Peace Journalism? LetsWriteAlongerism?

Interesting seminar on “Peace Journalism” at QUB on Friday. Hosted by Dr John Brewer and sponsored by the Community Relations Council.
The main problem is that “Peace Journalism” seems like a good idea but is so nebulous that nobody, seemed entirely sure what it is.
PEACE is of course a “moral” and “ethical” term and absolute.
Am I obliged to be moral? I suppose from a religious point of view…I am. From the point of view of a resident, I am only obliged to conform to the Law.
For example, a religious person might believe that Divorce is immoral. But its entirely legal.
Can “Moral” people insist that others behave “morally”?

As a human being, I believe in Peace. Its not an absolute belief. Religious people…just a few weeks ago commemorated War. Now of course that does not mean that they CELEBRATED War (although in some cases they do)….and alleged moral people like George Bush, Barak Obama, Tony B Liar, David Cameron all believe in Peace…but their legacy is the exact opposite.

Singling out Britain…as the most relevant in my world view…they did not go to India or come to Ireland to bring Peace.
At best they brought their own Peace. And the reward for so doing is to go on the moral high ground. Peace, The Law and (Indian or Irish) Nationaliism.
Its slightly too easy for the British to tell Indians that they are sorry for everything before 1947 and to tell the Irish that they are sorry for everything before 1922.
And much too easy to tell me (born 1952) that they are sorry for everything before 1998.
Peace…or rather the Law…trumps Morality.

Whatever is “accepted” is Peace.
In fairness nobody was really sure what Peace Journalism is.
But we live in a Society where if you attach the label “Peace” or “Cross Community” it instantly becomes “a good thing”.
That does a grave disservice to unionists and nationalists alike.
And it does a disservice to anyone…living or dead …who fought for Peace….whatever his/her honestly held vision of Peace was. We cannot just have OUR version.
But somehow, the only worthwhile version of Peace is Justice.
To be honest, I am much more interested in Justice than Peace.

Maybe thats the difference between an Irish Nationalist and a British Unionist.
For one….Justice should trump Peace.
For the other Peace should trump Justice.
A gross simplification of course. But I am after all a nationalist.

Three Journalist Speakers in the morning.
Deaglan de Breadun (formerly Irish Times), Mike Gilson (Editor, Belfast Telegraph) and Malachi O’Doherty…none could really agree with the concept of Peace Journalism…de Breadun almost apologetic, Gilson routinely and O’Doherty stridently.
It reminded me of an event promoted by the British-Irish Studies Institute in March 2011 (I blogged about this on Slugger O’Toole and it is also in my own archives). On that occasion the Conflict Resolutionists invited the Norn Iron artistic community…to paint, write, rhyme for the Greater Good…and the painters, writers and poets lined up during the day to proclaim artistic freedom. They ahead no duty other than to record what they see.
The LetsGetAlongerists had already been defeated before the last session of the day, when old friends Gerry Anderson and Robert Ballagh engaged in a double act, telling anecdotes from the 1960s and 1970s from the old Showband Era.
That day was a massive defeat for LetsGetAlongerism.
There are of course countless examples of Journalists intervening. Jane Morrice, the final speaker of the day fittingly mentioned Michael Buerk, the BBC journalist who brought the Famine in Ethiopia to world-wide attention. An example of Intervention.
And from the Floor, one of Norn Irons leading photo-journalists brought up the particular problems of his colleagues…but for me it brought to mind, the TV Cameraman in Chile, who was so detached he filmed the soldier who killed him.
The notion that Journalists have a responsibility to the Common Good…the one that is decided for them by Conflict Resolutionists…brings to mind that 1950s USA blacklisted journalists as “un-American” and Stalinist USSR and Nazi Germany also regulated journalists.
Of course LetsGetAlongerism is not The same thing.
I’m not claiming that.
I am claiming that the Common Good is a dangerous thing.

But is there an alternative to the Common Good?
The response of Journalists is that they are “professional” and “ethical”.
Well I daresay that most are.
But how is it that the most professional of journalists missed the big story in their own profession…in their own newsrooms even…phone-hacking.
And where exactly is the Ethics of (now seemingly more than) one Rogue Reporter.
The BBC is different. Well we cant ask Jimmy Savile. But we can ask Stuart Hall.
Hurrah for Common Sense, Professionalism and Ethics.

