The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Working for the Clampdown

Seaghán Ó Murchú • September 23, 2004

The on-line discussion list Irish-left yesterday became the messenger of bad news. E-Bay, the massive Internet auction site, sent the IRSP notice that they could no longer sell ‘IRA’ items in Britain, and that this ban would also extend, with some loopholes perhaps, overseas through the Commonwealth and America. Of course, if you’re reading this, you know the distinctions between Irps and Provos and Stickies too arcane for a corporation to bother with. But, the threat this presents can, as IRSP spokesman Peter Urban writes in his post carried by Irish-left, be seen as more evidence of the climate we live in post 9/11.

Some, I expect, would find a precedent with E-Bay’s prohibition of Nazi memorabilia sold in Germany, obeying that nation’s strict laws on the dissemination of such propaganda. Obviously this issue remains extremely sensitive. Does it logically follow, however, that Irish republican material carries the same taint as Waffen SS replica badges? Outside of Germany, I have noticed a bustling trade in WWII-era German artifacts and reproductions, and in histories and memoirs of this period. Does that mean that E-Bay enables its buyers and sellers to spread Hitler’s legacy outside the former Reich? I would counter that freedom of speech and the right to learn from the past trump any harm caused by a few reactionaries misled into thinking, or acting, upon the assumption that such material presents a viable and attainable system demanding or awaiting resurrection. Were would all the military vendors go with their collectors?

Similarly, the supply of Irish republican, and loyalist, memorabilia should not be blocked by E-Bay. Probably many of you have logged on to find rare items from the other side of the globe or the next town over via this site. For myself, I continue to look for pamphlets and long out-of-print periodicals that many republicans reading this would despise. Far-right and far-left ephemera, part of my own research into fringe movements and their attitudes towards Irish nationalism and cultural traditions, cannot be obtained from the local bookseller. I hunt for such publications as they usually have no LinenHall staff to gather and preserve them in a safe archive. Websites run by a few of the committed have a tendency to vanish—or splinter!--as quickly as they appear, and I choose not to send my money directly to groups with whose ideology I disagree. Occasionally, as with any rare item, a seller auctions such material and I bid. I have no way of otherwise obtaining scarce items any more than I’d expect a chainstore to stock the works of John Devoy or the Countess Markievicz. E-Bay’s crackdown cuts off the conduit by which, over the last few years, goods freely flow across borders and past censors. It also inhibits inquiry.

My wife looks on E-Bay for art made by prisoners, itself a morally complicated commodity. Should sellers profit from crafts made by those incarcerated, who will not share in the profits? Is this any different than the sale of an H-Block election poster or a passle of ten SF buttons for five pounds? I realise that there are those at E-Bay genuinely conflicted about, as the Clash sneered, ‘turning rebellion into money.’ But unless the corporation shuts down any potentially controversial items that advocate revolution, dissension, or free thought, the slippery slope argument that Nazi and now IRA items should be deleted leaves E-Bay open to charges that any product auctioned on its site that advocates disturbing ideas or action must be eliminated.










Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

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

24 September 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Honour the Legacy
Dermot McClenaghan, Eamonn McCann, Johnnie White

Working for the Clampdown
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Peace Bomb
Anthony McIntyre

No Essential Contradiction
Eamonn McCann

P. Michael O'Sullivan, 1940-2004
Deirdre Fennessy

19 September 2004

Get On With It
Dolours Price

Who Pulled the Strings
Eamon McCann

Can of Worms
John Kennedy

British Terror in Ireland
Kevin Raftery

Big Snake Lake
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

'Ulster Britishism' or the Myth of Nationality
Liam O Comain

An Teanga Once Again?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Converting Waste into Value
Liam O Ruairc

Scargill Speaks In Belfast
Anthony McIntyre

NIPSA, the Most Important Workers Strike in Northern Ireland in 20 Years
Davy Carlin



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices