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16 July 1998 Edition

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Bigots in bowler hats



Ulster Loyalism and the British Media
By Alan F Parkinson
Published by Four Courts Press
 
In a period when loyalism has rarely been out of the news worldwide it is somewhat of an irony to review this book. The media covage of the now annual Drumcree stand-off, the torching of churches and in particular the vile murders of the Quinn children have well and truly shone the spotlight on Orangeism's bigitory, sectarianism and unashamed triumphalism.

Calls to end the protest in light of the murders of these children provoked an almost predictable response from the hardliners at Drumcree, the ``no-surrender'' stance regardless of the deaths of the three innocent children displays obsessive behaviour to the point of psychotic.

Unfortunately Dr Parkinson almost invites us to sympathise with loyalists and the bad press loyalism in general receives. Apparently jounalists have misinterpreted and misunderstood the very nature of loyalism and focused on the ``negative aspect'' which has led to stereotyping such as `bigots in bower hats'. Parkinson talks of a community lacking in confidence reticent to speak out.

Try though I may, I have not witnessed much of this `softer' face of loyalism in recent days. The media portrayal of loyalism and loyalists over the last ten days does not ellcit sympathy; it simply reinforces the facts (or what Parkinson would prefer to call stereotypes) of Orangeism's inherent bigotry, intransigence and, of course, siege mentality.

It is an uphill battle for Parkinson to bemoan these `negative' images and pass them off simply as hollow stereotypes, when they are repeatedly reinenforced by thousands of men across the six counties insisting on marching in areas where they're not wanted. The title of this book is even a misnomer, as Parkinson deals exclusively with London newspapers and television. The real irony in the English media's portrayal of the six counties in general and loyalism in particular, is that journalism relies on visual images and selective factual information in the absence of any real analysis. The construction of news stories this last couple of weeks cleverly distances `decent' , peaceful, Orange demonstrations from the rioting that follows in their aftermath, caused by `small numbers' of `hanger-ons', whilst totally ignoring the integrated reality of these incidents.

After reading and re-reading this book I am still not sure what Parkinson was actually attempting to do; perhaps he was trying to achieve too much. The reader is presented with countless examples of television and newspaper reporting of events in the North, plus results from questionnaires, but what is missing is any sort of study of the journalists and media people actually potraying loyalism.

Given that he asserts that unionists have lost the `propaganda war' because of their own inadequacies can he really try and lay the blame for negative perceptions, stereotypes and carlcatures of loyalism at the feet of the English media. In the week that loyalism has been shamed in the world's press it can only have itself to blame for any negitive perceptions amongst viewers.

By Eileen Fenerty


Flawed visions



The World's Monetary System

World Trade

Both edited by Griesgraber and Gunter
Published by Pluto
Price £12.99 each

Most of my generation and, I suspect, many others had a fascination as children with World War Two. We had the British comics, the endless films, the Airfix soldiers and models, even the replica guns.

While we might not have understood the ins and outs of the fight against Nazi fascism, Japanese imperialism and the emerging cold war one message was clear. The end result of this war was to create a world where all society's ills would become a thing of the past. The outcome of victory for the so-called allies was to reshape the world for the better.

With the advent of the welfare state and accessible feelgood consumerism for Western Europe, North America and other selective regions, it did seem that for some things couldn't get any better.

This, however, was the glossy Ladybird version of world history. It wasn't that the allies didn't plan to reshape the world after World War Two, they did. It was just that their idea of what was good wasn't a one-medicine-suits-all scenario. No, it was what suited American and European capitalism.

The Allies met in Bretton Woods, a mock gothic hotel in New Hampshire, USA, and with serious intent set about restructuring the world's economy. This process began in 1944 and led to the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, now known as the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

These three bodies are in the 1990s powerful institutions, powerful capitalist institutions. They are unelected bodies whose ideology and ethos is that of promoting free market philosophy and monetarist economics.

Rethinking Bretton Woods is a series of books published by Pluto which study the consequences of the decisions taken at Bretton Woods over the subsequent five decades. Some of the texts have already been reviewed in An Phoblacht.

The World's Monetary system edited by Griesgraber and Gunther is made up of six papers by writers from Europe, the USA and India. Some of the papers are quite technical, offering a detailed analysis of the IMF and the World Bank. If you are one of those whose attitude to the IMF is along the lines of I know it's a bad thing but I want to be spared the details why, then this book is not for you.

It is, though, a valuable addition to the case against the IMF/World Bank hegemony over less developed economies. It shows how in the late 1940s and 1950s the IMF helped stabilise and grow the Allies' economies. However, its effect outside this privileged elite was less than positive. The strength of this text is that it is not just a criticism but also makes a range of positive proposals on restructuring the global monetary system.

The last text in the Rethinking Bretton Woods series is titled World Trade. It is a very readable book touching on such areas as the effect of the last international trade agreement on India, and the impact of free market economic ideologies on Sri Lanka. Perhaps the last chapter on Corporate Accountability by John Cavanagh is the most readable.

None of the contents of these books are quite the stuff of comics or Hollywood films. They do show that though millions of people fought in World War Two in the belief that they were forging a better world, those who weren't doing the fighting were stealing the agenda and peddling a flawed victory, a flawed vision whose failures have wreaked economic devastation across the world.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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