Monthly Archives: March 2009

Drowning the good guys and gals

Analysis of MediaBite interview with Harry Browne

This analysis of our interview with Harry Browne is not a critique of his journalism but rather of the coercive effect on him of the professional, corporate media environment as it seemed evident during the interview. We contend all mainstream journalists are unavoidably affected by this phenomenon – even those who are conscious of it.

These are hardly original observations but they are worth restating for the purpose of exploring the case in point. Professional journalism is a commodity, a product that we buy. We should regard it as we would detergent on a supermarket shelf, recognising the various brand qualities but always aware that it is fundamentally the same sort of profit-orientated, business and advertiser- pleasing product – with a few mildly abrasive bio-granules tolerated in the mixture (the good guy journalists) so that news will come out of the wash with an illusion of whiter-than-whiteness. It’s not a substitute for establishing a normal, collective and truly factual understanding of our world. Sometimes it’s quite good at giving the impression that it is – occasionally it even manages to do it.

Avoidance is the key

That all of the above is true is easily proved by observing the fate of the best journalists. Those who try hard to resist the essential untruth of most corporate journalism, as Harry Browne does, seldom enjoy the extent of the recognition they deserve within the Irish mainstream no matter how good they are. The Irish journalists Joe MacAnthony and Frank Connolly can tell us all about that. It may seem provocative to say so, but there is no one now working in Irish journalism at a senior level who does not make seriously unworthy compromises with his or her journalism – routinely. The challenge is for a single one of them to prove this is not true – or that it is even possible for it to be otherwise. Kevin Myers might possibly be the single exception to prove the rule having cornered the market in uncompromising obnoxiousness – an observation I imagine he would be proud to own. For everyone else ‘avoidance’, to use an expression of Harry Browne’s, is the key to survival.

Browne is honest enough in his interview with us to acknowledge having avoided a more direct response to some of the questions asked of him – though it would be good for the public record to know what he might have said had he not felt constrained. This avoidance is incongruous in his case, given the more forthright quality of much of his actual journalism. But the interview is instructive – the conflict for any conscientious journalist is so evident in his responses. I find it hard to believe that he truly means all of what he has to say about Geraldine Kennedy, editor of the Irish Times for instance. Or alternatively that he has not left out a lot of criticisms that he would make off-the-record. We can only guess whether that is one of the questions that he was inclined to go around, but is he really ‘loathe to agree’ that the paper has been unquestionably favourable to business interests if at the same time he concedes it is his ‘impression’ that that is so? Does that word ‘unquestionably’ really pose such a challenge to his sense of correctness? Would Harry Browne really prefer Geraldine Kennedy for editor over Fintan O’Toole as he seems to imply – are her leadership abilities truly more significant to him than their differing editorial perspectives?

Likewise with his colleague Cliff Taylor at The Sunday Business Post who has written to say that it is ‘nonsense to talk of taxing the rich’. That’s just what Cliff does, Browne says, in effect – that’s Cliff’s thing.  Browne doesn’t address the substantive point: how any journalist writing in the middle of this economic crisis can be so comfortable about publishing a statement like that? It’s because Cliff knows, whatever his readers might think, the corporate media will love him for it. He could never offend big business interests so deeply and so casually as he does so many of his potential readers with such an arrogant remark.

Browne says that Gene Kerrigan’s column in The Sunday Independent goes some way to balancing out the poison of the rest of the paper but that seems a bit like wishful thinking. Readers and viewers are mostly over reliant on journalists like Kerrigan. Whatever honesty they dare – or are allowed – to bring to bear on their journalism is spread too thin. However good a journalist he is, Kerrigan is a woefully inadequate fig leaf with which to disguise the overwhelming intellectual and moral nakedness of The Sunday Independent. Fintan O’Toole, Lorna Siggins, Michael Jansen and Lara Marlowe have to do similar service for the Irish Times. Vincent Browne and Tom McGurk, likewise for the Sunday Business Post. The net effect of having them at all is the opposite of what is claimed: their journalism mostly only goes to validate everything else that is said – because the media hangs much of its claim to ‘balance’ on what is in fact extremely unbalanced coverage taken in the round. All of these journalists are massively outnumbered by more compliant and even servile journalists on all sides but the quality of the latter’s journalism is made to look better than it is by the fact of the Kerrigans and the Marlowes in the same paper. It’s a moot point whether there are any good guys at all in news reporting at RTE – radio or television. Life expectancy for them there, at any rate, is a good deal shorter than elsewhere. It also has to be acknowledged that most of these journalists are happily convinced of the rigour and professionalism with which they do their work – and confounded by ideas and observations like these.

