There’s an old adage that goes something along the lines of ‘we mostly make friends with those who agree with us’. Some of the truth behind that adage is subtly evident in modern social media but it tends to be particularly interesting from an Irish viewpoint.
Observing social media patterns – particularly in the Irish-related Facebook Groups – it quickly becomes evident that there’s a tangible cultural divide between native Irish people and the descendants of Irish people from overseas, an interesting development in ‘Groups’ supposedly built for a common interest. Many of the ‘Irish’ Facebook Groups (sometimes referred to as ‘Oirish’ Groups by native Irish) are established by (and populated by) the descendants of Irish people who have a slightly outdated and ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ view of Ireland and its people. As a result, when native Irish members point out the erroneous beliefs and outright untruths that are posted, online engagement quickly descends into open conflict – helpfully aided by provocative Facebook algorithms that toss petrol on the ‘conversational flames’. Add in the Celtic Recreationists, White Supremacist Celts, Profit-Driven Pagans and others using Facebook Groups to drive their own agenda and you quickly end up with a toxic environment where there’s simply no point in engagement.
One of the reasons behind that disparity of engagement is that although people come to such Groups out of a relatively common interest, they also come with different purposes and, more importantly, bearing very different cultural values, something that has become starkly visible in the most recent ‘Global Trends Survey.’
Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole has an explanatory article on the results of that Survey from an Irish perspective and the huge difference between Irish, American, English (and other) cultural values makes fascinating reading. If you want to understand the war between Oirish and Irish, you can find O’Toole’s article here.
Recently, the Cherokee Nation in the United States gave notice to Stellantic – the company making ‘Cherokee Jeeps’ – that it was time to stop using their name and culture for commercial branding purposes. This followed actions by other American tribes (e.g. pressures on the Washington Redskins football team to change their name, the Navaho tribe taking J.K. Rowling to account for her use of their cultural belief systems for her ‘fantasy magic’ stories etc. etc.) and indigenous peoples in other countries to prevent the misuse and misrepresntation of their culture by commerical entities.
Ireland’s in an interesting place in that regard. We’re not an indigenous people like native Americans – except perhaps in Ireland (or parts of it!) – yet our history means that we’ve ended up one of the few countries in the western world where individuals and commercial entities from other countries feel completely free to come in and ‘cherry pick’ aspects from it, for their own commerical purposes.
That’s a very simplistic summary of course. There are many different aspects to this and very many layers which first need to be looked at before we can even start to understand how we got to where we are.
Still, it’s an interesting parallel and I’m seeing an increased levels of anger amongst Irish people at the way in which ‘Irishness’ is transformed to ‘Oirishness’ for commercial and branding reasons.
‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ anyone?
You can find a link to a Guardian article on the Cherokee situation here:
Darby O’Gill (and the
Village Little People)
Walt Disney aimed the film at Americans with ‘shamrocks in their eyes’. He missed
I learned today that it’s the 60th anniversary of that famous “Irish” film Darby O’Gill and the Little People (which came as something of a surprise). Burdened by stereotypes, loaded with clichés and struggling beneath the weight of a hundred-thousand mawkish factual errors, DoG was a fantasy movie that doesn’t even try to get the basics right but at least it introduced some brilliant new Irish actors (Sean Connery and Janet Munro!).
For me, riding into town on my High Shetland Pony (couldn’t afford the horse), this Disney production epitomises everything that’s wrong with how Irish people and Irish culture/mythology have been represented by overseas entertainment productions to date.
I’m always ready to be corrected but I suspect it’s probably the one movie most hated by Irish people all over the world.
Either way, there an excellent article in this week’s Irish Times on the making of the movie, which is fascinating in itself. You can find it here: OIRISH FILM