Propaganda works

What an interesting and revealing affair this anti-Sinn Féin campaign is turning out to be.

Talk about hearts and minds being revealed! A minister of a government, a Minister for Justice if you please, says his political opponents are engaged in criminal activities to finance their election campaign. And he says he knows what he knows. And he doesn't have to bring people to court to prove it.

If someone you'd meet in a pub said that you would take it with a pinch of salt, or a sip of stout. But a Minister for Justice. Well, one wonders what you need to be an MoJ these days. May God be with the days when you had to go through all that tiresome business of finding out, inquiring, bringing to court, proving to the public beyond all reasonable doubt.

As one drives from constituency meeting to constituency meeting having nothing new to say but inventing something on the way, something to stir the blood, something to drown out the sound of hard won legal freedoms being fired through the Mercedes window, yes, got it: that crowd is getting money from criminal activities, vote for me.

It is not new of course, nothing much in politics ever is. The British unionists in Ireland’s northeast used to do it regularly. They let their opponents get on with it for a wee while then, pounce, they brought up the IRA. Even when the IRA was so weak that it could hardly move arms or feet.

It was a useful scare. And the people on the same wing of political life but on the RC side would help things along by raising the communist scare. Do you know, thundered the religious newspapers, which at the time did not have much political analysis, do you know that in Communist Russia (pause for silent messages to heaven) that in Communist Russia on the beaches they have people bathing, pardon us for saying it, but bathing with nothing on? Anything for a bit of honest propaganda. And by the way, in this sceptical age one has to repeat, yes, they all did say these things, and, no, I did not make it up, and in very truth that last bit was an Irish version of the world communist scare which ruined the lives and thoughts of millions.

Back now to reality. The unionist trick was to blame republicans and nationalists for many evil practices and for
1) getting money from the Vatican to ruin Ulster or
2) giving money to the Vatican to ruin Ulster.
Yes, yes, yes, I was there, I actually saw it happen and so please do not say it is too fantastic to happen, nothing is too fantastic to happen in London-controlled politics. Yes, they said – and printed – every public house (RC of course) gives a proportion of the takings each week to the Vatican. To destroy Ulster. A variation of this Far Right but Complete Wrong propaganda was that our communist friends in Ireland were getting money from Moscow.

So, money from the Vatican, money from Moscow, money from criminal activities, the theme is always there with variations.

Maybe because money is so important to the people who say these things. That is one reason why one is not surprised at hearing a Minister for Just Us (the Progressive Democrat answer to Sinn Féin, Ourselves, is to have a minister for Just Us and he is good at it). The story is always the same, the variations are minor. Sure, they did the same to us all. There were times when you did not know whether you were supposed to be giving money to the destroyers of Ulster or getting money from them, we were hearing both said by the same people. No, you cannot have money for a creche because you might give it to terrorists. No, you can’t get money for developing jobs because you are probably getting it already from terrorists. Money to and from terrorists, money from the Vatican, money from Moscow, pennies from heaven, by Jove that minister for Just Us has his finger on the pulse of the real world. Unfortunately the propaganda remains the tedious same, year after weary year.

Still, credit where credit is due. Very few propaganda campaigns could have so successfully recruited so many Hoods, so many Respectables, so many newspaper writers, so many broadcasters all into the one camp. So it really is an amazing campaign, this anti-republican thing. Some clever people too. Imagine – a head of police who can tell you within hours of an incident who was responsble, and why. Who can put his finger exactly on who is doing what, and why. One problem with this is, if this can be done, if blame can be distributed so quickly and so surely, what on earth do we need investigations, forensics and courts for? And if a minister can apportion blame so readily and so surely, what does he need such a big department for?

We could save a lot of money – I'm afraid maybe we will too – doing away with all the tiresome apparatus of finding, investigating, proving, inventing reasonable policies. Instead we could just have somebody sitting in the office of the police or Minister for Justice telling it as it is without expensive and needless frills.

True, it would do away with the last 100 years of progress towards a democratic society. True, it would cause a lot of suffering because it would be built on the lie that in such a system “the innocent have nothing to fear.”

But on the other hand, success counts, and look at how successful such a system was in Europe of the 1920s and ’30s, and would have been successful in Ireland too if we had only allowed General O’ Duffy to do his thing.

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