Category Archives: Irish Slavery meme

Racists Use This Fake Quote From Aristotle

Last year, I spent a lot of time writing in support of Liam Hogan, a historian who has opposed the fake Irish Slavery meme. Here’s an example of another piece of fakery used by the right-wing to justify their intolerant, half-baked nonsense, which I have reblogged from the excellent Sententiae Antiquae. Enjoy!

SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

“Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society”

The character of this quotation is alien to Aristotle and ancient Greek ideas including using “tolerance” in this way and “dying society” (see the quora discussion). I poked around a bit through Aristotle, changing some of the ideas (an ancient Greek might think of “sick” or “corrupt” society”) but there is nothing close to this.

While searching, I found the variation “Tolerance is the last virtue of a depraved society” attributed to Dr. James Kennedy (an Evangelical preacher) and then Hutton Gibson (father of Mel Gibson and Holocaust Denier). Some of the mis-translations and fake translations can be found in quote books from the 19th century. This one does not appear in any books older than a decade or so and mostly in self-published racist texts whose titles and authors I will not print.

One…

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Spirited Away le Maggie Plummer – Léirmheas

Is dócha go gcuimhneoidh léitheoiri an bhlag seo ar na haltanna a phostáil mé anuraidh inar thacaigh mé le Liam Hogan ó Luimneach, duine a bhfuil cion fir déanta aige le troid in éadan mhéim (nó mhiotas!) Sclábhaíocht na nGael. Is píosa raiméise é seo, cacamas athbhreithnitheach a bhfuil cuma bhréagach na staire air. De réir na méime seo, cuireadh neart Gael chuig na coilíneachtaí i dTuaisceart Mheiriceá agus i Muir Chairib sa tseachtú haois déag, san ochtú haois déag agus fiu sa naoú haois déag, díoladh mar sclábhaithe iad agus caitheadh ní ba mheasa leo ansin ná mar a caitheadh leis na sclábhaithe Afracacha. Is é an ‘ceacht’ atá le baint as seo, dar lena lán, ná más féidir le Gael-Mheiriceánaigh iad féin a tharraingt amach as ainnise na sclábhaíochta, ba chóir go mbeadh Afra-Mheiriceánaigh ábalta an rud céanna a dhéanamh. Ni nach ionadh, is Forchiníochaithe Geala iad an chuid is mo de na daoine a chuireann an raiméis seo chun cinn.

Má amharcann tú ar Irish Slavery ar Twitter, tá a lán barúlacha ann ar nós ‘The Irish were slaves too’ agus a lán barúlacha eile a bhréagnaíonn iad. Ó am go chéile, áfach, bíonn teachtaireacht ann faoi leabhar darb ainm Spirited Away le Maggie Plummer. Tá léirmheasanna léite agam ar an úrscéal seo faoi na ‘Gaeil a goideadh’ roimhe seo, ach roinnt seachtainí ó shin, shocraigh mé go gceannóinn cóip de agus go léifinn é. Ní as siocair go raibh dúil agam san ábhar, ach mheas mé gur chóir do dhuine éigin atá in éadan na méime é a léamh agus léirmheas ionraic a chur ar fáil.

Is raiméis lom an leabhar seo ó thús go deireadh. Tosaíonn sé le Plummer ag labhairt ar an ‘taighde’ a rinne sí ar théama Sclabhaíocht na nGael. Deir sí gur díoladh Gaeil tríd an chéad trí scór bliain den 17ú haois agus go raibh suas le 100,000 duine i gceist. Mar a chonaic muid roimhe seo, is figiúr randamach an 100,000 a chum Thomas Addis Emmett (agus a luaigh James Connolly agus A.M. Sullivan ina dhiaidh.) Nil sé bunaithe ar fhianaise ar bith. Na Gaeil a fuadaíodh nó a gabhadh mar chimí cogaidh i gcogaí Chromail, is mar sheirbhísigh dhintiúir a cuireadh chuig na coilíneachtaí iad, ní mar sclábhaithe. Tugadh dintiúr suas le deich mbliana do na príosúnaigh chogaidh. Is cruálach agus is uafásach an scéal é go bhféadfaí dintiur níos faide ná sin a thabhairt do pháistí, mar níor saoradh iad go raibh bliain agus fiche bainte amach acu.

