Criminality or Resistance

Events and debates in recent weeks have brought to a head a central theme in the Iraq occupation and in the Irish "peace process", but it's a theme that the media can't seem to get their heads around. Admittedly, it's a tough one: when does "resistance" become "criminality"?



Reports from Iraq quote official descriptions of anti-occupation guerrillas as "terrorists" or "criminals". Usually, the reporters themselves opt for the word "insurgents", which is indeed more neutral but doesn't confer the dignity that "rebels" or "resistance" might.

International law confers the right to take arms against foreign occupation. By their word choices, Western journalists are certainly giving the Iraqi quisling government the benefit of the doubt. (Of course Iraqi resistance people have committed terrorist acts, but so has the United States: the fact of brutal violence against civilians isn't sufficient explanation for the negative labelling.)

Meanwhile, as most of us know, the belief that the Provisional IRA was engaged in a national-liberation struggle increases in proportion to your distance from Dublin. A significant minority in Northern Ireland think that way, and the view is commonplace elsewhere on the planet among those who care about these things. The view goes unacknowledged by the pundits jumping up and down about McCabe and the Colombia Three, and insisting that the Provos need to make an explicit pledge about forswearing criminal activity.

That's a pledge made by none of the other Irish parties who have made the leap from rebel-ry to constitutionalism. Would such a pledge retrospectively "criminalise" the IRA's post-1969 campaign? Those who think so, and oppose it on those grounds, should at least be heard.

Meejit's heart fails to bleed for the bishops complaining about the dearth of religious TV over the holidays, especially when they also start urging Catholic journalists to stand up and be counted.

But while it's true the bishops once wielded inordinate media power, and are rightly resented for that, nowadays the boys get a pretty lousy press.

Maybe the Church should hire the PR firms who annually convince us to be worried about "counterfeit" goods.

Even the media's easy adoption of that word is absurd: after all, counterfeit money is not legal tender, but those "counterfeit" Nike socks are keeping your children's feet warm.

Journalists shouldn't be in the business of protecting companies' licensing income any more than they should be standing up for the Vatican's authority. Sure, if "authentic" merchandise came with any ethical advantages, there might be an argument for the defense. But we've seen no "sweatshop free" Man U tops under the Christmas tree.

The most egregious Irish meejitry of the year occurred back in the spring, when this column wasn't even a gleam in Uncle Vincent's eye. Yes, who can forget those glorious months before 25 EU leaders and, eh, a couple of dozen foreign protesters arrived for May Day. Irish newspapers, notably including the Irish Independent and the Star, caught DailyMail-itis and spent the season spreading scantily-sourced rubbish about the coming anarchist hordes.

Unsurprisingly, the worst of many offenders was the Mail's Irish love-child, Ireland on Sunday, where reporter Deirdre Tynan "infiltrated" (i.e. turned up at a publicly advertised meeting of) a local anarchist group. Luckily the good folks who judge the ESB Media Awards don't seem to mind that sort of nonsense, and recently Tynan picked up a trophy, albeit for a different story.

Don't you love happy endings?