The thing is, we don’t need a lexicon to explain the half-mouthed pieties of local councillors or ambitious senators.
You know the kind of thing. When people have “concerns.”
We tell ourselves comforting lies. Sure we’re grand altogether, tell us how much you love us. You’re new to the parish and we don’t see colour.
We recognise Pell as an abomination. He’s an alien. He’s from outside the culture, so his language jars. He’s loud, brashy, American, and let’s face it, just plain weird. But quiet voiced “concerns” about local jobs are even more poisonous, because they seem ordinary.
Here’s today’s assignment on tolerance in modern Ireland. Show me Enda Kenny’s statement about Ballaghadreen. Because silence often speaks volumes.
We’d never vote for someone who wanted to restrict women’s reproductive choices, who would forcibly imprison a pregnant women and carry out a caesarian section by force, or keep a pregnant corpse on life support while a young family watched in helpless despair.
We would never vote for someone who would imprison asylum seekers for years in Orwellian-sounding “direct provision” centres, and ban political candidates who wanted to visit those asylum seekers.
A few years ago, after reading a news story about a “dossier” sent to RTE about its political coverage by a political party, I sent in a freedom of information request, asking for “any submissions from political parties regarding partiality and bias in political reporting and commentary on RTE”.
The request was initially refused, on the grounds that RTE did not have to supply information on “programme related functions”, citing Statutory Instrument 115/2000.
I appealed the decision, on the grounds that the SI was designed to protect sources used and the editorial decision-making process in the production of news programmes and the like but, not discussions or criticisms of the programmes afterwards by anyone external to RTE. The appeal was granted. That was 2012.
A couple of months ago, I sent in an identical request, in order to update from 2012 to the present. the request was refused again. In addition to citing SI 115/2000, this time a legal case was cited, RTÉ v Information Commissioner.
The correspondence from RTÉ is posted below. I am considering my next move. Any opinions?
Update: As of 22 July, I have appealed his refusal. As TJ McIntyre pointed out during a Twitter discussion, unsolicited correspondence and complaints cannot reasonably be regarded as data “gathered” by RTÉ, which covered the documents in the cited High court decision.
PS: I note in passing that in refusing my FOI request, RTÉ is in effect claiming that complaints from politicians and political parties affect its editorial decision making process.
A while back, someone posted to a freelance journalism group in Facebook looking for some advice on rates/ They’d been told by a published that they paid “standard rates”, and naturally, this raised the question, what are the standard rates?
So I answered in part as follows:
There is no such thing as a standard rate. and if I were to tell you one, I would be breaking the law.
Once upon a time, there were agreed rates in Ireland for freelance journalists. There was a particular fee is you were called in to do an eight-hour sub-editing shift, or sent on assignment for the day to cover a court case, or an inquest, or any other story. These rates were negotiated over the years between publishers and freelances, through the National Union of Journalists.
And then the Competition Authority came along, and decided that since freelances are self-employed, if we negotiated a set rate for a shift, or an assignment, we were acting as a cartel. And cartels are illegal.
And that means that, if I tell you how much you could expect to get paid for a reporting shift, or for a 1000 word feature article, I’m breaking the law.
And it also leads to odd situations. There’s a Twitter account called WhoPaysWriters, for example.
WhoPaysWrtiers is US-based, so Irish law doesn’t affect it. and being US based, it mostly tweets out data on US publishers, though I’ve seen links to other titles too, like the Guardian, which have a US presence.
In theory, I could send them data on what an Irish newspaper paid, and they could tweet it out.
But it is not entirely clear if I can legally do that. Am I, by sharing that information, encouraging a cartel to form? What if someone else sends the rate data, and I just link to the tweet, or retweet it? What if I link to the rate, and comment that its too low, and should be 50%, or 80% higher? Am I encouraging the formation of a cartel? Are Denis O’Brien and Rupert Murdoch shaking in their boots because I could bring down their empires by tweeting the rate for a job?
There are ongoing murmurs about amending the law to create an exemption from the Competition Act for freelance journalists (and for some other classes of traditionally casual workers, including actors and session musicians). There was a commitment to change the law in a social partnership agreement called Towards 2016, but that was abandoned when the government got distracted by the Great Crash and the IMF. Ivana Bacik proposed a bill in the Seanad in the dying says of the last government (see below), but Labour are no longer in power, so for the foreseeable future, no one can tell you what a “standard rate” is.