Is le moll amaidí a thosaíonn an leabhar seo agus téann rudaí chun sioparnai as sin amach. Insíonn sé eachtraí cailín a bhfuil sracadh inti darb ainm Frederica (Freddie) O’Brennan. Tá Freddie trí bliana déag d’aois agus ina cónaí i gCill Chainnigh nuair a thosaíonn an leabhar sa bhliain 1653. Seo i ndeireadh ceann de na tréimhsí ba mheasa agus ba choscraí i stair na hÉireann. Bhí cogaíocht agus gorta agus galar i ndiaidh slad a dhéanamh ar an tír (mar a deir Plummer sa réamhrá, cé go bhfuil na meastúcháin faoi chéatadán an phobail a fuair bás ró-ard, mar is gnách le Plummer). Ach de réir cosúlachta, níor chuir na heachtraí tubaisteacha sin isteach ar mhuintir Bhraonáin. Bhí feirm acu, a lán bia, roinnt capall agus bó, agus cairt. Agus arán agus mil.

Ar ndóigh, ní raibh ach fíorbheagán daoine de bhunús Gaelach in Éirinn sa tseachtú haois déag a raibh Béarla acu. Agus nuair a bhain siad úsáid as an Ghaeilge, bhíodh a gcuid ainmneacha i nGaeilge. Ní O’Brennan nó Ó Braonáin a bheadh uirthi, ach an leagan baininscneach, Ní Bhraonáin. Agus maidir le Frederica nó Freddie, ní ainmneacha Gaelacha iad sin. Bheadh sé chomh maith ag Plummer Cheyenne nó Chelsea nó ainm randamach ar bith eile a roghnú ó scuad áitiuil na ngárthóirí molta in Montana. Níl leagan Gaeilge ann de Frederica, go bhfios domsa, agus ní bheadh an t-ainm sin in úsáid ag Gaeil in Éirinn sa 17ú haois. Mar an gcéanna leis an ainm Ryanne. Is ainmneacha Gael-Mheiriceánacha iad sin, ni ainmneacha Gaelacha.

Tá Freddie amuigh ag marcaíocht ar chapall breá nach mbeadh sí ábalta é a choinneáil, is dócha, agus cogadh dearg ag dul ar aghaidh sa tír, agus nuair a fhilleann sí ar an teach, tá saighdiúirí Chromail ag tógáil a hathar leo. Tá sé le dul chun na Spáinne le troid ar son na Corónach, mar dhea. Cé acu coróin, áfach? Coróin na Spáinne? Ba phoblacht nó ‘commonwealth’ é Sasana in 1653 agus bhí Cromail ann mar cheann stáit in áit rí nó banríona. Agus ní raibh cogadh ann idir na Sasanaigh agus na Spáinnigh go fóill.

Ar scor ar bith, deir duine de na saighdiúirí Sasanacha go gcaithfidh siad imeacht agus an fheirm a fhágáil, ach fágann sé na rudaí luachmhara uilig acu, rudaí ar nós na mbó agus na gcapall. Ó aidhe, agus tá cead acu an Bíobla a thabhairt leo fosta. Teaghlach Caitliceach in Éirinn sa 17ú haois, agus Bíobla acu. Tugann siad aghaidh ar Ghaillimh, mar a bhfuil aintín dá gcuid ina cónaí. I nGaillimh, bualann strainséir bob ar Freddie agus a deirfiúr Aileen. Cuirtear ar bord loinge iad agus cuirtear chuig oileáin Mhuir Chairib iad.

Ag an phointe seo, éiríonn gach rud cineál gáirsiúil. Díoltar na cailíní ar ceant mar sclábhaithe agus iad lomnocht. Bíonn íomhánna de na ceantanna lomnochta seo coitianta go leor ar line i gcomhthéacs ‘Sclábhaíocht na nGael’. Is seanphictiúir ón 19ú haois déag iad, pictiúir Fhrancacha a bhí lonnaithe i saol na seanRómhánach nó i saol na nArabach, cosúil leis an cheann thuas.