‘Celebrities’, ‘Dilettantes’ and ‘Citizen Journalists’

Since recording this interview with Harry Browne he has said that he regretted, as a lecturer, being as positive as he was at the time about the impact of citizen journalists on the mainstream media meaning, I understand, those who submit unpaid pieces to news outlets. He was concerned with the effect on the availability of work for newly qualified students of journalism, for example. I interpret his comments to mean that the ‘dilettantes’, ‘celebrity bloggers’ and citizen journalists who write voluntarily are encouraging a climate in which editors can exploit journalists who have been through the professional training system by having them write for nothing too – and calling it ‘work experience’. Browne also said that some citizen journalists / dilettantes are only motivated by a desire to see their names in print. I asked if he would like to qualify what he had said in the interview in the light of these remarks but he declined, though re-emphasising the points above. For someone who daily logged himself into the Irish Times system under an ID which was a variation on the spelling of Chomsky’s name, the thrust of some of his comments are surprising – beyond his valid concern about exploitation of young journalists who choose to apply for work in the mainstream media.

The reasons for saying these things go back to first principles. The public account of events and of communities are not the property of any person or group, no matter how much some might like to ring fence them for a paid career in a profit-making enterprise – and persuade us that they are thereby better motivated and placed to do it for us. It’s incredible that it appears necessary to remind journalists of this but we, individually and collectively, own the telling of the events of our lives and our experience and views of events in the world in general. We are as qualified as any journalist to do this by virtue of membership of the human race – whenever and wherever we believe it necessary. Where we chose to organize for the purpose of reporting things ourselves, our voices are as legitimate and expert as any journalist’s – right across the social spectrum and regardless of educational background. We should not allow ourselves to be infantilised by schools of journalism, corporate journalists or their journalism, however they see things themselves.

The present reality of news reporting is a far cry from that, of course. A thing printed in a newspaper, no matter how much ‘agency’ people are relied upon to have in order to decipher its worth or truth, carries weight and authority beyond what it deserves most of the time. The ‘balance’ trick (above) works better than Browne would seem to think. That said, many of us feel no particular reverence or respect for what journalists say beyond what we would feel about any other human being offering a view or a report of events. And that’s exactly as it should be – even when journalists are as talented at writing as Browne is.

As to people who only want to see their names in print, it’s not clear what the difference between a citizen or a paid journalist is where that is concerned. If vanity is the issue for some, arguably it’s rather more of a problem when people are paid to indulge it. At any rate the outpouring of vanity evident daily in the corporate media is something we have to wade through wearily to get to the small spaces where we can avoid it. And it has to be said too, where vanity is concerned, as a profession, journalists are notoriously defensive about criticism while frequently excoriating others (usually soft targets) with impunity – protected by their editors a lot of the time from seeing any equivalent responses to them. Even those responses that do appear are less prominent, frequently censored and much shorter. Not much of the vaunted journalistic ‘balance’ there, then.

And if we are searching for examples of dilettantism it is surely the dabblers in faux truth hiding their cowardice behind absurdly contrived notions of professionalism to whom we must look for the best examples. For instance, the journalistic ritual of achieving ‘balance’ and ‘fairness’ are so self-interestedly applied more often than not that they manage to render truth and facts into virtually meaningless versions of themselves for all the worth they have in their professionally eviscerated form: thus a criminal and murderous war becomes ‘a military adventure’ and even a ‘mistake’; corruption and fraud become ‘an appearance of impropriety’;  greed-driven privatisation becomes ‘reform’; the slashing of desperately needed services for sick and disabled people becomes ‘efficiency’. It’s an ocean of euphemism the consequence of which is, for the journalists responsible, that they never upset anyone powerful.

Readers can also be completely unaware of the highly subjective ‘objectivity’ of what they are reading – Harry Browne had an exchange with the Irish Times about their reporting of a recent debate held at Trinity College, ‘Nobel winner defends Israel’s actions’.

Despite the fact that there were other participants in the debate, the report focuses exclusively on the contribution of just one of them, the staunchly pro Israeli Professor Steven Weinberg. Ronan McGreevy described the others present as an ‘audience’. Weinberg’s justifications for Israel’s violence in Palestine are taken at face value. Not one word of anyone else’s contribution is reported. People who had indicated that they wanted to ask questions or make a point of order are described as ‘those of a different view’ and of having ‘several times interrupted’ the professor. Browne wrote to the Irish Times in response.

