Limp interviews with those in the ‘bubble’

Limp interviews with those in the ‘bubble’ A Colombian police officer and a migration officer stand in front of people who are attempting to cross into Colombia from Venezuela last year. Credits: REUTERS/Luis Parada

The plight of refugees in Latin America has been getting lots of coverage of late as a caravan of immigrants heads through Mexico to the US border.

Last Friday night’s Unreported Word (Channel 4), subtitled ‘Venezuela’s Lost Children’ focused on some personal stories of teens crossing from Venezuela to Colombia in the hope of a better life, but it wasn’t easy – tracks designed to avoid border guards are controlled by drug cartels. We saw Colombian border guards stopping a group that included a young mother whose daughter needed treatment for kidney failure. Eventually, and possibly due to the presence of the media, they were allowed through.

Some Venezuelan relatives struggled to find work and accommodation in a border town, and though they hadn’t made much progress they still thought it was better than being home.

The most emotional moments were when the tearful youngsters remembered their loved ones left behind. Sympathetic reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy described the crisis as the biggest mass movement of people since the Syrian war, and I suspect we’re going to hear a lot more about it.

I’d expect every decent human being to be sympathetic to the suffering of children, but would expect disagreement on political matters.

Media problem

“We’re all on the same page here” said a guest on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) last Friday morning. The subject was the re-election of Michael D. Higgins as President (they approved), but regardless of the topic this just about summed up a recurring media problem –  the bubble, the groupthink, the echo chamber, the cocoon.

This was the same show that featured yet another unchallenging interview with Dr Peter Boylan, when he tried to undermine proposed amendments to the proposed abortion legislation. Dr Boylan was vague and evasive, and getting away with it, with no balance, no diversity of views, no awareness of the humanity of babies, referred to as “products of conception” – aren’t we all! Pro-choice TD Stephen Donnelly got a similarly soft interview on the same topic, on the same show, last Monday morning.

The Ryan Tubridy Show (RTÉ Radio 1) on Tuesday of last week featured an interview with popular author Jodi Picoult. Her current novel is about a hostage crisis at an abortion clinic, and that gave her a chance to promote a strong pro-choice position.

She had even witnessed abortions at various stages of pregnancy and felt privileged to do so! She may be good at the literature but not at the science – she thought life didn’t begin at conception.


She had interviewed pro-life people as part of the research for her book and, admitting misconceptions, found them to be intelligent and funny, people of deep conviction and compassion, and she realised they saw themselves as protecting the lives of the unborn and being voices for the voiceless, but she concentrated way too much on extreme pro-lifers who commit acts of violence.

Tubridy did ask if she wrote  in her own “cocoon of ideas”, but generally the interview was unchallenging – tolerable if this was just an amiable chat about the book, but not when discussing a controversial current affairs issue.

He read out lots of statistics about those attacks on abortion clinics and providers, but none of the figures on abortions carried out or the gruesome methods used.

She was aware of contradictions in her position – when she had difficulties in one of her own pregnancies she knew it was a baby inside.  And yet she referred earlier to aborted babies as “products of conception”.

There was also a pro-choice message on that show on the Wednesday, courtesy of comedian Stephen Fry, who regarded our abortion referendum vote as “another plank in the New Ireland” along with the votes on same-sex marriage and blasphemy.

Tubridy suggested that Fry’s interview with Gay Byrne had led to the recent referendum on blasphemy, and he duly reprised some of his controversial comments. He said he hadn’t intended to offend pious people and that their faith was much stronger than anything he could say.

I liked his deprecation of celebrities telling people how to vote (“a stupid thing”and “wrong if it made a difference”) and  his lament at the lack of leaders of stature, but I’d challenge one statement: “We don’t listen to the Pope particularly.” I’m always suspicious when media people speak of ‘we’.

And that brings me back neatly to the bubble!


Pick of the week
EWTN, Saturday (night), November 10, 2.30 am

John Paul II’s teaching incorporating a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, thus securing an equitable and just society.

Channel 4, Saturday, November 10, 8 am

‘Prodigal son’ – Debra and Ray in conflict over church going.

BBC4, Sunday, November 11, 7 pm

Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch goes in search of Christianity’s forgotten origins.

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