Tag Archives: IrishCentral

More on Niall O’Dowd …

Recently, I have had a go at Niall O’Dowd and his support for the bizarre conspiracy theory that slavery figured large in Irish history and that this truth has been suppressed by mainstream historians. I wrote several posts on this subject in support of Liam Hogan and other academics who have opposed the Irish slavery myth, not because they are pro-English, but because it is a myth and is being used by racists to belittle the African American experience of slavery. Of course, I have my own motives for piling on Niall O’Dowd and IrishCentral. They have consistently supported the weak-minded nonsense produced by Daniel Cassidy, in spite of all the evidence that Cassidy’s ‘research’ was rubbish and that Cassidy himself was a fraud.

I wrote these posts rather hastily and in the process, I made a mistake, taking a source which contained modern revisionist references to slavery as an accurate account of contemporary court records from New England. Liam Hogan contacted me to point this out and I have now made that clear on the post concerned. (This serves to demonstrate that history is best left to those who know what they’re doing, just as etymology shouldn’t be left to people who are unaware of the most basic facts of historical linguistics.)

In writing these posts, I forgot to mention a point which I had intended to discuss, O’Dowd’s comments on history itself. In his apologia, he says:

We cannot allow racist whites to delineate our history for us, nor politically correct thinking to ignore and deny that any Irish were ever slaves.

This is staggeringly hypocritical. So, it’s somehow letting racist whites win if we change our story and apologise, is it? Or is it those who are politically correct who would be allowed to win? (In fact, forget the politically. It’s people who are correct that O’Dowd doesn’t like, because they show him up!)

He reiterates the same point later on in the same article.

We cheapen it because we are scared of it being taken over by white racists, but we cannot allow them to own our historic reality either.

See how he presents himself as a champion of reason and moderate common sense? This is his focal scoir or parting shot:

History does not belong to any group or individual – it belongs to us all. How the Irish were treated in colonial America is a lesson we should never forget.

How noble! However, let’s just wind back a bit and take a look at the article on IrishCentral which caused all the trouble in the first place. You can find it here:

http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/irish-the-forgotten-white-slaves-says-expert-john-martin-188645531

As you can see, the article simply repeats all kinds of figures which are completely false and belong to the racist discourse. The article is completely indefensible. The most obviously dodgy claim is this one:

The Irish were further exploited when the British began to “breed” Irish women – or girls, sometimes as young as 12 – with African males.

There is absolutely no evidence for this lurid and politically motivated myth which is calculated to make the Aryan blood of rednecked simpletons everywhere boil. History belongs to people who have a commitment to telling the truth. And O’Dowd has shown time and time again that he doesn’t care a damn about getting the facts right. What a creep!

Niall O’Dowd Answers Critics!

A couple of days ago, Niall O’Dowd published a reply to those academics who put their name to Liam Hogan’s open letter criticising him for an article on IrishCentral which supports the idea that the seventeenth-century Irish were victims of enslavement and pointing out that the word slave is an emotive one with a specific meaning. You can find the reply here: http://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/niallodowd/why-the-irish-were-both-slaves-and-indentured-servants-in-colonial-america These Irish people were indentured servants or bonded labourers. Their plight was bad, the circumstances of their kidnap and deportation distressing. But Liam Hogan and others are at pains to point out that they were not chattel slaves the way generations of African-Americans were.

O’Dowd pretty much admits this and claims to deplore the way that the slave label has been used by right-wing groups to play down the legacy of slavery among African Americans.

The controversy has arisen because some far-right groups have claimed that the experience of Irish slaves was interchangeable with (or even in some cases worse than) the experience of black slaves, and have used that as justification for an array of abhorrent racist statements and ideas.

O’Dowd’s answer to his critics is every bit as feeble and incompetent as I would have expected. He mentions a well-known court case where a couple of young men, who were abducted by soldiers and shipped to the Americas against their will from the East Cork area, were effectively sued by their master for a breach of a contract to which they had never consented. To quote O’Dowd:

If we accept that a slave is someone “who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them,” as does the Oxford Dictionary, then I say let’s call it what it was according to those who lived and reported it: slavery AND indentured servitude.

