Have you heard the one about the Irish Historian who spent years highlighting unhistorical racist bigotry of Irish American leprechaun types – only to be labelled as such by said leprechauns? In an Irish magazine? It could only happen, as they say, in (History) Ireland.
The current (Sept/Oct 2017) issue of History Ireland (Ireland’s Only History Magazine) carries a letter calling an Irish Historian a nondescript bigot, while also attempting (in what can only be described as a paean to an Ann and Barry level of historical illiteracy) to belittle the historian’s professionalism, ability and credibility.
The ‘letter’ (the contents of which are largely taken from a previous blog post from March 2017, written by a member of an ‘ancient’ sectarian homophobic organization originally modeled on the Orange Order in the 19thC and, ironically, one that actual modern Irish people point and laugh at) takes issue with the cold historical facts surrounding the widespread misue of the ‘Irish Slaves Meme’.
Predominantly a puss infected affliction from Irish-Americana, the racist bile of the ‘Irish Slaves Meme’ has, in recent years, spread like a malignant tumor on social media, fueled in no small part by the hijacking of actual Irish history by racists, white supremacists and neo-nazis who use it to intentionally belittle, reduce and dehumanize the actual horrors of chattel slavery and the lived experience of millions of black people in America.
Almost everyone with a pulse and an internet connection on Irish social media will already be well aware of all this – thanks to the herculean efforts of one individual. Liam Hogan.
Hogan has spent the last several years – in his own time, and on his own recognizance – shining the light of historical inquiry into the shriveled, twisted, historically ignorant oozing orifices that make up much of the interface of the Irish American/white supremacist social media landscape. Researching. Uncovering lies. Exposing falsehoods. Debunking fake history.
This has resulted in him being a target for abuse, not only by neo-nazi scumbags, but also by a certain section of Irish Americana, apparently outraged at having their precious little leprechaun spunkbubble identities – based on a pseudo-history of Most Oppressed People Ever (™) – exposed by an actual Irish Historian.
The organization behind this letter has, in the very recent past, helped to spread false Irish history by sharing fake memes with appropriated images.
By publishing the letter, History Ireland (Ireland’s Only History Magazine) has now provided them with an ‘official’ historical platform, facilitating the spread of fake history and false equivalence.
As Ted McCormick wrote:
On the other hand, “critiques” of academic history *as such* can also, sometimes unintentionally but often not, aid attacks on responsible research. Which makes it doubly irresponsible for academics to jump on the bandwagon, or give tacit support to mendacious popular narratives. History Ireland is in part a venue for professional historians to reach a wider audience. It has numerous senior scholars on its board. Publishing or linking to known fabrications as if they are legitimate views of history gives them a scholarly imprimatur and new life. It presents an opposition between established facts and debunked myths as a legitimate disagreement between historians. It puts legitimate research using historical sources on a footing with fabricated sources and internet memes.And here we are: anyone who can RT a “white slavery” meme has an opinion that deserves careful consideration and equal time.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the letter also attempts to belittle, reduce and invalidate Liam Hogans credentials, and character, as both an individual and an historian, by utilizing the very same methodology as white supremacists do in order to demean and dehumanize Black history and the Black experience. The letter refers to him as a ‘librarian’, ‘nondescript’ and attempts to claim that nobody else with academic credentials in Ireland supports his research. (Guess what…) Meanwhile, when approached on twitter regarding the whole affair, the account operator of History Ireland (Ireland’s Only History Magazine) seemed rather disinterested. Presumably they have better things to do than rush to reassure their prospective audiences and fellow Irish Historians that this was some kind of oversight, mistake, or even to attempt to buy some time by saying they would look into it.
If History Ireland (Irelands Only History Magazine) wants to retain any shred of historical and professional respectability it needs to step up its game sharpish. Irish Historians and people who consume the magazine deserve an explanation as to how this came to even happen in the first place. The members of History Ireland’s editorial board and its patrons need to step up and distance themselves from such amateur hour activities. The Irish Association of Professional Historians need to get their fingers out if they want to be taken seriously as a professional body.
