An ideological echo-chamber?

 

Sir, – I agree with David Thunder that diversity of opinion in a free press is an important ingredient in a healthy democracy (“Irish media is an ideological echo-chamber”, Opinion & Analysis, August 22nd). I would contend, however, that we have that in Ireland.

Newspapers such as your own regularly publish opinion pieces and readers’ letters that are at variance with the editorial line of the papers in question, and there is a wide range of local, religious and other newspapers and periodicals which offer readers a perspective that is often different from that found in the daily press and in the broadcast media.

I would further contend that Mr Thunder’s plea for greater diversity – specifically in relation to defending “traditional values that have been cherished by Christians since ancient times” – is premised on a gross exaggeration of the influence of the press. The press does not, and cannot, determine what its readers think. No serious student of the media would argue that. Readers are not passive receptacles of opinions. What the press does – and this is where its influence lies – is to tell people what to think about, and it then helps shape the discourse that ensues. In his book Public Opinion, published in 1922, the renowned American journalist Walter Lippmann wrote that the importance of newspapers derives from the fact that they “signalize” an event or issue – and that seems to me just right.

If, therefore, those who in Ireland espouse more traditional values are losing the argument, it is because of their failure to engage in an intellectually coherent way with very real issues and concerns which have been raised by our free press and which resonate with their readers.

It is not because of “an ideologically uniform press”. The “dissenters from the current liberal orthodoxy” do not need “credible alternative sources of news and commentary”, as Mr Thunder suggest; and they certainly do not need “alternative facts”, to quote Kellyanne Conway. They need credible arguments and better advocates, and I have no doubt that these would be given a respectful hearing in our free press. – Yours, etc,

FELIX M LARKIN,

Cabinteely,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – In David Thunder’s piece on Irish media bias, he makes reference to various topics he believes are a part of the journalists’ “lazy liberalism”. One of these concepts that he refers to is “transgender ideology.”

The author does not attempt to define this “ideology” or offer further explanation. Of course he would have a difficult time doing so – for there is no such thing as a “transgender ideology”, unless the fight for equal rights for transgender people could be considered entirely ideological, and not an issue of people leading healthy, happy lives.

It is also strange he views this as an issue with clear consensus across the media. As a consistent reader of this newspaper for many months and someone who has kept pace with media in this country in general, I remember trans issues being discussed a handful of times – and mostly in a neutral, non-ideological tone. – Yours, etc,

EAMONN FRANCIS

HANNON,

Loughrea,

Co Galway.