Díoltar Freddie, brandáiltear le hiarann te í agus éignítear í. Tá an chuid seo tipiciúil de chineál ficsean stairiúil ar a dtugtar bodice-ripping i mBéarla (scéal réabtha cabhlach). Is iontach an méid uaireanta a luann Plummer an focal cabhail (bodice). Cibé rud a tharla do na cailíní óga Gaelacha a cuireadh chuig oileáin Mhuir Chairib – agus ní duine saonta mé agus is cinnte gur imríodh mí-úsáid ghnéasach ar chuid de na daoine óga seo – ní sclábhaithe a bhí iontu. Níor díoladh mar sclábhaithe buana iad. Ní dhéantaí iad a bhrandáil, mar ní earra nó sealúchas nó maoin a bhí iontu. Agus is rídheacair a shamhlú gur cuireadh cailíní óga ar ceant lomnocht faoin tseanPhiúratánach sin Cromail, cibé rud a tharla go príobháideach. Bhí Cromail agus a chuid maolagán sásta go leor babaithe a dhúnmharú ach daoine gan éadaí in áit phoiblí – sin scéal eile ar fad!

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, níl a fhios ag an údar faic na fríde faoi Éirinn sa tseachtú haois déag agus níl a fhios aici faic na fríde bídí faoin sclábhaíocht ná faoin tseirbhíseacht dintiúir sa Mhuir Chairib sa tréimhse sin.

Aisteach go leor, ní dóigh liom gur ciníochaí í Plummer. Bíonn Afracaigh nó Bundúchasaigh Mheiriceá uasal, cineálta sa leabhar seo. Is Sasanaigh iad an chuid is mó de na drochearraí in Spirited Away. Agus is aisteach an dóigh a mbíonn sí ag díol an leabhair seo ar Twitter taobh le daoine a chreideann nach bhfuil daoine de bhunús Afracach chomh maith le daoine geala ó thaobh na géineolaíochta de. Ar dhóigh, cuireann sé i gcuimhne dom duine a bhíonn ag freastal ar linseálacha le líomanáid a dhíol agus a ghnóthaíonn neart airgid as. Mise? Níor linseáil mise duine ar bith riamh! Níl mise ach ag díol líomanáide le duine ar bith atá á hiarraidh …

Lena rá ar bheagán focal, is cacamas an leabhar seo. Cuireann an drochscríbhneoireacht agus an drochthaighde ó mhaith é. Ní fiú faic é. Duine ar bith a mheasann go bhfaighidh siad eolas iontaofa faoi stair a shinsear ó Éirinn (agus ar an drochuair, tá a lán daoine dá leithéid ann, de réir na léirmheasanna deimhneacha ar Amazon), tá dul amú air nó uirthi.

Spirited Away by Maggie Plummer – A Review

Readers of this blog may remember that I posted a number of items last year in support of Liam Hogan of Limerick, who has done great work in standing up to the Irish Slavery meme. This is a piece of revisionist nonsense masquerading as history. The meme claims that the Irish were sent to the colonies in North America and the Caribbean in the seventeenth, eighteenth and even nineteenth centuries as slaves and that they were treated worse than African slaves. The usual ‘moral’ drawn from this is that if the Irish-Americans could pull themselves up from the degradation of slavery, African Americans should be able to do the same. Not surprisingly, most of the people who promote this nonsense are White Supremacists.

When you look at Irish Slavery on Twitter, there are lots of comments saying that ‘The Irish were slaves too’ and lots of comments saying the opposite. However, every few tweets, there is one about a book called Spirited Away by Maggie Plummer. I have read reviews of this ‘novel of the stolen Irish’ before, but just recently I decided to buy a copy and read it. Not because I wanted to, but because I felt someone should read it and provide a review.

This book is absolute nonsense from beginning to end. It starts with Plummer’s ‘research’ about the theme of Irish Slavery. She states that the Irish were sold as slaves throughout the first six decades of the 17th century and that up to 100,000 Irish were treated this way. As we have seen, this figure of 100,000 is a random figure invented by Thomas Addis Emmett (and later quoted by James Connolly and A.M Sullivan.) It is based on no evidence at all. The Irish who were kidnapped or taken as prisoners of war in the Cromwellian wars were sent as indentured servants, not as slaves. Prisoners of war could be given up to ten year indentures, while children, perversely, couild be kept for longer until they reached the age of majority.

The book starts with a great deal of silliness and gets worse. It recounts the adventures of a spirited girl called Frederica (Freddie) O’Brennan, who is thirteen and living in Kilkenny in the year 1653 at the start of the book. This is the end of one of the most traumatic periods in Irish history. The land had been ravaged by war and disease (as Plummer states in the introduction, though her estimates about the proportion of the population who died are characteristically high). Yet the O’Brennan household had not been affected by these catastrophic events, apparently. They had a farm, plenty of food, several horses and cows, and a cart. And bread and honey.

