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Getting Cranky with The Times

by Frank Schnittger Sun Aug 31st, 2008 at 10:28:29 PM EST

In the last two weeks I have had half a dozen Letters to the Editor published in the Irish Times, the Irish Independent, and the Sunday Tribune on the topics of the South Ossetia crisis and the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

The Editors of those papers seem to delight in publishing letters which are sometimes scathingly personal in response.  This is unusual in Ireland as the laws of libel are fairly strict and I am not a public figure.

I don't have a particular problem with this (as I don't have much of a reputation to lose) although my family and friends do seem to think this is all evidence of advancing dementia on my part.  Apparently only cranks and serial complainers write Letters to the Editor.

I do have a problem, however, when a paper then refuses me a right of reply to such personalised criticism - as The Irish Times recently did.  Eventually, after a letter suggesting I might seek redress by other means, my response was printed.

Now, however, the Irish Times have printed another personalised critical response from one of my antagonists.  I'm beginning to think the Letters page editor is either very sore at me, or is engaging in the favourite Irish pastime of needling people in the hope of provoking an intemperate outburst.


It's probably all in a good cause if it provokes a certain amount of discussion of two key issues, and it's not as if the stances I have taken aren't likely to be controversial in some quarters. I'm just surprised at the quality of the letters The Irish Times, in particular, often seems to publish. Many of my best letters (it seems to me) never make it into print, and an awful lot of truly awful ones seem to make it through.

I once complained against the rule that no verse was allowed by writing a letter as follows:

Prosaic Instructions to Irish Times Letter Writers

Dear Madam, Editor, Irish Times
You state that within the bounds of taste
And the avoidance of libel crimes
You will wide ranging views embrace
You further advise that we be terse
Lest our efforts should go to waste
But why the statement that no verse
Will ever your letters pages grace?

Needless to say, it wasn't published.

On another occasion I empathised with another correspondent aggrieved that her letters weren't being published:

Moving on to bigger things - The Irish Times - Wed, Feb 20, 2008

Madam - Ita McCormack (February 14th) is under the quaint delusion that letters in The Irish Times are published on merit, regardless of the title or prestige of the signatory. From experience, I can share with her the real guidelines which must be followed:

1. Never criticise The Irish Times itself.

2. Do not depart too far from the "dominant narrative" as contained in Irish Times Editorials.

3. Never antagonise the Letters Page editor by demanding a right of reply when you are criticised by name on the Letters page.

4. Sarcastic or silly one-liners have priority.

5. If writing a longer letter on a more serious and necessarily complex subject, always lend your letter some spurious authority by signing it as President of the Lesser Spotted Bumpkins Society or some such worthy organisation, or by claiming to be a "think tank" such as "Libertas", which is anything but a think tank as a simple perusal of its website will confirm.

Failing the above, write instead on some serious online forum which is not limited to contacts of the small-minded coterie which now runs The Irish Times and seeks to pass itself off as a serious forum for open debate. Most of us have long realised that it is anything but and have moved on the bigger and better things elsewhere. - Yours, etc,

Needless to say, the Irish Times edited out my explicit reference to The European Tribune in the last paragraph of the above letter.  Are they really afraid of competition from The European Tribune?

Previous Letters and responses in the current series of controversies have been published here in Anti-Americans should stop masquerading as anti-war [SECOND UPDATE]
From NO to maybe on Lisbon and   Bringing new users to The European Tribune

For those not yet bored by the South Ossetia controversy, I include the Letter of my latest detractor below:

Aftermath of war in Caucasus - The Irish Times - Mon, Sep 01, 2008

Madam, - Frank Schnittger (August 25th) claims that "evidence indicates" that Georgia's US lobbyist Randy Scheunemann secretly encouraged Georgia's actions in South Ossetia.

Well, I haven't seen a shred of evidence to support his claim about Mr Scheunemann. And the assertion that war may have occurred to help give John McCain a "bounce" in the polls is one of the weirdest things I have yet read on the conflict. The overwhelming evidence available is that Russia has been destabilising and provoking Georgia for years.

Mr Schnittger is right about the considerable interdependence between western and eastern Europe. However, Russia's intimidation of its tiny neighbours and former colonies has cast a shadow over east-west co-operation.