We cannot allow racist whites to delineate our history for us, nor politically correct thinking to ignore and deny that any Irish were ever slaves.

Let’s take a  look at this one case of the Irish experience in the 17th Century in Massachusetts which certainly looked an awful lot like slavery to me.

That the boys were abducted by British soldiers at the end of the Cromwellian Wars is not in doubt. That this was about money and profit is also well known. That it was inhumane and wrong is also obvious. All the actions of the English in overrunning areas of Ireland which had previously been under native control and oppressing and exploiting the people of Ireland in the seventeenth century were immoral. Of course they were!

But we need to be careful about definitions, or we play into the hands of the racists who will claim that the Irish and the African experience are equivalent. In both the court case and the article below, the boys are referred to as slaves. (See the comment below from Liam Hogan. Apparently they were not referred to as slaves in the original document – this is a modern addition.) But when we look at the circumstances, it looks a lot less like chattel slavery as known among African Americans.

Here’s how the court case between William Downing and Philip Welch and their master Mr Symonds came about:

One Sabbath day evening in March, with plowing and planting foremost in his mind, Philip came into the parlor and asked Mrs. Symonds just who would be expected to do all the springtime work. Displeased with her answer he announced that after seven years of service to the family, he and William would work for them no more unless new terms were struck.

William Downing concurred that they had worked for free long enough and both boys reiterated their demands to Samuel Symonds. They knew of other stolen Irish children sent to Barbados who had been released from slavery after just four years. “If you will free us,” said Philip, “and pay us as other men we will plant your corn and mend your fences but we will not work with you upon the same terms as before.”

When one of the servant girls chastised the lads for troubling their master, Mrs. Symonds was heard to say, “let them alone; now they are speaking let them speak their own minds.” Samuel Symonds was not as tolerant of their protests as his wife. “You must work for me still, unless you run away,” he said, leaving no room for further discussion.

The following morning a constable arrived to arrest the boys. Philip Welch softened slightly at the prospect of incarceration and agreed to serve out his time if his master would promise to give him as good a portion of food as any of his children. Even the constable encouraged Symonds to reconsider his strict stance, but the master wouldn’t budge an inch. He filed charges against both slaves and held his ground.

I don’t know about you, but I would have thought that if any black slaves quibbled about their conditions, they would have been flogged to within an inch of their lives. Another point worth considering is that the boys lost the case and were returned to their servitude and O’Dowd leaves it at that. But that isn’t the end of the story. At least two of the four Irish boys mentioned in the case, Phillip Welch the defendant and John Downing, a witness, survived, married and had free children as free men in New England. Their descendants didn’t have to wait until the 19th century to own themselves, and they didn’t have to wait until the 1960s before they were allowed to register to vote. The point is, the very fact that there was a court case at all shows that this was different from chattel slavery. And did you notice the comment about Barbados? The kidnapped children there were apparently released after four years. Nobody disputes that these abductions were disgusting. But the servitude of the Irish exiles was time-limited. And we have to remember that most indentured servants in the colonies were voluntary. They signed up to it of their own volition and the majority of them weren’t Irish.

So, why is Niall O’Dowd sticking to his guns and refusing to back down? Well, I’m still waiting for an apology or retraction for his promotion of Cassidy’s insane book after two years. I personally don’t believe that O’Dowd has the decency to apologise. I believe that because that’s my experience of his behaviour. He’ll keep on splitting hairs and distorting the truth and dissembling, because being Niall O’Dowd means never having to say you got it wrong – even if everybody else can see you got it wrong.

Anyway, I look forward to reading Liam Hogan’s reply to O’Dowd! Hogan is a competent, intelligent man and a genuine historian and I’m sure he’ll make mincemeat out of him …

 

IrishCentral and Irish Slavery

Recently, I came across a fascinating document on line by an academic at the University of Limerick called Liam Hogan. In March 2016, in the run up to St Patrick’s Day, Hogan published an open letter to The Irish Examiner, Scientific American and IrishCentral, criticising the nonsense they have promoted which claims that huge numbers of Irish people were enslaved by the British and that the first slaves in the Caribbean and in the Americas were really Irish. Hogan is pointing out that the indentured servitude and penal servitude of the Irish in the 17th century, while it was harsh and brutal, wasn’t the same as chattel slavery and should not be compared directly to it. He also points out that there are outright fabrications, distortions and exaggerations in the accounts of Irish ‘slavery’.

