Tag Archives: Niall O’Dowd

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.

President Evil

I would like to express my horror and disdain at the election of Donald Trump to the White House. While we should not forget that Hillary Clinton won the majority of the votes, it is deeply shocking that a man like Trump was able to win sufficient support to take the Presidency. It is appalling that millions of people put their trust in this New York narcissist and alumnus of the New York Military Academy, a man who lied incessantly to get what he wanted, a man given to bullying and sexual harassment, and a man who accused anyone who challenged him of being an elitist and a pawn of the establishment. I am sure Corinne Marrinan and Peter Quinn and Michael Patrick MacDonald and Peter Linebaugh and Niall O’Dowd and Sean Sweeney and all the rest of them are as dismayed as I am at the result.

However, as these people have spent the last nine years defending Daniel Cassidy, a New York narcissist and alumnus of the New York Military Academy, a man who lied incessantly to get what he wanted, a man given to bullying and sexual harassment, and a man who accused anyone who challenged him of being an elitist and a pawn of the establishment, you’ll perhaps understand why I don’t have a lot of sympathy for these people. Welcome to the ‘post-truth’ world you helped to create, a world where facts count for nothing and any lie is justifiable in the service of your own particular ideology. As you can see, this kind of dumb-ass relativism cuts both ways. If smart metropolitan liberals can support mindless fact-free bullshit when it suits them, they don’t really have the right to get angry when knuckle-dragging dim-witted fascists do the same thing.

So, God help the American people, and God forgive all the morons  like Corinne Marrinan and Peter Quinn and Michael Patrick MacDonald and Peter Linebaugh and Niall O’Dowd and Sean Sweeney who helped to make this ‘post-truth’ nightmare a reality by not insisting that a lie is a lie is a lie, even when it comes from your friends.

More On The Famine Sitcom

Recently, I found out that the proposed Channel 4 ‘Famine Sitcom’ which caused so much controversy in January 2015 has been quietly shelved. At the time, I stated my position quite clearly. To create comedy gold out of the Famine would be a very tall order and I doubted whether it would be possible. But just because it’s problematic doesn’t mean people shouldn’t try. And it certainly doesn’t mean that others have a right to censor creative endeavours in advance just because they don’t like the concept. As a journalist pointed out in the Guardian, the right not to be offended does not exist.

Anyway, it came as no great surprise that the project wasn’t going ahead.

However, looking through some of the material about the controversy, I came across a truly lousy piece of ‘satire’ by Niall O’Dowd on IrishCentral. It purports to be a parody of what Channel 4’s script might be like. However, if you were going to do a parody of a script which you think might be insulting to the Irish, wouldn’t you concentrate on the Irish themselves? Wouldn’t you show stage Oirish characters who are stupid and childlike and responsible for their own poverty? I would.

Instead, O’Dowd ‘treats’ us to a conversation between Queen Victoria, George Trevelyan and Dean Swift. God alone knows why Dean Swift is here. O’Dowd knows (because he says so) that Swift died long before the Famine and that his Modest Proposal is a satire, a humorous treatment of the appalling cruelty and mismanagement of Irish affairs by the British administration in his day. Let me just repeat that. A humorous treatment of famine and poverty and British misrule.

Which, according to O’Dowd and the rest of the vicarious victims should be out of the question, completely forbidden, too politically incorrect to be permitted. And then there’s the conversation between Victoria and Trevelyan, which depicts Queen Victoria as a fat greedy cow and Trevelyan as a vicious psychopath feeding her anti-Irish bigotry. So … this is a parody of what Channel 4 might produce? Hang on … isn’t that what you would like them to produce? Wouldn’t you like a portrayal of Victoria and Trevelyan as imperialist pigs?

In other words, what the fuck does O’Dowd think he’s doing here? My first thought on reading it was, don’t give up your day job. My second thought was Shag a fucking walrus, this is his day job

 

Moron Niall O’Dowd – Sorry, More On Niall O’Dowd

I notice that Brendan Patrick Keane’s ridiculous piece of brown-nosing in support of Cassidy’s nonsense has once again reappeared on Nihil O’Dude’s IrishCentral, only a couple of weeks after the last time it was republished there. Since Christmas they have also republished Tom Deignan’s list of 20 books which all Irish Americans should read, another article which I have criticised here for giving support to How The Irish Invented Slang.

I should point out that I didn’t find this by chance on IrishCentral, a resource which I don’t read and which is strictly for Plastic Paddies and tourists, IMHO. I have minimal interest in the kind of rubbish that IrishCentral specialises in, items like The Top Ten Whackiest Irish Saints or Which Green Food Coloring Should You Use This St Patrick’s Day? or The Rose of Tralee Makeover: Discover Your Inner Colleen. (Just to be clear, I made these up, though the real thing is often worse.) I noticed it because Cassidy’s nasty, lying little book is once again selling more copies on Amazon, as unsuspecting suckers read Keane’s dumbass opinion piece and think the book sounds like fun.

I would like to think that the republishing of these articles is happening because someone at IrishMental has read my comments on this blog rather than because they have no ideas and are forced to endlessly recycle garbage. The thought is flattering. I would love to think that I have pissed off Niall O’Dowd and his cronies. After all, if they are republishing trash that they know to be trash simply because I criticised them for doing so, that isn’t flipping the bird to me. It’s cynically flipping the bird to their own readership. Still, pigs and grunts and all that.

Let me just say it once more, for the sake of anyone who hasn’t got the message yet. Cassidy’s book is full of fake Irish. (And O’Dowd knows enough Irish to realise that. Snua ard? Really?) Most of the words which Cassidy provided fake Irish versions for already have credible and even proven origins in English or other languages. Cassidy himself didn’t speak any Irish. Cassidy was a malignant fraud who spent 12 years pretending to be a professor on a full salary on the strength of a Cornell degree that he flunked. And we all know that the only reason why O’Dowd and the bómáin at IrishCentral are supporting this garbage is because Cassidy had lots of important cronies in New York, people like Joe Lee and Peter Quinn, and offending them by acting like a genuine journalist would open up the appalling vista of O’Dowd and his mates having to buy their own cheese and wine for a change.

What a pathetic bunch of fuckwits!