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Examples of spectacular historical ignorance

It has emerged that the Provisional IRA, rather than its deniable offshoot the South Armagh Republican Action Force, was responsible for the 1976 Kingsmills Massacre. If you do not know about that event, the grim story is here.

On 5 January 1976, the 10 textile workers were travelling home from work in the dark and rain on a minibus in the heart of rural County Armagh.

….

A man asked their religions. There was only one Catholic left on the bus. He was identified and ordered away from his Protestant work mates. He was able to run off.

The lead gunman spoke one other word – “Right” – and the shooting began.

Mr Black was the only one to survive.

It seems almost indecent to let such an event be the starting point for a more general line of thought, but that is the way the mind works sometimes.

I had remembered the Kingsmills massacre. The last question put to the men and the awful choice of what to answer when you did not know whether the terrorists asking were Loyalist or Republican had stuck in my mind. Today I have advanced a little further in knowledge: I now know that analysis of the guns used confirms that it most likely was the IRA after all. The thing is, though, that my level of knowledge, which I tend to think of as average, is actually way above average. I have known for three decades that this massacre occurred. I knew that a few days previously five Catholics had been murdered and that the Kingsmills massacre was carried out in reprisal for this. And here’s the point, I know that there are Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Republicans and Loyalists, and could give you a basic account of which side is which and how that situation came to be.

My own background is Irish Catholic. My family loathed the IRA. So I grew up paying a slightly above average amount of attention to Northern Ireland and I noticed over the years that plenty of people in the world literally did not know that there were any Protestants there. These people thought that that it was a case of “the English” occupying Ireland. Partisans on the Republican side also spoke thus, but selective rather than complete ignorance was their problem, as it was for partisans on the Loyalist side. The way in which those soaked in the history of a conflict can blank out the other side and talk of “the people” when they mean “our people” is tragic but a quite different phenomenon from that of ordinarily well educated members of society who simply have no idea – but not, alas, no opinion.

I have explained the existence of a Protestant population in bad French and worse Italian. I remember reading of angry editorials in American newspapers of thirty years ago that appeared to be unaware that the Republic of Ireland was an independent state. Colonel Gaddafi of Libya – now there’s a name from the past, wonder what happened to him? – at one time was visited by a delegation of Protestant paramilitaries who convinced him that this was not a straightforward anti-Imperialist struggle and got him to cease sending arms to the IRA.

I think a few of the commenters to this article still literally do not know of the existence of the Protestant population. If they do know of it, they ain’t showing it.

The ignorance that is rational for individuals can do great harm.

What are your experiences of spectacular historical ignorance? What effect does that ignorance have? To count, examples should not be the ignorance of the illiterate and semi-literate. There are millions on Earth who do not know the world is round. That is sad but not interesting. What is sad but interesting is the state of those for whom some basic historical fact is an “unknown unknown”, to use Rumsfeld’s formulation.

On second thoughts, why confine ourselves to history? A Scottish friend of mine relates that some of people she talks to in her part of the world literally think that the financial crisis of 2008 arose because bankers took “all the money” for bonuses. They think the government could get all the money back and make everything OK again, had it but the willpower. Discussing the matter, she modified that slightly, and said that if these friends and acquaintances were ever to articulate the idea I have just described they would probably see that it could not be correct, but they never have articulated it. This is in a Labour-voting but by no means deprived area near Glasgow, but I would not bet on the proportion of people thinking thus in my Tory part of Essex being much different, for all that ‘banksters’ keep the local economy going.

These holes in peoples’ knowledge will have their effect in the end. One could call it trickle-up ignorance.

67 comments to Examples of spectacular historical ignorance

  • When I was a student at high school, I had teachers who told me that Israel started the 1967 and the 1973 wars, in the sense that both wars were unprovoked attacks by Israel on the Arabs. Thinking back, I think that they genuinely believed this.

    I suspect this is selective rather than complete ignorance though – perhaps not what you are looking for.

