Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin, Ireland. 27, history, politics & law graduate
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Mar 10
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and the answer is…

(to this question), via Wikipedia’s disambiguation page:

Black and tan may refer to:

So as you can see, especially as ‘the Black and Tans’ continue to have a notorious reputation in Irish popular memory, it’s not an appropriate name or colour scheme to give to an Irish-themed shoe (produced for St. Patrick’s Day along with a Guinness shoe). I’m particularly glad to get (correct) responses from both British and American followers. I can easily overestimate the genuine offensiveness of this, because I’m not a stronger believer in Irish nationalism or holding cultural grudges, but there is a shared history to be aware of here between Ireland and Britain, and Irish-America.

The inappropriateness of using this term, which I’ll hopefully explain further below, is I think perhaps ultimately that of co-opting back (intentionally or no) an image of colonial/imperial oppression to a culture which has little or no experience of such oppression itself. Although, while America hasn’t been dominated by paramilitary force controlled from outside since its own War of Independence, it has both used that instrument abroad (think security contractors in Iraq) and at home (think Pinkerton strike-breakers in union struggles). Such historical awareness is not an abstract concept, but a tangible fact of cultural understanding - and one can add this to, rather than it subtracting from, the issues of consumer demand and industrial behaviour that go into the making of the shoes in the first place.

* * *

gregduggan replied to your photoNike “Black & Tan” 100 Tumblr points to any…

There was a similar offence caused by a Ben and Jerry Ice Cream flavour.

Yes, I remember that, and it was noted in the original report, including B&J’s apology at the time:

 “Any reference on our part to the British army unit was absolutely unintentional and no ill-will was ever intended. Ben Jerry’s was built on the philosophies of peace and love,” said a spokesman for the company at the time of the controversy.

It’s odd that an even larger corporation would go on to make the same mistake, unless as I see plenty of people suggesting in the comments here, it was an intentional ploy for publicity. But that seems far-fetched, given the potential damage to reputation (and, yes, the working conditions of Nike’s shoe manufacturers  should be the main reputational issue, but unfortunately it’s not new). More likely it was an oversight on the branding of a (presumably) limited-edition product, or they weren’t aware it caused controversy before, or it was a bad judgement about the likelihood of controversy emerging between competing references of the term.

In specific relation to the Ben & Jerry’s product, it was at least a foodstuff, so the beer connection makes more sense; but unfortunately the term has come full circle here in that the ‘Black and Tans’ were so-called because of their irregular uniforms, and it’s now also being used to describe an element of clothing.

British Regiment, massacred people in Ireland - Easter Rising? Or another time? (I’m not looking at Wikipedia, I want my Tumblr points pure…)

Ex-soldiers recruited by the Royal Irish Constabulary (the British-instituted police force) in the 1919-1921 War of Independence, not the 1916 Rising, but otherwise close enough! Although, while they did conduct numerous retaliatory attacks against civilian persons and property, most notably destroying a large portion of Cork city centre, I don’t think it could be said they massacred anybody (they weren’t directly responsible for the original Bloody Sunday in Croke Park, for example). It was more that their well-publicised savagery and involvement in reprisals became symbolic for general British brutality, at the time and thereafter.

Hmm, wasn’t that a certain section of the British army which committed terrible war crimes against the Irish?

Again, paramilitary rather than military (I’m not sure why, perhaps because of the later history of the Troubles, especially in Northern Ireland, but that distinction seems important to me) and I’m not sure if ‘war crimes’ would apply in a low-level conflict internal to the then British Isles. But certainly there has always been a link implied between the dehumanising experiences of trench warfare in 1914-1918 and the use of demobilised soldiers in augmenting the civilian police force in Ireland once it moved into open rebellion.

can i use google?

Of course, that’s what it’s there for. ‘Educate yourself’!

irish history
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  1. hardcorefornerds posted this
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