{This article is written in response to the Sunday Business Post piece “Ireland’s Alt Right: The people building an empire online” 16/6/19 detailing the apparent rise of an online far right presence in Ireland supported by foreign actors}


If Ireland has been without a far right up until now, the Irish media would almost have to invent one. As western politics becomes convulsed with the return of nationalism, our commentariat feels somewhat left out relative to their European peers.

They most certainly do not want a populist right banging down the electoral door of Irish democracy, but at least it would provide them with a nemesis to define themselves against. Since the 8th amendment bit the dust last year, the spurious claim that Ireland is under the yoke of a McQuaidesque Catholic theocracy has lost its legitimacy. Entering into a bit of an interim period, our media anxiously prods around for anything that conceivably embodies populism, with the zany Peter Casey briefly acting as something of a substitute.

In recent months we have seen a cottage industry grow up analysing and condemning what inchoate populist right there is in Ireland, such as this weekend in the Sunday Business Post. Titled “Ireland’s Alt Right: The people building an empire online”, the piece centres on the Irish Freedom Party (IFP) and its links with a catena of right wing social media outlets.

As these articles go it is very by the numbers, with a particular emphasis on links between the IFP and the loyalist activist turned social media guru Jim Dowson. Emphasis is made on the links of the party with social media groupings on the extreme right, many of which are international in scope. The basic accusation that is levelled against the IFP is that it represents a form of astroturfing buoyed on by sinister international entities. The article also features chorus calls for censorship against right wing groups online, highlighting a report given to Mark Zuckerberg this April calling for greater censorship against certain Irish pages.

While a nexus of progressive NGOs rules the roost regarding political lobbying in Ireland, nevermind the noxious effect of corporate influence on the Irish state, we are made to fear the effects of foreign money fostering a far right here. The weapon of choice for these sinister groups are apparently anonymous Twitter accounts and Facebook pages supported by dodgy money. While Americans are instructed to be watchful of Russian troll farms influencing their politics, here in Ireland we are told to be fearful of a coalition of American evangelicals and Brexit propagandists.

We saw this narrative rolled out during last year’s Repeal referendum with claims of outsider influence. This climaxed comically with American BuzzFeed journalists being deployed to rural Wexford to hunt for middle aged pro-life activists influencing the referendum. The fact that BuzzFeed itself was a major outside media conglomerate literally attempting to influence the vote never entered the equation.

It has become patently obvious from recent coverage that the Irish media class are preparing their narratives for the possible rise of a populist movement here on our own shores. Most salient in this narrative is the motif of foreign actors influencing our politics, through an army of anonymous social media accounts and so called ‘dark money.’ The aim of this push is to make the Irish public believe that any dissent from globalist norms must be foreign in origin hence artificial. In addition, it legitimises legislation against and deplatforming of right wing dissidents, categorising it as foreign interference.

“There was no sex in Ireland before television” said Oliver Flanagan, and it appears to our media class that there can be no right wing populism without foreign interference. The Irish can’t willingly get fed up with deranged plans regarding Eurofederalism or diversity and begin to mobilise politically against it; Paddy must be influenced by external forces.

What is noticeable about the piece is the striking similarity it has to a Medium article going around Irish blue tick twitter. overing the same topic as the SBP article and mentioning the same actors, it would appear that the authors Aaron Rogan and Barry Whyte have essentially rehashed the points made in the earlier Medium post, albeit with credit to the anonymous author, with their own additional commentary added.

That is not to say the article is entirely wrong; the evidence presented shows significant links between Irexit and the British right. However, Whyte and Rogan are being disingenuous in their coverage. The aim of the article is to pre-emptively set up barriers to the populist right in the form of internet censorship – over-sensationalising the subject matter to the point of parody, with the intent of using deplatforming measures to curtail the audience exposed to right wing content.

It parallels the recent kerfuffle between YouTube and Stephen Crowder, with left wing activism and platform capitalism conspiring to rid the site of any trace of right wing content. Similarly, The New York Times this week carried a hit piece on the apparent right wing radicalisation of young men occurring on YouTube. While the New York Times is quick to laud praise on anti-Putin activists using YouTube, western political dissidents on YouTube get a rather different treatment.

Critiques of  the Irexit party are fair and just. For all the green paint and good intentions it is ultimately an outgrowth of the Brexit movement, and since its initial launch it seems to be fast dwindling. Under the right circumstances there is a healthy constituency that would want to leave the EU in tandem with the UK, but they belong to the more Anglophilic elements of our business community. That being said, the party can be praised for at least starting a conversation on Euroscepticism in Ireland.

The article is one of the many pieces covering the Irish far right this very week: From the absurd reporting of Paraic O’Brien hunting down Gemma O’Doherty, to absolutely preposterous coverage from the Irish Examiner covering the alleged influence of far right ‘dark money’ on Irish politics.

Rather ironically, The Examiner piece heavily cites research and comment from OpenDemocracy, an international organisation funded by the billionaire and right wing bogeyman George Soros. Almost as if to verify the cliché that Soros is influencing our media landscape. While Soros conspiracy theories border on the surreal at times, the simple fact remains that his organisations have a presence influencing Irish elections and media. Examples include work done by the ENAR Ireland group for the recent European and local elections promoting pro-immigration messaging among candidates. .

Imagine if you will Jim Dowson or some foreign right wing oligarch doing something similar: Funding a staff to monitor and influence Irish elections and legislate against left wing operators. While a handful of rightist clickbait sites generate massive exposes in our press, very little criticism is given to something like the work of ENAR Ireland.

The Sunday Business Post, to its credit, is one of the more upstanding segments of the Irish media circuit. If the Sunday Independent can be said to be a chummy Fine Gael mouthpiece, the Sunday Business Post is the broadsheet of the Irish business class. It was for this reason I was slightly disappointed in the recent coverage and expected more depth. If I wanted a simple condemnation of right wing populism I would have perused Joe.ie, not the Sunday Business Post.

As time goes on we will be forced to endure more and more of these superficial exposes. The dissident intellectual Mencius Moldbug coined the term “brown scare” to denote the neurotic tendency of progressive society to pursue a non-existent fascist threat almost to the point of parody.

Democracy in the early years of the 21st century faces a variety of foes, but far right clickbait should be low on the list. The ominous spectre of ‘woke capitalism’ and the ignoble alliance between left wing activism, journalism and big tech should keep any genuine democrat awake at night. Sadly however, our media seems intent on chasing phantoms rather than highlighting the true monster being grown.

Time will tell if a right wing populist movement takes root here in Ireland but our media ecosystem seems intent on prepping against it. In the process however they are creating a self-organising system of tech censorship, which ironically embodies one of the necessities for right wing populism to exist in the first place.

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

2 Comments

  1. Antony Douglas 17/06/2019 at 7:40 pm

    Phantom alt right indeed, reminds me of the 1980’s when lacking any racists or even other races Ireland 🇮🇪 was big on “Rock Against Racism “gigs ,plus ca change .

    Reply

  2. Very good article. You put the Irish MSM to shame.

    Reply

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