Originally, an idiot referred to those persons who paid not the slightest attention to what was taking place in the public arena. Instead, an idiot confined himself to his own private affairs.
This evening, on the main TV news programme on RTÉ, Ireland’s public broadcaster, the programme’s anchorman Bryan Dobson referred to people carrying placards as “idiots”. They were standing behind a person being interviewed in the street.
The placard read ‘BURN THE BONDS NOT THE BILLIONS”.
The interview being conducted was between Bryan Dobson himself, and an economist who specialises in property prices.
The placard related to proceedings in the Dáil this evening. A motion was being voted on. The content of the motion was to ask the European Central Bank to destroy €25 billion in sovereign bonds issued in February of this year in lieu of the remaining Promissory Notes, plus the €3.06bn bond also being held by Central Bank of Ireland, payment for the 2012 Promissory Note; further, to cease any and all interest payments currently being made on those bonds.
That is, the placard was a denunciation of the socialisation of private bank debt: socialism for the rich, the destruction of public services for the poor. The people standing in the background were seeking to draw the attention of the wider public to an issue that has major consequences for Ireland’s social fabric.
The interview was about property prices. The economist was talking about how prices in Dublin had gone up, or something.
Nearly everyone knows that the Irish media obsession with property prices, and its failure to question a social model in which people land themselves in massive debt in order to put a roof over their heads, was one of the factors in Ireland’s property bubble, which then burst, with disastrous consequences.
RTE, the public broadcaster, was steeped in this activity. Economists attached to banks and insurance companies, with a vested interest in fuelling a property price boom, were treated as oracles of Olympian objectivity and scientific rigour. The same economists still feature on RTE programming. RTE never questioned the golden calf of house price speculation. It treated property developers like modern princes. When one of its star presenters, Joe Duffy, made a documentary on James Connolly, the person he asked to give an assessment of Connolly was Harry Crosbie, property developer friend to the stars, who delivered a resounding approval of capitalism and its red in tooth and claw nature.
For the entire course of the bailout, RTE, the public broadcaster, has never questioned the legitimacy of rule by Troika. It has never questioned the tens of billions in public money getting shovelled the direction of unsecured bondholders. It has presented cuts to education and health and the imposition of regressive property taxes and water charges to privatisation of public goods as self-evident necessities.
Turn on any RTE news programme, any time. Listen to the questions they ask. When it relates to finance, or business, or public services, the vast majority of questions are geared towards the priorities of the rich: are the cuts deep enough? Will the targets be met? How are investors going to respond? Aren’t you better off doing something, instead of being home on the dole? When it relates to the victims of the rule of finance, they send Paddy O’Gorman off on human safari. When it comes to political conflict, no utterance is of any consequence unless it emanates from Leinster House.
All of this means that RTE’s news and current affairs programming is not concerned with serving an informed citizenry to arrive at decisions about political life. Rather, it is concerned with serving the rich, and turning everyone else, in both the classical sense of the term and the everyday sense, into idiots. Depoliticised and uninformed, anaesthetised and ignorant, ponying up for their TV license at pain of prosecution in order to hear propaganda on why they should be robbed once again.
Bryan Dobson’s outburst against a group of active citizens with the public interest at heart simply expressed all this in a nutshell.