You can find it here: https://medium.com/@Limerick1914/open-letter-to-irish-central-irish-examiner-and-scientific-american-about-their-irish-slaves-3f6cf23b8d7f#.mqeiu3req

Hogan states that it is important for people in the Internet age to check sources and be responsible in what they publish. He points out that white supremacists and opponents of the Black Lives Matter campaign are using this disinformation to make light of the legacy of slavery among African Americans.

The letter was signed by fifty academics, primarily history specialists. Two of the publications targeted by Hogan, the Irish Examiner and Scientific American, accepted the criticism and changed their output accordingly. What was the response of Niall O’Dowd and IrishCentral? Well, anyone who has read this blog will have a pretty good idea. The response was to ignore it. The original article is still on IrishCentral. You can find it here: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/irish-the-forgotten-white-slaves-says-expert-john-martin-188645531

There are some interesting parallels here to my issues with IrishCentral. For a number of years, IrishCentral has published and republished an article by Brendan Patrick Keane about the theories of the late Daniel Cassidy, who claimed that much American and English slang comes from the Irish language. This article, like Cassidy’s book, is an incompetent collection of lying garbage. I have repeatedly criticised it here, along with IrishCentral’s editor, Niall O’Dowd, who has continued to promote this pompous crap. My criticisms have been ignored. This is only a small blog, so perhaps that is unsurprising. However, the fact that Niall O’Dowd is such a creep that he simply ignores fifty prominent academics who are accusing him of supporting false claims which have been used by white supremacists to further their ends is a surprise, even to me. (And I have actually read Niall O’Dowd’s autobiography. Jeez, what a tedious waste of a day that was! Still, thank God I only read it. I didn’t have to live it …)

There is another interesting parallel. While we don’t know who penned the IrishCentral article on Irish slaves (it’s just labelled IrishCentral Staff) it quotes from a prominent 9/11 Truther called John Martin, who is described as an ‘expert’. Brendan Patrick Keane, the author of the crap article on Cassidy, is also a 9/11 Truther.

An even stranger parallel is that an Irish numpty called Donnacha DeLong supported Cassidy and was criticised by me here. Guess who published an article critical of Hogan on his blog in May 2016? Yep, Donnacha DeLong! You can find it here: https://donnachadelong.info/2016/05/13/irish-slavery-fact-or-myth/

DeLong’s arguments are as imbecilic as the crap he advanced in defence of Cassidy. He describes this as a ‘stupid debate’ and accuses Hogan of making ‘a name for himself condemning those who talk about the Irish history of slavery’. DeLong condemns racism and the racists who misuse the Irish slave meme but then says ‘lumping everyone who’s looking into the treatment of the Irish in the 17th Century in with neonazis and racists is simply wrong.’ He doesn’t explain who exactly is doing this lumping. Hogan is certainly not accusing everyone who believes in the Irish slavery meme of being a racist and he’s not saying that the English treated the Irish well. He’s saying that the way people of African descent were treated was much worse. Which it was.

DeLong recommends that people should look at other sources, like Peter Linebaugh’s co-written The Many-Headed Hydra. Linebaugh, a very mediocre Marxist historian, was also a big fan of Cassidy’s nonsense. Like DeLong’s, Linebaugh’s response to Cassidy’s work shows that he simply can’t be arsed doing the research a real historian or journalist should do.

Anyway, a thousand thanks and a big round of applause to Liam Hogan and to everybody else in this story who has stood up for honest, evidence-based research and journalism. As for Donnacha DeLong, Niall O’Dowd, John Martin, Brendan Patrick Keane and all the rest, shame on the lot of you, you shower of dim-witted post-truth arseholes! People like you make me ashamed to be Irish!

Old Media and New Media

I have just finished watching Aaron Sorkin’s media-based drama, The Newsroom. I enjoyed it as a series. The acting is good, the characters are likeable. The dialogue is a little wearing at times, as everybody has the same ultra-witty voice and style of delivery. However, the series made me think about the way that the media are changing and whether those changes are a good thing, a bad thing or a mixture of both.

