‘Rewriting the Troubles’ to be launched in Derry on Thursday

Patrick Anderson’s new book, ‘Rewriting the Troubles’, will be launched in Derry on Thursday.

The book compares and contrasts Algeria’s anti-colonial struggle with the Republican campaign to dismantle Britain’s colonial legacy, using Noam Chomsky’s model of Manufacturing Consent.

Patrick said: “I have been living in Canada for a long time, where I teach political conflict. I come from Belfast, a place with a lot of political conflict but I would talk about conflict everywhere throughout the world. Noam Chomsky is a world famous analyst of these conflicts and one of the things he is famous for is his Manufacturing Consent, which is basically him calling out the media in the Western world particularly. He says it works all the time in the interest of power. What’s interesting about this is that everyone knows that the state is controlling the narrative. Chomsky’s theory is that there’s a far more sophisticated propaganda model that can explain what’s going on in societies with free media. Chomsky’s argument is that they’re not as free as you would think but that they always work in the interest of power. It’s a much, much more sophisticated system and it’s harder to expose it. Chomsky has used this model in so many conflicts throughout the world so I thought, why don’t I apply his method to what went on here.

“Everybody brings their own bias, that’s just a human thing but, for me, I didn’t mind which way the research would lead because I knew it would either show Chomsky’s model prevailed again or that there are limitations to his model. I knew, when I had the idea, that I would have an answer one way or another. Not only did it work, it went beyond the predictions of the model and I was astounded!

Rewriting the Troubles by Patrick Anderson.

“It took a huge amount of work to put this book together and conduct the research. In Chomsky’s method, you have to find a matched historic pair. So, I had to find a matched historic pair for the conflict in Ireland or in Northern Ireland. A very similar conflict is the French War in Algeria and made a matched pair. I had to read every British liberal media output on the French Algerian war, which is eight years of newspaper output. I then had to look at all the similar events - events that were similar to Bloody Sunday, the bombings, counter terrorism, and in the case of Ireland, you can find all of those between 1968 and 1974. That’s a six year period. I had to look at everything for those time periods and then you can make a valid comparison.

“I have lived and worked in France and I realised that it wasn’t the Vietnam war that lives in people’s minds there, like in English speaking countries, but the Algerian war. That war was a massive trauma to the French people and it’s ongoing. The title of this book is ‘Rewriting the Troubles’ and that’s what they’re doing in France; rewriting it to find out why it happened, who was to blame, why did it go on so long. It’s a major part of the relations between France and Algeria, just like how the relations between London and Dublin are rocky.

“The violence here in Northern Ireland has mostly come to an end since the Good Friday Agreement. There are still violent instances but the conflict now is around rewriting the Troubles. There’s a major argument going on now where the Unionists are saying that ‘irrational terrorism’ was terrorising democracy and the conflict was finally ended by security forces. On the other hand, the Republican analysis says that there was not a religious conflict at all but that there was an insurgency against the British State, and that the British State had its allies.

“For the whole period of the Troubles, it was portrayed as a ‘religious squabble’ and that the British State was a referee between these two religious ‘maniacs’. That was the prevailing story. Since the Good Friday Agreement, there’s the emerging story of the insurgency and there’s more media space for that too.

Rewriting the Troubles by Patrick Anderson.

“The violent conflict is now translated into a meta-conflict. This book looks at what the media has said and whose narrative is going to prevail.”

The book will be launched officially in the Northwest Learning Disability Centre on the Foyle Road on Thursday, September 22 at 7.30pm. ‘Rewriting the Troubles’ is also available in Little Acorns Bookstore on Foyle Street.

Patrick Anderson.