- Yours, etc,

SEAN STEELE, Kilfenora Road, Kimmage, Dublin 12.

My response, not yet published, is as follows:


Madam, - SEAN STEELE (Letters 1/9/08)  says he hasn't found "a shred of evidence" to support my contention that John McCain's principle foreign policy adviser and potential National Security Adviser, Randy Scheunemann, is implicated in the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia.  

Well, if he doesn't believe me, perhaps he will believe Pat Buchanan, former US Presidential candidate and doyen of US arch-conservatives since Ronald Reagan, who has accused Randy Scheunemann of Treason - see Pat Buchanan - "And None Dare Call it Treason", Yahoo news, 22 August, http://news.yahoo.com/s/uc/20080822/cm_uc_crpbux/op_337140

He writes there that Scheunemann "..is a dual loyalist, a foreign agent whose assignment is to get America committed to spilling the blood of her sons for client regimes who have made this moral mercenary a rich man".  

"..Not only did Scheunemann's two-man lobbying firm receive $730,000 since 2001 to get Georgia a NATO war guarantee, he was paid by Romania and Latvia to do the same. And he succeeded"

"Scheunemann's resume as a War Party apparatchik is lengthy. He signed the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) letter to President Clinton urging war on Iraq, four years before 9-11. "

"Scheunemann also came close to succeeding with Georgia. "Had he done so, U.S. soldiers and Marines from Idaho and West Virginia would be killing Russians in the Caucasus, and dying to protect Scheunemann's client, who launched this idiotic war the night of Aug. 7. That people like Scheunemann hire themselves out to put American lives on the line for their clients is a classic corruption of American democracy...."

"U.S. backing for his campaign to retrieve his lost provinces is what Saakashvili paid Scheunemann to produce. But why should Americans fight Russians to force 70,000 South Ossetians back into the custody of a regime they detest? Why not let the South Ossetians decide their own future in free elections?"

Why indeed.  And if it doesn't make sense for the USA to restart the Cold War (or indeed a hot World War) over South Ossetia, why ever should Europe, Ireland, or indeed Mr. Steele wish to do so?

Perhaps other contributors here might like to share their experiences of writing Letters to the Editor, and whether you think it is worth the effort.  Frankly, I only do so now when I have already written a diary on a topic, and want to put a synopsis of the argument to a wider public.

Is the Mainstream Media a waste of space, or an important means of reaching a wider audience?  Does the message get diluted in a wider forum where you inevitably have to argue your case from within the context of the dominant paradigm if you want to have a good chance of being published?

What are the dos and don'ts of LTE writing?  And are we about to be overtaken by video blogs in any case?

Display:
Is the Mainstream Media a waste of space, or an important means of reaching a wider audience?

Still the latter, at least for the moment.

Does the message get diluted in a wider forum where you inevitably have to argue your case from within the context of the dominant paradigm if you want to have a good chance of being published?

Yes, but more importantly whatever you do get published helps to dilute what has been, in my opinion, a remarkably large amount of anti-EU mail. Some of it is considered opposition, but I am a little e disturbed by the willingness of editors to also publish letters that are laughable drivel (see for example the second letter on Georgia published here). This is about moving the Overton window. Provided you have the stomach for it, anything you do to resist is worthwhile.

by det on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 03:03:52 AM EST
Thanks for the encouragement.  The link you give doesn't scroll to the correct LTE, but I presume you were referring to the following:Sunday Business Post | Irish Business News
* The politics of the EU belong in the 19th century. Since the end of the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been no ideological difference in Europe.

Since most of these countries belong to Nato, it is inconceivable that war could take place. Secondly, transport and communication systems are so efficient now that we don't need the EU in order to do business. In the unlikely event of a conflict in Europe, the UN is there to prevent war.

Imelda Kearney
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 05:31:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is the one. To be fair to the editors, the writer makes no mention of Georgia. Perhaps they put the letter under the headline "Conflict in Georgia" just to highlight the absurdity.