  • John B

    The whole “narrative” regarding southern Africa has become so competently mired and obfuscated that I think it is almost pointless to address it, now.

    There was a qualified universal vote in Rhodesia and things could have been sorted out beneficially for everyone had there not been a deliberate work to destabilise and destroy any internal resolution. That destruction coming, most damagingly, from Britain and the US.

    Rhodesia used to feed the region, the bread basket (along with South Africa) of sub Saharan Africa, and now it is a begging bowl. That is an awful lot of suffering to have inflicted.

    It was close, but global bucks are global bucks, and they won. Which is why I know that common sense and benevolence will not win in the end. In this world.

    These days I hear people talk as though, although the western powers tried to keep the lid on things, but eventually local demands had to be acknowledged and acceded to.

    Which is a complete inversion of the truth.

  • Slavery.

    England, then the UK, was heavily involved in the slave trade, true, but how many countries in history have expended great quantities of both blood and treasure in a morally driven and worldwide campaign to eliminate it?

    I can name but one, but so many people can’t even do that.

  • Greg

    I work with educated, white collar professionals who do not understand that it is possible to increase overall revenue by lowering tax rates, and that it has been done.

  • Slavery again,

    In the Caribbean, and now the UK, we see the populations descended from British slaves, but where are the descendants of the African slaves taken by the Arabs?

    They didn’t have descendants because they were treated so badly that they didn’t survive to breed.

  • The contribution of those nice people, the Fabians, to NAZI ideology.

  • richard Thomas

    The linking of fascism to the right.

  • Jacob

    Many Israeli lefties say that Israel was very strong in 1967 and in no real danger, and it attacked the Arabs in order to grab more land. They say the claim that the Arabs threatened to annihilate Israel is made-up, is a “narrative”.
    Most people making such claims did not live in Israel at that time, or were born later, so we might attribute their claim to ignorance.
    But some were alive, and living in Israel, and they still make that false claim.
    We have here another category – it’s not ignorance. It’s modifying history according to one’s belief, or ideology. It’s something Orwellian. Some simpleminded people might call it intentional lying. Which is not surprising, as lying, lies, airbrushing history- they are an integral, basic part of lefty way of life.

  • James Waterton

    This isn’t exactly spectacular historical ignorance as such, so pardon me for going off topic a bit. I never cease to be amazed by leftists/social democrats (it’s always them) who are genuinely astonished when their social democrat party loses an election, because “I don’t know anyone who didn’t vote for them!”

  • Alasdair

    Alisa – are you saying the McCarthy was historically ignorant ? Or that those who believe in “McCarthyism” are historically ignorant ?

    When folk here in the US talk to me about the nobility of the IRA liberation efforts against Imperialist England, I ask ‘em how they would like to live in a society where divorce was flat-out illegal, where mere possession of contraceptives was illegal ? When they replied that such conditions would be intolerable, I point out that, prior to 1976, that was the goal of the IRA – to bring the 6 Counties of the North under just such a legal system, where the 6 Counties had been used to British law, which considers both to be legal …

    I remember (at the time (1976) being amused) when Eire passed legislation in their Dáil (parliament) to “permit the possession of contraceptives, for personal, but not for commercial use.” – the amusement deriving from speculation about “commercial use” of contraceptives (beyond the obvious simple sales aspect … I still have the newspaper cutting about it somewhere …

    I also point out that, at the time of Partition ( before 1920), the 6 Counties were approx 95% Protestant … by the 1960s, the 6 were about 60% Protestant … and Catholics were immigrating into the North, into a system where they could not vote, could not own real property, could not work in a list of specified jobs – and yet they *still* preferred to raise their family in the North, rather than under the “Free” Irish Republic …

  • The first day of the Somme is a pretty depressing one. The idea that they advanced in rows. The idea that this made much of a difference. The idea that tanks could have won the war.

