The Saturday Night Show: Ireland’s TV Gulag

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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’.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “The Saturday Night Show: Ireland’s TV Gulag

  1. ok. I just watched the interview. Beauty of Player, I guess! Way I read it was:- Brendan’s respect for these women is overwhelming.
    He is a father to two young girls; and sees Pussy Riot for what they ultimately are: two young girls. Albeit stroppy, rebellious, headstrong, sulky&infuriatingly getting own way at any cost~exhausted young girls.
    He also knew they understood more English than they were willing to acknowledge.
    I learned a lot from that interview and will now follow their story with interest.

    Oonagh (sp?) from the audience on the referendum discussion made an excellent point; when panel discussions get tied up in litigation, that in itself is reinforcing the norm and regularising homophobia.”I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
    Voltaire
    And By the way; Brendan’s from Cork. So go on away with your ould D4bananas, would ya?

    • Driving by.

      They’re 24 and 25, and have spent over a year in brutal penal colonies, where Nadya went on hunger strike over prison conditions. Both have children.
      Hardly girls.

    • CECIL

      I AM OUTRAGED HE INSULTED MY COUNTRY IRELAND ALL OVER THE WORLD AND THE NATIONAL BROADCASTER DID NOTHING TO SHUT UP HIS UNPROFESSIONAL AND IDIOTIC INTERVIEW HE IS A DISGRAGE GET HIM OFF TELEVISION GET HIM OFF INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

  2. Reblogged this on Political Pip Spit or Swallow its up to You and commented:
    The reasons or some of them why I never watch the show. Its sometimes political, sometimes not, but its always expensive and paid for by us. RTE cheap tv tat.

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  4. “O’Connor referred persistently to the “girls” for the duration of the interview”

    Did he now? Because it’s quite clear in the RTÉ programme and standards guidelines that this is (supposed) to be no-no.

    “Women over the age of eighteen should not be referred to as girls, unless in the context of usage it is equally applicable to refer to men over the age of eighteen as boys.” – RTÉ Programme and Standards Guidelines page 52

  5. kevin

    Oh give over! It was interesting for a change on Saturday night. What would you prefer, Brian Ormond telling us about his weekend in the K Club?

  6. Patrick Martin

    Great piece Richard!

  7. Pingback: Riot So | Broadsheet.ie

  8. What a rambling load of nonsense.

    Here’s a few points…

    1. RTE doesn’t as far as I know deliver “a news and current affairs machinery that calls for your expropriation and enslavement and glorifies the rule of money”… but that’s this bloggers opinion that it normally does, I guess.

    2. Pussy Riot were given “second billing” to Marty – TV doesn’t put on the top guest first unless that guest is off to somewhere else in a hurry. Top guests are nearly always in the middle. Anyway, how could you have issue with our lovely aul Marty.

    3. Constantin Gurdgiev – described as the only famous Russian in Ireland. Morrison Hotel anyone?

    4. Something rambling about Constantin being the translator… one of the girls husbands it was. And then on about other rambling nonsense on the same theme… but moving into censorship of the women by having Constantin as a translator. As I said, that bit is rambling. I’d ask if the person enjoys conspiracy theories much after that paragraph. And ask, did the writer actually watch the programme?

    5. “God knows what the hell went on beforehand but what is clear is that Pussy Riot objected to Gurdgiev presence on set with them” – Possible, confirmation that this person didn’t watch the programme but made up their mind before hand.

    6. “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.” Someone’s smoking the super skunk and making leaping assumptions of paranoia.

    7. “O’Connor referred persistently to the “girls” ” – Well, that’s always a land mine field for any man… use the word, ‘girl’, ‘lady’, ‘woman’ there’ll always be someone moaning about the wrong one being used. (My personal experience factoid).

    8. “for the duration of the interview and repeatedly addressed the interpreter instead of the women themselves” – Quite a common thing to do when speaking through an interpreter… especially when the person spends most of the interview looking away from the interviewer.

    9. Calls BO’C a “provincial Paddy” – He’s from Cork he may have issue with that, I’m from Galway and would have no issue with being called that. Leinster is a province too BTW.