Of course, very few Gaelic Irish people spoke English in the 17th century. And where they spoke Irish, they would have used Irish forms of their name. This girl would not have been called O’Brennan. She would have been called the female form, Ní Bhraonáin. As for Frederica or Freddie, she might as well have called her Cheyenne or Chelsea or any other random name from the local cheerleading squad in Montana. There is no Irish form of Frederica and nobody would have called their child that in 17th century Ireland. The same goes for Ryanne. These are Irish –American names, not Gaelic names.

Freddie, as she’s known, is out riding a fine horse which probably would have been taken from her by somebody in this time of war, and comes back to find English soldiers leading her father away. He’s being taken to fight for the Crown in Spain, apparently. Whose Crown? The Spanish Crown? Because at this stage, England was a Republic, or Commonwealth, with Cromwell at its head. And the English were not fighting the Spanish in 1653.

Anyway, an English soldier tells them to get off their farm, but leaves them all the valuable things like cows and horses. Oh, yes. And they take their Bible with them. An Irish Catholic family in the 17th century. With a Bible. They head off to an aunt living in Galway. In Galway, Freddie and her sister Aileen are tricked and forced to go on board a ship. They are sent to the Caribbean.

Here, the whole thing becomes pretty lurid. There is a naked slave auction. Images of such slave auctions are common enough on line in the context of ‘Irish Slavery’. They are taken from 19th century French pictures of slave auctions in Ancient Rome or in the Arab world, just like the one above.

Freddie is sold, branded, raped. It’s typical of a certain genre of historical fiction called bodice-ripping. It’s amazing how often Plummer mentions bodices. Whatever happened to young Irish girls who were sent to the Caribbean – and I’m not naïve enough to think that such sexual abuse didn’t happen – these people weren’t slaves, sold in perpetuity. They wouldn’t have been branded because they weren’t property. And it’s hard to imagine that slaves were auctioned naked under the old Puritan Cromwell, whatever happened in private. Cromwell and his roundheads were quite happy to slaughter babies but people naked in a public place – that’s another matter entirely!

In other words, the author knows damn all squared about Ireland in the seventeenth century and damn all cubed about slavery and indentured servitude in the Caribbean.

Strangely, it seems to me that she is probably not a racist. Black characters are generally depicted as noble or kind, while the villains are all English. Which makes it doubly strange to find her peddling her wares on Twitter beside people who think African Americans are genetically inferior. In a way, it reminds me of someone who attends lynchings to sell lemonade and makes a huge amount of money out of it. Me? I never lynched anybody. I’m just selling lemonade to whoever wants it …

In summary, this book is dross. It is badly-written, badly-researched and entirely devoid of merit. Anyone who thinks this will inform them about the history of their Irish ancestors (and sadly, there seem to be a lot of them, judging by the positive reviews on Amazon) is deluding themselves.

November’s Twit of the Month – James Wilson of IrishCentral

There was fierce competition for the Twit of the Month again. The obvious contender was Tommy Graham of History Ireland, who claimed that he had not received Liam Hogan’s rebuttal of Mike McCormack’s idiotic letter in time to publish it. The question I immediately asked myself is this. Did Tommy Graham send him an email to remind him? Did he make sure that Hogan knew the closing date? The apology Graham made is welcome but it’s not as if an attack by an idiot like Mike McCormack is really going to damage the reputation of a careful and intelligent historian like Hogan. The reason why Tommy Graham should be bending over backwards to make things right (apart from the fact that it’s the right thing to do) is that the reputation of History Ireland has been damaged by this. History Ireland looks bad and it’s going to continue to look very shite-coloured until Liam Hogan gets a chance to put his side of the story. So, Tommy Graham is still in the frame but I’ll leave it until the next issue of History Ireland in 2018 to see what happens.

Another potential candidate was the ridiculous pseudo-historian Peter Linebaugh (I have already had a go at him, but only in brief) but as I was preparing my critique of him, I found another and more timely target.

James Wilson wrote an article recently in IrishCentral which irritated me beyond measure. You can find it here: (https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/others/how-the-irish-became-white-is-a-history-book-that-fails-the-history-test)

Until recently, IrishCentral has been one of the highest profile propagators of the myth of Irish Slavery. Under the misdirection of Niall O’Dowd, IrishCentral produced an article which is essentially copied from an article by an ‘expert’ called John Martin (apparently an alias anyway), an article which itself quotes extensively from the work of a well-known racist and Holocaust-denier. After being lobbied for over a year by Hogan and other historians, O’Dowd then wrote a nauseating article (without removing the offending nonsense) which claimed that the Irish were both slaves and indentured servants. I have dealt with this cynical and unpleasant article already (Niall O’Dowd Answers Critics).