    On Northern Ireland, the idea it has anything to do with religion is depressing. And the idea that Catholics couldn’t vote or own property or work in certain professions…

  • john

    The battle of the Somme above reminded me…

    During the build up to the first gulf war, “desert storm?”, many of my co-workers were fond of claiming that it was going to be the “bloodiest war in history”.

    I asked a few if the names Somme or Verdun meant anything to them… blank looks.

    There were a lot of ways to debate or discuss the topic, and at that point nobody knew how it would turn out but not knowing the names of some of history’s worst battles kind of hurt their credibility in terms of discussing whether it would be “the bloodiest war”.

    I did mention to one guy that setting aside the question of whether we were talking about a battle or a war, that he was implying that all combatants on both sides would be wounded, dead, or missing. To his credit this caused him to go digging at the library for information about mysterious places like Verdun and Stalingrad.
    Unfortunately most of my co-workers didn’t respond that way and simply thought I was a nut. That is more arguable, but beside the point.

  • Eric

    This is why the universal franchise was considered a Very Bad Idea by political thinkers well into the 19th century.

  • Laird

    Some of us still think so, Eric.

    Alisa, we’re still awaiting your response to Alasdair’s question. McCarthy was correct: there were communists (some of them spies) in sensitive positions of government. Along those lines, and apropos of Natalie’s original post, there are still those who maintain that Alger Hiss was innocent of espionage.

  • PaulH

    Laird – Might it not be more accurate to say that there were things about which McCarthy was correct? Given the nature of the thread some precision is warranted, I think :)

  • John B

    McCarthy had his facts right but his attitude was wrong, from what I have read.

    But, again, I know that people’s attitudes can be interpreted and reinterpreted by the competent narrative changers one is up against. So perhaps uncle Joe McCarthy wasn’t so way off, even in his attitude, as one has been led to think.

    Enoch Powell was another one to suffer that treatment, as was Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
    Reagan was declared to be the worst disaster to hit America, as he was being elected.
    Which is another reason I think Palin would probably be the best thing for America, right now. (Go Sarah!)

    As for Israel and the narrative distortion going on now, I think Caroline Glick’s sober and very scary assessments(Link) are probably spot on.

  • You are awaiting my response, Laird? Haven’t you got better things to do?

    Alasdair: my point was that for me McCarthyism is the immediate example of vast public ignorance on a historical political subject (the fact that this ignorance seems to have been caused at least in part by a deliberate misinformation campaign makes it all the more worth mentioning).

    John B, rather than ‘attitudes’, I’d say ‘methods’: it is just another example of why the ends should not automatically justify the means.

  • Another one: Che Guevara.

  • And another one: ‘most Jews in the Holocaust were killed in gas chambers’.

  • Kevin B

    The idea that the British Empire was all about the evil English, (not Brits – English), stealing the wealth and resources of the poor natives, rather than the creation of wealth that benefited both parties.

    The narrative was changing while I was a kid and it was fascinating, and very educational, to watch the revision in progress.

  • Kevin B

    Oh, and for your Scottish friend, Natalie, we really need a British version of Whittle’s video of Iowahawk’s masterpiece, ‘Eat the Rich’.
    (Link)

  • konshtok

    An example of scientific ignorance

    people believing that incest causes genetic defects

  • Jacob

    Alisa,
    Che Guevara, McCarty, Franco (in Spain), Pinochet (in Chile) – these are not examples of innocent simple ignorance of history. It is rather an intentional, well planned and executed “narration shift” or ideological propaganda campaign of lies and brainwashing.
    Most people, when they recite the conventional wisdom on these topics are not “merely”, innocently, ignorant. They are the brainwashed victims of ideological campaigns of lies. They are probably ignorant too…

  • Indeed, Jacob, I forgot Chile – that’s a major one for me as well. As to Franco, I still plead self-unsatisfied ignorance myself.