Most of all, Irish Historians themselves, of all shapes and sizes, along with Irish academics and institutions need to step up and articulate their opposition to such carry on. If they don’t – then we can only assume their silence indicates that they are comfortable with the whole idea of History Ireland (Ireland’s Only History Magazine) providing a mouthpiece to racist, fake pseudo-Irish history, designed to belittle the horror of black chattel slavery and/or Irish Historians research to highlight same.
Liam Hogan deserves so much more than this. He deserves the admiration and appreciation of the Irish Public for the extent to which he has endeavored to highlight the hijacking of Irish History for nefarious purposes at great personal cost. He deserves plaudits and respect for the sheer scale and output of his historical research. He deserves to be feted, not farted on, by people who call themselves Irish Historians.
Most of all, Liam Hogan deserves a retraction and apology, in both print and online from History Ireland (Ireland’s Only History Magazine).
If you feel the same way, here’s what you can do about it. Use the power of social media to voice your dissatisfaction. Tell History Ireland, on their Twitter Stream and on their Facebook Page, that you do not condone or support the propagation of racist pseudo-historical narratives, or indeed, the personal demonizing of one of the most prolific and socially relevant Irish Historians of the social media age.
Tell them that you’re not going to buy, recommend or support the magazine until they make amends. Use the visibility of social media to shine a spotlight on the History Ireland ‘brand’. If they block you, or delete your Facebook messages from their wall, take screenshots of the block, and tell your friends online that this is how they responded to your raising of the issue.
If you happen to be at Electric Picnic this weekend, drop by and say it to the editor in person.
If you’re an Irish academic, institution, or history publisher who advertises in the magazine, or indeed, a library who maintains a subscription to History Ireland, then write to the editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) and express your concerns.
Copy in email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com so that everyone in History Ireland knows just how many emails he’s getting on the matter.
I’m an Irish Historian, and I’m fucking ashamed to share my discipline with the above.
Update – Sept 08, 2017:
Not content with his initial contribution on social media, the aforementioned Ted McCormick has written a far more eloquent and erudite response (than mine) on the matter, which cuts right to the bone:
“Publications like History Ireland have the capacity to improve the quality of public engagement with the past by presenting current work and new debates, and by treating misrepresentations of the past as such — whether by choosing not to publish them (whether as letters or anywhere else), or by publishing them with appropriate commentary or corrections. If its own pretensions are to be taken seriously, indeed, the magazine has the responsibility to distinguish substantiated historical claims from discredited fictions. It seems to prefer stirring a very old pot”.
Update – Sept 12, 2017:
I wish to express my utmost admiration for all those who have helped share and magnify this, and other such comments, throughout social media. 100k+ impressions. 10K engagements. 10K+ Views. Particularly humbled to see friends, strangers, various people in between, historians far and wide, archaeologists and various heritage professionals taking a public stand. For Hogan, for Irish Historiography, and for good old fashioned ‘the right thing to do’. All have helped focus an awful lot of attention and pressure. For those Historians who have, and continue to engage behind the scenes, a special shout out and appreciation. For those who haven’t, or who have chosen to remain silent…
Update – Sept 13, 2017:
Ted McCormick follows up with a devastating unveiling of the extent of History Ireland’s complete lack of historical awareness and editorial oversight. This, is what modern Irish Historiography actually looks like.
“At a time when the quality of public discourse about history and much else is degraded by fantasies and half-truths, and the capacity of experts to present and defend their research is under ever greater assault, allegiance to this distinction brings obligations. It obliges us to distinguish ranting and abuse from criticism grounded in knowledge of sources and methods. It obliges us to distinguish real from spurious evidence. It obliges us to substantiate our claims and to own and address our errors. It obliges us to promote real debate for the sake of advancing knowledge — not to debase our knowledge for the sake of debate”.
Update – Sept 17, 2017
Just in case anyone was under the impression that all this is purely academic and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things – in recent days, scholars across the Atlantic pond have been rallying around Dr. Dorothy Kim – a researcher whose focus on racism in medieval studies and the current appropriation of medieval symbols and stories by modern-day white supremacists has attracted the ire of same. Imagine if an American history magazine had actually printed this shit…
Update – Sept 19, 2017:
History Ireland have today issued on an online unreserved apology to Liam Hogan. A response by Liam will also appear in the next edition.