The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Critic and the Clown


Anthony McIntyre • 7 September 2005

The Portadown News has come to the end of its shelf life. Perhaps it was time to draw the curtain as suggested in the Observer given the difficulty in keeping momentum. Nevertheless, I derived enjoyment from it right up until its last gasp. It was a rich vein of witty material and there was always enough in it to give offence to those perennial practitioners of victimology from whatever quarter who seem to take perverse pleasure in being offended.

One of its more memorable moments referred to the 2002 PSNI raid on the offices of Stormont Sinn Fein, where it was claimed the police went in search of IRA intelligence and only found Gerry Kelly. Kelly is not stupid, can be very witty, and probably laughed at the humour even if he was on the receiving end of it. SF in general may not have appreciated it all that much. It wants to be treated with the gravitas reserved for the serious and the sombre even while Jim Gibney week in week out seeks to prove in his Irish News column that the law of gravity as established by Isaac Newton was in fact wrong. Jim has found, courtesy of the peace process, that apples actually float upwards when they fall from trees. Suggestions to the contrary are securocrat-inspired for the specific purpose of undermining the world's greatest ever experience in bridge building.

On one occasion I found myself scraped by the Newtonian scalpel when Emerson penned a piece on similarities between myself and Bob McCartney. Fine. Humour that is irreverent and finds nothing sacred is a great leveller. At no point was I tempted to lift the phone and inform someone in authority on the author. Nor presumably was Gerry Kelly. People who have been at the coal face are not naturally inclined towards touting.

Newton Emerson combined wit and intellect in abundance. Although, that in itself does not always cut the mustard in the land where mustard cutting may not be helpful to the peace process.

What is your agenda, mo chara? You must be opposed to the great historic peace process or you wouldn't be facetious about it. Humour is not helpful to the wonderful historic peace process. Only rejectionists who are not courageous and imaginative, unable to confront the greatest crisis ever, make fun at the expense of the truly historic peace process, mo chara.

Faced with the sour faced devotees of the world's premier peace process, ability alone is seldom enough to surmount the barriers of prejudice. The unexpected break from the most unlikely of quarters may be what it takes to burst the dam and allow creativity to gush forth. Despite Emerson's talent, how many people really knew of him or the Portadown News until the immensely untalented Robin Livingstone decided to pit his lack of wits against the then emerging Portadown News website?

It would be a truism to claim on Emerson's behalf that he is brighter than Livingstone. Who isn't? Or that he is a better writer. Pudsy Ryan manages that. Truth is, Emerson so destroyed the Sinn Fein cheerleader that the latter came in with the dirty tackle from behind and informed the management in Emerson's then place of employment that the Portadown News was being updated during working hours. Emerson accordingly lost his job.

Informing might come naturally to Robin Livingstone who appears relaxed in the company of much more nefarious Brussels as Freddie Scappaticci. His decision to lift the phone and squeal on Newton Emerson placed him firmly in the company of the broo touts, the envious vindictive type that spies their neighbour down the street doing the double and then rats to the DHSS. In my mind it was all the more invidious as I had call to listen to Livingstone whinge on the phone to myself and Tommy Gorman in October 2000 about the possible impact of a libel action being taken against the Andersonstown News by a journalist the paper had lied about and exposed to danger. It was a snivelling appeal to try have me influence the maligned journalist not to press his case; a whingefest about 'my career, my mortgage, my family.' All soon forgotten about when Livingstone - adhering to his own professed outlook that 'if you absolutely, positively have to kick a man, then when he's down is an excellent time to do it' - found the chance to boot somebody else into the gutter.

His crass behaviour on that occasion simultaneously won Livingstone widespread contempt and Emerson unprecedented recognition. In a sense it transformed the fortunes of the Portadown News boss. Livingstone belatedly realised it and went on to complain that both the BBC and Sunday People only employed Emerson to spite him. Seems the Irish Times, Irish News and now the Daily Mirror are intent on upsetting him also. The words of Frank Leahy seem appropriate: 'egotism is the anaesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.'

Before he was murdered in Amsterdam last year, Theo Van Gogh was accused of picking the thickest opponents from the theocratic community to publicly debate matters with. Their crazed rants made them all the more easy to bait and subsequently heap ridicule on, ensuring they always lost the exchange. A similar accusation is frequently levelled at those who rib Robin Livingstone. The refrain to this is simply that Robin elects himself; otherwise everybody would ignore him. Admittedly it can be irresistible. Each time the Blanket takes ten or fifteen minutes out to wind up Robin, the phone goes incessantly with people ringing up to laugh. In pubs, the response is the same. Granted, he is a figure of fun, which makes him an easy target and ridiculing him hardly requires much energy, but the response indicates a certain diffuse spread of Blanket readers. There may not be much that unites widely diverse elements within Northern Irish society, but laughing at the editor of the Andersonstown News is certainly one of them.

For Newton Emerson, the world of writing is his oyster. Opportunities abound. For the ungainly Robin Livingstone, who started at the bottom and worked his way down, he is now at the pinnacle of his career. Once the Brit funding dries up there is nowhere to go but the dole office which would at least be commensurate with his ability. Once there he may hope nobody follows his example by lifting the phone to squeal on him.








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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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Index: Current Articles

15 September 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Treating the Symptoms Will Not Cure the Disease
N. Corey

We Shall Not Be Challenged
Anthony McIntyre

Riots for 'Recognition'
Brendan O'Neill

Dr John Coulter

Ireland: Nationalists Resist Loyalist Intimidation
Paul Mallon

Facing the Truth About the North
David Adams

Mowlam and the Status Quo
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh

Exports for the North Mean Exploitation for the South
Cedric Gouverneur

Snapshots from Occupied Bil'in
Greta Berlin

'Send in the Clowns!'
Mick Hall

Times Are A-Changing, Part II
Michael Youlton

Along Baltimore City's Peace Path
William Hughes

The Critic and the Clown
Anthony McIntyre

29 August 2005

Historic Censorship Battle Set for High Court

Evident Steps Needs Support
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Reading the Tea Leaves
Dr John Coulter

London death shows North policing problems not unique
Eamonn McCann

Mo Mowlam
David Adams

A Snapshot of Gerry Fitt
Fr Sean Mac Manus

The Big Picture in Colombia
Mick Hall

Fred A Wilcox

Times Are A-Changing
Michael Youlton

Blame Vulture Capitalism, not God, for Pat Robertson!
William Hughes

Fundamentalist Holyman: The Singing Bigot
Anthony McIntyre

Of Lesser Imps and Demons
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

No Victory So Sweet
Anthony McIntyre



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