Dublin there is a newsagents called Reads, located
close to Trinity College. It is a well known shop
because it's advertising ploy is that it baits Easons.
All Reads ads mention that it sells stationery, books
and magazines at a large percentage cheaper than Easons.
No doubt this irritates the Easons company, a major
multiple with large stores in all of Ireland's major
cities and towns. Easons deals with the problem by
biting its corporate lip and ignoring the cheeky rival.
It has not been known to threaten Reads or its customers
with legal action, for example, nor has it sought
to intimidate Reads suppliers or the publications
which carry ads for the shop. That is the way it works
in business, if you have a profile you will have opposition.
Reads and Easons situation applies to most scenarios
really. In the absence of business or intellectual
monopolies we all have to tolerate opposing views
of progress within society.
in West Belfast a different dynamic seems to apply.
Initially the problem arose in Belfast, but it then
leeched into cyberspace and now has surfaced in the
print media in the US. There are important principles
at stake in the dispute and in no way should it be
ignored as some inter-Republican spat, of no concern
to society at large.
Andersonstown News is the local newspaper in
West Belfast. It started off as a community paper
years ago, but now has several editions for different
areas of the city and employs 60 people. The paper
says it supports the Peace Process and prints many
views, but the editorial tone is strongly biased in
favour of the views of Provisional Sinn Féin.
By it's own admission the paper is opposed to what
it calls "dissidents"; indeed it says it
will "stand up" to them. So the Andytown
News admits that it is not neutral.
operating out of West Belfast is a website called
'The Blanket', produced by ex-POW Anthony McIntyre
and his wife Carrie. It is an online magazine that
publishes news and comment from writers on Irish and
international affairs. If you have a sensible and
sane opinion or campaign on a progressive issue they
will happily post up your contribution on 'The
Blanket'. While sceptical of the views of Provisional
Sinn Féin the site has posted articles submitted
by party members. The site has always made it clear
that it opposes the continuing armed struggle of some
Republican groups. The website uses a quote from Bobby
Sands to explain their mission "You cannot put
a rope around the neck of an idea".
that is the scenario. A well funded local paper with
60 paid staff, as opposed to a couple with a website
and a dozen or so voluntary writers. A gnat on the
back of an elephant. No contest you would think.
in recent weeks an extraordinary campaign has been
instituted against the website by the newspaper. There
have been differences of opinion going back a few
years now. McIntyre, and other contributors to 'The
Blanket', claim that they are banned from the
Andytown News, that no articles or letters
they submit will be published because their views
conflict with those of influential people at the newspaper.
At one stage the paper had printed articles from writers
on 'The Blanket' where they raised criticisms
of the Good Friday Agreement, but the debate came
to a sudden halt. 'The Blanket' has commented
on the Andytown News, in both serious articles
and via satire. McIntyre has also written an article
or two, in a humourous vein, describing a verbal attack
on him by a Sinn Féin councillor. Them is the
breaks; McIntyre seems to dislike the Andytown
News, but 'The Blanket' has a very strict
anti-censorship policy and in this spirit if the Andytown
News chose to defend itself the site would carry
recent Freddie Scappaticci furore has moved the dispute
onto a different plane. When this man was named as
'Stakeknife' in the media, McIntyre was interviewed
for his views on the matter. As a non-Provisional
Republican he gave his opinions, mainly around analysis
on what the revelations would mean for the future
of Republicanism. At no point did he say that Scappaticci
was the informer known as 'Stakeknife', even though
quite a lot of people in Belfast seem convinced that
Scappaticci has a number of questions to answer. On
a 'Spotlight' TV investigation other so-called
"dissidents" were far more scathing of Scappaticci
and the Provisionals. Despite being branded a tout
in dozens of mainstream newspapers at no stage has
Scappaticci sued any of them for libel. While he is
taking legal action, this is based on demanding that
the British government say he is not an informer.
week after the first revelations the Andytown News
published a very soft interview with Freddie Scappaticci,
in which he denied being 'Stakeknife'. A writer for
'The Blanket' wrote a satirical spoof of the
interview, which appeared alongside serious comment
pieces on the topic everyone in West Belfast was discussing.
another section of cyberspace there exists a website
owned by John Fay. He performs a selfless task, catering
to all of us who do not have time to read the world's
media. Each day 'Nuzhound' carries links to
all articles relevant to the conflict in the North,
including stories on 'The Blanket' site. Recently
the Andytown News contacted Fay and threatened
him with legal action if he did nor remove these links.
