|The Jimmy Simple Column lauding Peaceful Paisley.|
In his most recent weekly column in the Irish News, Jim Gibney has confronted readers with a truly serious challenge. How are we to state with certainty that its output is claptrap from start to finish if the writing is so boringly awful that we can’t possibly get to the end? Might not the last full stop of the last sentence of the last paragraph be crafted with such exquisite artisanship that only by the torturous route of reaching it can its eminence be fully appreciated? The answer to that I guess is that as creatures of habit we can only go on past form. And the Gibney column, when it manages by its own standards a flourish, has never yet in its history perched on even the bottom rung of the pedestrian ladder.
There are few amongst us who are by now not familiar with the drivel and dross served up to explain the peace process. In very few places has it been more clumsily churned out than in Gibney's weekly waste recycling. If bollix was rocket fuel the Jimmy Simple columns would send us to the moon and beyond. Perhaps Gibney has already made the journey.
Throughout his entire stint as a columnist he has never sought to inform the Irish News readership of anything, instead using the platform provided by the paper as a propaganda stand. He is a fraudulent writer, the hallmark of all propagandists, out to bamboozle. His own words, not mine, paradoxically make this crystal clear:
Words like 'clarity' and 'certainty' ... derive from an arrogant mentality ... Demanding such words causes crisis and paralysis. They clog the peace process engine up with gunge. They box people into a corner. Pursuit of such words or their equivalent encourages intransigence by those seeking their use and by those burdened to produce them. Give me the language of ambiguity. It has served the people of this country well over the last ten years. It has oiled the engine of the peace process. Long may it continue to do so.
For that very reason Gibney carves a figurine of peace from the rotten wood of hatred. There is not the slightest possibility of him providing the acuity we find in John McAnulty who said of Paisley:
a religious zealot, creationist, racist, homophobe and misogynist, he inhabited a world of the 14th century - a sort of fundamentalist Christian Caliphate.
The Irish News has justified inflicting Gibney on its readership, not on the grounds that he is a good writer – he is woeful - or that he clarifies matters for readers, which he doesn’t, but that he represents a body of opinion within society that has to be given expression. Tenuous logic which at best would justify the occasional opinion piece, in the way that the paper would feature Gerry Adams every now and then. Alternatively, it could allow for the commissioning of an adroit writer who has opinions of their own with which to articulate the case.
A regular column in a serious newspaper should not amount to a propaganda barrage. Nor should that paper be a home in which any hack with the impaired efficiency of a local grovel sheet robin makes the grade. Primarily, a column should strive to illuminate the issues of the day rather than dim them. Here the order of things is back to front. The readers have to do the job of the writer. It is only through widespread public ridiculing of the Jimmy Simple column, conducted online, that enlightened discussion takes place as a foil to the lack of any within the column.
It could be argued tongue in cheek that The Irish News perhaps feels it has to have some balance. The paper in Patrick Murphy has the services of the best columnist in the North, so to even things up a bit it also retains the worst. That would be one of those peace process equality perspectives where the race is to the bottom. Newspapers should be about quality output. Between the fudge and the forensic there is no equality.
If Gibney's writing was audacious, it would be tolerable, even welcome. Being audaciously atrocious fails to cut the mustard. Audacious writing can provoke outrage, no bad thing in itself. Atrocious piffle draws nothing but scorn.
So this is what we get from Jim Gibney. Paisley was the long lost de Klerk the Provos had been searching for since the early stages of the peace process who would lead unionism away from where it was before and who should therefore be remembered above all else for his role as a peace maker. The comparison is bogus.
FW de Klerk ended apartheid. Ian Paisley did nothing to end partition but merely recalibrated it so that it could branch out and take root in terrain that had previously proven barren to it. The partition principle (aka the consent principle) has broader acceptance in the country than at any time in its history. Its main detractors, including the two former Provisional IRA chiefs of staff currently leading Sinn Fein, now endorse what they failed to militarily overthrow. Paisley brought political unionism into line with the main tenets of long term British state strategy regarding the North, adumbrated as far back as 1972 and foreshadowed by the logic of Edmund Burke: ‘a state without the means of change is without means of preservation.' Ian Paisley preserved partition. FW de Klerk did not preserve apartheid. Only Jimmy de Clampet could fail to see the difference.