Manufacturing Consent – Media Panel at the Anarchist Book Fair 2014

DABFRabble300wAudio from the Media panel on Manufacturing Consent at DABF 2014

Just how good are the mass media at keeping the rabble in line? This panel from the 2014 Dublin Anarchist Bookfair explores the media’s complicity with the rich and powerful and what we can do about it.

Julien Mercille, lecturer at University College Dublin, talked about Irish media coverage of the housing bubble and economic crisis in Ireland since 2008.

Henry Silke, curator of the Critical Media Review blog, discussed the structural aspects to news production and the ideological aspects of the media response to the crisis.

Mark Malone, long-time participant in anarchist/radical projects and co-producer with The Live Register media collective, looked at what, if any, recent changes in communication tech offers media activism in support of social struggles



Paddy Power and Pistorious: Where to begin?

Paddy Power's Oscar Pistorius adLast Sunday an advertisement by Paddy Power making light of the current trial of Oscar Pistorious was published in the Sunday Independent as part of an international branding campaign.  Pistorious is on trial for the alleged murder of his partner Reeva Steenpkamp, who Pistorious claims he shot by mistake.

Paddy Power is offering odds on the trial itself as part of its branding campaign.   It’s hard to know where to begin with this advertisement in terms of insensitivity and outright misogyny. It might be useful to point out the links between gambling itself and violence against women and children. A 2010 study into the links between gambling and domestic violence found that…

Problem gambling was associated with increased odds of perpetuation of minor and severe dating violence, while pathological gambling was associated with increased odds of perpetuation of minor and severe dating violence, severe marital violence and severe child abuse.

We could also report to a EU report released today that…

…reveals that one-in-ten women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, one-in-20 has been raped, while just over one-in-five has experienced physical and/or sexual violence from either a current or previous partner. Just over one-in-ten women indicated that they have experienced some form of sexual violence by an adult before they were 15,

The Paddy Power advertisement and campaign has faced criticism in the UK and is facing an investigation by the UK advertising watchdog, and has also received some media attention here, and here.  Paddy Power themselves have defended the advertisement in public relations and market terms; that is that the advertisement  is getting the gambling  business attention and for this reason they have no intention of pulling the campaign, whatever about the callous insensitivity being caused.  Paddy Power himself was unapologetic when speaking to the media here:

 It is so high profile which means there is more talk about it and it is being talked about in every pub. People are talking about this. It is top of the agenda. It is in everyone’s face. Everyone is interested and intrigued.

Paddy Power also feigned surprise when the advertisement was linked to domestic violence maintaining it was simply a bet on a high profile court case; a case of  celebrity misogyny, domestic abuse and murder, which by Paddy Powers unique brand of ethics means it is OK.

*Note the UK advertising watchdog has ordered that Paddy Power end the advertising campaign and refund anyone who placed a bet on the trial: report in the Scotsman here

We are defined by the choices they make

The new Irish Independent advertisement campaign ‘we are defined by the choices we make‘ raised a few eyebrows; firstly, by using the well practiced method of not revealing what the advertisements were for a couple of days and secondly, by using some mildly provocative juxtaposed imaging with the defining choices tagline, for example a pro-choice versus pro-life badge and so on. The advertisement gives a sense of faux radicalism with images such as a bishop juxtaposed with a red condom, but in reality all the images remain safely within ideological boundaries.

The campaign also gives the appearance of there being two sides to the story; both of which you can read in the Irish Independent, before making your mind up. This of course is nonsense in itself, there usually being all sorts of sides and shades of grey. The image of private sector versus public sector represents this most continuing the trope of a direct division between the two sectors as compared to the reality of a heavily subsidised private sector and working families stretched across both. Unsurprisingly for an Irish newspaper the final image is one of property juxtaposing the buying or renting of private property, there being no other alternative.

But even allowing an artistic licence in the juxtaposition of images, upon closer inspection there are quite a number of ideological tropes and assumptions underlining these ‘choices’.

And much like the content of the newspaper itself the choices are already made. The image to jump out first and probably the most provocative image in the campaign is that of a Greek riot versus an empty O’Connell Street. And to be fair to the Indo this juxtaposition could be read in a number of ways.


While on the one hand, it could be read as a congratulatory ‘aren’t we great for not rioting’ , a more likely reading might question the so-called compliance of Ireland. Of course it does play into the trope that there has been no resistance in Ireland, which is oft repeated in the media where most forms of resistance continues to be either ignored or denounced.  And in an ironic sense, the empty O’Connell street may well represent the media’s blindness to various forms of struggle over the last number of years..


