An anarchist response to Ireland on Sunday

Last Sunday, Feb 8th, Ireland on Sunday published a scare story about anarchism and the forthcoming EU protests. Below is a reply.

This is a reply to the article about anarchism and protesting against the EU in Ireland on Sunday (February 8th).. Apologies for the detailed nature of the article, but since it manages to include so much falsehood, scaremongering, exaggeration and half-truths in 3 pages I think it's necessary that a substantial reply is made.

I talked to Ms Tynan on the phone, asking her whether she would answer questions about her article. She wanted them in writing and agreed that using the comment facility on indymedia to reply would be "fair enough".

The story was lacking in balance. It made no attempt to inform the reader of basic anarchist ideas, such as the importance of freedom, the necessity of social justice, why coercive authority needs to be challenged, particularly in the form of the state and capital.

Though you wouldn't know it from IoS, anarchists are involved in a hell of a lot more than protesting rather pointlessly against big institutions. You'll find anarchists working in the Trade Unions, Food not Bombs, anti-war activity, Reclaim the Streets and the anti-bin tax campaign, and much else. We also produce our newsletters, magazines, and have our own websites. A libertarian socialist society is only possible with mass participation and anarchists are therefore committed to working to achieve that. We operate in an open manner simply because we want our ideas to reach as many people as possible. This openness is at odds with the impression that the IoS gives of one of "plots" and "shadowy groups". These things are the figment of Ms Tynan's (or her sub-editor's) imagination.

My own organisation, WSM, has been around for 20 years and is known to anybody involved in trade unions and radical politics. The Dublin Grassroots network, involved in organising demos on Mayday and other events, contrary to a policy of plotting and conspiring, just had an open meeting where anybody could come along and participate.

The nitty-gritty:

In the first part of the article which she co-authored with Priscilla Lynch, Ms Tynan wrote that "anarchists held an extraordinary meeting last week to fine-tune plans to bring chaos to the streets of Dublin on May 1".

This is simply false. In fact the meeting was what it said it was: a social night for anarchists, friends, and interested parties to have a chat and relax in an informal setting. Part of the social night was a discussion and that there was nothing "extraordinary" about this is evident from the fact that 'Bad Thoughts' discussion evenings have been held before and will be held in the future. A quick check through the indymedia archive would have established this.

The topic being discussed changes on each occasion, previous subjects have included a discussion on the media(!) and the involvement of anarchists in social struggle and the anti-bin tax campaign in Dublin. Future discussions will be held on combating racism and other topics of interest to anarchists. These discussions are never planning or organising meetings. They are fairly informal events where anarchists can discuss various issues without the pressure of coming to decisions. When anarchists in Dublin wish to organise something we do so in planning meetings.

On the night in question, the discussion was about the Black Bloc tactic. The discussion has no bearing whatsoever in the planning of any protests for Mayday. Ms Tynan and Ms Lynch turned an abstract theoretical discussion about the nature of black blocks where no plans were made, never mind "fine-tuned", into one of detailed planning.

The authors regularly state that they "infiltrated" or "penetrated" the meeting which she calls an "inner sanctum".

This is arrogant, dishonest nonsense.

The evening was an open one, the advert stated "all welcome". After the initial discussion, which lasted about an hour and a half, Ms Tynan approached several individuals and spoke to them for some time. All these individuals knew Ms Tynan was a journalist. They knew because she told them so. This is clearly not infiltration. The word, if it means anything at all, means that one becomes part of a group and gets information without their knowing your true purpose. But the repeated use of the word carries a sinister meaning: it conveys the sense of a conspiratorial event, it implies that the information that the reader gets is hard won and that the group would not be happy with it being public knowledge. The same applies to the use of words like "plot", "spine-chilling", "inner sanctum", "chaos" and "penetrate".

If Ms Tynan managed to join an anarchist group and attend internal meetings, then perhaps she would be justified in her use of the term "infiltrate". Instead she had done the equivalent of going to the Savoy cinema, buying a ticket to Lord of the Rings and then boasting how she "infiltrated" the Savoy.

Anarchists are not ashamed of our political views. We regularly hold public meetings where anybody can attend. Needless to say we won't be put off by gutter journalism in holding more. We have internal ones for organising and open ones for reaching out to a wider audience. The fact that Ms Tynan and Ireland on Sunday conflate the two, despite the clear description in the advert that all were welcome and that it was an informal social evening, indicates that they are either grossly incompetent or dishonest or both.

The article contains a number of falsehoods about the role of Chekov Feeney.

Chekov is not the main organiser of either any protests that might happen in May nor, for that matter, of the anarchist social evening. He had no part in the latter and has a small role in the former: that of setting up a couple of email lists.

While Chekov is an anarchist militant active in many areas, the authors have picked one area where he is not the main organiser or co-ordinater. This assertion appears to stem from the fact that the author had talked to Chekov. But obviously, in the real world, talking to a journalist isn't sufficient to make anybody the main co-ordinater of anything. Perhaps in the fantasy world of Ireland on Sunday things are different.

