Everyone may be ‘entitled to their opinion’, whatever that means, but not everyone is entitled to a national radio slot where they can spout misogynist garbage.
Rosa Luxemburg is often quoted as saying that ‘Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.’ Her preceding sentence was ‘Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all.’
George Hook is a cheerleader for Ireland’s ruling party Fine Gael in a very literal sense: he does warm-up speeches for them at their conventions. He is one broadcaster on a radio station owned by a billionaire media magnate who got his big break after greasing the palm of the Fine Gael Minister for Communications. On the whole, the radio station itself, as with the rest of the billionaire’s media interests, is anti-worker, anti-union, anti-left, pro-austerity, pro-big business, pro-establishment, pro-police. Crucially, though, it is not all that different from the state broadcaster RTÉ (who used to -and for all I know, still do- employ Hook as a rugby commentator) in this regard. Both run advertisements for Denis O’Brien’s private hospitals.
Where is the national media outlet that campaigns for universal health care? Or universal education? Or the democratisation of industry? It does not exist. What we have instead is a set of right-wing media institutions that habitually accuse the least right-wing among them of being in the grip of communists.
How did this state of affairs -this narrow-gauge ideological domination- come about? Suffice to say it was not through civilised debate and argument. Debate about freedom of expression and press freedom, without addressing this landscape first, is no debate at all.