    Come to think of all those I personally hold “dear” (and I hope this is not too OT from Natalie’s perspective), they could all be put under the blind-spot umbrella that one could simply call Left vs Right. Right now I am under the impression of the local version of The Million Pound Drop (which I was obliged to watch for the first time ever last night through no fault of my own), and so I am imagining several “drops” being presented, with a name of a famous political leader attached to each, with the question being: “Which one of these leaders’ policies were not left-wing?”

  • JK

    Very entertaining pointing out the errors in other people’s thinking. What ignorance of your own have you most recently remedied? If we can’t aspire to being 100% correct about everything (or even about anything) we can aspire to being less wrong – and that means changing those ideas about which we are wrong.

    For myself, I would say understanding that renewable energy is technically capable of making a very substantial contribution to a modern economy. After looking at it for a few years I concluded wind and solar can actually produce useful amounts of energy. (Whether it is sensible, how quickly or at all, to go down that route is another question.)

  • Jacob

    JK,
    That’s entirely off topic.
    “Solar and wind can produce useful amounts of energy” – about as useful as dew can produce useful amounts of water.

  • nemesis

    Can we add Climate Change to the list. Ask most people how much CO2 is in the atmosphere and they guess around 20%!!!. The perception of CO2 being a pollutant is not helped by MSM who frequently comment with a backdrop of water cooling towers belching out water vapour

  • John K

    Nemesis:

    They have to do that to get a shot of “pollution”, as there are simply no dark satanic mills belching smoke any more (not in Britain at any rate, China’s a different story).

  • James Waterton

    The New Deal. If it wasn’t for the enduring truism that it ended the Great Depression, I suspect that the big government interventionist message would have been a much harder sell.

  • Ian F4

    The ignorance of the life of Mohammed, Islam and it’s beginnings and expansion, and the Christian world it eventually usurped.

    I find people assume Mohammed was like Jesus, going around healing the sick and being very forgiving. So they think “good” Muslims should act like “good” Christians. Equally assuming Islam was initially spread mainly by preaching and conversion, like Christianity was.

    Where the fallen British Empire and the emerging American hegemony is often cited as the evil of colonialism and imperialism, no-one wonders how Arab Muslims, from Arabia, got settled in North Africa as far away as Morrocco some 3000 miles distant, even as those Arab colonies are beginning to fracture today.

    When the Civilization game shows the Hagia Sophia as a historical “world wonder” complete with minarets, you wonder if history is being overlooked deliberately and not out of ignorance.

    The ignorance of Che is nicely put on this facebook page:
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=136625267408

  • Peter Melia

    This is not at all important in the greater scheme of things, but I think it does fit in with Natalie’s question.
    As a Scouse, who, when I was gainfully employed, travelled extensively, I was routinely p*ss*d of by being greeted, mostly, by well meaning people, upon their learning of my city of origin for the first time, by their saying something like, “..ah, Liverpool. Great town, Beatles….”
    Then through my gritted teeth I would say something like, “…as a matter of fact, Liverpool had it’s charter as a town long before it had the Beatles, quite a bit before, actually. The Charter was granted by King John in 1207…”
    I’ve never heard that not stop the conversation.

  • RAB

    Good thread Natalie.

    There is the famous Thatcher quote, of course, which I heard trotted out again only this week by some leftie prat on the BBC, There is no such thing as society” As if to say she meant the world consists of evil selfish individuals, with no regard or care of their fellow men and women.

    Here is the full quote that never gets quoted. Nothing could be further from the truth could it?

    “I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

  • Vinegar Joe

    Peter, you’re a Stones fan, right? lol

  • RAB

    And until the 16th century there were still only 500 of you wingeing buggers Peter. :-)

    Quick anecdote anyone?

    I first went to the States in 1973, the height of the “Troubles”. My girlfriend and I got the Red Eye flight home out of Kennedy.

    She was asleep, but as I can’t sleep on planes, I got talking to this American guy about my age (21). He was going to visit some long lost relatives in Belfast. He was an Irish American and was full of piss and wind, about up the IRA and down with the English Imperialists (I quickly told him I was Welsh, bit of Celtic solidarity like, but all he appeared to know of Wales was Tom Jones!). Anyway during the conversation it came out that he was a Protestant.