But his letter was altered. Browne says “the IT took my inverted commas off “disorderly”, which I think made it somewhat offensive to the woman in question, who was genuinely charming, and disorderly only in the absurd technical sense I was trying to capture in my depiction of the debate. I was surprised the letter was published — I suspect only the Prof’s own letter made the appearance of mine possible.”

The multiple failures of the corporate media

If anyone is inclined to think all of this is exaggeration, it might help to itemise some of the media’s continuing and determined failures: the media knows who is corrupt in politics and why – it will not thoroughly investigate or report it; it knew the property bubble was corrupt long before the current crisis, but it would not investigate or report it; it knew parts of the banking system was corrupt long before it collapsed and even now it is failing properly to investigate and report it; it knows that climate change is a potentially devastating threat and it is failing to report it – particularly in relation to any of the causes that implicate major corporate interests; it knows many businessmen are corrupt and why but it will not investigate or report about them; it knows the abject failures and corruption of public administration and governance but it will not thoroughly investigate or report them. If any news journalist doesn’t know any of these things, it can only be for choosing to peg their nose in the stink so as not to have to deal with it.
Is there an alternative?

Open-publishing, internet-based citizen journalism is without fear or favour to editors, advertisers, newspaper owners or professional colleagues – funded by donations from its users and contributors to cover only its basic costs. Nobody is paid to write there. The journalism there is also vulnerable to instant and equally public challenge from anyone with information or motive to do so. Fools are suffered very un-gladly – any vanity in evidence will be rounded on in short order. Gerry Ryan wouldn’t last, oh, five minutes.

In the case of Indymedia Ireland, one of the most successful and popular of the hundreds of Independent Media Centre newswires like it around the world, the editors have no input on what news items will be published until they are already on the site, in public view. What editing they do is to ensure anything published is within the law and basic guidelines for publishing – and all their decisions are publicly recorded with reasons given – for the whole world to see. There is no transparency, accountability or editorial freedom to equal that of Indymedia in the mainstream media where we are kept completely in the dark about what has been edited out of the account. There are many other examples but The Real News Network – based in Toronto – deserves a mention too. Funded by subscription from viewers and independent of advertising revenue RNN has made a serious foray into broadcast journalism providing a desperately needed alternative perspective on the dominant themes of the advertiser and owner-constrained journalism of the mainstream networks.

This interview with Harry Browne is depressing in this context: despite the fact that he has often been a pretty fearless journalist himself and has paid the price of it at the Irish Times, it’s clear that even he – as one of the best journalists we have in Ireland – cannot withstand the immense pressure from within the profession to conform, not to critique the journalism of colleagues or papers that he has worked with or for, too closely. Browne has said that he is inclined to be cautious in the context of an interview like this for reasons that would not be apparent. I may have put an interpretation on his responses that doesn’t do him justice. Nevertheless, I still think that even in allowing for what he says there is strong evidence of the coercive, subtly intimidating effect of the corporate media environment in his caution and evasion in places.

So where does the truthful telling of the public account stand in all of this? For the vast majority of journalists who, unlike Harry Browne, scarcely even question the values and conventions of their profession, framing the story in acceptable and unchallenging terms and not upsetting powerful people too much will trump it more often than not – while the conventions of their ‘professionalism’ are the very things that encourage them to believe they are doing the opposite. As the editors of Medialens in the UK wrote in a recent media alert ‘freedom of expression into corporate journalism does not go‘. The good guys and gals almost all drown there sooner or later. Harry Browne is doing his damndest to tread water and keep air in his lungs.

An Interview with Harry Browne – Part 2

Continuing our interview with Harry Browne – journalist, activist and lecturer.

[HB – Harry Browne, MC – Miriam Cotton, MediaBite]

MC: To discuss the Irish media more generally, could we talk about the Irish Examiner, for example?

HB: I’m going to make a terrible confession here. There is no Irish newspaper that I read fairly regularly – and certainly not in print form. I will make sure to pick them when I’m going into a class to talk about them or check them out online to see how they are covering particular stories but I am now one of these people who doesn’t often buy newspapers. But yes of course I’m familiar with the Examiner.

Continue reading An Interview with Harry Browne – Part 2

An Interview with Harry Browne – Part 1

Picture 18

The journalist, activist and lecturer Harry Browne is author of the recently published book ‘Hammered by the Irish’ (Counterpunch and AK Press), also reviewed by MediaBite.

