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.