Bewitching Ways of Wickedness

The Irish public was treated to a heavy diet of vengeance and voyeurism last week when a notorious rapist was released from prison. A media feeding frenzy ensued when the gates of the prison opened to release this apparently unrepentant criminal.
There were questions as to whether an early release was justified, although all the relevant boxes had been ticked. But questions are one thing. Mobs baying for blood, reporters and photographers on motorcycles pursuing taxis taking ex-prisoners to their destinations around the city and camping in the front gardens of their relatives is quite another.
By a remarkable coincidence, on the same day as the media circus Ireland’s Press Ombudsman, John Horgan, was giving a lecture on the media’s tendency to consider the unwelcome publicity which they could give to criminals as an intrinsic component of the punishment for their crimes. He disapproved, reminding listeners that the primary role in protecting society against criminality belongs to the police and the courts, and should not be outsourced to the media.
“Is the sentence passed by the media always life? Is someone who has been convicted of a criminal offence and has served his sentence always a criminal, and not entitled to basic human and civil rights?”
He contrasted favourably the “reticence” of countries such as Sweden and Holland about publishing information on people involved in criminal trials with the amount of media attention these cases attract in Ireland. This reticence was justified, he said, because the public shame arising from media publicity was arbitrary and selective, and furthermore involved “collateral damage” to innocent parties and could even create a risk to the life of the criminal.
The tabloids’ offence is not to be light, entertaining, and crisp. The offence of the tabloid comes at the point where it distorts, dissembles, and grossly exaggerates out of all proportion the significance of the events it chooses to cover. Mr Horgan also pointed out that the word “fury” had appeared in recent Irish newspaper headlines in 14 out of 18 days. “Isn’t there a risk that if you cry wolf too often, when there’s only a rather cross dog barking outside, that people will become desensitised to real risks, injustices and scandals? Have we the energy to be that furious, all the time?”
(More of this on : )

One thought on “Bewitching Ways of Wickedness

  1. We don’t have a public service broadcaster in Ireland. RTÉ is neither fish nor fowl – being funded by both the government and advertising. And thus, being linked to ratings, chases the lowest common denominator – or at least what pundits and focus groups claim will bring the numbers.

    (Apart from RnaG, which remains blessedly advertising free)

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