Image by Eamonn Crudden
There are some – possibly many – people in this country who believe that our national broadcaster is a biased institution that too often toes the ruling political party line and ignores a lot of what should be reported. I can see why people would think this, although I have to say I would never have previously whole-heartedly agreed with it. I think there are many fine presenters and journalists who very often take the political and social elite to task.
Over the past few weeks, however, RTE has shamed this country.
On January 11th, 2014, Rory O’ Neill, who performs under the name “Panti Bliss”, appeared on The Saturday Night Show and told presenter, Brendan O’ Connor, that organisations such as the Iona Institute and individuals like John Waters were – in his opinion – homophobic because of their opposition to gay marriage and gay adoption. Solicitor’s letters immediately followed, as did an apology and the payment of a large sum of (taxpayer’s) money (85,000 Euro according to this article in the Irish Independent) to the aggrieved parties. As if this wasn’t bad enough, RTE then decided to have a “debate” on The Saturday Night Show last night – February 1st – as to when it was acceptable to use the word “homophobia”. Colm O’ Gorman and Senator Averil Power did their best to point out the ludicrousness of the notion, but they were fighting a losing battle.
If the issue weren’t so serious, the panel would have been worthy of a Monty Python sketch or an article in “The Onion” (One commentator even uttered the line, “Some of my best friends are gay.”) After the show, I took to Facebook and Twitter to apologise to any non-Irish residents who might have seen the show and to assure them that this is not what our country is about. I was not being hyperbolic or facetious – I was genuinely mortified that our national broadcaster would have thought it acceptable – in the year 2014 – to have a discussion on what was “mild” homophobia and what was “serious” homophobia.
Substitute the word “rape” for “homophobia” in that sentence and tell me that it is an acceptable subject for discussion.
What all this achieved was summed up brilliantly by O’ Neill on the stage of the Abbey Theatre on the very same night as this farce of a programme was broadcast:
“… which is a spectacular and neat Orwellian trick because now it turns out that gay people are not the victims of homophobia, homophobes are.”
Shame on you RTE. Shame on you.