Over the years I’ve always been amused by the strong, pro-British line taken by much of the mainstream US media when it came to reporting and editorialising on the conflict in the British Occupied North of Ireland. Invariably most US news organisations, especially the printed press, were anti-IRA and anti-Sinn Féin, with reportage that could have just as easily been written by press officers in the British embassy in Washington or the consulate in New York. The great myth of American sympathy or support for the Irish Republican cause was just that – a myth.
That selfsame anglophile bias on Irish affairs which dominated the US media from the 1970s to the ‘90s is just as virulent today as witnessed by the reporting surrounding the controversial hearings into “militant Islam” held in the US Congress by Representative Peter King in late 2011. Whatever about the merits of the investigation by the Homeland Security Committee chaired by King into the activities of Moslem-Americans (or lack thereof), it served as an opportunity for many American reporters to flex their simplistic and utterly myopic pro-British muscles.
On the basis of Congressman King’s past opposition to Britain’s colonial presence in Ireland and his political support for Sinn Féin over the last three decades a profusion of one-sided articles were published across the American media, especially online, alleging hypocrisy and double-standards on his part. To the concern and frustration of many Irish-Americans their legitimate interests in Ireland and Irish affairs were misrepresented or dismissed through association with King and his questionable targeting of Muslim-Americans. Rather than gaining praise for their efforts to bring an end to the war in the north-east of the island of Ireland, and their support for the creation of a fair and equitable settlement for all parties to the conflict, Irish-Americans were singled out for ridicule, condemnation and slander. A casual reading of the American press revealed a body of journalists trapped in some sort of politically-slanted 1970s time-warp, completely ignorant of recent Irish history and seeing only Ireland through the prism of their infatuation with all things “English”.
This brings me to the Jewish-American community in the United States and an article from the Slate magazine examining the power of the pro-Israeli lobby in the US. If politicised Irish-Americans had but one-twentieth of the power of their politicised Jewish-American peers then the reunification of Ireland would have taken place decades ago. It makes for very interesting reading and shows, in fact, how relatively weak, politically and financially, “Irish-America” truly was; and in many ways still is.