Tag Archives: Peter Linebaugh

January’s Twit of the Month – Peter Linebaugh

For a couple of months now, I have been meaning to tackle the subject of Peter Linebaugh, a very indifferent Marxist historian who was a friend and crony of Daniel Cassidy and who unwisely lent his support to Cassidy’s ridiculous book and theories. As Linebaugh says in a review of Cassidy’s puerile trash on Counterpunch:

This now will change thanks to Daniel Cassidy’s amazing dictionary. The efflorescence of Irish-American cultural studies which has taught us (referring to a couple of other books) how the Irish saved civilization or how the Irish became white, has now explained How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (2007). Cassidy’s entries are often little essays of social history expressed in caustic wit and erudition, similar to the work of those other people’s lexicographers of the San Francisco Bay, Iain Boal and Ambrose Bierce.

Elsewhere in the same article, he uses a large number of Cassidy’s idiotic fake Irish terms:

If it was an English speaker who said there’s no free lunch, surely it was an Irish one who gave us lunch. On the one hand the Irish distrusts extravagance or b.s. and is quick to spot a phoney or name a wanker or a twerp or a nincumpoop, a hick or a jerk. On the other hand it is capable of all the malarkey and baloney you’ll ever need. It supplies ‘fighting words,’ the pigeon, the sap, the punk, the mug, and the puss, and follow them with a wallop, a slug. And it’ll keep you in stitches, going helter-skelter, in a generalized hilarity of the giggle from the proletarian quarters.

These words have been comprehensively dealt with here, so nobody (including Peter Linebaugh) has any excuse for claiming that lunch, wanker, twerp, hick, helter-skelter, giggle, jerk or baloney have anything to do with Irish. (As we’ve seen before, phoney is almost certainly of Irish origin but predates Cassidy by years.)

Elsewhere (and in 2016, years after Cassidy was totally discredited) he writes: Danny Cassidy supplied … a lexicography from below showing how the Irish language, while severely diminished in Ireland, survived in America as slang!

But the rot goes deeper than this. The problem seems to be the shallow, Google-search style of history that Peter Linebaugh practices and it’s this lack of depth which makes him give credence to Cassidy’s derivations without checking their validity.

The work of Linebaugh’s that I have read (which is, in fairness, two books – it was enough for me) seems to cherry-pick and flit from place to place and era to era in pursuit of support for vague ideological arguments. I am not an expert on history, but it seems that the debate here (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/09/20/the-many-headed-hydra-an-exchange/) between Linebaugh (and his co-author Rediker) and David Brion Davis shows the incompetence of their research – “The Many-Headed Hydra is riddled with … blatant errors from the start to the finish.”

John Madziarczyk also claims that Linebaugh is essentially drawing on other, more obscure sources (http://www.losthighwaytimes.com/2007/06/peter-linebaughpopularizer-of-ideas-not.html) like the book Pirate Utopias by Peter Lamborn Wilson and that his work is deeply derivative. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these observations (and to be frank, I can’t be bothered doing the necessary research in an area so far outside my comfort zone), though I consider the criticisms entirely credible.

Linebaugh and Rediker also come in for criticism here for taking a newspaper account from 1738 of a Native American uprising against settlers in Nantucket as genuine: (http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166955)

And at the end of the day, I’m of the left and socially very liberal. I am not bothered or offended by Linebaugh’s or Cassidy’s purported leftism. I am bothered by a tendency to make claims unsupported by evidence. This kind of fakery is repugnant, whether it’s coming from some Trump-loving redneck or from a gaggle of Californian liberals and their socialist intellectual friends. The truth is the truth. It has no left or right, no ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation or nationality. If something doesn’t correspond at all to the known and established facts, it isn’t true and nobody, regardless of their beliefs, should waste their time on it.

As Linebaugh says in his CounterPunch article, we Irish distrust bullshit and are quick to spot a phoney or name a wanker or a twerp or a nincompoop … It is for this reason that I am happy to bestow my January 2018 CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month Award on Peter Linebaugh, lousy historian and crony of Daniel Cassidy.

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.

It’s Official: The Etruscans Were Irish!

[I would like to make it quite clear that THIS IS NOT A REAL THEORY. I AM TAKING THE PISS. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the Internet that people flit around reading little bits of things and then tweeting about them and republishing them in other ways, so it is no surprise that there is a thing called Poe’s Law, which states that unless the material is clearly labelled as ironic, somebody will always take your parodies and satires at face value. On this blog, I have already had people take seriously claims that the phrase Vichy Water is from Irish and that the Irish language has a word for the sound horses make when you pull their feathers out. Seriously! So, just to be clear, I’m being sarcastic – Etruscan is NOT an early form of Irish.]

