November 16, 2013

Fintan O'Toole on the hyper-inflation of language and emotion

Father Alec Reid claimed on October 18 2005 here that Ulster unionists treated the Catholic community "like the Nazis treated the Jews." Fintan O'Toole responded to this with an article in the Irish Times with the title 'Comparison with Nazis is absurd'. He said:
"I happened to be in the Polish city of Wroclow. At lunch that day, when there was some talk about historical memory, I was on the brink of mentioning the controversy to my Polish hosts, but I just couldn't do it. I was too ashamed.
Fintan O'Toole called it a "combination of historical ignorance and monumental self-pity." He continued: 
"How could you possibly explain that Irish nationalists, who are thought to be so steeped in the past, know so little about the recent history of the continent they inhabit? There is no excuse for not having at least a general sense of proportion, for being wary of camparisons that are as inaccurate as they are offensive."
He spoke of the cognitive dissonance and contradictions:
"The irony of all the hyper-inflation of the experiences of Catholics in Northern Ireland after partition by involving the Nazis or, as Sinn Fein tends to prefer, apartheid Africa, is that it actually occludes those experiences themselves. It discredits history itself as a context in which we can understand the present."
In full here. Fintan O'Toole also wrote in The New York Review of Books here in 1998 that, "The analogy between Irish Republicans and Mandela is not in fact valid."

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