Or perhaps it is vintage snark and I do the writer a grave dis-service.

by det on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 05:46:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are kind.  More likely it is an example of the naivity on international relations prevalent in Ireland - a country which claims sovereignty and neutrality and yet couldn't stop an invasion by fishing trawlers.  We let others do the dirty work of ensuring our security, and then berate them for their militarism.  If we want a European security policy which takes our interests and security into account, we have to make at least a token contribution, and that is what Lisbon was, in small measure, also about.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 06:11:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the unlikely event of a conflict in Europe, the UN is there to prevent war.

<head explodes>

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 06:26:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are kind.  More likely it is an example of the naivity on international relations prevalent in Ireland - a country which claims sovereignty and neutrality and yet couldn't stop an invasion by fishing trawlers.  We let others do the dirty work of ensuring our security, and then berate them for their militarism.

Sounds exactly like Sweden to me, including the absurd UN worshipping.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 06:28:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now you're being unfair - Sweden would be able to put up at least some bit of a fight.
by det on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 07:18:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Providing no-one attacks at the weekend ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 08:13:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I knew those dastardly Finns were plotting something.  Saakashvili attacked during the Olympics for added distraction.  The Finns will probably attack during Eurovision or a Bergmann Love-Fest when everyone will be too depressed to even think of fighting back.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 08:35:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength with air guitars, we shall defend our saunas, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight in the bars, we shall fight on the ice rinks, we shall fight at the hamburger kiosks and in the streets, we shall fight in the very few hills that we have; we shall never bartender."

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 08:42:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
15 years ago yes, not today.

Today the Swedish armed forces, at least the Army, is non-existent. We can mobilise 10,000 soldiers. One year (!) after the order is given. The Swedish Air Force is still in very good shape, but that's about it.

The Finns protect Sweden today, and they do it on a defence budget half the size of the Swedish defence budget.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 10:51:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since most of these countries belong to Nato, it is inconceivable that war could take place.

The author might want to read up on some recent history.

Newly released British Documents for the year 1974 at the Public Records Office. The British Government gives tacit clearance to Turkey to proceed with invasion And agrees to blockade the Greeks from helping Cyprus

15 August 1974 - State Department spokesman criticizes Turkey for invasion and says US will cut off arms to both Greece and Turkey if they go to war. Karamanlis announces Greece will not go to war but is withdrawing from military side of NATO.

Cyprus: US gave full backing to Turkish invasion of Cyprus

THE COUNSELOR
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
WASHINGTON
August 14, 1974
SECRET/EYES ONLY
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY
FROM: Helmut Sonnenfeldt
SUBJECT: Cyprus Actions

...

You should not get involved directly till the fighting stops; then you must since there is no alternative and only we have the clout.

I do not think Brussels/NATO is the place to use when the time comes. The Greeks are probably too sore at NATO and the vehicle of a ministerial meeting is awkward. Anyway, you need Ecevit and Karamanlis.

Imia/Kardak - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The dispute over Imia/Kardak arose on the occasion of a naval accident on 25 December, 1995, when the Turkish cargo ship "Figen Akat" ran ashore on the islets and had to be salvaged.

...Turkish and Greek naval forces were alerted and warships of both countries, both NATO members, sailed to the islets. During the crisis, at the night of 28th of January, Greek special forces landed on the east islet without being spotted by the nearby Turkish ships. On 31 of January, at 01:40 Turkish special forces landed on the west islet escalating the tensions, and a Greek helicopter took off at 05:30 from the Greek frigate "Navarino" for reconnaissance. During the mission it crashed over the islets (some speculating due to Turkish fire), but this was concealed by both states[2] to prevent further escalation.

Aegean dispute - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The resulting stalemate between both sides over process was partially changed after 1999, when the European summit of Helsinki opened up a path towards Turkey's accession to the EU. In the summit agreement, Turkey accepted an obligation to solve its bilateral disputes with Greece before actual accession talks would start.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 06:56:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't normally send Letters to the Sunday Business Post because it is relatively small circulation and they always want to know whether you have sent the letter to anyone else - in which case they reject letter out of hand.

However you may want to make the points above in a response to the letter above.  Something on the lines of the following:

Imelda Kearney (Letters, 31 Aug) writes that "The politics of the EU belong in the 19th century".... "Since most of these (European) countries belong to Nato, it is inconceivable that war could take place"...and ""In the unlikely event of a conflict in Europe, the UN is there to prevent war".

