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31 January 2008 Edition

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Media View

Lisbon scare stories

LIARS, scaremongers, malcontents, extremists and political illiterates are, according to the Europhile media, the people who are campaigning for a ‘No’ vote on the Lisbon Treaty. Now The Irish Times has gone further and decreed that even that section of the broader population intending to vote ‘No’ is badly educated.
Next to the national question and republicanism, nothing provokes Establishment media commentators to depths of political hysteria like a European referendum. According to Irish Times Political Editor Stephen Collins – perhaps the most consistently right-wing ‘journalist’ of the print media - “the better-off and more politically educated voters are more inclined to the ‘Yes’ side”.
The Irish Times has for long practised the marketing con-trick of persuading its readers that they are made of the right stuff, they are more enlightened, civilised and modern than the muck savages and bog-standard proles who unfortunately proliferate in this country still. But for pure elitism and snobbery, Collins’s take on the latest poll on attitudes to the Lisbon Treaty is the most arrogant that this writer can remember. Collins also trotted out the usual, offensive allegation that the ‘No’ side relies on “unsubstantiated assertions and scare tactics”.
There is a massive contradiction at the heart of the ‘Yes’ side in debates about successive European referenda. The basic argument can be reduced to a scare tactic that says a ‘No’ vote will result in Ireland being cut off from Europe, that we will disgrace ourselves in the power centres of Europe, and that the consequence of our ingratitude will be economic disaster. What is this if not the greatest scare tactic of all?
Attempts to discuss the very real militarisation of Europe that has already resulted from ‘Yes’ votes in various treaties is dismissed as scaremongering and lies. Rational debate about the EU Battle Groups and the Rapid Reaction Force is virtually out of the question as the ‘Yes’ side, unable to deny that such armed forces now exist, scream ‘liar!’ when confronted with these realities.

THE Irish Times, the paper of record and self-styled forum for rational debate, has for weeks been running an artificial story about right-wing demagogue Jean-Marie Le Pen visiting Ireland.
Repeated queries from the newspaper to personalities on the ‘No’ side about invites to Le Pen to visit Ireland to advocate a ‘No’ vote were met with mystified denials. Eventually, a student body took its cue and invited Le Pen in a terribly daring undergraduate wheeze and the issue was elevated to that of a national and European scandal. Former Stalinist worshippers like Labour’s Proinsias de Rossa has recently reduced his entire ‘Yes’ vote argument to that of Le Pen’s visit while “interference” from European agitators in Irish politics suddenly became a cause for serious concern in the newspaper that prides itself on its devotion to the civilising values of the European project.
How interesting then that the blatant “interference” – if that is how outside intervention can be so characterised – of Green European Parliament leader Danny Cohn-Bendit just two days before the Irish Green Party held its conference was not met with outrage from the same quarter. The Irish Times published a straight forward report, with no indignant comment or reaction on Danny the Pale Pink/Green and his warning against a ‘No’ vote by the Greens and the Irish electorate. And which profound issues did Danny address? Neo-liberalisation of European economies? The democratic deficit? Militarisation or the absence of it? No. The former radical threatened the impertinent Irish people with expulsion from the EU if they voted the wrong way, warning that such a decision would create “a big problem” for us.

ANOTHER interesting take on the referendum debate came in an Irish Times editorial last Saturday that expressed its alarm at the level of ignorance and confusion about the treaty.
If the newspaper is genuinely concerned about having an informed debate it would call for the resurrection of the Referendum Commission’s remit. Before it had its wings clipped, this was to provide arguments for and against a referendum proposal in equal measure. This, though, was regarded by government as dangerous when it realised that information delivered this way – objective, calm, neutral, honest – was detrimental to the ‘Yes’ side.
The editorial gave the game away when it implicitly declared that the real problem is not actually a lack of information but the possibility that widespread confusion and suspicion about the Lisbon Treaty could lead to a ‘No’ vote. It urged a concerted campaign not to educate but to agitate for a ‘Yes’ vote. The Irish Times’s cry seems be: ‘Please vote Yes, if only to show the neighbours that you’re well-off and went to the right school.’

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