So here’s my advice.
When someone says they will pay you a “Standard rate”, ask how much that is, exactly. And when they tell you, don’t treat it as a fact of nature, but as the beginning of a negotiation.
And if someone instead asks you what your “standard rate” is, don’t give them a number, because you end up bidding against yourself, Instead, see above, ask them what they pay, and treat the answer as the beginning of a negotiation. You know what your time is worth, so depending on the offer either (a) accept if it is insanely generous, which is rare, (b) negotiate if its too low, or (c) give them their money’s worth when they quote a ridiculously low number, which may or may not be a good thing, but is sometimes necessary.
Civil War isn’t really sure what the conflict is about, only that it’s an excuse for fighting (Widow v Hawkeye, Ant-Man v Ironman, Spidey v pretty much everyone), and at the end of the day, it doesn’t do much except serve as a stealth origin story for Black Panther and a Peter Parker reboot.
This is a pity, because there’s a big unexplored idea at the heart of Civil War. Following Age of Ultron, governments want to register superheroes. There’s a very brief debate early in the film, where Tony Stark puts the case for oversight, and Steve Rogers argues for freedom.
Meanwhile, in a cramped television corner of the MCU, Agents of SHIELD has to acknowledge the events in the latest Captain America. And while its outlook could have been just as Americacentric as Civil War, maybe using the film to riff on gun control politics, it managed to surprise, with a brief Agent Coulson riffs on the dangers that begin when somebody in a government office starts making lists of people to watch.
In an era where privacy rights are a matter of international tension, from Snowden to EU data protection, Civil War feels like a lost opportunity.
The disconnect between Official Ireland and the rest of the population has rarely been highlighted as effectively as during the past ten days.
The early Easter, barely a week after St Patrick’s Day, marks the contrast between the 1916 anniversary parade in Dublin this morning and the multiple parades around the country on 17 March. Dublin earlier today was locked down, as only invited guests were allowed onto O’Connell Street to watch as uniformed ranks marched past. It looked great on the television, but it didn’t look like fun.
Compare that to the informal, sometimes chaotic, but always joyful parades which took place last week not just in cities like Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, but in virtually every town and village in Ireland, featuring everything from kids wearing their local GAA colours to Macnas-inspired giant puppets. Parade floats showcased everything from Patrick himself (snakes optional) to satirical political commentary (I spotted more than one living doirama of Joan Burton in a canoe).
And tractors. Tractors as far as the eye can see, from lovingly preserved vintage Fergusons to state-of-the-art John Deeres.
Official Ireland celebrates itself at Easter. But the people celebrate their Irishness on 17 March.
I’m not really a comic book guy. I’m a story guy with a strong Sci-Fi interest.
I didn’t follow comics as a kid, outside 200AD and Dredd. Instead I picked up a comic here and there, inbetween reading the collected Asimov stories, or Ursula K Le Guin and Philip K Dick in the school library. And a lot of Harlan Ellison for some reason. And more recently, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
Yet every where I look, when I find TV that looks interesting, a lot of it is comics. Or comics inspired. Daredevil. Powers. Bitten. Supergirl. Walking Dead. iZombie. Agents of SHIELD. Jessica Jones. Granted, some stories interesting than others.
Some stories feel “comicky”, even if not comics-based. Heroes was deliberately built on comic book tropes. Heroes Reborn. Supernatural. Orphan Black. Z Nation. Bitten. Grimm.
Some stories are brilliantly executed. Z Nation manages to take the best of Asylum Films production values (fast, cheap, not taking itself too seriously), and use them to create a story that is the exact opposite of the Walking Dead, yet eminently watchable. Tatiana Maslany’s acting range – one actor playing several distinct characters, each realised as an individual – makes Orphan Black compelling every season.
Some stories decay quickly. Sleepy Hollow became formulaic very fast. The third season has a villain I don’t care about. Tom Mison intoning dramatically can only take you so far.
And some I missed, because there’s only so many hours to watch screens, I’m still playing catch-up with Arrow. I have yet to watch any of Gotham. But maybe that’s something in me. Origin stories are frequently the most boring part of a superhero’s story, and The Phantom Menace has made me very wary of all prequels.
Besides, let’s face it. The best Batman is Lego Batman. He captures the essence, “I’m dark, Or grey. Dark grey.”