Recently, IrishCentral finally removed the offending article and they have now added James Wilson’s article, which is a review of Noel Ignatiev’s book How The Irish Became White. Rather than tackle the Irish Slavery Meme and its supporters directly, James Wilson has produced a poorly-written article about a book which really has little to do with the Irish Slavery Meme as challenged by Liam Hogan.

The first sentence shows that Wilson has no idea what the book is about: “The title of the book is simply a shoddy attempt to conflate Irish suffering with slavery and a cheap attempt to pander to white grievance.” No it isn’t. I don’t like Noel Ignatiev’s book much either. Its fundamental argument, that race is a social construct and that the Irish were forced into becoming racists because of their quasi-white status at the bottom of the ethnic ladder, is overstated. As Wilson says, the Irish were always white. But the Irish Slavery Meme didn’t really exist back in 1995, when Ignatiev’s book was published, and Ignatiev is a radical Marxist, not some ignorant White Supremacist. Why not attack the target IrishCentral itself has just spent several years promoting, rather than attacking a fake target like Ignatiev? Because, of course, that would involve some genuine contrition and a willingness to wash IrishCentral’s dirty linen in public.

And if you’re going to take the right line over the difference between chattel slavery and indentured servitude, then at least read a book or two and do it properly! Don’t produce weak-minded dilettante shite like this. These are important issues and they deserve to be discussed intelligently and properly. The difference between chattel slavery and indentured servitude is not to do with one being voluntary and the other involuntary. Wilson says that: “At no point in US history were the Irish kidnapped from their homeland and brought shackled to America.” Actually, in the years following the Cromwellian Wars, an estimated 12000 Irish people, many of them children, were kidnapped and sent on an involuntary basis to America and to the Caribbean. They weren’t slaves because they had legal rights and their service was time-limited. Most indentured servants were voluntary (but not all). The vast majority of them weren’t ‘worked to death’, or worked harder than African slaves, though some of them did die waiting for their their contracts to run out. (Just as many free people died of malaria, yellow fever and tuberculosis in Virginia and other colonies.) But indentured servitude and the chattel slavery of Africans were different. Fundamentally, radically different, in terms of numbers, time scale and severity of treatment. And it’s important that we get the facts about that right.

In a way, the attitude of IrishCentral reminds me of a character in the film Twelve Angry Men. Juror No. 7 has a ticket to the baseball game, so he votes guilty at first, hoping to get the jury service over quickly. It’s a murder case and a boy’s life is at stake. Eventually, as the time for the game draws near, he changes to not guilty, and is shocked when the people who were just trying to convince him to vote not guilty are angry with him. “What sort of a man are you?” says Juror 11, with disgust.

That’s my attitude towards IrishCentral. This stuff is important. If the folks at IrishCentral have done an about-face and now think the Irish Slavery Meme is worth criticising, then they should do some research and get their facts right. Perhaps they could invite Liam Hogan to write a few articles!

However, if they can’t be bothered doing any research and if they really don’t give a toss about educating the people who use their website about the false nature of the Irish Slavery Meme, then they should stick to the usual crap about leprechauns and recipes for Irish apple cake and leave the serious issues alone.

 

The Accidental Racist

A few weeks back, there was a big to-do over a letter by Mike McCormack, National Historian of the AOH (hopefully ex-Historian of the AOH by now, if that organisation has any respect for its good name at all!) in the magazine History Ireland. McCormack made a gratuitous, childish and entirely unwarranted attack on Liam Hogan, the Limerick historian who has done such excellent work in challenging the racist Irish Slavery Meme.

Bizarrely, McCormack characterised some of Hogan’s work as ‘Paddy-bashing’. Why? Well, Liam Hogan has been criticising the spread of the Irish Slavery meme among Irish Americans, and the way that racists and people who are ignorant of their own heritage have used this fake revisionist version of history to belittle the terrible injustices suffered by the African American community by saying that the Irish were slaves too and that they suffered worse than African Americans but they aren’t ‘bitching and moaning’. That this kind of racist nonsense has been spread far and wide, shared by hundreds of thousands of people of Irish descent, is undeniable. Go on line looking for Irish Slaves on social media and you will find plenty of hateful, nasty comments directed at groups like Black Lives Matter. Mike McCormack, in his absurd letter, claimed that Hogan is distorting the truth and exaggerating this racist presence on the internet in order to depict Irish Americans as racists. Apparently, because Mike McCormack doesn’t know any racists in the Irish American community, there aren’t any, and people like Hogan are being racist against Irish Americans by pointing out the spread of this racist poison in that community.

