The Communications Clinic
The Communications Clinic
October 19, 2020

Originally published in The Irish Examiner

DAY 15 

Why do we never hear from reclusive introverts about how much they love lockdowns? Sorry. Stupid question.

Day 16

A client, reading a recent edition of this lockdown diary, queries how locked down I really am. I can’t leave the county, I point out, although the only thing it’s preventing me doing is driving to Newry with my sister. Why, he asks, would I want to? 

I tell him my sister is extremely funny. Good company, you know? No, he says, why Newry? Well, Sainsbury’s does a particular pie and a kind of kitchen roll you can’t get anywhere else. This is embarrassing, so I try to divert to something more significant. I fail. It reminds me of the time I bitched to my first boss Bunny Carr about idiotic wise saws any fool could think up on the spot, like “Your health is your wealth”, and “Least said, soonest mended”. 

“So, think one up, right now,” he said. I couldn’t.

DAY 17 

Watching the essential Six One news, I’m baffled by how the presenters, faced with two or three interviewees, say “I’ll come to you first, Buggins”. What’s wrong with a straight question with Buggins’ name up top? It’s the news, like. Not a quadrille.

DAY 18 

The phone rings. Unknown number. The voice demands to know where I am. I figure my position on the stepladder is none of his business and ask why he wants to know. “I’m a taxi,” he says, which is unlikely but everyone’s entitled to their own delusions. 

“I have a package for you.” I give him directions. On arrival, he hands over a big black sack, filled with Sainsbury’s pies and special kitchen rolls. The client, who shall be nameless, has set me up and it’s not for me to ask how he did it.

DAY 19

An ad appears in our sister paper, The Irish Times. A full-pager with the visual aesthetic of a local authority bylaw announcement which seems to have been proofread by a sub-editor who was on the tear at the time. It is placed by Moorezey’s Holdings Limited whose CEO is  John Moore, a multimillionaire who describes himself as “a rebel entrepreneur”. 

This ad might appeal to the Profit before People lads. You know — the ones who think Michael O’Leary would make a great Taoiseach? It would appeal to them because those lads (sorry to be misogynistic, but not many women are on this side of the issue) take a paternal interest in the economy. 

They want it minded at all costs and believe protecting the populace against the virus is anti-business. Despite the pharmaceutical and electronics businesses exporting hand over fist, delivery services coining it, and the economy in slightly frayed, rather than rag order, right now, these lads have had it with restrictions.

Now, while Rebel John, according to an admirably hands-off related news story in The Irish Times, is good at starting and selling off businesses, he is pretty clueless when it comes to media timing. Paying good money to put the ad in the paper on any budget day would have been unwise. 

Placing an ad devoted to economic protection in the paper of record on the day the Government promised to borrow €40bn in order to swaddle that same economy was worse than unwise. It got swamped. The end result of the daft timing was that most people ignored it, although Dr Colm Henry of Nphet got briefly and firmly shirty about it, pointing out that while its facts were straight, its conclusions were ropey, although he didn’t use the word “ropey”. 

He did, however, use the phrase “siphoning off”, in reference to the ad’s attitude to older people.

My initial reaction to it was akin to that of people who say “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like”. I don’t know much about the thought processes of rebel entrepreneurs, but I know what I don’t like, and this ad qualified. I sent it to my son, asking for his view. If he had one. He had one. It took the form of a claim-by-claim rebuttal worth sharing:

1. That’s life expectancy at birth. If you’ve made it to 81, your life expectancy is in the region of five years. So by this logic, anyone diagnosed with cancer and given five years to live should immediately be shot to save us hassle.

2. Defining 81 as “life expectancy for all” suggests we should allow everyone over 81 to die of whatever ails them — they’re over the limit.

3. Stating that most people who die of Covid-19 have an underlying condition, while true, does rather miss the point that a huge percentage of people who die of anything have “underlying health conditions”. Nobody dies of AIDS, they die of underlying health conditions. Having diabetes is not a moral failing making you worthy of execution.

4. and 5. Essentially declare that only 20 people under 44 died so far and that most of them died in the first three months of the pandemic. What has being under 44 got to do with anything?

5. But fine, let’s apply that — that’s roughly six per month at a time when we were aggressively trying to limit the spread. That’s 72 per year. What do you think the figure will be if we relax our efforts? How many under-44-year-olds is an okay number to execute? 100? 150? 200?

6. As for the counting of Covid-19 deaths, we have “excess death” numbers — the tally of people who are now dead who otherwise wouldn’t be, thanks to Covid-19. That’s currently about 1,000. 

7. The graph in the ad seems to prove only that when you don’t try to stop the virus, lots of people die. When you do, they don’t. This person might be new to graphs.

“So, in summary,” my son writes,” the proposition in the ad would seem to be that old people are expendable, people who are not 100% healthy are expendable, and some young people (number yet to be determined) are likewise. Also that we’re worrying far too much about all this ‘our fellow citizens are dying’ stuff”. 

Day 20 

I buy a cheap but elegant log-carrier in a German discount store, set it down in the main room and go search for my electric saw and working gloves. When I return, the black cat is in the log basket. Asleep.

Do I leave him undisturbed? I do. Am I a fool? I am. However, I would point out in my defence that it’s getting noticeably colder outside.

Day 21 

Who’d be a finance minister? Our two do a budget like an early Christmas.

It’s so generous, it silences the opposition.

Proving that good news is no news, the next day we’ve completely forgotten it and, instead, are giving out about them not wearing masks on the escalator in the convention centre.