    10. “that he [BO’C] 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.” – I have yet to see “sophisticated urbanity” from any talk show host anywhere. Wit yes, what she describes not really no. This ain’t Prime Time or BBCs Newsnight whoever you are…. it’s a chat show with serious topics thrown in. It’s not the LLS either.

    Next week, my alien in the attic will be anal probing, I mean analyzing, another bloggers cheesecake recipe, for it has walnuts in it. Very controversial.

    • Oh god. I appreciate the time taken to put me and the readers on the right track, but I think there are a few things I ought to clarify. So, point by point.

      1. You’re right, it is ‘this blogger’s opinion’ that it normally does, but it’s an opinion based on fact. If you listen to RTÉ’s reporting, austerity -the process of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich- is treated as a matter of self-evident necessity. The modus operandi of RTÉ news and current affairs presenters is to ask questions based on certain economic assumptions that support this process -thus cutting deficits is an unalloyed good, and the consequences, in the form of cuts to public expenditure and services, which are an expropriation of public wealth, are only questioned in terms of how the targets have been met. The same is true of maintaining ‘competitiveness’ and ‘the confidence of the markets’- that is, driving wages down across the board and increasing the power of employers over employees. The glorification of the rule of money is evident by the figures it regularly cites as authorities.

      2. You’re right, technically it is not “second billing”, if we are speaking in strict terms about the format of the programme. However the programme format reflects the priorities RTÉ sets for itself. If you do not think political repression and persecution are important, but are simply drawn to Pussy Riot on account of the general buzz of celebrity, then perhaps it is appropriate to have a feature on hair weaves setting the scene. My opinion is that it is not appropriate.

      3. I don’t know the name of the person who owns the Morrison Hotel. And I’d say a great many more people in Ireland know who Constantin Gurdgiev is. At any rate it was an ironic echo of the message sent out by the programme, not an empirical reading from the official Russian Fame-O-Meter.

      4. ‘Rambling’: the entire piece is 597 words long, the length of a short newspaper opinion piece. The particular paragraph to which you are referring here contains a factual statement about something that happened followed by a presumption as to why it happened. It is then followed by a more general observation on the level of authority accorded to economists in Irish society, which is comparable to the situation that used to prevail with Catholic Church leaders. Then I make an ironic aside about how the discipline of economics and the ideology of the Catholic Church consign women to a matter of secondary importance. I can elaborate on this if you wish. ‘Censorship’: I make no mention of censorship, but rather suggest boundaries getting placed on the discussion.

      5. ‘What is clear’ to me in that paragraph is a consequence of having watched the programme, and what was stated on it.

      6. This is an evaluation of what actually got said on the programme. There is no ‘leaping assumptions’, apart from the assumption that O’Connor was trying to be funny when he made the remark.

      7. You might wish to consider that the fact there is “always someone moaning” may indicate that there is something wrong with it.

      8. “Quite a common thing” – the possibility that it might be common -it is certainly not standard practice for interviewers- is neither here nor there.

      9. I meant ‘provincial’ in the sense of ‘having or showing the manners, viewpoints, etc., considered characteristic of unsophisticated inhabitants of a province; rustic; narrow or illiberal; parochial: a provincial point of view.’ Where Brendan O’Connor is actually from is neither here nor there.

      10. But I am talking about RTÉ’s inbred provincialism, not that of the chat show host. I think this is clear enough to most people who have learned to read.

  9. Great piece and I agree with a lot of your points about Pussy Riot on the Saturday Night Show. I was really interested in the interview and I was looking forward to it. Needless to say, it was a farce and very disappointing. Brendan O’Connor was way out of his depth, these women are living historical figures who have made international headlines for their courage and bravery Pussy riot are highly intelligent, politically aware, intellectuals. O’ Connor’s interview was embarrassing. There has always been more than a whiff of misogyny on the Saturday night show… However, the ‘girls’ (as O’Connor would put it) should perhaps have researched the show prior to appearing on it…

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