Hollywood has long been a cost free publicity machine. Cost free in the sense that it sold its output and therefore required little or no financial input from those who wished to influence the minds of the general public.
Where government is concerned, there have been some costs attributable - the military personnel and awesome fighting machinery is always available to film makers; with the proviso that they show America as the benign victor over grateful populations. Why make a movie showing the ugly side of the American war machine, when you can have thousands of fit extras, air craft carriers galore, hawks, and hundreds of tanks rolling over your chosen hillside for free, merely by coming up with a script that pleases the Generals?
Between two and three million Soviet prisoners were executed by the Nazi’s, hundreds of thousands of Gypsies, the mentally ill and the disabled – yet for many of the younger generation, the horrors of the Nazi regime can be summed up by ‘they killed six million Jews, didn’t they?’ such is the power of the many Hollywood epics that have centered on the horrors suffered by the Jewish people.
Other organisations have sought to avail themselves of the hearts and mind campaign that can be won with the aid of Hollywood. I can remember watching the film ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ without ever querying whether it was a truthful portrayal of life in a Catholic run institution in the early part of the last century. Don’t we all know that every Catholic priest is a paedophile, that Nuns are routinely cruel and uncaring? Why should we be surprised that this is reflected in a Hollywood film?
Possibly because we haven’t gone to the trouble of reading the MacAleese report on the actual Magdalene Laundries. That might be because we picked up on its publication via the BBC, which gave us a selection of quotes from the report that did nothing to disabuse us from our comfortable belief that we ‘knew’ – since it was a Catholic run institution – that it would be full of harrowing stories of abuse and sadism, and we didn’t really need to wallow in all that, did we?
Quote: From the BBC website, from ‘Maureen Sullivan’ – described as ‘survivor’.
In the report I find that some people are still in denial and yet there are other parts that clearly state and people can see we were telling the truth all along.
I ask for an apology from the religious orders and I ask the Prime Minister of my country to give us an apology, they took my education and they took my identity.
The BBC don’t give a link to the full report, I have no idea why – but it is HERE for those who don’t want their prejudices ready-to-heat, but are prepared to create them from scratch.
Googling the MacAleese report comes up with another post entitled ‘How to read the MacAleese report’. Written by a solicitor, it purports to tell you what you should and shouldn’t understand from the report. Fortunately I had already read the report before I read Simon McGarr’s resume of the 1000 page report. He tells me that Martin MacAleese’s introduction ‘runs for eleven pages of disingenuous waffle’ and ‘the Executive Summary is a shameful farrago of guesses, elisions and wilful ignorance’. What could have driven Simon McGarr to such fury against the inquiry into 50, 60 and 70 year old allegations of cruelty, abuse and perversion? Could it be the the final report didn’t quite match up to the Hollywood and media driven expectations?
Where was the evidence of paedophiliac Nuns? Nowhere to be seen. MacAleese could not find one single report of sexual abuse by a Nun. But the beatings and the shaven heads – we’d seen them on our television! Oops! MacAleese had neglected to screen those he interviewed and actually allowed an authentic dissenting voice of a Magdalene girl to appear in his report.
”It has shocked me to read in papers that we were beat and our heads shaved and that we were badly treated by the nuns… I was not touched by any nun and I never saw anyone touched. As long as I was there, I was not touched myself by any nun and I never saw anyone touched and there was never a finger put on them. … Now everything was not rosy in there because we were kept against our will … we worked very hard there … But in saying that we were treated good and well looked after”.
Send that woman to the back of the compensation queue, tar and feather her! None of the women told the Committee that their heads had been shaved, with one exception. The exception occurred where one woman had her head shaved because she had lice:
“When I said it was all itchy they shaved it … If you got lice your head was shaved”. In response to a question on whether hair was ever shaved as a punishment, she replied “Just for the lice”.
Not everyone was off message: Another woman who had been in two Magdalen Laundries reported that, in one of these Laundries, “there was a padded cell, I was put in there 3 times”. Ah the fabled padded cell, star of so many misery memoires. However such comments were a rarity in Chapter 19, which is overwhelmingly women saying ‘it was hard, it was tough, we didn’t enjoy it, but never saw anyone physically abused’.