    I didn’t say anything and let him rattle on, but I couldn’t help but have an inner smirk, thinking… Boy have you got a shock coming when you meet the relatives sunshine, you are cheering for the wrong side!

  • revver

    The red army atrocities and war crimes during WW2.

    The misconceptions of Mcarthyism, conversely, the sheer ignorance/apathy to the declassified info that shows just how stark soviet infiltration was.

  • RW

    Thanks for the full quote RAB. I hadn’t heard it before.

    “There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.” There’s a phrase to rally the public imagination.

  • ManikMonkee

    Living in Africa, one I hear very regularly in the pub is that before Europeans arrived in Africa people lived in a communist paradise and that the natural behavior of Africans is to share (usually the later part is a crap excuse to try bum a drink or cigarette but the former is a genuine belief). This may be true for the small groups of a neolithic tribe called the Khoisan people who historically inhabited the deserts of Botswana and survived the Bantu expansion, but its plainly incorrect for the rest of Africa. African medieval society was incredibly brutal, the trans Atlantic slave trade was indeed a trade where slaves where bought off local leaders.

    Another one particularly in South Africa, which has “privatized” mining industry, is that the rest of Africa is poor because the mines are private and owned by Americans and Europeans. Actually after decolonization pretty much every country nationalized the mines and production decreased. Since the fall of the Soviet Union they have started to privatize the mines in many countries in a large part by selling to Indian and Chinese investors. Production increased and hence and government funds increased due to the tax on increased revenue.
    It does seem that the wealth of the average citizen in africa is directly proportional to the amount of time the mining industry has been run privately, with Botswana and South Africa at the top.

  • fred

    How about the fact that the democrats were the party of slavery, Jim Crowe, segregation, and the kkk?

    That it was democrat senators who filibustered the civil rights bill?

  • One of my favorites was when a couple of guys from the Mars Society tried to convince a New York Congresswoman to support a Mars program and she replied “Haven’t we been there already ?”

  • Laird

    Taylor, I think that she (and most other Congressmen, for that matter) lives there now!

  • Congressmen live on Mars, Congresswomen live on Venus.

  • …except, of course, for Nancy Pelosi, who daily commutes between her native asteroid and Washington DC on a broom.

  • ManikMonkee: The believe that homosexuality did not exist in Africa prior to the colonial period, an that it was something that the colonial powers brought with them seems quite widespread in much of Africa.

  • Jacob

    In the Arab world and probably in Turkey too, and many other parts, they believe Bush did the 9/11 attacks to create a pretext for invading Arab countries.

    Can this be classified as ignorance ? It’s more than simple ignorance.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    “No entitlement without obligation!” Ah, I can hear the masses rallying to the call now!!

  • Rich Rostrom

    I think a distinction should be drawn between deliberately fostered myths and simple ignorance.

    For instance, the claim that white settlers or the U.S. Army deliberately infected Indians with smallpox is frequently repeated. One of Ward Churchill’s more egregious scholarly frauds was a paper alleging a specific incident of this, with “corroborative detail” that was a pack of lies.

    But I don’t know of anyone who asserts there are no Protestants in Northern Ireland except out of innocent ignorance.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    And of course there are those historical revisionists who delight in overturning certain conventional “myths” only to insert equally dubious claims, such as that Hitler would and could have been negotiated with in 1939-40 and that Britain could have stayed out of WW2 and preserved the Empire a bit longer;

    Or:

    The US Civil War was not really about slavery in any meaningful sense and largely caused by warmongering Lincoln and his circle.

    Or:

    The “Dark Ages” were not all that bad really.

    Etc.

  • Rich Rostrom, you write,

    “I think a distinction should be drawn between deliberately fostered myths and simple ignorance. [...]But I don’t know of anyone who asserts there are no Protestants in Northern Ireland except out of innocent ignorance.”