This interview with Browne, which took place last November, explores his views on journalism and its function within the corporate context. It was also an opportunity to discuss aspects of the Irish news scene, where it is now and where it’s future might lie.

It is published in 2 parts. Further discussion with Browne on his career to date is available on our website, where he traces his evolution in journalism and those journalists and editors who influenced that path.

Continue reading An Interview with Harry Browne – Part 1

‘Sometimes you just have to do the right thing’

“We have no interest in oppressing other people. We are not moved by hatred against any other nation. The … maintenance of a tremendous military arsenal can only be regarded as a focus of danger. We have displayed a truly unexampled patience, but I am no longer willing to remain inactive while this madman ill-treats millions of human beings.” (1)

Book review: ‘Hammered by the Irish’, Harry Browne, Counterpunch and AK Press, 2008.

The American journalist Harry Browne (2) has lived and worked in Ireland for 23 years. A committed anti-war campaigner, his recently published book ‘Hammered by the Irish’  is an account of an anti-war action by five activists who have come to be known as ‘The Pitstop Ploughshares’ (3) – and who together disabled an Iraq-bound US warplane at Shannon airport in  February 2003. The book is the story of that action from its planning, the subsequent arrest of those involved and their long journey through the Irish legal system, to the victory of their ultimate acquittal – possibly one of the best examples of justice ever secured within the Irish legal system.   As one of the jurors put it after the verdict was announced ‘sometimes you just have to do the right thing’. The use of Shannon airport as a stop off point for the American military has been a deeply unpopular consequence of the ‘war on terror’ in Ireland – not alone because of overwhelming opposition here to the war itself but because the use of Shannon for assisting in a war between other countries is also believed by most to be blatantly unconstitutional – in direct breach of the country’s neutral status.  Even the prosecuting counsel, who had given the defendants hell through two previous trials, revealed in his closing speech at the final trial that he had himself been on the big anti-war march in Dublin in 2003.

Harry Browne’s book is an accomplished and succinct account of an at-times complex story of the legal and other maneuvering which its five principals endured as a consequence of their witness to the cause of peace – and it is a fascinating story. Browne draws a compelling and affectionate portrait of the activists individually, their collective action and the resulting stresses caused to each and among the group as a whole. He is the best possible person to chronicle their story, not just because of his formidable writing talent but also because of his close personal affinity with his subjects’ perspective – an uncanny coincidence that those with religious leanings might view as a form of divine intervention:

“In the 22 years after my father, an Irish-American New York Catholic priest, died in 1980, on the same day as Dorothy Day, [founder of the Catholic Worker movement (4)] I had long since become an atheist and stopped talking and thinking about Catholic Worker, a movement Father Harry Browne admired and drew upon for political sustenance.  Father Phil Berrigan [the Jesuit peace activist who wrote the foreword for the book] was arrested by duplicitous Feds in my dad’s Upper West Side closet in 1970.  And now Berrigan’s name has been scrawled on an Irish airport, his moral descendents have found me in Dublin and no one has ever seemed more self-evidently ‘right’ to me.  A jury could have convicted them and a judge sent them down for 10 years and there would have been not a ripple on the calm certainty of my judgment which comes from my deepest places.”

The Catholic Workers Nuin Dunlop (American/Irish), Karen Fallon (Scots/Irish), Deirdre Clancy (Irish), Damien Moran (Irish) and Ciaron O’Reilly (Australian/Irish) – each in their own way clearly brought a special quality of commitment and poignancy to the action they undertook.  Their testimony in court to their methods and motives were wonderfully expressed and are equally well contextualized by Browne – perhaps nowhere more so than in this quotation from the evidence of Nuin Dunlop.  Asked in the witness box why she had done this action, Browne recounts her response:

“’There were several reasons, four reasons actually.  I would say the words responsibility, solidarity, urgency and prayer – and please, if I could explain?’

The whole courtroom willed her to explain.

‘Responsibility to me means literally the ability to respond:  I am a person who had an ability to respond:  I’m not an Iraqi person standing under the threat of bombardment, I’m not an economic conscript in the US military, I am a person who had an ability to respond to what I saw was going to be the killing of innocent people and so I had the ability to respond, I did respond.  Secondly, solidarity to me is ‘being with’, it is a presence with people who are suffering in some way, and I saw the Iraqi people as very much suffering under psychological threat of potential full-on war; and I wanted to say to those people in Iraq, you are seen, you are heard and you’re not alone in this; so that is solidarity, it is ‘being with’, even from a slight distance.  Urgency:  I had a sense that war was imminent, that bombs were going to be crashing down on people in the very near future, and that people’s lives in Iraq were at risk and action needed to be taken to protect the people and the land of Iraq.  And prayer:  I had a sense through prayer that I needed to participate in this particular action at Shannon.’

