I READ a newspaper column by Fintan O’Toole. In it he argued that the handling of the pandemic by the southern state had been a turning point. “If Covid-19 had struck the world even five years ago, one of the first questions on the minds of Irish officials would have been: what is Britain doing?”

But Covid-19 didn’t strike five years ago. “Not only did Ireland diverge radically from British policy, but the difference has proved to be literally vital. To put it starkly: hundreds of people are alive today in Ireland because Dublin did not take its lead from London. The breaking of the old habit has been a life-saver”.

O’Toole made a convincing case, and certainly the south has grown greatly in self-confidence as a member of the EU.

 But then last Friday night the 9 o’clock evening news and weather forecast ended and what did we get? RTÉ Does Comic Relief.  Now where have I heard that title before? Ah, yes,  British TV.

Now the point is not whether it was a rubbish programme –  the opening sequence was clever, the Derry Girls  with Saoirse Ronan was quite good. But good or bad, the whole format, down to the title, was a direct transplant from British television. So much for Fintan’s theory that the south is now able to think and create for itself.

 Sometimes the media will present us with wisdom and claptrap coming from the same mouth.  On Saturday morning former British prime minister John Major was interviewed about the post-Covid world. To my delight he declared that his country can’t stop at just applauding health workers and lorry drivers and shelf-stackers who sustained us all throughout the crisis – they need to be paid a decent salary too.  “Hooray!” I shouted, jumping around my kitchen. “Good for Major – he’s cut to the heart of it”.

Only then Major was asked about the danger of the Brexit crisis shaking the UK out of existence. Oh my goodness no, we can achieve so much more if we all work together, historical ties, blah blah bloody blah.

Having raised my heart with his practical advice about rewarding the people who were heroes during lock-down, Major is now yammering about a union that was always the product of English domination of its neighbours.  The man who was for proper reward of Covid-19 heroes is, in the next breath, arguing the need for making the UK Great Again.

 What exactly is my point, Virginia? OK I’ll tell you.

 The mainstream media are unavoidable currents of thought and action that flow straight from our radio, TV and newspaper into our heads.  Some people really like this, because it means they don’t have to think. But the mainstream media is like our food.

Just as we have to be careful what we put in our mouths,  we have to be careful what gets put in our heads. The active consumer of mainstream media assesses the worth of what’s being offered while the  passive media consumer simply lies back and lets the invading mainstream media do his/her thinking.

What’s that, Virginia? The passive media consumer is a dwindling breed because they now teach Media Studies in schools nowadays? True.  But if you check you’ll find Media Studies very low on the curriculum pecking order. In fact, if you listen to a right-wing Tory talking about education, they’ll eventually bring up Media Studies and insist that it’s a total waste of time.  

But of course right-wing Tories don’t want to have voters imposing quality control on the media bombardment they suffer on a daily basis. They’d rather that we swallow every lie, gulp down every half-baked food programme or reality rubbish as though it was manna from heaven.

 That’s why I love Goggle Box. Most of the time its viewers swear or shout at what their TV screens offer them. I like that. More healthy contempt is our best hope of surviving with our brains intact.