The apology by the state broadcaster, RTE, and agreement to pay damages to a number of parties who felt they had been wronged by having the word ‘homophobic’ attributed to them is well and truly out of order and a worrying display of capitulation by RTE. Major questions need to be asked about RTE’s role in this as part of a wider discussion about equality and media bias.
Comments made by Rory O’Neill on the Brendan O’Connor show, described the Iona Institute and journalist John Waters, both of whom are known for their opposition to equal marriage rights to same sex couples and for opposing same-sex parenting, as homophobic. If you argue that homosexual people are not entitled to the same consideration as straight people then you are, by definition, a homophobe.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines homophobia as “aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people”. If you watch the link below which contains a number of quotes from members of the IONA institute and John Waters it is clear that they are both arguing to maintain a discrimination against gay couples who are prohibited from marrying. This is to treat one group of people differently to another so that they are at a disadvantage based on their sexuality. This promotes inequality and is in fact homophobic.
Mr O’Neill was entitled to express his opinion, which was based on facts that are known to the public. The behaviour of RTE in firstly censoring the programme on their website and secondly apologising for Mr. O’Neill’s comments is truly outrageous. The fact that they have agreed so quickly to pay compensation to the IONA institute is suspicious to say the least. RTE is a national broadcaster funded by the state and the licence holder, they are going to compensate an organisation who are intent on stifling public debate.
In a clumsy attempt by RTE to cover their tracks they disingenuously linked the tragic death of Tom O’Gorman to the act of censorship. The tenuous link to Mr. O’Gorman, who happened to work for the IONA institute, is non sensical. Mr. O’Gorman was killed after the events on the Brendan O’Connor show and was never mentioned by Mr. O’Neill.
The mainstream media silence on this matter speaks volumes about the degeneration of modern journalism. Or perhaps it indicates RTE’s embarrassment regarding their own cowardice or indeed reflects their fear of the IONA Institute. Either way the actions of RTE will undermine the ability of journalist to investigate and to challenge. If they cannot call a homophobic person a homophobe for fear that their complaint will lead to censorship and a subsequent pay out, then we are allowing journalists to be restricted from telling the truth.
The actions of the national broadcaster in apologising only serves to condone the deeply held prejudices. The apology itself begs further questions, as part of the apology Mr O’Connor bizarrely stated, “It’s an important part of democratic debate that people must be able to hold dissenting views on controversial issues…” So it is ok to hold a dissenting view which is perceived by many to be prejudice but if we express an opinion on your dissenting/prejudiced view we will be censored. The double standards and contradictions are glaring. If someone is known publicly as a racist and we correctly label them a racist will we have to issue an apology to that racist for calling them eh a Racist?