For Sorkin, journalism is – or should be – a sacred calling. There are many comments in The Newsroom about the evils and dangers of citizen journalism and the great care that real journalists take in checking their facts, as well as the dire consequences of not doing the checking properly. Now, I am not blind to the dangers of some of the new media. The way that fake stories have been invented and propagated by dodgy sources is a great cause for concern. We have seen a lot of it recently, especially in connection with the Trump campaign.

My beef is, basically, that the role of the old media in spreading Cassidy’s lies shows quite clearly that they aren’t always the stalwart defenders of truth depicted in Sorkin’s fairytale. Since Cassidy’s work of fake etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, was published ten years ago, many newspapers have published uncritical and dim-witted articles about the Great Fraud and his theories: the New York Times; the Irish Times; the San Francisco Weekly; The San Francisco Chronicle; The Boston Globe (yes, the Spotlight paper); The Boston Phoenix; The New York Observer; The Irish News; the Irish Echo; Lá. And that’s just the newspapers. There have been a few skeptical and dissenting voices but mostly, Cassidy’s lies have been accepted at face value in the traditional media.

With the new media, it’s more of a mixed bag. There are several articles on the highly successful (and highly crappy) IrishCentral website which uncritically praise Cassidy’s work and give information which is obviously incorrect as if it were true. In IrishCentral’s defence, you could say that it has a comments column and that many, if not most, of the comments are highly critical of Cassidy’s scholarship. However, this is not much of a defence. It should be IrishCentral establishing the truth and telling the truth, with the comments section being the usual mix of crazy, bitter and sensible, not the other way round!

In short, what I’m saying is that there is good media and bad media and that’s more important than old or new. You would expect IrishCentral to produce rubbish because its former editor, Niall O’Dowd, doesn’t have much journalistic integrity and will obviously publish any story, however stupid, as long as it attracts readers.

Some new media have higher standards, of course. While Wikipedia is not perfect, it is pretty much free of Cassidese bullshit now, in spite of several crass attempts by dishonest members of Cassidy’s social circle to suppress the truth about his lack of qualifications.

And then, of course, there’s Cassidyslangscam. This blog is a new media format, but it has actually made the truth about Cassidy available to a lot of people when newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and books have continued to spread falsehoods. To give just one example, nobody would know that ‘Professor’ Cassidy didn’t have any qualifications if it weren’t for this blog. Cassidy’s sister Susan kindly volunteered the information that he flunked his degree, I confirmed it with the excellent registrar Cassie Dembosky at Cornell and published it here.

To the best of my knowledge, no newspaper or news programme has followed suit, though they were all very quick to publish Cassidy’s lies when they first came out.

Hugh Curran and Celtic Buddhism

A few days ago, I stated that I would remove these posts if Hugh Curran agreed to remove his comment from IrishCentral. For a while there, I was thinking that I had been a little harsh and should perhaps remove the last few posts anyway.

However, I have just been looking at an interesting site on Celtic Buddhism (http://www.celticbuddhism.org/lineage.html) and I have changed my mind. It turns out that Hugh Curran is (and I quote) a Lineage Holder of the Crazy Heart Lineage of Celtic Buddhism, a weird offshoot of Tibetan Buddhism incorporating elements of Celtic fakery. (For example, they’ve erected a stone circle at their centre, though most scholars believe that stone circles are pre-Celtic.) Another of the Lineage Holders is a talented but eccentric Irish-language poet, Gabriel Rosenstock, who was formerly a follower of an egregious ‘crazy wisdom’ guru called Heartmaster Da. Another thing which made me do a double-take was the claim that two of the Lineage Holders were the mystic G.I. Gurdjieff in a former life. Yes, two of them … Interestingly, they have a picture of a man called Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche on the website, who seems to have been instrumental in the founding of Celtic Buddhism. You can see Trungpa above, dressed in a kilt. You can also learn more about Trungpa on Wikipedia here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%B6gyam_Trungpa