    I see your point, but the holes in the knowledge of innocent dupes are frequently – in fact almost always – the evidence that someone in the past succeeded in deliberately fostering a myth, or blanking out a truth.

    In the case I started with, the Protestants in Northern Ireland, Republican rhetoric did often talk as if the only stumbling-block to unification was the British “occupation”, particularly when this rhetoric was aimed at supporters in America. Of course those talking thus knew better, but it enabled them to fit the Northern Irish situation into a familiar anti-Imperialist, anti-racist template (e.g. as being like South Africa or Algeria) that went down well with foreigners and was pleasanter to think about for themselves. Persuading or forcing the British to go was a far more achievable goal than persuading a million people who loathed the idea of being in a united Ireland that it would after all be a good idea.

    The result is that you get people who haven’t heard about the Protestant population because the opinion formers they read either lied by omission about their existence or (perhaps as common) did not like talking about them.

    I might try to work up some of the ideas and examples you and other commenters have put forward into a further post.

    My last example of spectacular ignorance with a political origin is the ignorance of the wonderful fact that the average human life expectancy has increased and world poverty decreased sharply over the last half century.

  • llamas

    Stalin and Mao.

    Bobby Sands.

    In one of the UK Sundays, back in the late 70s or early 80s, there was a series of articles that exposed the Provisional IRA as primarily a Mafia-style protection/criminal racket, with a sideline in Republican politics on the weekends. It appeared to show that a lot of their activities were as much about cowing their own supporters and advancing the fiscal and political aspirations of their leaders as they were about advancing the Republican cause.

    Some of which, at least, appears to have come true.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Ian Bennett

    I wonder how many know the genuine early history of the Plymouth settlement (as detailed here),as opposed to the popular myth.

  • Mose Jefferson

    “The Israeli Invasion of Southern Lebanon” seems to meet the criteria for one of Rich’s deliberately fostered myths.

    I would’ve termed it “The Israeli Defense of Northern Israel” myself, but then I do not write the headlines.

  • john

    Jonathan,

    I think you’re really on to something there. I’m not sure about your first example, it seems more simply wrong to me. But in the case of the other two, I’d say they represent over-simplified to the point of incorrectness reactions to pre-existing over-simplified to the point of incorrectness versions.

    As a kid, I was taught cartoonish versions of both the American Civil War and the Dark Ages which lacked all depth and nuance and were therefore unbelievable as history.

    It is these caricature versions which are so susceptible to the myth replacement you describe. The caricatures also make it difficult to discuss real aspects of the history which might in any way resemble the competing myth. For example, the prevalence of the Lincoln-warmonger myth you mention makes it difficult to discuss his many short comings without being confused with those who adhere to that myth. This, therefore, supports the Lincoln-demi-god myth… pushing everything to the extremes and destroying the specificity of the discussion.

  • ManikMonkee

    @Michael Jennings

    I’ve heard that one a few times aswell

  • John B

    American civil war was indeed mainly about bringing all of North America into a common, controlled, economic bloc, from what I can gather.
    First that, then the New Deal, etc.
    With rather a lot of things, such as Income Tax, in between.

    It’s a mixed bag with the mines and South Africa, ManicMonkee.
    They were the corporatist power elites that entrenched apartheid, and got the place a bad name.
    One just has to look at who made the big bucks.

    The Afrikaners were the idiots who legislated it. Not that not legislating a social reality would have helped them be independent.
    It was always about money and control.

    The Afrikaners mainly just wanted to be left alone to farm. Which they were until gold and diamonds were discovered and the British Cape Colony was suddenly extended northwards up past Kimberley.

  • Paul Marks

    This is a very good post by Natalie Solent.

    Knowledge is important.

    People can not be expected to make good judements if they know very little – or if what they “know” is false.

    But how to get a high level of knoweldge into people?

    Various American Founding Fathers (such as S. Adams) thought that (government financed) education was the key.

