Sinead O’Connor 1966-2013: Woman of Integrity

July 28, 2023
Sinead O’Connor. Photo: Grussworte

Like the rest of the world, I am digesting the news of the death of Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, although unlike many of her fans, I know her mainly for one thing: tearing up the picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live.

And everybody knows about that. I remember coming to work the next day and hearing the young Catholic women rage and rage about it. I hadn’t watched SNL the night before – I heard it for the first time from the ragers – but I remember thinking, “Get a grip. It’s just this woman’s opinion and she has a right to it.”

But they wouldn’t get a grip. It spawned a pearl clutch in the shallow US news media, who, bobbleheads that they are, slavered over this public relations savvy pope like he had granted them absolution from thinking. Up to this time, Sinead had a meteoric rise in her career as a singer-songwriter, and I never heard her name again except in connection with the pope incident.

But I have thought about Sinead every day for the past dozen years or so. She was the first person I remember being cancelled for her view. Singular. For one opinion, though of course she had many others. Even the Smothers Brothers survived controversy after controversy. And the cancellation was swift, complete, and irrevocable – even after she had been shown to be right.

And she was so right. She was so so right. The horrific extent of sexual abuse by priests and the extent of coverups by the higher clergy, including the pope, eventually did become widely known, although it took years of work by dedicated survivors to make the crimes visible. That work had already started when Sinead gave her infamous performance, but certain segments of the population – including the wealthy elites who guard the gates of fame – were not willing to contemplate uncomfortable truths.

So the reason I have been thinking about Sinead has to do with the current cancel culture around gender identity, though the gender critical movement has too many martyrs to iterate in a short blog post. There are lessons from the church sexual abuse scandals that can be applied here. The first is that the more correct, and the more urgent, the criticism of a powerful authority, the more unforgiving will be the backlash. The second is that reckoning takes a very long time. The third is that the US media and entertainment industry is more fucked up than the Catholic Church.

There has never been any doubt in my mind that the gender industry will one day be universally acknowledged as the sex abuse scandal that it is. From the musty halls of Berkeley’s sociopathic sociology department  to the antiseptic surgical units of Mayo Clinic, it will be aired and flushed. The question is when. Truth is a bitch, and many people hate her. The truth – other people’s reception of the truth – came too late for Sinead. If other women of integrity are waiting for a mea culpa from the craven cheerleaders of elitest decadence, we’ll have to wait for our own funeral.