According to some, he was a man of great spiritual force but he indulged in some unusual and distinctly non-Buddhist ways of mortifying the flesh, such as drinking vast quantities of alcohol, smoking mountains of fags and snorting lashings of cocaine.  Bizarrely, he once drove a sports car through the front window of a joke shop in Dumfries after imbibing vast amounts of Celtic spirituality. (I wonder if that was the Greater Vehicle or the Lesser Vehicle …) There’s also an unpleasant story about how a couple refused to get naked at one of his gatherings. This man ordered his guards (why does a holy man need guards?) to strip and humiliate a woman who was crying and begging people to call the police. For her own good, apparently, so that’s alright then … He also appointed a man as his successor who went on to infect a number of people with HIV (he knew he had it when he infected them.) And then there’s the rape allegation against this successor. You can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%96sel_Tendzin

I am certainly not suggesting that Curran was ever involved in this kind of sordidness. Neither Trungpa nor Tendzin were directly involved in Celtic Buddhism, which was founded by a pupil of Trungpa’s on his advice and recommendation. But it seems bizarre to me that anyone would expect good fruit to come from a diseased tree and the origin of this new lineage seems pretty corrupt and rotten to me. Curran says that I know nothing about his Buddhism. Ain’t that the truth! This doesn’t sound like any sort of Buddhism I’ve ever heard of, apart from the definition given in A Fish Called Wanda: the guiding principal of Buddhism is every man for himself. So, maybe the charge of hypocrisy is misplaced but not in a good way!

In other words, I think I got it right the first time round and that Curran is probably a silly and pretentious man. There’s a reason why he gravitated towards a liar like Cassidy. As I said, all sorts of phoneys are attracted to Cassidy and his daft book. That’s why I am taking the offer off the table. So, Curran, please keep your misleading and foolish little comment on IrishCentral and me, I’ll keep these comments here. People can make up their own minds who’s lying and who’s telling the truth.

Hugh Curran Defends Himself (In English)

I have just received an answer to my last post from Hugh Curran. As I suspected, he doesn’t speak Irish. Here are his comments and my answers to those comments.

First of all, I never claimed to be a fluent Irish speaker but I have explored the etymology of Irish names and places fairly extensively.. My cousins, my parents, my aunts and uncles are all fluent Irish speakers. Our family immigrated to northern Canada when I was only eight years old so we seldom spoke Irish after that.

No, you never specifically stated that you were a fluent Irish speaker. However, as I pointed out, anyone reading your comment would assume that you were fluent. If someone said that they taught French and were born in France, you would assume they were competent in the language. What reason do you have for telling people about your Irish credentials at the start of the comment other than to imply that you are qualified to make a judgement on this question, which you obviously aren’t? And as for your relatives speaking Irish, what relevance does that have? You are the one making the comment and you don’t speak Irish and are unqualified to decide what constitutes plausible Irish or implausible Irish.

I”m surprised at the degree of vituperation in your response, especially by calling me a “liar” because of my comments on Cassidy’s book. This is. to my mind, beyond the pale. Then you also feel the need to bring in my Buddhist background, which you have absolutely no knowledge of, which is so bizarre that there is little use in further discussion.

As for the degree of vituperation, that depends on whether Cassidy was a misunderstood genius or a half-crazy con-man. Strangely, this is an issue you don’t discuss in your message. This is the crux of the whole thing. Either Cassidy’s work is an appalling hoax which no decent human being would support, or it’s a revelatory work of linguistics. If it’s the former (which it is) then your comments are supporting lies and my anger is justified.

I have been working for years to inform people about Cassidy’s lies and his exploitation of the Irish language. The evidence is freely available but clowns like you continue to pretend that that evidence doesn’t exist and that you know better than all the scholars and linguists and lexicographers. It makes me angry to see people championing these lies, helping to fleece the gullible and worse still, encouraging people to believe that arrant nonsense like fo-luach and sách úr and gus óil are genuine Irish.

I am not a Buddhist, though I do know a fair amount about Buddhism and I have more respect for Buddhism than for most religions. You think it’s bizarre that I mention this but to me, Cassidy’s work is about egoism and bigotry and dishonesty. Unless I’ve been misinformed, Buddhism sets great store by honesty and truth and humility. In other words, I think there’s a degree of hypocrisy in your position.