While street politics is happily ignored the next more overtly political image is far less provocative and rests comfortably within ideological norms; here, we are given the choice of de Valera (clearly representing Fianna Fail), or Michael Collins representing the Fine Gael party. Independents, small parties and indeed not so small parties are not included in this binary equation, never mind politics outside parliamentary arithmetic.

It was however the following two images that really caught my eye, two images that flash by in the television advertisement but which contain a wealth of semiotic ideology. The first shows two pregnant women, both headless and faceless. Yet even faceless we can tell immediately the polyester-clad woman on the right is clearly working class, most likely single, living on benefit and smoking and bereft of pregnant glow surrounding her linen-clad counterpart. And as the tagline tells us ‘her choices’ made her this way.


The second image is another one of class: here, we see juxtaposed those who ‘choose’ to be unemployed compared to those who ‘choose’ to emigrate. The migrants we can see (even in the rough cartoon image) are young, strong and struggling to make the best of things and making the obviously correct decision to leave the country. On the other hand the mainly fat  (and yes they are mainly fat) people who ‘choose’ to remain in Ireland as feckless doleys are seen literally dancing out of the dole office throwing their money in the air. It doesn’t take a genius to pull out the underlying message there.


The entire advertising campaign itself is  based on a key ideological trope and one which underlines much of the media response to the condition of austerity: that is that outcomes are not a result of class, structures or even economics but due to choices made by individuals. I might boldly suggest an image to the editors to complete the series…


Major International Communications Conference to be held in Dublin June 2013

Crises, ‘Creative Destruction’ and the Global Power and Communication Orders

IAMCR 2013 Conference, Dublin City University, Dublin, 25-29 June 2013

The conference theme centres round the concepts of crisis and “creative destruction”, with connotations of historically-rare periods of intensified flux and challenge, accompanied by all-round or multi-dimensional processes of innovation.

Thus, this theme invites reflections and papers addressing whether or how the current deep economic/financial crisis and its attendant gales of “creative destruction” may engender various shifts in the geo-political and communication order. Examples include considerations of whether and how the current crisis may serve to:

.a) Reshape the roles, operations and key features of mediated communication services,institutions and practices, as well as enhancing the role of social media forms and practices;

.b) Amplify tendencies or shifts towards new geo-political configurations, including, including an enhanced role for the communication and cultural industries in the operation of global power and hegemony.

.c) Accelerate change in the nexus of ‘new’ and ‘mature’ media institutions and their associated practices, cultural forms, and and policy frameworks;

.d) Accelerate the search for new and more relevant theories and concepts in the expanding and rapidly diffusing field concerned with the study of mediated communication.

For more information:
Call for papers:

Market ‘Realities’: Decoding Economic Ideology in the Press – Paschal Preston & Henry Silke DCU

[T]he superstructure depends on its economic foundations.  But it is necessary to emphasise the fact that the superstructure operates retroactively on its base.  The retroactive superstructual influence in no less important than the influence of the base itself.  The historical process can only be explained by observing the interaction of the two.  They do not affect each other mechanically or as externally independent factors; they are inseparable moments of a unity.

(Franz Jakubowski 1976 p. 57)


In the current economic and political crises the mass media continue to play an important role in both political and economic discourse. Therefore how the news media treats the economic crises and its political aftermath is of some importance. The authors maintain that current neo-liberal ideological assumptions have an influential effect on contemporary news and financial journalism and that the latter, in turn, serve to shape the course of economic and financial processes. They maintain this is important as neo-liberal ideologies are not separate from the material world but can have real effects in terms of state policies and business strategies. Moreover, neo-liberal assumptions may have blinded journalism to potential crises related to market contradictions and bubbles.

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The Role of Communications and the Mass Media in the Crisis of Overproduction- Information, Reflexivity and Ideology: The Case of the Irish Housing Crash – Henry Silke DCU

There is a growing symbiotic relationship between business, communication networks and the mass media. Business depends on communication networks and the mass media in numerous ways; in the actual conduct of business, in the need for market information, for advertising and market creation, and as ideological apparatii which act to naturalise market economies and defend class interests. In fact it is argued that the contemporary mass media rather than simply reporting on economic issues have become an integral part of economic processes (Chakravartty, Schiller 2010). Moreover mass media companies are increasingly multi-national businesses with vested interests within the various markets and societies they report on. This research explores the role of the mass media and communication networks in the crisis of overproduction and specifically the Irish economic crisis. The Irish crisis has deep roots in the country’s semi-peripheral dependent nature and its weak domestic economy, however, the current crisis is fundamentally a crisis of overproduction in property driven by speculation and encouraged by an approving media and pro cyclical government policy.

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