 Sure, it was a well thought-out piece of speech-making, but it was a beautiful one too, and from this striking woman – a dark-haired mix of Irish and native American, it blew like a breeze of truth through the courtroom.”

There are many things to like about Hammered.  Browne’s narrative style and sense of humour are foremost among them – ‘one good American deserves another’ – and as his observation of an intervention by a member of the public in the court room during the last trial attests:

 “There was still more and more tedious, legal argument in the jury’s absence about particular lines of questioning.  The tedium was relieved, however, by one of those now rare Dublin moments that remind you of the peculiar character that still lingers around the place.  In the midst of an argument about whether and when it was appropriate to interrupt a witness, Judge McDonagh said that witnesses should not ‘go off at a tangent.’  This prompted a loud interruption from a well-spoken gentleman in the court, quaintly referred to in the official transcript as ‘Man From The Public Gallery’.

‘MFTPG:  Politicians normally do that, go off on a tangent.

Judge:     Can we remove that gentleman from the court.

MFTPG:   You’re a fucking joke, sir.

Judge:      Place that man under arrest.  I will deal with him at lunchtime for contempt.  Put him under arrest, in the cells, I’ll deal with him at lunchtime.  I’m not going to be referred to in those tones by anybody.

MFTPG:    Swan eggs, please, for lunch.

(man removed from the courtroom)’

The gentleman proved to be an eccentric and barely-known cousin of one of the defence barristers – not one of the defendants’, whose family and supporters had been impeccably behaved throughout their trials.  He apologized and was freed just after lunchtime: it is not recorded if he was disappointed at being served something other than swans’ eggs in the courthouse cells.”

One of the book’s greatest accomplishments is the small masterpiece that is the snapshot Browne gives of contemporary Irish life and of its modern history.   His intention, presumably, was to give the backdrop to the events, the people involved and their story but he has achieved much more than that in so doing.  For anyone who is interested in what it is like to live in contemporary Ireland, ‘Hammered by the Irish’ would be an excellent place to start:

“The ‘well-liked’ priest was often the man who combined superficial out-of-Church friendliness with a capacity to mutter his way through a quick and painless Sunday mass.  The bit in the Catholic liturgy when the congregation is invited to exchange a sign of peace with fellow parishioners, used in much of the global Church as an opportunity for embraces, is treated in Ireland as an unwanted occasion to catch your neighbour’s eye, murmur a greeting and share a barely-brushing handshake (you never know what you might catch).  To an outsider, Irish Catholicism looks like it has entered some international competition to see which nation can best empty Christian rituals of any conceivable meaning and it has won hands down.”

This is a windingly funny observation – immediately recognisable to anyone who has ever been to Sunday mass in Ireland.  The book is laced through with acute observations of this sort – by turns warm, satirical, critical and sympathetic as appropriate:

“With just four million people, the Republic of Ireland is too small and its Tiger is too complex and contingent (just what would have happened without Viagra in Cork and/or Pentium chips in Kildare?) for it to be held up as a successful model of one form or another of economic development, though that doesn’t stop the pundits and politicians of different stripes from citing it either as the model case of low-tax neo-liberalism or of government directed social partnership.”

These observations have in the few months since they were published proved painfully prescient.  Browne’s profile of Brian Cowen who is now Taoiseach (Prime Minister), and who was Foreign Secretary at the time of the September 11 attack is razor sharp – and all the more pertinent since the very qualities Browne shrewdly identified have are, in the midst of the Irish brand of the economic crisis, daily becoming more apparent – as is the folly and shallowness of those who feted him for the top job:

“Cowen’s main failing – apart from notably awful looks, still not regarded as a crippling disability in Irish politics – was his incapacity to indicate convincingly that he believed politics should have anything at all to do with the great unwashed.  (His elitism is commonplace; its transparency less so, and only his own down-home, rough rural manner protected him from political damage.)  Cowen’s every soporific public uttering – muttering, really – carried an implicit message:  “leave it to the professionals.”  Colleagues and journalists encouraged Cowen’s arrogance by constantly assuring him, in public and private, that he was the most intelligent and able of all government ministers, that the nation’s interests were indeed safe in his hands, that he owed no one any explanations.”

