The Knights Templar myth is one of the most enduring tales in human history. Indiana Jones to the Da Vinci Code perpetuate the story of a sacred group of knights who protected Christianity (and the Christ bloodline, lol) and that these men were the warrior monks of God.
Even today the iconic Templar uniform, white tunic with a red cross, is instantly recognised by people who know nothing of the rise and fall of, arguably, the greatest knighthood the world has ever seen.
But the Templar greatness didn’t lie in military genius; in fact they weren’t great on the battlefield in comparison to their peers. The Hospitallers, who the Templar’s in effect usurped, were far more competent in military strategy.
Nor were they much use at upholding their sacred duty of keeping the ‘sacred places’ free for Christians. They regularly lost territory and needed the assistance of others to regain it. Often hiring mercenaries to do their dirty work for them.
And it’s best not to mention the ‘look the other way’ practice of some of the more famed Templar territories when it came to the Brothers loose adherence to their vows of chastity.
No, the Templar’s were the greatest brotherhood of knights the world has ever seen because they were the best at Spin.
Omne Datum Optimum – Every Good Gift
When Pope Innocent II issued the papal bull (an official letter under a papal seal made from lead, for which the Latin word was bulla) Omne Datum Optimum, he showered the Templars with gifts and favours. The bull exempted them from the authorities of kings, barons and bishops across all of Christendom; it gifted them lands and gave them the useful right to raise taxes. The pope had just handed the Templars the keys to the kingdom of god.
The Templars, rather than plough their new found good fortune into their charge of protecting the ‘holy places’ instead got busy growing the family business. They sent their ‘best men’ back from the holy land to Europe to spread the news about all their great achievements. They traveled as far as England and received gifts more of castles and more land.
Two more papal bulls would follow consolidating their position and from these the Templars built a network of property and lands that would make Starbucks blush.
Last week the ‘government of Ireland’ (Not Fine Gael) launched the Ireland 2040 plan. As PR exercises go it seems to have gone over pretty well. By 2040 we’ll all live in a Leotopia and eat avocado toast while our autonomous cars whisk us to our high-tech jobs.
That the plan is, as Waterford Whispers put it, ‘some dolled up shit we were meant to do anyway’. But nonetheless it got all the fanfare and the public felt warm and fuzzy about the aspiration of having aspirational plans. Just ignore the world outside your phone-screens, please.
But, and this is where it gets Templar-like, not content with the fanfare and unwilling to accept anything less that sore hands from High Fiving, Leo called his pals in the Indo.
We know, thanks to the fantastic work of Ellen Coyne, that the ‘government paid for good news stories’. These ads appeared without any mention of them as paid for content. They were real modern day propaganda.
I’d written the day after Leo first became leader of Fine Gael about the dangers of his cosy relationship with INM. I’ll remind you of his first press conference as FG Leader. The first question went, naturally, to Kevin Doyle INM’s Group Political Editor.
Kev: Mr Varadkar
Leo: Hey Kev…
Add into this mix our Taoiseach meeting with a Billionaire Media Owning Tax Exile, who has serious findings against him in a tribunal, at Davos AND refusing to comment on the nature of the meeting and things get dark.
Remember, Leo told us that his Strategic Communications Unit would be ‘cost neutral’, but then allowed it a budget of Five Million Euro. He repeatedly said it was necessary as he believes “communication is a virtue”.
Leo, like the Templars had, has the keys to the kingdom, he has the public and the media eating out of his hand.
Also like the Templars,he isn’t focused on the mandate he was given. He’s busy whizzing around opening tech company offices, face-graming and insta-snapping with the best in the business. He’s building his brand.
That it has infected the media is a danger to democracy. In the era of Fake News this paid content is a ugly sore on the face of an already damaged industry. The lack of coverage about it is not unexpected, but I’d ask where are the journalists for whom integrity matters? Who is calling out the naked emperor and his court of jesters?
The Templars were wiped out at dawn on Friday the 13th of October, 1307. They were captured and tortured and finally executed for heresy. Among the many crimes they “confessed” to, the most Leo like is the worshipping false idols.
But there was never any real evidence for the crimes; there was no physical evidence, nor were there any independent witnesses. Today we have something similar. Plans with no evidence of achievement and no independents in the Indo to cry stop to the Spin.
Tony Groves February 2018
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