    This should have struck them as absurd – government schools to teach people that government should be strictly limited and to teach people the history of liberty and the folly of statism.

    Errr that does not sound as if it would work our very well.

    But it is easy to be clever after the event – and we have centuries of hidesight.

    However, we must not ignore experience. The means that were supposed to protect government by the people have not worked – indeed they have made things vastly worse.

    For no matter how obviously bad state education is – people just get the message that it should be “reformed” in such and such a way, and that “more resources” should be devoted to it. And (more importantly) if education is “too important” to be left to ordinary people – then what of health care or old age provision or……..

    The very thing that was supposed to educated people into why government should be limited, gives them the de facto message that government should do everything.

    And it leaves them victims of the propaganda of whoever takes control of this near monopoly.

    Even absurd propaganda.

    I might be expected to take up the matter of the contant anti Israel propaganda – but I am a Power as well as a Marks so I will take up the case of Ireland.

    Such as the idea that the Scots (an Irish people) in Ulster are “alien” (indeed “English” – what like the forefather of Jerry Adams, John Adams of Lincolnshire?).

    And that the various Protestant churches are somehow part of the “English state” (actually Protestants got on almost as badly with the Established Church as Catholics did) and has nothing to do with Ireland.

    As if the Church of Patrick’s day had such doctrines as clerical celibacy and so on. Now I am not saying those doctrines are wrong – simply that they were not normal in Patrick’s day, or long after.

    Of course it was the English who put the Church in Ireland firmly under the rule of Rome (for better or worse).

    One of the darkly amusing things of history – it was the Normans who were for strict following of Rome and they dealt with the indepenence of the Celtic Church in the same way they had dealt with the semi independence of the Anglo Saxon Church.

    Another darkly amusing thing is that Protestants and Catholics in Ulster have a lot more in common with each other than they have either with the secret athiests of the IRA or the intolerant (indeed rabidly anti Christian) secular British state.

    Most dissenting Protestants have a lot more in common with Pope Benedict XVI (both on social issues and on some theological ones) than either of them have with the anti Christian media and the rest of the power elite.

    “It is not anti Christian”.

    Is it not?

    Check out such things as fostering (and adoption) and guest houses, and …… and such shows as the “Sunday” Programme on BBC Radio 4 (hard core liberal left secular propaganda – under the mask of a “religious” show).

    Now the elite/establishment may be totally correct and the Protestants and Catholic of Ulster totally wrong – but the fact remains that those Protestants and Catholics have more in common with each other than they do with the secular establishment.

  • JB

    The Israeli-Palestinian refugee issue.

    Several years back I was walking through Union Square in NYC when I ran into a pro-Palestinian demo. One particular person, who was a typical hipster with black square rimmed glasses, a Keffiyeh tied around his neck and an ironic trucker hat insisted on trying to convince me that Israelis were ALL European colonizers and, as such, Israel should be eliminated. Putting aside the question of where the Israelis should go, I point out to him that roughly the same number of Sephardic Jews, “Mizrachis”, who were indigenous to the middle east (in fact, whose communities in many instances had longer histories than Islam) was roughly similar to the number of Palestinians who left or were forced out of pre-1967 Israel – so rather than a colonization, what happened was a population transfer, similar to what occurred between India and Pakistan. He refused to believe it. And I never hear this undisputable fact ever mentioned when the Palestinian issue is raised.

  • James Waterton

    I don’t know if the following is true in all cases, but didn’t the invading Arab armies advise the Palestinians to leave so they could finish the newly-established Israeli state off? “You need to get out so we can get in” or something along those lines? Of course it didn’t quite work out that way…

  • James Waterton

    I should have been clearer; if the above is true, then many (most?) of the Palestinians weren’t thrown off their property – they left voluntarily, under the assumption that the Israelis would soon be defeated. If that’s true, the idea of a *right* of return is somewhat misplaced. You backed the wrong horse and chose to leave. That means the victors don’t owe you anything.

