Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Tipping point

March 28th, 2009 · 8 Comments · Irish Media, Irish Politics

I’ve been trying to get some sort of hold on what I think this week’s events are about. So here goes…

Picturegate was not about the pictures, not about the gallery and someone putting the pictures into a gallery. It’s not about gender or the exasperating comment heard from Mary O’Rourke this week ‘if a woman was painted in that manner people would be up in arms.’ We would not have seen the pictures in the press if images of naked women had been involved. And again especially for Mary O’Rourke – it was not about Brian Cowen’s privacy in the toilet.

It was about the apology, the subsequent coverage, what constitutes news and a right to cover the story and way in which that coverage should be framed. It most importantly is about the ongoing Garda investigation which only took speed 2 weeks after the incident. It’s still about the lack of understanding of satire, art and the role of caricature in public discourse.

Miriam Lord confirms my impression that few in the Dáil or anywhere else cared much about these paintings until the apology was made for the report on the Nine O’Clock News.

Portraitgate exploded on Tuesday night after RTÉ apologised for featuring images of a very unflattering caricature of the Taoiseach that was stuck on a wall in the National Gallery when nobody was looking.

But here’s an interesting thing. The incident happened a few weeks ago. It came to public attention when it was featured, with photographs, in the Sunday Tribune . The following night, RTÉ news ran the story.

The next day, Tuesday, was a sitting day in the Dáil. Lots of activity around the place, lots of journalists about, lots of TDs. Here’s the funny thing: nobody was talking about the caricatures. In Leinster House, if there is a controversy brewing or indignation on the rise, it flies around the place in record time.

That night in the bar, the talk was of lots of things. But not of those rude paintings of Biff in the Buff. Then, at the end of the nine o’clock news, that apology was read out. Mobile phones beeped throughout the House.

Portraitgate had became a talking point. Certain people decided it was time to be offended. Strange, the way things happen. Maybe some good can come out of the mess. Look at all the publicity two paintings of a half-naked politician can command. As the week went on, people were clamouring to buy the offending artwork. Websites were doing a steady trade in Biff-in-the-Buff T-shirts.

I’m off to work on my postcard.


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