What’s wrong with challenging consensus?

What’s wrong with challenging consensus? George Hook has signed off from his Saturday radio show.

I have quite a few interesting interviews to pore over this week, with some new voices featuring and an older voice retiring.

On last Thursday night’s Tonight Show (Virgin Media 1) I was impressed by writer and lecturer Dr David Thunder, who spoke of the media creating a narrative that served only the liberal side in debate, especially in recent referenda. He saw certain views being promoted in media as the “right” ones, and those who didn’t agree being demonised or marginalised. I’d like to have heard more from him, but the item was too short, there were three others on the panel and he wasn’t inclined to butt in and speak over people.

Kitty Holland of the Irish Times gave a spirited defence of her newspaper, but in a way proved Thunder’s point by regarding the referendum results as showing “a new consensus”, though later backpedalled somewhat by referring to “a new majority way of thinking”. Thunder pointed out that there was no way that having just two in three agreeing on something could be described as “consensus”.

Actually this attitude only serves to make the one third invisible and wouldn’t you think journalists might be more at home challenging consensus? Holland thought that conservative viewpoints might in fact be overrepresented in the media! Former Rose of Tralee, Brianna Perkins, from Australia,  thought Ireland one of the safest places for free speech, suggesting that no journalist’s life was under threat  (that‘s a low bar!). Wendy Grace didn’t want journalists broadcasting opinion as news, and lamented the way public discourse was being tribalised.

During that debate when issues related to the referendum on the Eighth Amendment arose, guest presenter Sinead O’Carroll of The Journal said “we don’t want to have that debate again”, and I thought why not? If the other side had lost you can be sure we’d be having that debate over and over.

And it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard that line. On last Thursday’s Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) guest presenter Jonathan Healy had a very timely interview with midwife Mary Fitzgibbon about conscientious objection relating to the abortion bill currently going through Dáil Éireann. At one stage he said “I don’t want to re-open a debate”…but earlier in the show he was  effectively re-opening the Brexit debate, with remainer Alistair Campbell. It felt like two pals discussing the issue and both having the same viewpoint. What happened to journalist’s neutrality – surely you should thoroughly interrogate the views of those you agree with as well as the views of those you don’t?


The abortion related  item was flagged earlier, referring to nurses and midwives ‘who object to treating patients on moral grounds’ – but surely to call abortion treatment is to take a partisan position? I presume the objecting midwives have no problem with “treatment”; it’s just that they don’t want to be complicit in the destruction of babies.

If you wanted an entirely laughable example of media bias on the issue you could look back on last weekend’s Sunday Show on Virgin Media 1. It was an early review of the year, and so the abortion referendum figured prominently.

The panel consisted of prominent pro-choice repealers Senator Catherine Noone (FG), Louise O’Reilly TD (SF) and Stephen Donnelly TD (FF). Presenter of the show was Dr Ciara Kelly, who was speaking at Doctors For Choice meetings before she took over George Hook’s lunchtime show on Newstalk. The clips shown by way of introduction were all of the ‘Yes’ side.

Last Monday morning on the Pat Kenny Show Dr Tiernan Murray of Doctors for Choice was given a 20-minute interview to discuss last weekend’s controversial EGM of the Irish College of General Practitioners. A texter complained that we were only getting one side of the issue, but Kenny pointed out that a pro-life doctor had given the other side earlier on Newstalk Breakfast. I checked, and Dr Andrew O’Regan had got a six-minute interview.

Finally, I was sad listening to George Hook’s final Saturday Sit-In (Newstalk). It was an emotional show with lots of heartfelt tributes from regular guests – Teresa Lowe in particular became quite choked up. I wasn’t always a fan of Hook’s views or style, but his show differed from the mainstream, didn’t suffer from the usual suffocating group think and got me listening to the radio earlier than is natural on a Saturday morning.


Pick of the week
BBC1, Sunday, December 9, 11.30 am

Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers reveals how his faith and support of his family and friends helped him to overcome devastating injuries.

EWTN, Sunday, December 9, 2.30 pm (also Monday, December 11, 7.30 pm and Friday, December 14, 9 am)

Fr Marius O’Reilly encourages Catholics to take Advent as seriously as they do Lent. From St Mary’s Church in Cork.

Channel 4, Tuesday, December 11, 11.05am

Bart casually sells his soul to Milhouse and is surprised at the drastic consequences.