Nice to see Alex Kane (Irish News and News Letter columnist) on the Q&A Panel. As a columnist he has an agenda…there is no good reason to comply with others.
The Blogosphere was represented by the excellent Lyra McKee…from the world of INVESTIGATIVE Bloggers.
The difficulty for me on Friday was that I am skeptical of LetsGetAlongerism AND Journalism.
Difficult to be nuanced but I tried and…failed.
My contribution…that the Conflict Resolutionist notion for Peace Journalists lets the LetsGetAlongerist Community …the third tribe …off the hook. This tribe has not been subject to as much scrutiny as the unionist and nationalist tribes.
The Moderator, William Crawley asked me to expand on who these “LetSGetAlongerists” might be.
My initial remarks…Statutory Bodies, the Ecumenics School, QUB Academics, Platform for Change….made a lot of sense but in my usual self deprecating mode, I mentioned The Titanic Quarter, Justin Bieber andMTV. Awards, Open Golf….William Crawley himself!!! And Rory McIlroy.
Hmmm not my finest moment.
Wiliam Crawley wondered aloud if I might be a Conspiracy Theorist.

Note to Self: Its ok to use my Blog to make serious points in a very flippant manner. The established readers, with a similar agenda might “get” the nuances.
But out there in real life…I should avoid flippancy.
Live and Learn, I suppose.

There is nothing new in Journalists writing to a narrative. The readership of the (nationalist) Irish News and (unionist) News Letter expect a certain narrative.
And of course a journalist has to look to his own financial well-being.
But there is also a narrative from Society itself. Especially in Norn Iron.
When Michael Bagueley and Maurice Shillington read the BBC Norn Iron News in the 1960s, there was a narrative.
Likewise when “Colonel” Jimmy Hughes reported on the Twelfth.
GOD was in his British Unionist Heaven.
When WD Flackes, Harry Thompson and Larry McCoubrey reported Politics and the News in the 1970s, it was all about Norn Iron under attack from “terrorists”.
In the 1990s, it was all about telling us that the fledgling Peace Process must not be disturbed by too much scrutiny of some of the players.
David Dunseith would do that whole kinda “why dont we all get along better?” on his radio show.
Now that the Agreement has been signed and stalled the narrative is that we much scrutinise the players that went without scrutiny two decades ago.

In short, I dont believe in Censorship…beyond a certain decorum. And I believe in people reporting what they see. And I believe in commentators and bloggers pushing their own agenda.
I dont of course “trust” the so called profession of Journalism…Leveson has demonstrated they have lost any right to trust.
But nor do I believe in Peace Journalism.

I believe in Justice Journalism. Honest Journalism.
If Journalism had been more HONEST in the 1960s we might not have had the CONFLICT.
If Journalism had been more honest in the 1970s we would not have sunk to the depths that we….Irish and British sank.
And if Journalism had been more honest in the 1990s, we would not have the mess of POST-CONFLICT.
And a big shout-out to Duncan Morrow, much amused that he had finally identified the man who had coined the phrase “letsgetalongerist”.

EDIT: There is a defence of Peace Journalism in a blog from the Centre of Peace Journalism at Park University, Missouri, USA. I cant do a link for some reason. It references my Blog, a little unfairly I think. But no harm done.

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11 Responses to Peace Journalism? LetsWriteAlongerism?

  1. Political Tourist says:

    The problem facing the LetsGetAlongists is the conflict is far from being resolved until one side wins out as you have pointed out many times.
    Although making a living out of Conflict Resolution is pushing it.
    Nice work if you can get it though.

    • There is actually reference to my Blog on a blog from “The Centre for Peace Journalism” (sic) based at Park University, Missouri, USA.
      There is even a link to the “Czar”.
      I think I am a tad “edited” but no real harm done.
      Its kinda thrill to be misquoted at international level. 😉

      • Dear Sir:
        The link for “In Defense of Peace Journalism” is at If I have misrepresented your position, please let me know how so that I can correct my error. Thank you for an important, robust discussion.
        Steven Youngblood
        Center for Global Peace Journalism

      • Thank you for the link.
        You have described me as Peace Journalism “critic”.
        Any balanced reading of my Blog would have seen that I am “skeptical”.
        Any balanced reading of my Blog would have noticed that I was just as skeptical of traditional journalists.
        Traditional Journalists managed to miss the biggest story in their own so-called profession. The Phone Hacking Scandal..
        It speaks volumes for their professionalism and their ethics.
        While there are many heroes in traditional journalism…I referenced them…I think my Blog was therefore balanced.
        The work of advocates for Peace Journalism…John Brewer, Duncan Morrow, Jane Morrice is appreciated. I rarely if ever agree with them but I admire their integrity.
        You linked to my Blog and I readily understand that you singled out a paragraph of some fifty words to quote on your own Blog.
        It was the most controversial paragraph in the Blog.
        But I mitigated this with twelve words….twelve words you chose to omit from the paragraph.
        It beggars belief that you thought these words were superfluous.
        The logical conclusion is that you chose to ignore them to make my position seem “extreme”.
        In seeking to advocate Peace Journalism, you have managed to actually weaken your case and I suggest undermine the work of other advocates.

