Interesting seminar on “Peace Journalism” at QUB on Friday. Hosted by Dr John Brewer and sponsored by the Community Relations Council.
The main problem is that “Peace Journalism” seems like a good idea but is so nebulous that nobody, seemed entirely sure what it is.
PEACE is of course a “moral” and “ethical” term and absolute.
Am I obliged to be moral? I suppose from a religious point of view…I am. From the point of view of a resident, I am only obliged to conform to the Law.
For example, a religious person might believe that Divorce is immoral. But its entirely legal.
Can “Moral” people insist that others behave “morally”?
As a human being, I believe in Peace. Its not an absolute belief. Religious people…just a few weeks ago commemorated War. Now of course that does not mean that they CELEBRATED War (although in some cases they do)….and alleged moral people like George Bush, Barak Obama, Tony B Liar, David Cameron all believe in Peace…but their legacy is the exact opposite.
Singling out Britain…as the most relevant in my world view…they did not go to India or come to Ireland to bring Peace.
At best they brought their own Peace. And the reward for so doing is to go on the moral high ground. Peace, The Law and (Indian or Irish) Nationaliism.
Its slightly too easy for the British to tell Indians that they are sorry for everything before 1947 and to tell the Irish that they are sorry for everything before 1922.
And much too easy to tell me (born 1952) that they are sorry for everything before 1998.
Peace…or rather the Law…trumps Morality.
Whatever is “accepted” is Peace.
In fairness nobody was really sure what Peace Journalism is.
But we live in a Society where if you attach the label “Peace” or “Cross Community” it instantly becomes “a good thing”.
That does a grave disservice to unionists and nationalists alike.
And it does a disservice to anyone…living or dead …who fought for Peace….whatever his/her honestly held vision of Peace was. We cannot just have OUR version.
But somehow, the only worthwhile version of Peace is Justice.
To be honest, I am much more interested in Justice than Peace.
Maybe thats the difference between an Irish Nationalist and a British Unionist.
For one….Justice should trump Peace.
For the other Peace should trump Justice.
A gross simplification of course. But I am after all a nationalist.
Three Journalist Speakers in the morning.
Deaglan de Breadun (formerly Irish Times), Mike Gilson (Editor, Belfast Telegraph) and Malachi O’Doherty…none could really agree with the concept of Peace Journalism…de Breadun almost apologetic, Gilson routinely and O’Doherty stridently.
It reminded me of an event promoted by the British-Irish Studies Institute in March 2011 (I blogged about this on Slugger O’Toole and it is also in my own archives). On that occasion the Conflict Resolutionists invited the Norn Iron artistic community…to paint, write, rhyme for the Greater Good…and the painters, writers and poets lined up during the day to proclaim artistic freedom. They ahead no duty other than to record what they see.
The LetsGetAlongerists had already been defeated before the last session of the day, when old friends Gerry Anderson and Robert Ballagh engaged in a double act, telling anecdotes from the 1960s and 1970s from the old Showband Era.
That day was a massive defeat for LetsGetAlongerism.
There are of course countless examples of Journalists intervening. Jane Morrice, the final speaker of the day fittingly mentioned Michael Buerk, the BBC journalist who brought the Famine in Ethiopia to world-wide attention. An example of Intervention.
And from the Floor, one of Norn Irons leading photo-journalists brought up the particular problems of his colleagues…but for me it brought to mind, the TV Cameraman in Chile, who was so detached he filmed the soldier who killed him.
The notion that Journalists have a responsibility to the Common Good…the one that is decided for them by Conflict Resolutionists…brings to mind that 1950s USA blacklisted journalists as “un-American” and Stalinist USSR and Nazi Germany also regulated journalists.
Of course LetsGetAlongerism is not The same thing.
I’m not claiming that.
I am claiming that the Common Good is a dangerous thing.
But is there an alternative to the Common Good?
The response of Journalists is that they are “professional” and “ethical”.
Well I daresay that most are.
But how is it that the most professional of journalists missed the big story in their own profession…in their own newsrooms even…phone-hacking.
And where exactly is the Ethics of (now seemingly more than) one Rogue Reporter.
But thats PRINT JOURNALISM.
The BBC is different. Well we cant ask Jimmy Savile. But we can ask Stuart Hall.
Hurrah for Common Sense, Professionalism and Ethics.
Nice to see Alex Kane (Irish News and News Letter columnist) on the Q&A Panel. As a columnist he has an agenda…there is no good reason to comply with others.
The Blogosphere was represented by the excellent Lyra McKee…from the world of INVESTIGATIVE Bloggers.
The difficulty for me on Friday was that I am skeptical of LetsGetAlongerism AND Journalism.
Difficult to be nuanced but I tried and…failed.
My contribution…that the Conflict Resolutionist notion for Peace Journalists lets the LetsGetAlongerist Community …the third tribe …off the hook. This tribe has not been subject to as much scrutiny as the unionist and nationalist tribes.
The Moderator, William Crawley asked me to expand on who these “LetSGetAlongerists” might be.
My initial remarks…Statutory Bodies, the Ecumenics School, QUB Academics, Platform for Change….made a lot of sense but in my usual self deprecating mode, I mentioned The Titanic Quarter, Justin Bieber andMTV. Awards, Open Golf….William Crawley himself!!! And Rory McIlroy.
Hmmm not my finest moment.
Wiliam Crawley wondered aloud if I might be a Conspiracy Theorist.
Note to Self: Its ok to use my Blog to make serious points in a very flippant manner. The established readers, with a similar agenda might “get” the nuances.
But out there in real life…I should avoid flippancy.
Live and Learn, I suppose.
There is nothing new in Journalists writing to a narrative. The readership of the (nationalist) Irish News and (unionist) News Letter expect a certain narrative.
And of course a journalist has to look to his own financial well-being.
But there is also a narrative from Society itself. Especially in Norn Iron.
When Michael Bagueley and Maurice Shillington read the BBC Norn Iron News in the 1960s, there was a narrative.
Likewise when “Colonel” Jimmy Hughes reported on the Twelfth.
GOD was in his British Unionist Heaven.
When WD Flackes, Harry Thompson and Larry McCoubrey reported Politics and the News in the 1970s, it was all about Norn Iron under attack from “terrorists”.
In the 1990s, it was all about telling us that the fledgling Peace Process must not be disturbed by too much scrutiny of some of the players.
David Dunseith would do that whole kinda “why dont we all get along better?” on his radio show.
Now that the Agreement has been signed and stalled the narrative is that we much scrutinise the players that went without scrutiny two decades ago.
In short, I dont believe in Censorship…beyond a certain decorum. And I believe in people reporting what they see. And I believe in commentators and bloggers pushing their own agenda.
I dont of course “trust” the so called profession of Journalism…Leveson has demonstrated they have lost any right to trust.
But nor do I believe in Peace Journalism.
I believe in Justice Journalism. Honest Journalism.
If Journalism had been more HONEST in the 1960s we might not have had the CONFLICT.
If Journalism had been more honest in the 1970s we would not have sunk to the depths that we….Irish and British sank.
And if Journalism had been more honest in the 1990s, we would not have the mess of POST-CONFLICT.
And a big shout-out to Duncan Morrow, much amused that he had finally identified the man who had coined the phrase “letsgetalongerist”.
EDIT: There is a defence of Peace Journalism in a blog from the Centre of Peace Journalism at Park University, Missouri, USA. I cant do a link for some reason. It references my Blog, a little unfairly I think. But no harm done.