Undoubtedly life was tough in the Magdalene Laundries, but it can only be truly compared to life in any other commercial laundry in the 1920s, whereas it currently finds itself compared to modern day expectations of employment.
“The floors of the laundry were constantly floating with water – often soapy dirty water streaming out. There was constant inhaling of steam from the large colander (large ironing board). Young women stood either side of the colander for up to two or three hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. Large buckets of boiling water were scattered around the floor used for starching and steaming. The light was poor and their only view from the windows was more iron bars. There was often a foul smell in the air from the extensive, industrial laundry of soiled sheets from hospitals, hotels, convents, farms and more”.
One of the main complaints is that the girls were paid no wages and never knew when they might be allowed to leave. The no wages bit is described as ‘modern day slavery’ (as is work experience in Poundland!) but reading the report I see that:
Chapter 10 of this Report sets out the circumstances in which some former young women were placed in a Magdalen Laundry during the period of their supervision after discharge from Industrial School. It appears to the Committee that, for many of the women it met, these were the circumstances in which they came to enter a Magdalen Laundry.
The women were either not told or didn’t remember that they were still on licence from those Industrial schools – I can relate to that, I doubt many of the Duncroft girls appreciated that they were still subject to recall to Duncroft until they were 21. I certainly didn’t. Since there is no such thing as a ‘fallen women’ these days, only proudly independent single mothers and young women expressing their individuality, it is difficult to compare the situation for someone leaving such an establishment with its inherent ‘stain on their character’ with modern life. Where else would these women have been employed in rural Ireland in those times? Rage against the times by all means, rage against the prejudice, the injustice, be grateful it doesn’t exist today - but blame the Nuns who had set up a business that was prepared to employ these girls?
Chapter 20 examines the financial viability of the Magdalen Laundries, on the basis of the financial accounts or other financial records prepared contemporaneously by the relevant Religious Congregations.
The results of the financial analysis carried out tends to support a view that the Magdalen Laundries were operated on a subsistence or close to break-even basis rather than on a commercial or highly profitable basis.
You mean the dastardly Catholic church wasn’t making a thumping profit out of these unfortunate women? Is there to be no end to our disillusionment?
The report spoke to 118 women who had experienced the Magdalene Laundries, a small enough sample, but still the largest exercise in collating the authentic memories of those who had actual first hand experience – and it paints a very different picture from the accepted media view. Why could that be? I was sent an interesting link during the week.
Campaigners believe the role such movies (the Magdalen Sisters)played in highlighting the issue justified any artistic embellishment, and this view is shared by Louise Lowe, director of the award-winning play Laundry (another portrayal of the alleged horror), who says The Magdalene Sisters “served an important function at the time”.
This is dangerously close to the view taken by those in the child abuse industry – what does it matter if the original reports from Duncroft were exaggerated, embellished, and in some cases, outright lies? They served a greater purpose, allowing some 400 other individuals to come forward with tales of abuse at Savile’s hands…all grist to the mill.
The constant repetition of advertisements from the NSPCC showing highly vulnerable and obviously prepubescent and unhappy small girls in winsomely oversized nightgowns is drumming the message into our heads – ‘when we say child abuse, this is the picture we want you to hold in your head’ – and a disgusting abhorrent picture it is too, who could begin to defend sexual activity with such an innocent? Yet the reality is that action against child abusers currently comprises a series of arrests of geriatric entertainers who are alleged to have received oral sex from a groupie 30 years ago who now says she was 15 at the time, and her new ‘friend’ says that’s child abuse…
So successful has been the media campaign, that both the expensive reports recently published – Yewtree and the MacAleese report were greeted with howls of rage by the public. ‘Whitewash’, ‘Coverup’ – euphemisms for ‘Where’s our Paedophile Ring. We were promised a paedophile ring!’ Promised by whom? Those who were actually present, or the media?
Who is it that is so insistent that we should loose all faith in religious institutions of any variety and men in general (unless they are safely married to other men!)?