Dublin is Burning
Why it's time for Elon to feck off...
It seemed like an ordinary Thursday. But then word came through to the newsroom that there had been some kind of incident in the centre of Dublin. It became clear that multiple people including children had been stabbed and the situation was serious.
Our news team covered the story, we even dispatched our news intern to the scene to see what was happening. At this stage, it was becoming clear that children were involved and that several of them had been seriously injured in what appeared to be a knife attack.
The word from Gardai was that they had a suspect in custody and that the incident didn’t appear to be terror related. At the same time, our news intern made contact to say that he hadn’t been able to get any usable material from local people at the scene, that everything he was getting was quite openly racist and that he was also being harassed by younger bystanders.
Shortly after that, things got pretty crazy in Ireland’s capital city.
Rioting on the streets of Dublin
It’s a strange experience to see a bus burning in the middle of your country’s main street or watch on social media as young gentlemen light cardboard boxes and stuff them inside police cars so that they too go on fire.
It’s quite frightening to see groups of young men in black chant blatantly racist slogans and push and bully bystanders and members of the Gardai.
And the longer it goes on, the stranger it gets. As a Programme Director in a radio station, you’ve got to consider how you’re covering this, you’ve got to be concerned about how your staff are getting to work and more importantly how the ones who are in work get home safely.
For example, the 3 Arena, a concert venue near our offices was packed full of kids who were there to see Annmarie. But as the rioting continued, all buses and public transport stopped, leaving close to 8,000 young people stranded and hoping that their parents would somehow come and pick them up.
A pointless protest
So, what was the point of the rioting? Was there some great political uprising against an awful injustice?
What seems to have happened in the original incident is simply a terrible tragedy, a man who had been struggling with his mental health, innocent victims who were brutally attacked, and brave bystanders who intervened.
The matter is still under investigation and it’s not clear what happens next, but what is clear is that social media and a furious far right element seized their opportunity to cause chaos.
The chants of “Ireland is Full” and the aggression shown towards migrants and asylum seekers is part of a familiar pattern across much of Europe.
War, Refugees and a Pandemic
We’re in a peculiar time, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is almost two years into a war with Ukraine, and Ireland and fellow EU countries have offered refuge to those displaced by the war. In Ireland’s case the additional numbers of people, along with a long running housing crisis has created a new and unprecedented homelessness crisis.
The Government has arguably been to slow to act, waiting to let the property market respond to demand and accelerate a building programme that slowed to a crawl during the pandemic.
But, with an economy at full employment, it’s certainly not true to say that migrants or refugees are taking jobs away from Irish people, in fact, the Irish economy simply wouldn’t function without the talented and hard working non national communities across the country.
The Far Right Faction
This riot and the rhetoric that drives it is typically ascribed to the “far right”. That usually comprises of a loose collective of large personalities who aren’t particularly good at facts and figures but have a real knack for firing up a base, largely comprised of poorly educated or gullible young men.
There’s a list of largely male figures who make comfortable livings from their YouTube channels and their podcasts and their various social media platforms, preaching about the “Mainstream Media” and hinting at giant conspiracies designed to make sure that their audience are cheated out of what they’re owed.
From the amiable conspiracists like Joe Rogan, to the more unpleasant personalities like Ben Shapiro, Tucker Carlson, or Russell Brand, there’s a common thread that runs through it.
Most of it exists outside mainstream media platforms, because as Fox News discovered, when you let fantasists and conspiracy theorists present their nonsense as news, companies like Dominion or Smartmatic will use the legal system to punish the lies and fantasies presented as truth.
So, to some extent, all of this “far right” stuff exists outside of what they call “Mainstream Media”, which should in theory mean that it’s not a significant threat to society, as a whole.
The Power of Social Media
But that ignores the power and insidious reach of social media. Everyone has a phone, everyone gets served content in a continual stream, and those who seek to monetise their conspiracy theories are adept at recruiting more followers online.
Social media platforms have always fought hard to maintain that they’re not publishers, instead they’re just humble platforms, displaying what their users choose to post. But it’s become increasingly clear that is not strictly true.
The biggest shift was probably the pandemic, when misinformation and disinformation accelerated even as Governments struggled to understand or cope with the waves of Covid 19.
And as Facebook and Twitter in particular failed to contain the misinformation and antivax propaganda, cracks began to emerge.
However, in the current timeline, the change of control at Twitter, from Jack Dorsey to Elon Musk and its transformation to X, has heralded a much different and darker phase of social media. Under Musk, the Safety teams, and any attempt at Moderation of content seems to have disappeared. The system to verify users of consequence has been melted down and turned into a paid subscription, which appears to attract some of the worst kinds of users and given them protection and authenticity.
And this unchecked fountain of nonsense is what sits at the heart of the Dublin riot.
While “Mainstream Media” checked sources, co-ordinated with Gardai and avoided rushing into any conclusions before the crime scene had even been examined, that was not the case for fringe media and so called “Citizen Journalists”, who were keen to use events to further their own darker agendas.
“Citizen Journalists” in particular set my teeth on edge. Any idiot with a phone and network connection can declare themselves an authentic voice and start parroting words and phrases they’ve seen real journalists use, like some shitty current affairs karaoke, but their misinformed, biased, nonsense has real consequences.
We don’t see Citizen Surgeons or Citizen Pilots, for good reason.
Back when these idiots were the annoying drunk in a bar, nobody followed them, or shared their views, or felt compelled to tell everyone else what drunken Tommy thought about the Government or migrants.
But now that they have a friendly platform in X and the world is full of bored doom scrollers things are different.
And people like Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk, revel in this sort of nonsense, in fact X, as Twitter has now become is turning into an open sewer full of half assed idiots spouting bullshit to each other, unmoderated and applauded for their extreme theories.
And any thought you might have had about the owner taking responsibility for his platform, or having any sense of the damage that it can do in the hands of these idiots must surely evaporate when you see him tweeting that “Ironically, the Irish PM hates the Irish people”.
And when former MMA fighter Conor McGregor is treated as an intellectual heavyweight, and hailed as the saviour of Ireland, you know that as a country, we’re in real trouble.
Enough is Enough
I think it’s time for the “Mainstream Media” to act more coherently against this disinformation and misinformation and reclaim the position of trust and authority when it comes to facts and figures. I also think it’s time that regulators like Coimisiún na Meán (The Irish Media Commission), Ofcom, and the EU data commissioners took a long, hard look at what exactly the impact and risks associated with the current rabid social media platforms are.
Responsible journalists and broadcasters work hard to present unbiased facts and evidence based reporting, we shouldn’t have to live in fear of a mob burning buses because of idiots who run social media platforms.
This has been the 24th official edition of the RAudio Newsletter
Just to recap, each week I’ll be taking a look at big stories in radio, podcasting and audio.
Any feedback, questions or potential topics are welcome – you can get me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/liamthompsonconsulting/ or on Twitter @Maxliam