During the recent election campaign I was asked to appear on the Right Hook, on Newstalk, a show hosted by George Hook, to discuss the future prospects for the Irish economy. I have contributed to his show many times over the last few years. I think the last time was in late summer 2015.
I informed the researcher on the show that I was quite annoyed and upset by George's comments on the refugee crisis and immigrant council report before Christmas and that I'd rather not appear on his show again. In particular his editorial on November 16 last (after the horrific attacks in Paris) were, to me, disturbing.
Variously he refers to the acceptability of long-term detention centres lasting decades, the barbarism of ISIL "stemming from the culture of Islam", that Irish intervention to save lives in the Mediterranean incentivises migrants to make that deadly journey, and that the images of Alayn Kurdi's body in the surf (and implicitly all of the other children dying in the surf) should not be used as a basis for policy. He says that hard cases make bad law. I disagree. Hard cases expose bad laws. The unnecessary death of these children (and adults) is absolutely the basis for new policies.
I do not know if George Hook is xenophobic and/or racist, or if he means what he says or is saying it for effect. It's irrelevant anyway for his arguments, and there's no reason not to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, it must be the case that what he says feeds into populist and xenophobic attitudes prevalent in Ireland. The reports of 225 cases of racist abuse reported by the Immigrant Council cannot be dismissed by putting in a spurious context of Ireland's four million population. George Hook must know that this level is under-reported, and even if it wasn't then it should be condemned outright, rather than referring to it as "not good".
The comments made by a broadcaster with a privileged public forum on which to speak that, for example, we should put Irish people first, that "this is still our country", and that "when we went abroad, we worked our butts off and we integrated" (implying migrants to Ireland do not) all feed into making migrants - especially Muslims - targets for attack. George Hook has himself been subject to terrible abuse online and by post. A tweet of mine is quoted in a journal.ie article objecting to this vile abuse. It would be worthwhile for George Hook to reflect on whether his arguments have hardened or coarsened the dialogue in Ireland, and heartened those who see Muslim migrants as fair game for taunts of "go back home". We have seen how attitudes in the US have polarised and coarsened following the rise of so-called shock-jocks and editorialising radio shows. We need to avoid such a development here.
I refused to contribute to his show because I did not want to appear in any way to give tacit agreement or to even appear indifferent to the editorial views on the show. The most obvious way for me to register my objections was to decline to contribute to a show with whose editorial stance I absolutely disagree.
I'm an economist so many of these posts will be about economic issues. But since everyone is allowed a view on economics I am inclined to go beyond my profession to throw my tuppence ha'penny into other issues.