Fight Fire with Fear

There’s an old story, perhaps apocryphal, about an early congressional campaign of Lyndon B Johnson. The tale goes that LBJ asked one of his aides to spread a story about an electoral opponent. Long story short, he wanted to have the aide tell a few well-placed ears how his foe had f@cked pigs. Horrified, the aide said “Christ, Lyndon, we can’t call the guy a pigf@cker. It isn’t true!” To which LBJ famously and mischievously quipped “Of course it ain’t true, but I want to make the son of a bitch deny it.”

It’s a great story and as far-fetched as it sounds, I’d not at all be surprised if it were true. It goes on day in, day out in modern politics. Only this morning the Irish “Independent” ran a story in the morning claiming Gerry Adams sanctioned a murder. Within hours, the headline was “I totally and specifically refute the allegations” – Adams breaks silence on claim he sanctioned murder”. Mission Accomplished; Lyndon B Johnson would be so proud!

When Stephen Donnelly left the Social Democrats, the right leaning media darlings fell over one another to speculate about how he had been unhappy with the “far left” policies of the party. Far Left? Social Democracy? Far Left? If Social Democracy is deemed far left then just how far right are the Commentariat??

A few weeks ago John Halligan gave an interview to Hot Press where he said he didn’t believe in God and felt Alien existence was more likely than a supreme being. The sneering and guffawing by the media was telling. How many of them would have scoffed at Pythagoras when he said the world was not flat but round? Pythagoras was correct, and in all mathematical probability John Halligan is also correct. But that doesn’t suit the narrative of ‘loose cannon indie independent’. We must remember to stoke the fears of ‘sensible and reasonable people’.

When the overwhelming majority of the Irish Electorate rejected Irish Water the Government, having threatened to “turn the water down to a trickle” decided they needed a bigger bully that Big Bully Phil Hogan. They decided the Faceless Men of the EU Commission were the bullies for the job. They said you unreasonable people would need to get in line or face the wrath of the EU, who we can’t stand up to, unless they’re attacking Apple.

Brian Hayes, he of the ‘Love TTIP’ persuasion, not content with ruining Fine Gaels election strategy, is back on the airwaves defending the indefensible. Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald is at a UN Refugee Summit, explaining how Ireland stands ready, to stand ready to do its part. As long as that “part” only requires us to stand around and not honour our commitments.

Brian explained Ireland’s utter failure to meet pledges around refugee resettlement by using his favourite technique, whataboutery. He told the Last Word that while we haven’t honoured our commitments “it’s important to say we’re not alone in this”. He then listed the other countries that are equally as crap as us.

When Matt Cooper read a text about terrorist fears from a listener, Brian jumped on the fear train, saying “These are real fears”. Sorry Brian, but living in Dublin, I’m a million times more likely to be caught up in the Kinahan – Hutch feud, than an Islamic Terror attack. But Brian doesn’t want to stoke that fear, for fear of having to answer for his Governments part in the decimation of vulnerable communities.

In early July this year Spain the Big Bad Bully EU Commission sent a fine to Spain for missing their EU Budgetary Targets. The Spanish Government, unlike their Spineless Irish equivalents, told the EU to go to hell. The EU Commission, not wanting to lose face, sent a fine to Spain anyway. The amount, a whopping €0.00!

The Commission said they had to send a symbolic sanction but decided that a punitive approach wouldn’t have taken into account the sacrifices made by Spanish taxpayers during the financial crisis. So, the bully (even the big bad EU bully), once stood up to, is toothless.

The EU Commission, after one of their surveillance  missions*, can say Ireland must reintroduce Water Charges. The Irish Government, as representatives of the Irish Electorate, can tell them to go to hell. Then the EU Commission can “take into account the sacrifices made” in Ireland in taking on the burden of 42% of the total EU Bank Debt and fine us €0.00.

The EU Commission can interfere in Ireland’s Budgetary process. They can say we need to adhere to strict spending limits, restricting our ability to improve the public sphere. The Irish Government, as protectors of the Irish People, can tell them people come before fiscal rules – Fiscal Rules that France have breached and not been fined for – and plough ahead. The EU Commission can again “take into account the sacrifices made” in Ireland since 2008 and fine us €0.00.

Or we could live in Fear. Give in; put Fiscal Rules ahead of People. Allow whataboutery dignify our lack of backbone. We can hide our biases and greed under the comfort blanket of the “sensible and reasonable” brigade. We can excuse our lack of care for the world beyond our borders as pragmatism. We can deflect from our inhumanity to humanity by outsourcing human rights obligations into Direct Provision Centres, or the EU’s “Safe Return” policy. We can make all the excuses we want. We can live in constant Fear.

When in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt said:  “my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”, he may as well have been speaking to us today.

We live in a world where all of the solutions, to all of our problems exist. We just lack implementation. When we peel back the reasons for the lack of implementation, Fear is always in the mix. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of risk and fear of fear.

So we need to shed ourselves of Fear. We need to demand our elected representatives, overcome their fears and fulfil the mandate we gave them. We need to be optimistic about change, move past our fears. Once you eliminate fear, anything is possible.


Tony Groves September 2016



*believe it or not, but the Democratic EU Commission refers to their work as surveillance missions.

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