More novel theories

Fantasy football...what about fantasy journalism.



It's sorely tempting for this column, nay this magazine, to devote itself to weekly rubbishing of the Sunday Independent, especially since (like the slightly more reputable Audit Bureau of Circulation) it keeps insisting it's Ireland most popular “newspaper”, selling a shrinking but mightily formidable stack of dead trees every week.
And such respect it has for all those trees and punters, with its leading intellectual light, Eoghan Harris, following up his first novelistic analysis of the Dublin riot with, on 5 March, brave new fictions. It seems the riot was orchestrated by Celtic supporters' groups (a youth breakaway from Republican Sinn Féin, the paper's front-page seemed to suggest) employing walkie-talkies, tried and tested in their regular riots against Rangers fans. When and where these common walkie-talkie riots occur was a matter left to readers' imaginations, taking over from Harris's own.
Poor Celtic: no sooner do they shift thousands of Hoops on the strength of their being Roy Keane's preferred garb than the jersey is reborn as a “scumbag” fashion statement. Scumbags with websites, mind you: when Paris rioted, reporters headed for the banlieux to learn the reasons; when Dublin rioted, they went online, feeding a hysterically incoherent series of Googly conspiracy theories.
To be sure, you don't need much of a conspiracy to account for two petrol bombs. Much to Respectable Sinn Féin's relief, few pundits offered the obvious, if unsensational, analysis: that nationalist-minded Dublin youths who've been watching the North for the past decade independently came to the conclusion that when loyalists want to march through your place, real republicans try to stop them.

The beautiful game
Thankfully, football supporters were soon off the street and back on the terraces doing what they do best: booing an opposing fullback, who was already having a heartbreakingly hard match, after he tripped over the ball. Ah, sportsmanship.
Of course, live enjoyment of Steve Staunton's first “friendly” in charge was limited to 40,000 of us, plus Sky Sports viewers. Predictable indignation about that limitation led God's Other Gift to the Sunday Newspaper Market, Ireland on Sunday, to lead with the startling news that the FAI would like to make more money by selling all Ireland's qualifying games exclusively to Sky.
Shocking. The paper's “news” story was that the FAI has asked the Government to take such matches off its mandatory free-to-air list, hardly surprising for an organisation that has long demonstrated it knows the price of everything and the value etc. The likelihood of the Government actually acceding to the request, let's say in the run-up to a General Election, was not discussed in the article. Perhaps such a discussion would have made the story seem a little less important. How the Government juggles its populism and its Murdochism in relation to the Ryder and Heineken Cups will be worth watching, all the same.

Courting controversy
Our God-given right to watch big sporting events is matched in the media imagination by the right to cover, with all due and undue sensation, most of what happens in a court of law.
Meejit has every sympathy with John Waters' complaints about his trials at the hands of Liveline (no, really), but that radio programme deserves credit for discussing recently whether it's truly right for defendants in criminal trials to be named while they're still presumed innocent. Is it such a vital victory for a free press that, for example, the courts decided newspapers could name the Church of Ireland clergyman accused of possessing child pornography?
Up and down the market in most of the English-speaking world, newspapers and broadcasters fill pages and hours with details and images from and around trials. The free-for-all media circus in the US tends to make us assume we've got a carefully restrictive system here. In fact, many jurisdictions, including European ones, are far tighter, limiting the press simply to reporting the outcomes of trials.
The media presumption of guilt, seen again in countless discussions about the named people arrested in Dublin's centre on 25 February, suggests the question needs closer scrutiny.