The Irish Milesian Academy For Intellectual Arts (IrishMAFIA), founded five years ago to further the work of the late Daniel Cassidy, have come up with their biggest and boldest claim yet. According to Brendan Patrick Gurne, Head of Creative Etymology with IrishMAFIA:

“We were looking at Google and found a website about Etruscan, an ancient language of Italy, and its links to extra-terrestrials, the Illuminati and home-made anti-gravity machines. We then found a vocabulary of Etruscan and were amazed to find clear parallels between Irish and Etruscan. We are convinced that Etruscan is in fact an early form of Irish and that through the Etruscans, Irish was responsible for the Roman Empire and the whole history of Western Civilization.

Let’s look at some examples. For example, clan is Etruscan for son. This is just like clann in Irish, which means children. The Etruscan for jar is pruchum, which is like the Irish próca. Shuthi, meaning a vault or grave is very like the Irish or sidhe, meaning a fairy mound or grave mound. The Etruscan word for a state, tuθi (tuthi) is almost exactly the same as Irish tuath, meaning a petty kingdom. Cel, the word for earth, ground or soil, is very similar to cill, which means churchyard. The Etruscan for bull, thevru, is very like Irish tarbh. The Etruscan for I is mi, which is just like Irish . The Etruscan for a free person is zeri, which is just like the Irish word saor. And what about mech, meaning lady or queen? Surely this is the same word as Macha, the ancient goddess of war who gave her name to Armagh? There can be no doubt about it. The Etruscans were Irish.”

Reaction to the revelation from academic linguists has been universally skeptical and hostile, but it has been enthusiastically repeated by the Irish Times, the Irish News, IrishCentral , the Irish Echo, RTÉ, Michael Patrick MacDonald, Joseph Lee and Peter Linebaugh.

[WARNING: THIS IS SATIRE! The Etruscans were NOT Irish. The vast majority of Etruscan vocabulary bears no relation to any Celtic language. Próca isn’t originally an Irish word. Clann is an early Irish borrowing of Latin planta. Cill also comes from Latin and is related to English cell. The taurus/tarvos word for bull is found in many Indo-European languages and is probably Afro-Asiatic in origin. The others are just coincidental similarities, helped along by selective use of definitions. It just goes to show how easy it is to make random and completely worthless connections when you are dealing with a fairly large set of data.]

More on Medbh

In a post on Cassidy’s strange ideas about the Irish origins of jazz, I gave a link to a Wikipedia debate between John M. Baker and an unknown individual called Medbh. This is the link here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Medbh. There seems little doubt that Medbh was a sock puppet for Cassidy himself. The crazy half-baked ranting is exactly like that used by Cassidy himself and a host of sock puppet identities used by him on various sites. At one point, Cassidy lets the mask slip completely, and Baker picks up on it:

Actually, I did not characterize CounterPunch Books as a vanity press, nor did I say anything about how many books it sells. I said only that it is not a peer-reviewed scholarly publisher. I do not have an opinion on whether or not it is a vanity press, nor how many books it sells. I don’t consider the number of books it sells at all relevant – many scholarly publishers sell few books, and many nonsensical books have become best-sellers. How do you know that Cassidy signed a standard author’s contract? I thought you said earlier that you are not Cassidy.

It is worth reading these debates, as they show clearly that Cassidy was dishonest, ignorant and full of crap. However, for those who can’t be bothered looking at the original source, here are some interesting notes.

When Baker said that Cassidy was an ‘academic administrator at NCoC’, Medbh/Cassidy responded by saying that This is utter nonsense. Cassidy is a tenured faculty member at New College of California, where he teaches media studies and Irish Studies. Prior to that he was on the graduate faculty of the Film Department at SF State. He is NOT an administrator at New College.’ What the sock puppet doesn’t say, of course, is that Cassidy had no right to be anything in a university but the janitor. He had no degrees, no qualifications. Nothing. This is the elephant in the room. How did Cassidy become ‘a tenured faculty member’ in a university without having a degree? Did he lie to get the job? How else did a man with no qualifications become a professor?

The sock puppet cites a number of people who have supported his work, with comments like this: Alex Cockburn is from Cork, Ireland, and studied the Irish language for the first six years of his schooling. He reads Irish and speaks it. He is a crank too, since he does not know who Grant Barret is. Of course, Cockburn was a good friend of Cassidy’s, so whether he was a crank or not or spoke Irish or not is of no importance.

Here is a list of the supporters mentioned and their known involvement with Cassidy:

Professor J. Joseph Lee of NYU and University College Cork – a friend of Cassidy’s.

