The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Gags Of Prejudice

"Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime..." - Justice Potter Stewart

Anthony McIntyre • The Observer, June 8 2003

In the hallway of our home there is a framed poster - Oppose Censorship. It is the first thing people see when the door is opened - a greeting, urging them to think and speak freely. It is also a memento from the days when the censor spoke with a rich British accent.

I sometimes wonder if a particular Andersonstown News editor and Sinn Fein member was close enough to our front door to have viewed the poster the night he took part in a mob picket on our home and screamed at my pregnant wife. And if he did what were the thoughts that traversed his mind. Once, when it was a community rather than a business concern, the Andersonstown News too set its face against the censors.

Generally, what provoked the ire of the censorious mob that evening was my written criticism of a killing carried out by the IRA. Seemingly, murder was wrong when the British alone were the perpetrators. I was reminded of Voltaire who sneered at the notion of murderous activity not being murder if carried out to the sound of trumpets. What, I mused, was one of the editors of the local tabloid doing protesting outside my home against freedom of expression on such an important issue?

Were such musing not rhetorical it could be regarded as naïve. Regime change in this part of the world has only heralded the type of transformation that allows many things to remain the same. Today’s censors no longer have English accents but they still do their work even if they sometimes issue their prohibiting edicts in Irish. How insipid the taste of a new found freedom.

Shortly after that incident I became a banned person in the Andersonstown News. My crime, according to the management, was to have assisted a journalist acquire a copy of the paper when, in its letters page, he was malignly accused of being a gatherer of information for loyalist terrorists. As if I should function as a filter to catch editing incompetence before it enters the public domain. The editor explained my ban - a solicitor had advised him that I alone in West Belfast should have no right to comment even in response to an attack on me in its pages. What self-important sense of power the ability to ban must have afforded him. Since then my energy has been directed towards The Blanket, my ability to speak enhanced rather than diminished in spite of the banning.

The Blanket is a small non profitable online journal which has tried to breathe life into republican discourse. It promotes a culture of intellectual pluralism and dissent. Recently, the Andersonstown News demanded that the manager of an internet site, Newshound, remove two links to articles featuring on The Blanket, otherwise face possible libel proceedings. Legally the Andersonstown News had no grounds for doing this. Newshound had repeated no libel. It had merely linked to articles questioning the quality of the news service provided by the paper. But West Belfast’s regime of truth had been challenged - and such a challenge was considered intolerable.

The obstacle facing independent writers in West Belfast is the suffocating one party state culture that has enveloped the constituency. As was evident from its earlier disastrous attempt to curb the satirist Newton Emerson, the Andersonstown News plays a Pravda type role in both reinforcing and policing that culture. Authoritarian centralism is the dominant political value being protected not democratic openness and accountability. Is this what a community went to war for - a choice between censors?

It is not in the nationalist community alone that censorship prevails. The Sunday World, journalistic home to the late Martin O’Hagan - murdered by the LVF for his commitment to the pen - has been under threat from the drugadiers of the Ulster Drugs Association (UDA). Calls for Protestant clergymen to withdraw from the Loyalist Commission which deals directly with the UDA in protest have went unheeded. Jim McDowell, the paper’s editor, is not getting the support he so desperately requires from Tony O’Reilly’s management team. Why is the latter seemingly intent on holding back Sunday World exposure of the crass hypocrisy of a Commission that remains mute when the very safety and livelihood of Sunday World staff are endangered? What dire consequences portend for a porous and vibrant media?

Censorship does not merely attack freedom of speech. It undermines freedom to hear. Where it is not imposed on Northern Irish society it is generated from within by way of conditioned response to that disciplinary power which the peace process has established, panoptically in our midst, monitoring our every utterance so that it may pounce and ominously demand of us - ‘are you opposed to the peace process?’

The result is that we as a community under watch have resorted not to resistance but to watching ourselves.


Anthony McIntyre is a former IRA prisoner.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



I have spent
many years of my life
in opposition, and
I rather like the role.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Index: Current Articles

9 June 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Money's Worth
Terry O'Neill


Connolly: National Liberation, Socialism and Partition
Liam O Ruairc


Pauperizing the Periphery
M. Shahid Alam


Democracy, eh?

Davy Carlin


Polluting People's Lives

Barbara Muldoon


The Gags of Prejudice
Anthony McIntyre


5 June 2003


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




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