She may not be aware that NATO allies do make war against each other - as in the 1974 war between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus - and the UN generally only steps in in peace keeping mode after war has broken out and the initial war aims have been achieved.  In any case, the UN will always defer to a regional body such as the EU or NATO if a conflict breaks out between members.  The EU has made a resolution of the Cyprus issue a pre-condition of any negotiations regarding Turkish accession.

Thus, far from the politics of the EU being so 19th.  Century as she states, it is the EU which prevents us from going back to the 19th and first half of the 20th. century.



Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 08:31:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Forgot this when I got home. I'll put together something now.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 03:27:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
O-kkkay, here is the draft, criticism (especially of language) welcome.

Imelda Kearney (Letters, 31 Aug) seeks to deny the peace-establishing role of the EU with the outlandish claim that since most EU members "belong to Nato, it is inconceivable that war could take place".

She may not be aware of the recent history of Turkish-Greek conflicts.

NATO not only failed to prevent the escalation of the Cyprus conflict, but when Turkey invaded the island in 1974,  Greece left NATO's military side for seven years. In the dispute over borders in the Aegean Sea, it happened that armed units of two NATO members faced off directly (for example in 1995 on Imia/Kardak).

De-escalating - not solving - open conflict was less NATO's feat, more that of US superpower diplomacy (as evidenced by the counsel of the 14 August 1974 Sonnenfeldt memo to Kissinger). What finally reduced military tension was, incidentally, the EU opening the way for Turkey to apply for membership: the solution of mayor festering conflicts is a prerequisite for Turkey's final success on that road.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 03:54:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank, what is the address I should send this to, BTW?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 03:57:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'sbpost@iol.ie'

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 06:44:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They sometimes require phone no. and postal address so they can verify you are a "real" person!

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 06:56:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Imelda Kearney (Letters, 31 Aug) seeks to deny the peace-establishing role of the EU with the outlandish claim that since most EU members "belong to NATO, it is inconceivable that war could take place".

She may not be aware of the recent history of Turkish-Greek conflicts.

NATO not only failed to prevent the escalation of the Cyprus conflict, but when Turkey invaded the island in 1974,  Greece left NATO's military side for seven years.   Their armed units also faced off in 1995 in a border dispute over the islands of Imia and Kardak in the Aegean sea.

De-escalating - not solving - the Cyprus conflict was achieved less by NATO, and more by US superpower diplomacy (as evidenced by the Sonnenfeldt memo to Kissinger on August 1974).

Military tensions between Greece and Turkey were finally reduced by the EU opening the way for Turkey to apply for membership and the resolution of remaining festering conflicts remains a prerequisite for the sucessful conclusion of those talks.

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 06:55:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks! Several of your edits weren't true to what I wanted to say, but that only means it wasn't clear what I wanted to say, so I hope the version I sent (below) is more clear.

Dear Sir or Madam

Imelda Kearney (Letters, 31 Aug) seeks to deny the peace-establishing role of the EU with the outlandish claim that since most EU members "belong to NATO, it is inconceivable that war could take place".

She may not be aware of the recent history of Turkish-Greek conflicts.

NATO not only failed to prevent the escalation of the Cyprus conflict, but when Turkey invaded the island in 1974, Greece left NATO's military side for seven years. Later, in 1995 near the island of Imia (Kardak), armed units of the two NATO members faced off in the ongoing dispute over borders in the Aegean sea.

De-escalating - not solving - eruptions of open conflict was achieved less by NATO, and more by US superpower diplomacy (as evidenced in the Cyprus case by the Sonnenfeldt memo to Kissinger on August 1974).

Military tensions between Greece and Turkey were finally reduced from 1999 by the EU opening the way for Turkey to apply for membership: Turkey needs to resolve its remaining festering conflicts as a prerequisite for a successful conclusion.

Best regards
...



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 08:34:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reads well.  Hope it gets printed.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:09:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have sent the Editor of the Irish Times a copy of this blog with a cover note as follows:


I attach an extract from my current blog in which you feature for your edification and enjoyment.  You have the right of reply!  

I'm not holding my breath for a response, but at least we practice what we preach

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 06:47:44 AM EST


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