If the RTÉ Freefall programme was a third-year multimedia project, I’d give it a 2-2, and wait to see how the kids turned out when they grew up. Some of them might get a job in the serious media, but most of the talentless brats probably wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a camera or a microphone ever again.
We thought we were getting a serious televised analysis of the most dangerous event ever to overtake our country and instead we got The Exorcist.
For a full hour, in the first of RTÉ’s two-part report on the banking collapse, we were treated to aerial stop-motion video of streets, motorways and traffic, funky angles of office blocks and edgy D-minor cello music lifted from every bad scary picture we ever saw. It was a horror-fest of undergraduate film-making, with every clichéd angle and mis-exposure in the book. Embarrassing, contrived shots of knocked-over rubbish bins and discarded tissues blowing in the breeze, but at least it was all confined to Dublin. Thank God we don’t have that problem where most Irish people live: Not-Dublin.
To be fair to the film, it didn’t lack genuine horror, mostly provided by Brian Lenihan.
When he explained how he had told French finance minister Christine Lagarde — in French, no less — what he had done, you wanted to hide your head under the nearest sofa. Perhaps he was afraid we might think he phoned a French person and spoke to them in Serbo-Croat.
But if that cringe-inducing moment wasn’t enough, youu could feel an entire nation recoil as he chuckled when he explained why the head of the European Central Bank couldn’t get him on the phone the day after he issued the banking guarantee. Apparently, as the Irish economy faced meltdown, Jean-Claude Trichet couldn’t contact Lenihan because he was at the — cue big laugh — races, with the other Fianna Fáil lads. A nation chuckles.
It echoed another Lenihan horror moment from many years ago on the Late Late Show when Brian Senior told the nation how he had threatened a policeman with enforced transfer, and everyone laughed, including the beloved Gaybo. One law for you Brian. Fair play to ya. A different law for the rest of us, just like today.
The Freefall narrative explained to us that we were completely wrong, that we hadn’t in fact lived through the last two years at all, and that even if we did, we were wrong, blind and stupid. The economic collapse wasn’t the fault of grasping, greedy gobshites like Ahern, Fitzpatrick, Fingleton and all of Fianna Fáil. It was, in truth, caused by the global economic crisis, and not by home-grown corruption and crookery. Not caused by Lenihan’s buddies and clients. Not caused by the bankers who own, body and soul, so many of his cabinet colleagues.
The Freefall programme was an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has followed this debacle and a monument to the uncritical mediocrity that is our national broadcasting company.
The Soviet Union had TASS and Pravda. We have RTÉ, the official organ for disseminating State policy. It’s run by the Billie Barry kids, now that they’re too old to be singing for their parents’ friends, who gave them their jobs in the first place.