Fay did not have the money to fight a legal case,
he had no choice but to cave in. The links were removed.
Visitors to 'Nuzhound' would not now know of
the views expressed in 'The Blanket'. Round
One to the Andytown News.
this stage a Belfast born journalist called Eamon
Lynch, a columnist with the US based 'Irish Echo'
newspaper, wrote an article about the censorship of
'Nuzhound' and was critical of the Andytown
News. Cue more threats of legal action, which
resulted in the publisher of the Irish Echo
caving in to the demands of the Andytown News for
a free run to promote themselves and their views in
the Echo. Lynch immediately resigned from his
job. Round Two to the Andytown News.
couple of thing become obvious from all this. Firstly,
'The Blanket' is no longer being challenged
directly. The McIntyres have made it clear that they
are not for turning, legal threats will have no effect
- the website will continue to publish what is submitted
to it, whatever the Andytown News thinks. Thus
the focus has moved in the direction of preventing
other media outlets from publicising the heresies
of McIntyre, with two successes so far.
the dispute has little, if anything, to do with the
Scappaticci matter. It is quite understandable that
Republicans, from any or no group, would feel reluctant
to embroil themselves in this murky affair. However
it is the mainstream media which has raised the informer
allegations, not 'The Blanket', which has merely
reported and commented on views related to the main
the role and activities of the Andytown News
deserve scrutiny. It has been said by some that the
newspaper wishes to ensure that only views favourable
to the analysis of Provisional Sinn Féin are
read in West Belfast. To an extent this may be true,
it is well known that senior staff in the paper are
sympathetic to that party. However the reality is
that alternative views cannot be stifled to this insane
extent - it would mean ensuring that no other publication
could be sold in West Belfast, that people could not
have TVs tuned to unapproved stations that might broadcast
programmes critical of Sinn Féin. Obviously
this is unlikely to occur.
is aimed for though is a hegemony which smothers any
alternative views, internal dissent in West Belfast
must be minimised, if not eliminated. It is somewhat
ironic that the enemy appears so puny - after all
not that many people in West Belfast spend their days
hunched over keyboards trawling for "dissident"
views. The citizens of Ballymurphy, having fought
a war for 25 years against the British, are well able
to identify the enemy.
they must be "protected" from is the enemy
within. Thus it is essential that persons expressing
alternative views are demonised, even if the person
is pro-peace and anti-militarism. Which is why the
considered opinions of such as Anthony McIntyre are
misrepresented. In it's freebie ad in the Irish
Echo the Andytown News moans of being "denigrated
and attacked by dissident Republican Anthony McIntyre
and his associates". However in the very next
line he is accused of running a "one man campaign".
Which is it, one wonders? The article continues, accusing
him of the despicable crime of felon setting and the
inaccurate claim that he has called people touts.
It speaks darkly of his "background", without
explaining that this includes 18 years in jail, much
of it on the blanket in Long Kesh. But since he promotes
his deranged views "in the darkest recesses of
the internet" - shades of porno sites here -
one has to ask again what the Andytown News
is getting worked up about? This McIntyre is obviously
a nut, as the writer handily knowing the views
of everyone else says he has "zero support
in Belfast". But that is what the guy is like,
and you can't have any other view on him - no links
to his site, no press coverage for the madman.
the Andytown News has stated openly that it
has told the "mainstream media" it will
sue any publication which prints McIntyre's views.
This is a truly amazing statement in its arrogance
and intimidatory intent. It is hard to imagine any
other local paper in Ireland making such a promise.
Get your head around that statement - if any newspaper
prints an article by Anthony McIntyre which criticisises
the Andytown News it will be up the high steps
straight away. Can anyone imagine the evil empires
of Rupert Murdoch or Tony O Reilly - real players
in the world media - having the cheek to issue such
should be clear to any political activist, Republican
or not, what the implications are for freedom of speech
and political activism in Ireland if the threats in
the last paragraph are continued beyond the two outlets
already targeted. The stakes are obviously higher
too in West Belfast, where being a "dissident"
can - and has - led to beatings and death.
small step people can make to oppose this squalid
little Inquisition is to include a link from their
website to The
- A Journal of Protest and Dissent [http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/].
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