The concept of “groupthink” appears as evasive psychobabble in the BAI report on the Primetime libel of Fr. Kevin Reynolds. It is proposed that the critical faculties of journalists and managers at RTE were overwhelmed or blunted by “groupthink”. Both Breda O’Brien* and John Waters** make effective use of the notion by locating an endemic anti-Catholicism within the RTE “groupthink”. They are not entirely wrong but they are being selective both in focussing on anti-Catholicism and on RTE.
With a few exceptions journalists reflect the dominant views in society and don’t see their role as fostering public controversy. When journalists hold anti-Catholic views as fact or common sense, it can result in great personal harm but tends not to have significant political effect. However, that is not true of all the hardened beliefs common to most journalists. One such belief is in what Philip Bobbitt termed the “market state”.***
Irish journalists day in, day out promote the belief that the function of the state is to promote choice by way of increasing financial competitiveness in all aspects of life. That may be a plausible argument and it certainly deserves to be heard but it does not enjoy anything remotely like universal acceptance. It is a highly controversial position. The public discourse which relies on journalism demands that this and a wide range of contestable assertions be presented as controversy rather than as a matter of fact.
*** Bobbitt, P. (2002) The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History (Alfred A. Knopf): 213-242.