Friday, 4 December 2009

Shopping Outside the Box

Colm O'Doherty: Last week the Irish Times carried two stories which when examined together provide an instructive commentary on contemporary Irish citizenship. On November 25th (the day after the Public Sector strike) we were informed by the Times that Hordes of Southern Shoppers had invaded (sic) Newry, and on the 28th November we learned that Up to 6000 Irish investors were wooed (sic) by the desert state of Dubai.

The Newry story was heavily freighted with images of irresponsible citizens (hordes, invading), lacking in patriotism, engaging in abnormal and un-natural activities. The tone of the Dubai story was measured and represented the investors as victims – kids in a sweet shop, innocents abroad.

The bad shoppers in Newry were represented as amoral deviants – refusing to play by the rules. What these two stories highlight is the manner in which citizenship is now defined. An understanding of Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is essential to this analysis. Maintaining power by persuading people that dominant attitudes are common sense is the hallmark of governing citizens. So shopping in Dubai for personal benefit – to the tune of approximately 600 million Euro - is legitimate and patriotic, while shopping in Newry for basic items such as food and consumer durables is a betrayal and unpatriotic.

Irish entitled citizens – bankers, investors, entrepreneurs - are encouraged to shop for property across the globe, but Newry is off limits to citizen consumers, particularly the treasonous public sector who dared to take industrial action and shop outside the state. There is clearly a political agenda here. and it is really worrying that the Irish Times, in its biased reporting, appears to be complicit in this manufactured moral panic.

In this regard the Times is supporting the dominant economic classes who harness the state’s autonomous power but are not subordinated to it. This alliance allows them to operate freely within the Irish state and between states. Meanwhile, the consumer class are disciplined for their moral treason in venturing beyond their compliant worker roles and legitimate designated shopping perimeters.


paul sweeney said...

A good exposition of the Irish Times' increasingly open bias. The Irish Times was once called the "newspaper of record." On economics, is is now the paper of opinion. In most cases, it is the opinion of the failed banks' faithful intellectual stormtroopers. There are less informative articles on SSSI, CSO, ESRI papers and much more "interpretive" articles on them.

SlĂ­ Eile said...

@Colm Two features of recent Irish Times:
a very biased coverage of analysis. Aside from two regular columnists almost the entire weight of business/economic analysis is pro-deflationary. The editorial the day after the public sector strike was particularly one-sided.

And where are the articles from Social Justice Ireland? ICTU etc. Have these been turned down? Its all one way traffic.

the other feature is the 'Newry story' which, by now, is iconic. The clear point of that story and its coverage across the entire media was not primarily the 'unpatriotic' nature of the excursion but the suggestion is that the mob were public service strikers availing of the day having done an hour's picket duty in the morning.
How exceptional was the traffic that day given that the schools were all closed? Never mind it was a 'good story' and nothing like a picture to convey the message.