Nolan show relies on spectacle of flags and feuds

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Do you remember when people used to blame the media for the ‘troubles’? “There wouldn’t be any trouble if the media didn’t report what’s happening,” was a commonly heard refrain, “they only give them encouragement”.

Do you remember when people used to blame the media for the ‘troubles’? “There wouldn’t be any trouble if the media didn’t report what’s happening,” was a commonly heard refrain, “they only give them encouragement”.

It was a particularly simplistic and ill-informed but widely held view, particularly amongst the unionist community. It even found an echo in Mrs Thatcher’s comments about, “the oxygen of publicity” for “terrorists”. It was obvious that many people had at least a subliminal hankering after that aspect of a secretive, totalitarian regime where the press could be obstructed by the state. It was a classic case of blaming the messenger for the message. Not having any sympathy for such a simplistic view doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think critically about the role of the media in a free society. Take, for instance, the phenomenal broadcasting ‘success’ that is the BBC’s Stephen Nolan. You have to admit that with his hectoring, badgering style, he has the knack of making his programmes lively. Broadly speaking, it’s good to stimulate topical debate.

Yet in a deeply dysfunctional society like ours there’s a need for some restraint. Providing an endless sort of Jeremy Kyle Show for politicians and the usual ‘commentators’ to agitate us for our own entertainment about divisive issues like flags and tribal identities followed by floods of ill-informed comment, is a dubious enough contribution to this society. It is like watching the endless family rows that Jeremy Kyle depends on. It might be entertaining but it’s hardly edifying.