Is the general public “right to be angry at the sense of entitlement” of a homeless, pregnant mother-of-two in temporary hotel accommodation? asked The Niall Boylan Show on Facebook the other day. Linking to screen grabs of a journal.ie article about the woman and a selection of comments on the same, the radio show noted that Laura from Cork was “not getting a huge amount of sympathetic thumbs up” on the site.
Cue the radio show’s Facebook fans telling Laura to “close [her] fucking fanny”, stop having more kids and start looking after the ones she already has, get a job, and start paying for a living. Her “sense of entitlement”, of course, is never questioned – that’s already been established by the question asked.
The fact the journal.ie readers were indeed quick to judge – suggesting that Laura must start taking responsibility, sarcastically highlighting that they themselves actually have to pay when staying in a hotel, and citing anecdotal evidence of random friends who do social work and know of people turning down offers of houses – naturally doesn’t help. But the Niall Boylan Show is only delighted to amplify them, making readers feel righteous in their outrage at this woman’s lifestyle. They are “the general public”, so the radio show said – and, as another commenter points out, it’s the general public that foots the bill for that hotel room. So the circle of hatred is complete.
The fact that there are a thousand and one ways to get pregnant against your will and not a single one to stop being pregnant if you’re a single mother without someone to mind your children while you nip off to the UK to splash out on an abortion, these people seem to have forgotten. Likewise, they seem just a tad ignorant about the difficulty in getting a job when already five months pregnant, not to mention the equation of one income to cover not just rent and bills but also childcare costs for two children.
But what’s outrageous about this isn’t primarily what’s in the comments; anyone who’s spent more than two minutes skimming through comments on any article about anything to do with women will know to expect nothing less. For The Niall Boylan Show to fake upset at the lack of sympathetic thumbs up in the comments on the original post, however, only to go on and amplify said lacking sympathy, cement the idea of a homeless mother-of-two in temporary hotel accommodation as entitled, and do nothing by way of moderating the ensuing vitriol on their own page – that’s what I call irresponsible hypocrisy in its most disgusting form.
A political hero of mine, Swedish politician Gudrun Schyman, talks a lot about a concept she calls ‘problemformuleringsinitiativet’ (go on – give it your best shot). The Swedish multi-syllable word loosely translates as ‘the problem defining initiative’ and refers to agenda-setting power, highlighting that the power to define a problem by extension comes with the power to appoint responsibility and thus also propose wherein the solution might lie.
The question of whether the general public’s anger at Laura’s sense of entitlement is justified or not comes with a number of already established assumptions: that the ignorant people who take time to spew hatred at someone like Laura in the comments section on journal.ie represent the general public; that Laura is definitely to blame for the situation she’s in and we should put all spotlights on her rather than our politicians; that she does indeed feel a sense of entitlement; and that having a sense of entitlement when it comes to the country you live in supporting you when you’re in deep shit to make sure that your children have a roof over their heads would somehow be a bad thing. It’s no wonder that their most unenlightened fans come out of the woodwork at the sight of a post like this. The answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask. It’s an ignorant question, so they’ll get ignorant responses.
I wonder did the radio show ever think to question our elected representatives’ sense of entitlement. I wonder did they pick up on the frustration of the general public at Enda Kenny’s schmoozing with American Vice President elect Mike Pence and ask whether it was right. I wonder did they note the anger marching through the streets of Dublin back in September and put it to their Facebook fans whether the fury of Ireland’s women is justified. That’s the kind of social media clickbait I’d get behind.