The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Village



Anthony McIntyre • 18 November 2004

The Village, now in its eighth edition, is blazing a trail as a vigorous new addition to the world of current affairs reporting. Despite the refreshing absence of a glossy cover it has a striking quality to it, aiming to catch the mind rather then the eye. Described by a rival as 'solemn' - a way of putting negative spin on serious - the magazine comes at a time when vacuity characterises the language of the political establishment. Something so well caught by Mark Brennock in the Irish Times when he said of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, ‘at the end of a very reasonable discourse on a complex subject you realise he has expressed no view at all. It is a style that has worked well for a decade.' Launched at the start of October the Village is still holding up well in terms of sales. So far it seems not to have been squeezed by a factor plaguing other magazines heavily reliant on political columnists - all the daily newspapers now feature a daily opinion column. A strong consumer sentiment appears to be ‘why fork out an extra few quid or Euro on a magazine when for not much extra cash you can have a week’s supply of papers and a column ever day?’

A couple of decades ago Fortnight and Magill offered the best of political commentary but the competition is so great in today’s world that Fortnight, although under solid editorial guidance, fights to keep pace. Magill has come and gone as many times as Gary Glitter. Its latest comeback under the editorship of Eamon Delaney holds out the prospect of a right of centre package that will ease up on the buttock clenching control freak style of some periodicals. Defending the centre right, placing the magazine in the bosom of the establishment, is hardly going to break much delft. It might break the bank of its financial backers. Magill saw its star soar as a result of its 'robust anti-establishment campaigning in the 1980s.' Recasting itself in defence of the status quo might not create enough bang to bring in the bucks. For the writer at any rate the status quo is a fast track to staleness. Look at how some republican writers once regaled us with vigour and incisive critique only now to end up sounding like the monotonous dullards of the SDLP. ‘Politics must be made to work’ - yeah, right; and whatever.

In its very first issue the Village took the Progressive Democrats to task on the party's policy towards the health service. Elsewhere it has detailed how the Catholic Church blocked the implementation of plans aimed at the protection of children. In a country long used to 'brother buggers boy' stories, this may seem old hat. But editor Vincent Browne is to be lauded for ensuring malpractice and cover up involving our self-styled moral guardians should remain under the public spotlight.

Browne seems set on reproducing the fire in the belly spirit that so animated Magill under his editorship. His stated goal of bringing Village weekly sales to a level of 20,000 is a tough challenge if not just a touch ambitious. His confidence thus far could be boosted further, however, with a few minor adjustments. Given that the Northern six counties holds roughly one third of the island's population, and all other things being equal, it would be expected that around 7000 magazines would be sold here. We are continuously told after all about the high level of political interest that supposedly exists here; a ready made market just waiting to be prised open by a new magazine with a potential to sweep away conformity spawned cobwebs. But marketing strategy seems to be poor. The magazine hardly features on the racks in many shops. In some of those that do stock it - the main distributors of news and current affairs material - the Village is buried under dross. To make matters worse the absence of any effective promotion campaign in the North to coincide with the October launch of the Village meant it was hobbled from birth.

This is all the more disappointing given that one of the consistently best feature pieces is that penned by the Magazine's Northern anchor woman, the award winning journalist Suzanne Breen. In an age when writing on Northern Ireland is akin to covering paint dry Breen has managed to breathe life into reporting when so many others have succumbed and allowed their writing to become as bland and tedious as that which it purports to comment on.

The Sinn Fein boss Gerry Adams has appeared frequently in the column pages. No other political leader has been given as much space. Yet Adams' column is as lifeless as his Irish Voice one. Only this week he went to some length in his piece to meticulously avoid explaining the fundamentally dangerous outcome of the recent US Presidential election. His anodyne characterisation of George Bush lacked even a speck of radical verve. If Adams were a player of any consequence on the international stage, Bush, if he has learned to read, would regard him as a trusty ally.

Furthermore, does Vincent Browne enjoy poking his audience in the eye? Or can he genuinely not spot the irony in the Village carrying a feature piece on the disappeared entitled 'Northern Ireland’s missing' yet at the same time running a number of articles penned by the person long alluded to, rightly or wrongly, as knowing more about the fate of the disappeared than any other individual living or dead? If El Salvador's equivalent of the Village were to run a feature demanding knowledge about the country's death squads while at the same time allowing Roberto d'Aubisson (now deceased) to frequently wax nonsensical about mundane matters, it would only be a matter of time before it was pulling in awards for surrealism.

As the Village gears up to move into its third month, it will have its work cut out maintaining its present rate of productivity. Being a weekly news dispenser it must always steal the edge over its daily competitors. No easy task. More space would need to be given to unionists to address the southern readership. New columnists reflecting a wide range of issues should be introduced. Web writing has thrown up a host of talent formerly marginalised by the monied power behind the only other outlets. Bloggers abound, many of whom possess a writing dexterity cut from a quality of cloth not found among the usual hacks. Browne could do worse than scout there for fresh and younger talent. Let them bare their fangs in the Village before biting the world. More voices that are not in tune with the metanarrative should find space within the pages of the Village. Thorny issues relating to prison policy, the internal state of our jails, garda corruption, and politicians' direct links to criminality should be grasped and investigated.

Selling for £1.95 in the North, the Village is a great buy. Approximately 80 pages of commentary, analysis, news, reviews guides and critique, it has the potential to rupture the language of sameness so criticised by Professor Kathleen Lynch a number of years ago. It is time for something else, time for the pages of the Village to replace the spin of the City as a welcome alternative font of information.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

19 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Another Fine Mess
Mick Hall

Dr. John Coulter

Address to QUB Vigil for Fallujah
Brian Kelly

Hearts and Minds
Fred A Wilcox

Smell the Coffee, not the Latte
Kristi Kline

Arresting Vanunu While Burying Arafat
Mary La Rosa

Weary of those stubborn indigenous resistance stains? Pretend they're not there...
Toni Solo

The Village
Anthony McIntyre

15 November 2004

Scapegoats & Swastikas
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Death of a Leader
Anthony McIntyre

Ruairi O Bradaigh, RSF Ard-Fheis Address 2004
Ruairi O Bradaigh

Anyone But Kerry
James Davis

Rubber Boa Studies
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

'8 years in The Belfast SWP - A fraternal parting', and Part 2 of 'The ARN, - A Movement'
Davy Carlin



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