Be careful what you wish for…
There’s been a lot of celebrating on Twitter over the past few days after a far-right, anti-immigration group, styling itself as the 'National Party,' was forced to abandon its press launch.
That triumphalism should have died away pretty quickly when every second talk show and radio phone-in in the land had the party’s president, Justin Barrett, on for one-on-ones over the past few days.
Make no mistake about it, the social media backlash against this fringe element’s press launch has given them far more notoriety than they would have otherwise gotten, and it’s served them the name recognition they so crave on a plate.
People are entitled to protest, and should be encouraged to do so for what they believe is right, but this has had the opposite effect. If you don’t think Justin Barrett and the National Party are relishing seeing their name trending across Twitter, you’re fooling yourself.
The argument that by you deny far right, racist, fascist or extreme groups of any hue a platform by ignoring them simply doesn’t hold true.
In this case, it allows Barrett & Co to tap into the anti-establishment, populist feeling that does exist, and went some way towards propelling both Donald Trump to the White House and the UK towards the exit door of the EU.
Shouting these guys down, simply yelling "fascist" or "racist" and telling people they shouldn’t be exposed to these views, suggests you haven’t been paying attention to either of those two seismic events.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call out racism when you see it or organise or protest against it. Protests are healthy in a working democracy, but sending a few tweets at the Merrion Hotel doesn’t count.
You have to trust people to make their minds up about these groups. The people of Ireland have been around the block long enough to recognise danger when they see it. If the lesson liberals are taking away from the US election is that you take away the 'platform' and the problem disappears, then they have learned nothing and it will only serve the purposes of the far right groups.
The way to counteract this stuff is to dissect and dismantle their arguments. The media has a massive role to play.
Perhaps the press conference originally promoted by the National Party might have been their downfall.
It certainly provides a better opportunity to verify statistics and call out the lies than the live radio phone-ins where Mr. Barrett and his deputy James Reynolds were doing the rounds on Friday.
When Identity Ireland launched ahead of the last General Election, their shambolic set-up exposed them for what they were.
The failure to fact-check and leave mistruths and outright lies unchecked was a major failing of the American press during the US election, and it’s something we should very mindful of in Ireland going forward. We cannot be lazy and we cannot let the public down by repeating baseless claims.
The trend is clear. The Right is on the rise across the West. Whether or not we choose to learn from Trump and Brexit will be key to whether or not it grows in Ireland.