Chekov had explicitly informed Ms Tynan that the first organising meeting involving anarchists in relation to EU protests were had not yet taken place and that no media spokespeople or co-ordinaters were chosen. Obviously if the meeting hadn't taken place yet, then nobody, including Chekov, could be the co-ordinater.

Ms Tynan states that Chekov has been in contact with the Wombles, a group in the UK. Again Chekov said this was rubbish: "I am not coordinating the Irish operation. In fact, although several coordinators were appointed at the planning meeting in the Teachers club on February 7th - well after Thursday's social which Ms Tynan attended - I was not one of them. I have also never been in contact with any member of the Wombles and have never claimed to anybody that I have."

He also said that Ms Tynan made the quotes attributed to him up.

The writers manage to convey the impression that Richard Boyd Barrett and Rory Hearne were snubbed by not being invited. It is gratuitous to drag the names of two people from an entirely different political persuasion into a scurrilous article, thus vaguely associating them with meaningless trouble and indiscriminate violence. For the record no personal invitation was proffered to anyone, including any anarchists, and secondly there is no reason to think that either of these two gents would have much interest in attending an anarchist social night, unless, perhaps, the opening discussion was about Trotskyism or something similar.

I have little knowledge of the Wombles, but given the exaggerations used in the rest of the article, I doubt that they are "vicious" or have "strong links" with 'terrorists'. Ms Tynan doesn't actually back up these claims; what exactly is their link to the Kurdish PKK? Where did she source this claim? She doesn't say, she doesn't provide any evidence for the claims. This is unacceptable journalism.

But it's easy writing and it's necessary if one's objective is to create a sensationalist atmosphere which facilitate the sales and therefore the advertisers. Hence the repeated use of words like "chaos", "plot", "infiltration", and the insertion of falsehoods such as Chekov's contact with Wombles. Look how easy it is to write unsubstantiated scaremongering shite: "It has been reported that Deirdre Tynan, a journalist with Ireland on Sunday, has links with the Omagh Bombers. She is planning to write articles to promote their evil agenda in the future." Such claims are patently rubbish, without foundation and utterly lacking in evidence and no doubt would be upsetting to the subject if made without the disclaimers. They should never be made without the capacity to back them up. But Ms Tynan and Ireland on Sunday are happy to forgo providing inconveniences such as facts and simply use this level of logic in their articles.

The anarchist scare story has been used increasingly in recent times. After the Gardai rioted on Dame Street after the RTS in May 2002, the press constantly speculated about the prospect of violence at subsequent Reclaim the Streets events. They went off peacefully and true to form took the shape of a party where good humour prevailed.

The most striking example of a scare story was about this time last year when GNAW called a non-violent demo at Shannon on March 1st. Various groups got into a frenzy about the prospect of non-violent direct action and between them and the media a sort of hysteria was created which fostered the impression that a violent day was in store. Nothing of the sort ensued.

There are exceptions to this type of reporting; for example Paul Cullen's report in the IT of the September 2002 RTS was fair and Deglan de Breadun's (sic) managed to keep more of a cool head than his colleagues around March 1st.

But unfortunately the tactic of scare story isn't going away. Perhaps it makes a nice change from the diet of crime that the tabloid press regularly feeds the public. In any case the credibility of such predictions of mad, irrational violence must at this stage be at a very low ebb. While it is very easy to do an article on protests, hyping up the prospect of violence, one rarely sees an admission from the press in the aftermath that they were talking shite. But the hype that they create has repercussions. It creates a climate of fear that will likely lessen the popular support and involvement in protests and it serves to legitimatise a heavy-handed state response to such.

It should be noted that there is a strong possibility that Ms Tynan is aware of the untruthful and unfair nature of her article. During the anarchist social evening she said to a number of people that while she was sympathetic to anti-capitalist protesters, she was writing for a right-wing rag which was only going to publish one type of story: a hysterical scare. A number of people, with whom Ms Tynan conversed, reported that she confessed to being ashamed to writing for such an awful newspaper and asked for understanding from anarchists that she had to write crap articles in order to make a living.

This displays a disturbing lack of integrity in a journalist. Perhaps her editors modified her article, but this raises the question as to why she allowed her name to be used and to allow herself and her research to be knowingly used to discredit decent hardworking libertarians. It is ironic that the front page of the current Workers Solidarity deals with the very topic of journalists writing ridiculous scares about anarchism. It is even more ironic that Ms Tynan has said that she read it.

by James O'Brien

For those interested in some reasoned anarchist thoughts on the black bloc check out Red and Black Revolution 6 & 7. Articles on the web at

Anarchist websites on the EU:

WSM site:

Current issue of Workers Solidarity:

Indymedia thread that this reply was first posted to, it also includes the IoS articles

[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity Movement member, these reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written]

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