping 223,304 euros (£191,723) from a project run from the European Commission. This, I imagine, may have led the unsuspecting reader to view their claims with the appropriate skepticism.
This, as is regularly pointed out, stands in stark contrast to the Irish News’ (and some other media) treatment of those from a unionist/loyalist background, who are always labelled via their political affiliation, with any purported ‘conflict of interest’ clearly included.
It is not as if Mr Feeney’s political background is a matter of privacy, rather he has openly- in his role within the media- identified as a nationalist activist via a series of Ireland’s Future public letters, whereby a small cabal of activists sought to politicise and sectarianise the professional class by identifying persons via their political background.
All of those who signed such letters self-identified within their professional vocations as nationalist activists, therefore such self-designation should be disclosed in articles whereby political issues are being reported.
As with the recent debacle in the Irish Times (who on 19 April 2022 outdid themselves by providing an analysis of how Sinn Fein would win the sixth seat in five seat constituencies) whereby nationalist activists including Colin Harvey, who has waged cultural and political war using his academic status as a weapon, were again presented as wholly independent.
The readers misled into believing that such contributors had no agenda or political preference, and therefore on that basis affording them the credibility of independence which they plainly do not deserve.
This practice is spreading throughout a number of sections of the media and is a product of how nationalist activists use their professional status to disproportionately influence public discourse.
If you- via aggressive activism- control a large section of the media, academia and the legal profession, then you wield significant power. You can legitimise or delegitimise persons or ideas which suits the collective political agenda of the activist movement (in this case nationalism), and even- as we have seen recently- attempt to bully any non-conformist media into complying with your decrees.
Robert H Bork writes in ‘Slouching Towards Gomorrah’:
“Institutions are regularly politicised by minorities within them. ’Morson’s Law’, framed by Slavic scholar Gary Saul Morson, puts the tipping point at no more than 20 percent. Activists are willing to spend much more time and energy politicising than others are willing to spend resisting, and much of the faculty will ‘fall into line with the activists out of sheer conformist fear of being deemed retrograde.”
The nationalist dominance and politicisation of once fiercely independent institutions and vocations such as media, law and academia is not numeric, but rather due to the aggressive activism of a minority of politically driven individuals within.
This aggressive pushing of nationalist ideas and objectives is pursued with energy and vigor, and quite often others in the relevant professions then stay quiet or uncomfortably go along with the crowd (or what seems like a crowd due to the ‘noise’ generated by the activist minority).
And when someone is brave enough to resist- such as Stephen Nolan and his team- then this acts like a dog whistle for activists operating across various fields and professions to attack such persons using all the tools at their disposal, which most often is primarily the supposed credibility which comes from their professional status, which is used as a vehicle to advance their political agenda.
We have seen that in relation to Nolan as part of a relentless campaign by the Irish News, bolstered by the incredibly inaccurate Irish Times article which operated as a ‘who’s who’ of nationalist activists using their professional status to try and bully Nolan, and any other non-conformist sections of the media into silencing unionist/loyalist voices which nationalism have determined are unhelpful to their political objectives.
This, of course, is disingenuously cloaked in the language of being ostensibly about ‘protecting to the peace process’, which is a far more superficially attractive proposition than the raw truth that it is really about forcing conformity with nationalism’s agenda.
However, given that the ‘peace process’ is an entirely nationalist construct in so far as it is by structural design created to advance incrementally towards nationalism’s key political objective, then cloaking the true agenda beneath the veil of ‘protecting the peace process’ is, if anything, a clever ruse by the cabal of nationalist activists.
In the era of social media, this professional network of nationalists is empowered by an army of ‘social media activists’. These trolls were recruited by Sinn Fein (who incidentally claimed bias in the media in doing so) in order to counter the mainstream media, who were- at that time- presumably failing to conform.
These social media activists (trolls) have then been put to use to relentlessly push nationalism’s aggressive agenda online, and to do so by amplifying and credentialling (in so much as something can be credibly credentialled by the hyper-liberal and NI, pro nationalist, world of social media) voices and ideas which are helpful to nationalism’s agenda, whilst simultaneously targeting those voices or platforms/organisations who are deemed to be failing to conform.
It is necessary to challenge and call out this campaign, which has operated with impunity for some time, primarily because most are afraid of standing up to the minority of bullies seeking to dominate various professions by turning independent professional vocations into political weapons for nationalist activism.
The media have a significant role to play. They must start to apply equal standards. To give one obvious example, if loyalists/unionists are to be identified by their political affiliation, then nationalist activists (such as Brian Feeney, Phil Kelly, Patricia MacBride, Chris Donnelly, Colin Harvey and Amanda Ferguson) should equally be described by their political affiliation.
In that way we can ensure some balance, and guard against the real danger that readers outside the political bubble will be subtly misled into placing undue credibility onto the contributions of concealed nationalist activists, on the basis of their superficially independent professional status, whilst viewing contributions from unionists/loyalists with less of an open mind because they are viewed as partisan due to the labelling of such persons by political affiliation.