    The still-relevant advice that should have been given to Israel’s neighbours and any Palestinians affected in the upheavals of that region over the decades: stop starting wars and losing them. There tends to be lots of negative consequences when you do this – it’s pretty much a package deal.

  • James, that’s what happened, more or less, as far as I know. But, in all fairness, there also have been cases where Israelis did “help” Arab residents leave – although to the best of my knowledge these were exceptions rather than the norm. This is the nature of war: no one comes out of it completely unblemished – and yes, this is one of many reasons not to start one in the first place.

  • Um, there were cases, rater than have been

  • Also, yielding to my current bout of pedantry, and seeing as this thread may be long enough for an OT comment (or maybe not so OT, come to think of it*), a note to JB: ‘Sephardi’ is not the same as ‘Mizrahi’. The latter literally means ‘Eastern’ (as in ‘Middle East‘), and denotes Jews whose origin is in the Arab countries (and probably Iran as well). ‘Sephardi’, on the other hand, literally means ‘Spanish’, and denotes Jews who were part of the Spanish Diaspora at any time until their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Although some Mizrahi Jews do in fact trace their origins to that Spanish Diaspora (and therefore are ‘Sephardi’), the same is true of some European Jews, since some of them went to Europe following that expulsion, primarily to Holland.

    *The reason I think it is not entirely OT is that ‘Sephardi’ is a common misnomer in Israel itself, due mainly to – you guessed it – ignorance.

  • Paul Marks

    Ian Bennitt – yes whilst American children are taught lies rather than the truth there is little hope.

    Only when they know that communalism has been tried in America (right at the start) and led to mass starvation – and that the people were saved by PRIVATE ENTERPRISE (not Greenism and communitarianism and …..) will there be hope for the future.

    The past (the truth about the past) is vital.

    Ditto Ireland and Israel – and everywhere else.

    The left seek to control the past (by controlling knowledge or lack of knowledge of the past) and if they manage to do that (via the schools, the universities and the media – including the entertainment media) then they doom the present and the future.

  • bloke in spain

    If you’ll accept a late addition; I’ve always felt the rancour over the late entry of the USA into WW2 has been built on historical ignorance.
    Setting aside the political aspects & the reluctance of the US government to enter another European war after the side-lining of the US efforts at the Paris Conference at the end of the last, there’s the simple matter of US military capabilities.
    In 1939 America’s nearest credible enemies were at the other side of thousands of miles of empty ocean. The US had a strong navy but little military capability on land or in the air. Why would it have bothered to have either? To defend it’s borders with Canada & Mexico? There simply wasn’t the technical capability of force projection over intercontinental distances at the time. Military build up may have commenced in the late 30′s but at the end of that decade the US Army was little more than policing force & the air arm was still changing over from bi-planes. Even in naval matters the military were still coming to terms with developing capabilities as Pearl Harbour was to show.
    The wonder is that the US was able to arm so quickly as to put tanks ashore in the invasion of N.Africa in 1942 & heavy bombers over Germany the same year, let alone train the men to crew them.
    Not much point in sabre rattling without a sabre to rattle.

  • COUNTINGCATS, “I can name but one, but so many people can’t even do that.”

    Granted the United States’ years of anti slavery patrol, three hundred thousand dead, half a million wounded, and hundreds of millions of gold dollars expended against slavery is far and above the efforts of any other country to end this evil.

    But to be fair, England and France also devoted blood and treasure to the West African Anti Slavery patrol, and I know the British Navy considered liberation of slaves part of its mission in all the seas it sailed. So there are two more countries for your list.

    ALISA, that’s “… first class broom provided at taxpayer’s expense”

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Staghounds, you seem to be unaware that the Anti-Slavery League was started in Britain. Come to that, the French ended slavery in their Revolution, but Napoleon brought it back because someone was needed to work the fields in the sugar plantations in the Caribbean. all this was just after the Declaration of Independence. The US was plagued by slavery until the Civil War- close to 90 years after the 4th of July, 1776!