Of Irish Slaves and Irish Slang

I have recently had cause to criticise the absurd ‘Irish Slavery Meme’ which has been challenged by a number of historians, most notably Liam Hogan of Limerick. While this may seem like a deviation from the aims of CassidySlangScam, which is primarily about the Irish language and more specifically about the ridiculous fake Irish etymologies produced by the late Daniel Cassidy, there are clear parallels between these two dishonest sets of claims.

In both cases, a meme which is almost entirely rubbish is being circulated virally, often by horrible people with a particular agenda. With Cassidy’s work, many of his supporters are naïve and foolish people who believe they are defending the Irish language when they support Cassidy’s ridiculous made-up rubbish. With the Irish Slavery Meme, many of them are White Supremacists who claim that their ancestors had it worse than African slaves but you won’t find them bitching and moaning and asking for positive discrimination, blah blah blah …

In both cases, the meme is of relatively recent origin. Cassidy’s ludicrous nonsense first started to spread when he published his first articles in 2003. The Irish slavery meme has precursors going back over a hundred years in the work of Thomas Addis Emmett but didn’t go mainstream until  the publication of To Hell or Barbados, a highly inaccurate book written by a journalist (not a historian) and published in 2001. It has never had any currency among genuine historians.

In both cases, there is a core of genuine information surrounded by immense quantities of guff. In both cases, the genuine information is non-controversial and accepted by both sides. In the Cassidy case, there is a handful of derivations which are accepted (shebeen, puss, phoney etc.) by all dictionaries but most of Cassidy’s claims link English expressions to made-up ‘Irish’ phrases. In the Irish Slavery meme, there is no doubt that a certain number of people were essentially kidnapped from Ireland and transported against their will to the colonies (especially for a few years in the 1650s) where they were forced to work as indentured servants for a number of years. The followers of this meme vastly inflate the numbers involved, claim that the indentured servants were slaves or were treated worse than slaves, and that this ‘Irish slave trade’ continued for hundreds of years.

In both cases, we find some of the same names supporting this rubbish: IrishCentral and Niall O’Dowd; Donnacha DeLong; Mike McCormack.

In both cases, the fakeness of most of the evidence presented can easily be established. It’s just that people are either too lazy to go looking for it or unwilling to have their fantasy version of the world challenged by facts.

In both cases, anyone who argues that this meme is fake news and completely untrue is verbally attacked by people who claim that their position is ‘anti-Irish’ or Anglophile, or that they are ‘deniers’, as if denial of lies is a bad thing!

In both cases, this results in the claim that orthodox academia has somehow suppressed the truth about the Irish origins of American slang or the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Irish slaves and that these ‘truths’ should be acknowledged by academics or taught in schools – even though there isn’t a shred of evidence that these things happened.

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