Liam Hogan isn’t a racist. Neither is Mike McCormack, judging by some of the articles he has written. The problem is that McCormack is refusing to look at the implications of the Irish Slavery meme honestly. There were no Irish slaves. There were Irish indentured servants, some of whom were involuntary (prisoners of war or effectively poor people kidnapped from Ireland). Their servitude was time-limited (even the prisoners, who were characteristically given servitude contracts of ten years). It was totally different from the slavery that African Americans were subjected to.

The problem with revisionist theories like the Irish Slavery Meme is that there are many people who don’t share the racist views of many of the people who spread them. They aren’t racists but the ideas they are spreading are clearly giving support to those who do hold racist views. To give just one example, one of the most popular Irish Slavery books is Rhetta Akamatsu’s book The Irish Slaves: Slavery, Indentured Servitude, and Contract Labor Among Irish Immigrants. Rhetta Akamatsu is presumably not a white supremacist, as her husband is of Japanese descent. But her book is badly researched and full of mistakes (for example, the Amazon Irish slaves of 1612, who didn’t exist), which is unsurprising in that she is not a proper historian but a writer specialising in books about the paranormal. One revealing article says that she often sits down to watch her favourite programmes, including Ancient Aliens! I’ll say nothing …

There are lots of these accidental racists. Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin ended up in hot water in 2016 with a badly-considered tweet about how three hundred thousand Irish were sold as slaves. Máirtín Ó Muilleoir of Sinn Féin is part of a media consortium which owns IrishCentral, which carried an appalling article peddling nonsense originating in the claims of a Holocaust-denier called Hoffmann. (I notice that the article is now no longer available on IrishCentral. Perhaps if they’re removing lies from that site, they could ditch the rubbish by Brendan Patrick Keane as well!) Neither Adams nor Ó Muilleoir are racists, and the policies of their party are clearly and unambiguously opposed to all forms of racism. The fact that they have found themselves on the wrong side in these debates is down to stupidity, not malice.

And it’s very interesting that, though Barry Fell was not a racist, the ideas that he spread about Europeans coming to the New World fit in well with a whole tradition about the spread of civilisation from the drowned continent of Atlantis, ideas which suggest that civilisation came from white people and wasn’t developed independently by Amerindians. (Norman Totten, a friend of Barry Fell’s, set up a straw man in his posthumous defence of Fell, which you can read here: http://www.equinox-project.com/esop81.htm In reality, none of the three comments quoted accuses Fell of being racist – they state, quite rightly, that Fell’s theories can have racist implications.)

It’s also interesting to note that while I’m sure Fell wasn’t a Maori-hater, he spent a long time in New Zealand and his ideas about white settlers in ancient times in the Pacific fits in with the ideas of 19th century writers like Tregear, whose beliefs were nonsense but were pro-Maori (author of The Aryan Maori: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Tregear). Fell’s ideas and Tregear’s theories have given rise to a looney-tune far-right movement in New Zealand which has completely reversed Tregear’s respect for the Maori and claims that Celts went to Aotearoa in ancient times and that the Maori are therefore just blow-ins who have no prior claim to the land. This is probably the closest correspondence you could find to the use of the White Slavery Meme as a means of attacking African Americans.

In other words, you don’t have to be a racist to be an accessory to racist ideas. You should always check the accuracy of the ideas you are claiming. I don’t really care if Mike McCormack is a racist or not. But he should be as worried as I am about the spread of racist memes about Irish history. He should be doing everything in his power to stop such ideas in their tracks but because of his ignorance and lack of historical knowledge, he has helped to propagate the most vile pieces of nonsense and propaganda about the forced breeding of young Irish girls with ‘Mandingo warriors’, not because he is a white supremacist who hates black people, but because his sense of ancestral victimhood is more important to him than the truth.

Micmac Paddy Whack

Recently, I have criticised Mike McCormack, National Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians for his fake research and ignorance, especially in relation to the Irish Slavery Meme. One of these criticisms centred on his gullible acceptance of the claims of the late Dr Barry Fell, who claimed that the Americas were peppered with inscriptions in various European and North African languages which prove that Celts, Libyans, Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and what have you were all happily involved in trade and exploration in the New World thousands of years ago.