I presume from your comment that “there is little use in further discussion” that we probably won’t hear from you again. You are welcome to reply and I will publish and answer anything you say. However, I would remind you that I challenged you (as I’ve challenged every supporter of Cassidy) to read the posts here and provide evidence to refute my refutation of his nonsensical book. A cynic might say that you are refusing to engage in further discussion because you know that this is an argument you’re not going to win, because myself and the other critics of Cassidy are the ones who are telling the truth.

However, this isn’t about you and it isn’t about me. At the end of the day, this is about Cassidy and his lies and it’s about ensuring that as few people as possible are misled and cheated. Remove your comment from IrishCentral and I will take down this post and the other two. Continue to act as an enabler for a dead con-man, and I will consider myself entirely justified in continuing to call you a liar.

Why Hugh Curran Is A Liar

A few days ago, I wrote a post in Irish. I had noticed that an individual called Hugh Curran had posted an ignorant and entirely indefensible comment in support of Cassidy’s ludicrous book on IrishCentral and in my post, I called him a liar and issued him with a challenge.

What was it that offended me so much? Well, Curran began his comment by telling readers that he was born in the Donegal Gaeltacht and teaches Irish. Let’s just examine this carefully. This gives the impression that Curran is a fluent Irish speaker. After all, if someone wrote “I was born in France and teach French,” wouldn’t you make the assumption that that person was fluent in French? I would.

So, why don’t I think Curran is fluent in Irish? Well, on 07/04/2011, he was asking Marion Gunn of Conradh na Gaeilge (https://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?A3=ind1104&L=IRTRAD-L&E=quoted-printable&P=51576&B=–&T=text%2Fplain;%20charset=utf-8&header=1) the following question:

A chara Marion, Are there any places that you are aware of in New Brunswick or Maine, or Massachussetts or New Hampshire that have Irish Gaeilge immersion weekends?

Now, Marion Gunn is an Irish speaker. If you were a learner with a good basic knowledge of Irish, wouldn’t you try out your Irish in circumstances like this? For some reason, he doesn’t bother trying. The only Irish in his communication is ‘A chara Marion.’ This is a bit of a smoking gun. To say Dear Marion, it would be ‘A Marion, a chara.’ (Most Irish speakers wouldn’t aspirate a foreign name like Marion, though it’s not wrong to do so.) It is quite plain from the way Curran translates it that he doesn’t know how to say this, which suggests that his knowledge of the language is patchy at most.

And if his knowledge of Irish is patchy, how can he make a valid judgement about the rightness or wrongness of the ‘Irish’ in Cassidy’s book? Where does his figure of 80% plausible and something over half of that 80% correct come from? Straight out of his arse! The figure of somewhere between 40 and 50% of the derivations in Cassidy’s book being correct is just nonsense. Of course, if I am wrong about his lack of Irish, he can defend himself by answering my challenge in the last post.

Furthermore, this arrogant and foolish man simply ignores all the evidence and all the critics, including critics on the same comments column where he wrote this nonsense – people who are smarter and better-informed than he is – and does a lot of vague and childish pontificating about how scholars don’t accept the amount of Irish influence on English out of bigotry and how the Irish themselves fail to recognise Cassidy’s genius because of some post-Famine Stockholm Syndrome and not because Cassidy was a nut with no degree and no knowledge of Irish. Whatever …

The fact is that myself and a number of other individuals have tried to inform people of the truth about this book. We don’t like people being fleeced by worthless rubbish which has no value and we definitely don’t like scum like Cassidy who don’t know any Irish exploiting our language to make money by conning naïve people. If Curran had any decency or integrity, he would go straight back to IrishCentral and delete his comment, or better still, write another one telling the truth about Cassidy and his lies.

The worst thing is that this man claims to be a Buddhist. We have seen a lot of frauds on this blog (Cassidy’s work attracts them) but it really is bizarre that a man who claims to be spiritually superior has such a huge ego and sense of self-importance. To me, it seems quite clear that far from being enlightened, this man’s head is so far up his arse that it would take a stout rope and a team of horses to extract it.