The Saturday Night Show. With Brendan O’Connor. It is bad enough that you pay for a TV licence on pain of being sent to prison in order that you and fellow members of the public be subjected to a news and current affairs machinery that calls for your expropriation and enslavement and glorifies the rule of money. It’s bad enough that you pay for a broadcaster whose chairman was a press secretary to the then Catholic Primate of All Ireland, a broadcaster that sounds bells of devotion to the Virgin Mary twice daily and that habitually presents a bunch of intellectually devious right wing fanatics as the representative voice of Irish Catholics, and that automatically pays out tens of thousands of euro when said fanatics take umbrage at being subjected to truthful and accurate description.
What might push you over the brink, though, is Brendan O’Connor and the Saturday Night Show’s treatment of Pussy Riot last night. It is difficult to convey just how dreadful, how idiotic, and how teeth grindingly embarrassing this broadcast was. Pussy Riot are heroes. They are a source of admiration for millions of people. They were imprisoned and subjected to brutal conditions for acting in accordance with their radical feminist political convictions.
In Ireland, they were given second billing to an ageing never-was of a DJ and daytime TV presenter who has had a hair weave that cost many thousands of euro and appeared on the show with the doctor from the private facility that performed the treatment, seemingly as though the publicity was part of the payment for the hair weave.
Pussy Riot were preceded on set by right wing economist Constantin Gurdgiev, who -as the only famous Russian in Ireland- was supposed to have appeared on set translating for the two women, presumably in some crackpot attempt on the part of the producers to provide ‘balance’, that is, to prevent anything too controversial from being said. It says a lot about Irish society that economists are household name celebrities. Once upon a time in Ireland bishops and archbishops were also household name celebrities. Both groups can be reliably called upon to speak on behalf of women.
God knows what the hell went on beforehand but what is clear is that Pussy Riot objected to Gurdgiev presence on set with them, and we had the bizarre scenario of Gurdgiev making an oblique and indirect reference to the imprisonment of Margaretta D’Arcy, which seemed to have arisen in the pre-show discussions.
The reasonable thing for RTÉ to do would have been to hire a professional interpreter of Russian. Instead, we had O’Connor declaring that Gurdgiev was contacted because he was the only Russian they knew. This -obviously the truth- was supposed to be a joke.
O’Connor referred persistently to the “girls” for the duration of the interview and repeatedly addressed the interpreter instead of the women themselves. He was visibly uninterested in either the inane questions he was posing or the answers he was getting. Rarely if ever have I seen a more jaw-dropping example of a provincial Paddy routine; at ease when sucking up to superficial Americans or Australians (though he is awful at even that), but utterly at a loss when presented with interview subjects of complexity and seriousness from unfamiliar places.
But let’s not heap all the blame on O’Connor: that he is where he is reflects RTE’s inbred provincialism (where it sees only sophisticated urbanity), the incestuous mediocrity of D4-centred media circles, and its contempt for the public at large.
And that’s without even mentioning the homophobia ‘debate’.