I have already given links to some of Barry Fell’s claims and to refutations of Fell’s ridiculous theories. However, to a debunker like myself, Barry Fell’s ideas seemed worth looking at because of the strong odour of bullshit emanating from them. With that in mind, I ordered a second-hand copy of America BC.

I can fully understand why people of limited education would be impressed by the book and by Fell’s credentials. Fell was a Professor at Harvard. However, significantly, he was a Professor of Marine Biology, not of archaeology or linguistics or ancient languages. Mike McCormack was also impressed at the fact that he was President of the International Epigraphic Society, though it should be pointed out that Barry Fell founded the Epigraphic Society and it was pretty much a one-man band. The book is full of convincing illustrations and diagrams and maps. There are comparisons between Egyptian hieroglyphs and a writing system used a few hundred years ago by Micmac Indians, which look really convincing. More on that later.

The reaction of the world of academia to Barry Fell’s claims has been almost entirely negative. A close associate of Fell’s called Norman Totten was also an academic at Bentley College and a genuine epigrapher called David Kelley who worked on Mayan also took his work seriously. (Though Kelley criticised much of Fell’s work, he accepted the idea that there were genuine European rock-carvings in the Americas, a belief that is not shared by most experts in anthropology or history or archaeology.) However, these people were exceptions. The overwhelming majority of scholars reject Fell’s claims.

Of course, conspiracy theorists and other lovers of the arcane and weird will no doubt take the contempt of the academic establishment as proof that Fell was onto something rather than as proof that he was nuts.

As I’ve said, one of the things that has convinced many people is where Fell takes a hieroglyphic system which was in use by Micmac Indians. There are no petroglyphs (rock carvings) which use these Micmac hieroglyphs and many experts believe that the system was invented by a French priest, perhaps using some traditional mnemonic signs which had been painted on birch-bark by the Micmacs. Fell plays down the amount invented by the priest and stresses the antiquity of the system. He also presents extremely convincing (on first inspection) correspondences between a Christian religious text in the Micmac system and Ancient Egyptian. However, although I don’t know anything about Egyptian hieroglyphs (or Micmac, for that matter), I am suspicious for several reasons.

Firstly, if I used a hieroglyphic system to write a sentence of English and the same sentence in Irish so that the principal concepts were represented by signs and not by an alphabet, the signs wouldn’t appear in the same place in the two versions. Yet in Fell’s version, the Micmac and the Egyptian correspond perfectly. This is doubly surprising because it appears that the Micmac system was a mixture of logograms and phonetic elements (like Japanese writing), as was Ancient Egyptian. In most cases, the correspondences of the Micmac symbols and the Egyptian symbols given by Fell aren’t that similar, even in his version. While I would like to see a proper treatment of this by an Egyptologist, I have searched out a few Egyptian hieroglyphs, such as heaven, gold and silver and I have been unable to find the same versions given by Fell. In other words, Fell’s version of Ancient Egyptian doesn’t seem to be genuine.

Let’s take a look at one claim made by Fell in the book which gives a good indication of how he did things. We have already looked briefly at the ogham script in a previous post. This was a Celtic script found in Ireland and Britain, which used scratches around a stem line to represent letters. Fell often ‘identified’ letters where there were fairly random scratches and no stem line, which is like a fraction without a denominator.

Fell also claimed that ogham was used as a kind of secret signalling system and he gives a table of hand signals which looks like some kind of deaf sign language. It doesn’t use vowels (which real ogham did), and the consonants are arranged into three groups of five, one with the left hand, one with the right and one with both hands. The claim that ogham was used for signalling is also found in Macalister’s Secret Languages of Ireland, but Macalister suggests that this was done in two ways, as Nose-Ogham, where the nose was used as the stem line and the fingers of one hand represent the letters, or as Leg-Ogham, where the fingers were arranged around the shinbone to represent letters. So where did Barry Fell’s two-handed version of the ogham signalling come from? There is no way of knowing, but the most likely conclusion is that Barry Fell made it up.