Browne has done a terrific job of distilling the complexity of the legal arguments and processes of the Pitstop Ploughshares trials with concision and comprehensibility – not an easy thing to do given the winding and protracted course of the proceedings.  The admirable skill he brings to bear on that difficult task has paid off as the legal argument is essential to a full understanding of how hard won and much deserved the Pitstop Ploughshares’ victory was.   And to this too he brings his sense of humour:

“The jury was sent out in the late afternoon, to reach a verdict.  At 6pm, a request came in from the jury for a copy of Section 6 of the Criminal Damage Act 1991 and Section 21 of the Non-Fatal  Offences Against the Person Act 1997, which amended it.  Judge Reynolds said that it was not usual to give written statutes to the jury.  Instead she read out relevant sections from the legislation and said that, if the jury wished, she would explain again how the law should be applied.  It was, said one observer, a bit like the Catholic Church, which reserved the right to interpret God’s words.  The jury were acting like Protestants, wanting to read the words for themselves.”

The developing courtroom deliberations are also an important aspect of the book in drawing out the point that the Ploughshares were trying to make.  Their hope was that their convictions would be properly discussed, recorded and adjudicated and that the moral imperative which drove them would thereby be vindicated in the eyes of the world – for the sake of the people of Iraq.  Contrariwise, the principal object of the prosecution – and a judge or three along the way – was to ensure that the war itself was not put on trial.  In one extraordinary legal twist of plot, an attempt was made to exclude evidence for the defence of ‘lawful excuse’ entirely – evidence which included the testimony of Denis Halliday, the former United Nations Head of the Humanitarian Programme in Iraq. (5)   In classically eye-watering legal-speak, the prosecuting barrister, Devally, argued it like this:

“The purpose of the application that I bring now is to apply that your lordship deprive the jury of consideration of the defence; in other words, that it does not go to the jury…the consideration of the honest belief is held to be a subjective test, but other features to the defence are objective, and not alone objective, but objective and capable and in fact necessary to be looked at by the judge.  And it being a matter of law as to whether the facts of that particular case are as such to allow for the defence at all.”

When it looked as though this unexpected argument was going to succeed, the defendants and their legal team were aghast.  There followed shortly afterwards, however, an even more extraordinary interim plot development, secured from the defence team’s own ‘arsenal’ of legal argument and strategy – but you will have to read the book to find out what that was.

As readers we get to share in the mounting tension and at times severe anxiety that beset the Ploughshares and those, including Browne himself, who supported them closely during the three years that they lived with the threat of prison sentences hanging over their heads.  They had already endured temporary imprisonment, unjustified and inaccurate media vilification and many other unwarranted consequences and interruptions to their lives.  This short book, in just 175 pages, gives all of ‘the what’ and ‘the why’ of their action.

The Pitstop Ploughshares’ action gave peaceful and courageous expression to what the majority of Irish people felt and feel about the war on Iraq – about all of the monstrous notion summed up in that vile term ‘war on terror’ – (even now being sneakily and violently pursued in Afghanistan and Pakistan under the supervision of the no-change-here President Barack Obama and his Envoy, Richard Holbrooke).   Hammered by the Irish does full justice to all of those considerations and should go some way to redressing the indifference of the mainstream media towards this action and towards the ordinary people who did an extraordinary thing and brought the establishment to meaningful recognition of the justice and truth of their case – and by unavoidable implication despite the best efforts of the prosecution to prevent it – an acknowledgement of the fundamental case against the war itself.

Harry Browne describes his response to the Ploughshares acquittal at the time:

“To be honest, the jury’s decision is a delight, and it has won the Shannon Five these 15 minutes of fame, but they didn’t need it for vindication, not in my eyes.  As an earnest American who has tried for 20 years to adjust to Irish people’s typical cynicism and undemonstrative natures (at least while sober), I find an emotional and moral truth in these five people – two Irish-born and three of diaspora descent – that resonates almost unbearably, almost accusingly, and fills me with embarrassing love for them, each of them and all of them.”


Miriam Cotton



March 6, 2009


MediaBite will shortly publish an in-depth interview with Harry Browne about his career, his views on journalism in general and some discussion about the Irish media.


1. Adolf Hitler, proclamation to the German people, 12 March 1938 – about Czechoslovakia.