Professor Robert Scally, associated with NYU Glucksman’s Ireland House – also a friend of Cassidy’s.

Professor Peter Linebaugh – friend of Cassidy, guested at his Irish Crossroads Festival in 2004.

Esther O’Hara (University of California, Berkeley) – former colleague and friend of Cassidy at New College of California

Pól Ó Muirí, journalist – no known connection.

Frank McNally, journalist – no known connection

Reyhan Harmanci, journalist – no known connection

Eamonn McCann, Journalist – friend of Cassidy’s, appeared in his 1995 documentary Uncensored Voices

Alexander Cockburn, journalist – friend of Cassidy’s

Peter Quinn, writer – described Cassidy as ‘my best friend’

Maureen Dezell, writer – friend of Cassidy’s

In other words, out of 11 people cited as supporting Cassidy, only three have no known connection to Cassidy. Cassidy himself, using an unconvincing sock puppet identity, gave a list of his own mates, without the slightest hint that he knew any of them, as support for the idea that he should be taken seriously as a scholar of language! What a total fraud!

However, the thing I found most astounding is the point raised by Baker about ‘peer-review’. Peer review is a specific process, where academic writing is assessed by academic peers in a formal way. Cassidy (Medbh) seems to have thought that peer-review was about getting reviews in newspapers! This is yet one more piece of evidence that Cassidy was a total moron who knew nothing about the world of scholarship and had no business teaching in a university.

Hall of Shame 2

If I included everyone who has given support to this insane and worthless book, Daniel Cassidy’s How The Irish Invented Slang, the list would be very long indeed. However, in this second instalment of the Hall of Shame, I will give another handful of people who stuck their necks out and inserted it into the noose of lies provided by Daniel Cassidy.

John Rickford is a respectable academic, well-known for his work on Black American English. He is quoted on Amazon as saying: “Cassidy’s book (How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads)… is wonderful! Congrats to him on winning an American Book Award.” Unless there is something missing which is less complimentary, such as ‘Cassidy’s book is so terrible it makes me feel incredibly intellectually superior which is wonderful!’, I can’t really understand why a real academic with real qualifications and real peer-reviewed publications would support this drivel. Perhaps the man himself would like to send us a comment and let us know why?

Peter Linebaugh, a Marxist historian, who tends to divide opinion. Personally, I don’t have a knee-jerk hatred of Marxism and I think that Marxist academics have made valuable contributions to the world of scholarship but his review on Counterpunch is totally absurd. Do none of these people know how to use a dictionary, or even Google? Or do they consider it beneath them? And it’ll keep you in stitches, going helter-skelter, in a generalized hilarity of the giggle from the proletarian quarters. I’m talking the shack or the shanty, the slum in other words. To get out of trouble you can skip, or scram, scoot, or skidoo. As for style, for something swank or swell, you’ll find it here. The slob and the slacker won’t find the knack, but maybe a gimmick, for finding the jack or the moolah. Yeah, it’s an absolute riot. I laughed till I stopped. Slob is about the only genuine Irish term in the above passage, and even that is ultimately not of Celtic origin.  

Esther ‘Hetty’ O’Hara apparently taught Irish with Cassidy in his New College programme. She is quoted in some sources as a person who helped him to confirm or check his hunches about the Irish language. If this is the case, she either doesn’t speak Irish or he didn’t share most of his work with her, because there is no way that a competent Irish speaker would accept phrases like aingíocht tarraingteach or buan-díchiall as real Irish. Or perhaps she had to work with him and knew that he would just shout and rant and start chewing the curtains if she said ‘no’ to him. Who knows? But if she genuinely speaks Irish, she should not have endorsed this book.   

The American Book Awards, which gave Cassidy’s book an award in 2007. This seems to be a peculiar accolade. If you look at the lists of people who have won it, there are some big and entirely justifiable names on it, names like Dom de Lillo, Isabel Allende, Dave Eggers. And then there are lots of names I’ve never heard of, plus Daniel Cassidy, king of the crap-talkers.

Bob Scally is also a real academic. He has a PhD and has written several books.  In the 1980s he undertook research on the Irish migrations of the nineteenth century. His critically acclaimed book, The End of Hidden Ireland: Famine, Rebellion and Emigration, 1832-1848 was published by (the dictionary dudes’) Oxford University Press in 1995. He was appointed the inaugural Director of Glucksman Ireland House in 1993, an institution where the Great Fraud Cassidy was always welcome.  Scally retired in 2006. So, a man of considerable reputation. Why he chose to endorse this terrible piece of shit is hard to understand. I smell cronyism …