Then Fell looked at two Iberian statues which show people with fingers sticking out, corresponding to ‘letters’ on his made-up ogham chart. Apparently one of these, a naked statue, represents a warrior (because it’s naked and ancient Celtic warriors fought naked!) and his hands spell out the letters Q _ B. However, in the text, it says that it is Q _ T, representing the modern Irish word ‘cath’ meaning battle. (in other words, the caption and the text give two different versions of the two consonants!) He also shows a statue of a woman, whose hand signals supposedly correspond to Q _ N in Irish, or the modern Irish caoin, ‘mourn’. The hands of this female statue are simply stretched out in front of her with all digits extended, like someone who is offering a hug. Hmm.

To me, looking at these claims rationally, there are a number of possibilities, not just Fell’s certainty that he had solved a mystery and got it right:

  1. These statues have their fingers pointing in random ways and there is no significance to the way their hands are depicted.
  2. The fingers of the statues have some significance within the culture which produced the statues (a blessing, for example) but we don’t know what this was.
  3. Fell was right about the fingers having some alphabetic meaning but it could have been a completely different alphabetic system (since Fell’s version of ogham signalling is unsupported by any evidence).
  4. Fell got it right about the letters but was wrong about the language and it could have been some other language entirely.
  5. Fell got it right about the letters and the Celtic language but the meaning was completely different. After all, the letters q-n could stand for head, or dog, or harbour, or quiet, or gentle, or distant, depending on the vowels you choose to put in.

You could probably add to this list. I think 1. and 2. above are probable, while 3, 4 and 5 are highly improbable, or almost impossible. So, why did Fell believe he’d got it right if it wasn’t true?

I don’t know. There are some people who think they are always right, regardless of the subject. And though Fell was undoubtedly clever, there is no doubt that some clever people get the most outrageously stupid ideas in their heads and somehow manage to maintain them alongside more rational beliefs. (We have looked before at Charles Mackay, who was both one of the first identifiers of crankness and a major etymological crank.) I think Fell was one of those people who is mad with regard to one thing and rational about everything else. I could be wrong about that, but the fact that he identified Maui, the great Polynesian ancestor, as a Greek student of Eratosthenes, and ‘translated’ the mysterious Phaistos Disk, though he didn’t know what language it was written in (only that it was related to Luwian, apparently), don’t inspire confidence. Here is his confident and unfaltering ‘translation’ of the front of the Phaistos Disk:

The omens that you seek are explained in this tablet, every one. The omens that are sent forth for man’s destiny, every one. Whatever you may ask, great or small, if you are worried, is given (an answer), every one. Seek an omen by offering a sacrifice to the birds, that the Gods may be well disposed. Ask anything you wish, on this tablet is explained everything. You may ask anything by sacrificing an offering to the birds, that the Gods may from Heaven send forth an omen; everything is (answered) above the earth, deceiving never, everything. And so men may ask for protection, everyone. Should they (the Gods) be angered by something, or by the sacrifice, ill omens are released, all of them, signifying death or disaster; which appear upon asking, all of them.

Another reason to doubt Fell’s book is how old-fashioned it all looks now. It was published in the 70s but there is something very hippy about it. When I look through the photographs in the book, there are many photos of hairy archaeologists, often stripped to the waist, and line drawings of equally hairy ancients totally naked, some of which remind me of The Joy of Sex. (The Joy of Texts??) There is a lot of stuff about phallic cults. Apparently there are stone phalli in Vermont (no, not really) which have ‘ogham’ inscriptions referring to male fertility. Irish and Gaelic speakers will be very surprised to learn that ‘bog bod’ meant ‘erect penis’ to our ancestors. As the primary meaning of bog is soft, that doesn’t make any sense at all. Oh, and the adjective follows the noun in Irish.

In other words, America BC is a load of shite. Only an idiot would buy into this crap, and that’s why academia has ignored it – because there really is nothing of any value to it. Like the Irish Slavery meme, or Cassidy’s fake etymology, or the nonsense about Irish vampires, this is just fakery promoted by people who have no bullshit sensors and no common sense.

Where’s Liam Hogan’s Twitter Feed?

This morning, I tried to log on to Liam Hogan’s Twitter feed at Limerick1914. Apparently, the account Limerick1914 no longer exists. I’m assuming that Liam Hogan himself hasn’t removed it. So where’s it gone?

Strangely, you can still log on to Twitter and find the account of ‘Bob’, with comments like this:

People tend to forget the Irish were slaves too. My ancestors were Irish and I’m not pissing and moaning.

But the best source for the genuine information seems to have been suspended. Nice one, Twitter! What a shower of useless arseholes …