The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Heat, not necessarily light

Anthony McIntyre • 05.06.03

A healthy cynicism that avoids lapsing into nihilism is one safeguard to be employed against falling victim to any media take on events. The disparities in media accounts pertaining to the Stakeknife controversy suggest less a conspiracy by so called securocrats and instead point to the existence of a media rather than a medium. While frustrating for the ‘orderly’ mind and the control-obsessed ideologue, a range of varying accounts helps act as a warning system which alerts the reader or viewer to the prudence of performing a rain check for themselves rather than simply go out without an umbrella as a result of listening to a managed line which assures us the day will be dry. Although, for the feeders of the line, if it turns out not to be dry, it will have been as a result of sabotage by the rainocrats.

Of course, it is only reasonable to view the media with extreme caution. After all if they would try to persuade a gullible audience that the peace campaigner Gerry Adams was a member of the IRA and would then insist that Freddie Scappaticci was a British agent they must be working to a securocrat agenda!

In relation to the handling of the Stakeknife affair, there is little - outside the feverish imaginations of the controlocrats - that would suggest the existence of a carefully coordinated British plot in which the media followed suit. Elements within the British establishment certainly did mix it, spooks were spinning and dissembling, and media agencies did battle with each other to head the pack when it came to reporting British Intelligence briefing guff. Consequently, much of the journalism was not up to the mark. But the inconsistencies in reporting were far too widespread to support the view that there was a complex centralised plan which a desenitised public fell victim to. If a plan did exist it was the type we would expect to find put together in the HQ of the Anarchist Party. In fact the real coordination rather than coming from the originators of the story, appeared to be the exclusive property of those who sought, not too successfully, to challenge the veracity of the allegations. What Professor Kathleen Lynch once termed ‘a language of sameness’ seemed to prevail in these accounts. The public was assured of the existence of securocrats, nameless and faceless sources, malcontents, wreckers and rejectionists - all out to sabotage the peace process. All the language we have come to associate with the totalitarian mindset and expressed nowhere better than in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. As is evident from the An Phoblacht/Republican News coverage, it is the type of mediocre construct that trainee writers can safely handle - a case of just keep to the line and repeat after me …

Perhaps it is indicative of the limp nature of the An Phoblacht/Republican News (and its allies) defence against the Stakeknife allegations, that three weeks on, the media find that they don’t have to expend a lot of effort on the story to keep the Sinn Fein version of events effectively sidelined. As reported in one local paper in recent days, few in the republican community now believe Freddie Scappaticci is innocent of the allegations made against him. And Conor Murphy’s less than spirited defence of Scappaticci on BBC Spotlight on Tuesday evening has left the Riverdale man with even fewer sympathisers. One member of the Republican Movement said after listening to Murphy he is now in no doubt that Scappaticci is guilty.

In a sense this demonstrates that the media do not have to labour very hard to harm Scappaticci - they merely have to let republicans defend him in order to have him convicted in the court of public opinion. It is not a very satisfactory situation when the incompetence of the defence rather than the efficiency of the prosecution persuades the jury that the defendant is guilty.

Because in truth, Spotlight’s coverage of the Scappaticci/Stakeknife saga was not the hard hitting expose many anticipated that it would be. Most people I have spoken to since have expressed disappointment, claiming that there was nothing new contained in it. Perhaps, it is the type of presentation that would be better suited to day one of the story rather than week three. In a seeming paradox, the two republicans chosen to comment on the affair, failed to land the punches that they presumably sought to throw. Conor Murphy of Sinn Fein inadvertently stood on Scappaticci’s fingers as they clung to the ledge of deniability. And Mickey Donnelly, a republican critic of Murphy’s party, while offering an interesting and witty insight into Scappaticci's earlier years, especially those spent during internment, undermined his own position by wrongly claming that Scappaticci’s name had been in the hat as a Stakeknife suspect since having been named on a republican bulletin board three years ago - and which caused the Sinn Fein leadership to initiate a process of intimidation against the moderator of the board in a bid to curb enquiries into Scappaticci. While Sinn Fein did seek to intimidate, it was certainly not in relation to Freddie Scappaticci, whose name did not appear in any public forum.

One of the stronger contributions on Spotlight came from Liam Clarke of the Sunday Times, recently arrested for making public the business of the public. And while he did say that he was of the opinion that Scappaticci was aware almost two years ago that the press had identified him as the agent Stakeknife, he maintained that this was his own belief based on instinct and deduction rather than positing it as a fact.

Ultimately, Spotlight created more heat than light. Unfortunately for Scappaticci, heat is all that it takes to make life very uncomfortable.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



I have spent
many years of my life
in opposition, and
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- Eleanor Roosevelt

Index: Current Articles

5 June 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Irish State Collusion with MI5
Eamonn McCann


Use of Loyalty
Mick Hall


Victimisation of Victims
Christina Sherlock



Newton Emerson


Heat, Not Necessarily Light

Anthony McIntyre


The Party's Fool

Karen Lyden Cox

Targetting Iran
Michael Youlton


2 June 2003


Nameless, Faceless
An Apology to Our Readers

Carrie Twomey


Hypocrats Accuse West Belfast Man of Being RUC Tout
Anthony McIntyre


Connolly and the First World War: Political Lessons for Today

Liam O Ruairc


I Got Your "Stake Knife"
Brian Mór


Hey, Fugheddaboutit
Brian Mór


It Wasn't Me
Brian Mór


The Chessboard: Another Great Game

Davy Carlin

The Last Time I Saw Mu`ab
Annie Higgins




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