      • Im not sure if I can post on your Blog (not sure about the Google account thing).
        But let me draw attention to one point.
        To paraphrase ….a Peace Journalist would report 20 murders but it would not report them as “gruesome”
        I wonder if that is actually the case.
        particuarly in a Conflict situation.
        For example….Mississippi 1961….would it not be better to report murders as “gruesome” or “racist”…as there is a Justice issue there? And for the sheer pragmatism that people have the right to know that their lives are in danger and can take the necessary action.

        We did actually have this problem in Norn Iron.
        The British Government did put some pressure on journalists not to report the religion of victims.
        There was of course a political dimension to this. In the 1970s there were so e very gruesome sectarian killings. …the vast majority of them catholic in North and West Belfast and The Murder Triangle in Armagh/Tyrone.
        Quite properly the journalists resisted.
        People like me…in my 20s in the 1970s…had a right to know that.

  2. tenniselbow says:

    I have to admit that I don’t quite understand what is meant by letsgetalongist ; I’ve seen this phrase crop up more and more. I understand it relates to Alliance and a few others, but it is used disparagingly. I know this will sound naive as you slag them off but Is it not a good thing for people to ‘get on’? And does that not genuinely reflect a portion of NI citizens who don’t fall under the 2 tribal definitions but who are a mixture of everything or none?
    I guess you have explained it elsewhere would you link me to it please?

    • I first used it in early 2011 and happy to see that it is getting wider use.
      Let me make the point that LetsGetAlongerism AAnd simply getting along with people.
      The nature of my broader social life (I have one!) is that I get on very well with people who have very different political views to my own…and that I am not necessarily a big buddy of people who share my views.
      By nature I believe in conviction politics rather than consensus.
      I have absolutely no problem with nationalist or unionist politics. They both get a lot of scrutiny.
      To deal with the Alliance Party specifically.
      “LetsGetAlongerism” is merely a strand within the Party.
      There is a churchy, preachy…sincere element there.
      There is a pragmatic and very unattractive element that makes no apology for their gerrymandered advantages.
      Theres a third “letsgetalongerists” element. These are people without any real philosophy except a vague committment to cross community and their own advancement thru Quangos.
      It is not scrutinised and yet is influential beyond its electoral achievements.

  3. In part isn’t the political ideology behind “LetsGetAlongerism” simply a more liberal and open-armed form of “Ulster nationalism”,one which aims to fuse the Nationalist and Unionist communities into a single “Northern Irish” nationality? It is the old “two nations” or “two Irelands” theory given political form.

    Partition as a permanent condition with a free Ireland and semi-free “Northern Ireland” as two states on the island of Ireland. To me that is much of the driving intent behind the editorial views espoused by Slugger O’Toole and by the likes of the AP and NI1921.

    It is not a dishonourable position but at least people should be honest about it.

    • I think there are nuances within LetsGetAlongerism (and Alliance) The diversity is both a strength and weakness.
      For example Alliance being at the heart of Govt is not popular with some in LetsGetAlongerism. They have not really used their position to move forward on anything that PLatform for Change would want.
      Likewise NI21 in favour of Opposition potentially splits the so called middle ground vote.
      Issues about Flags/parades ….does LetsGetAlongerism accomodate “culture” or confront fascism?
      Too many dilemnas for them I think.
      But yes you’re right ….its a form of unionism.
      Underpinning talk of Integrated Education and we all have multiple identies”. Is simply an attempt to confound Demographics.
      Its at best a stalling mechanism which can buy up to fifty years for unionism.
      At worst its much more dangerous for unionists.

  4. Dear Sir:
    I do agree that I probably should have used the word skeptic instead of critic. Point taken.
    As you point out, I did select the part of your blog that most directly relates to peace journalism. While I agree that you are critical of traditional journalism, too, it was the peace journalism segment that seemed most relevant to what I was discussing. I’m not sure that if I had written “Mooney is also critical of traditional journalists” that this would have added any value or context since, again, it is the peace journalism segment that is my focus.
    As for the 12 words, that you are more interested in justice than peace, I admire this stand, and in hindsight, I believe that this does add some important context, especially it was never my intention to position you as an extremist.
    I have added a short graf containing these 12 words, along with a suggestion that my readers visit this page for a full accounting of our discussion.
    Again, I appreciate the robust, valuable discussion.
    Steven Youngblood

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