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Jett_Rucker • 8 years ago

The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold.

- Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror:The Calamitous 14th Century, p. xviii

James Graham • 8 years ago

Yes, there was definitely some discrimination against the Irish in America. This grandson of Irish Catholic immigrants says "So freaking what?"

There was also pro-Irish discrimination by other employers. The Irish dominated many large city police and fire departments ... and the enormously influential American Catholic church. Do you think the people who ran those organizations did not discriminate against the non-Irish?

Many well-paid blue collar jobs were controlled by Irish-dominated restrictive unions. One NYC-based union where I suspect the Irish still dominate: Broadway's stagehands.

It was nearly impossible in the first half of the 20th century to find
in the popular Schrafft's restaurants in New York City a waitress who
didn't have an Irish brogue.That was no accident. There was a de facto
"No Non-Irish Need Apply" policy that kept out other ethnicities.

As for the corporate world, a fellow Catholic once told me that RCs were over-represented in the ranks of General Motors' executives. I have no idea if that were true but since his father had worked for GM I at least found his comment "interesting."

I suggest we leave the constant harping on past discrimination to people who devote their lives to ensuring that the USA is always painted in the least favorable light.

ms. mischief • 8 years ago

This grandson of Irish Catholic immigrants says "So freaking what?"

That would be fine if all the descendents of the discriminated against say the same.

hadhrami • 8 years ago

The idea that anti war types, at least some of whom were not so much anti war as pro one of the more murderous ideologies the planet has seen, would abuse soldiers is at least plausible. What is not plausible is that in these various anecdotes, they inevitably end with the spittee quietly and shamedly walking away. These are young men, trained in the systematic use of violence and have had their honour impugned by some foul mouthed unwashed leech on society. Why is it that these anecdotes never end with the spitter lying in the gutter counting his remaining teeth and resolving to be more diplomatic in future while the returning soldier wanders off feeling that he has performed his educational good deed for the day? I suspect there's a valuable experiment that could be performed by anyone subscribing to the passive soldier meme. Go down to a local soldier bar and accuse one of them of being a hired killer of innocents and let us know what the response is.

ms. mischief • 8 years ago

P.J. O'Rourke got punched for his antics. We know because he talks about it in his dedication to Give War A Chance.

However, it's entirely possible that circumstances can stop some of them -- law enforcement in the area etc., -- and not only are they more likely to tell the tale because they look better, they will be angrier about the underhanded tactics.

hadhrami • 8 years ago

I'd forgotten this but I gathered this was being on the receiving end of a general anti anti war protestor at a demonstration rather than him spitting on an individual soldier and getting thumped for his trouble. I don't doubt that both spitting and retaliation occurred in at least some cases, it's just that I find the classic rendition to be deeply implausible in its specifics - lone soldier at an airport, no suspicion that he'll be treated badly, gets spitted on and does nothing about it etc

Ulysses Noman • 8 years ago

Note the publication of McArdle's twaddle about acceptance of the Other comes the day after a palestinian-kuwaiti immigrant ONCE AGAIN butchers US citizens on US soil.

bluesdoc70 • 8 years ago

Let's hear it for Italian martyrdom!....What kind of sound does an Italian flat tire make? Dago wop wop wop :)

PalaceGuard • 8 years ago

My husband's grandfather, a fireman in Baltimore way back in the last century, was told that he would never be promoted to captain because he was Catholic (whether it also had to do with the fact that he was of German ancestry as well, I do not know).

andagain • 8 years ago

Why was I so glad to read that my ancestors had, in fact, faced nasty discrimination?

Why would you not be glad? It doesn't cost you anything, and such evidence might concievably be useful at some point.

marc biff • 8 years ago

My dad showed me a photo he took in 1950s Plymouth England outside a boarding house it stated No coloureds,No Irish,No boilermakers,guess what i am.

ThomBurr • 8 years ago

You are a Black Irish welder?

marc biff • 8 years ago

Welder!There is no need for gratuitous insults,welder indeed.

ThomBurr • 8 years ago

Hah, sorry! Before I looked it up, I thought a boilermaker was just an alcoholic drink.

marc biff • 8 years ago

You weren't too far off to be honest.

Skip • 8 years ago

The Chinese communists taught everyone that in Shanghai the parks had signs that said "No Chinese Allowed." These signs never existed. Chinese were the majority in the international territories because they loved the rule of law. They could run businesses in peace (at least until Japan invaded). People love a good prejudice story, so they invent them.

London however, did have advertisements for apartments that stated, "No blacks, no dogs, no Irish."

KevinF • 8 years ago

My favorite part of the article was learning that Megan McArdle was a hotel maid.

Kylopod • 8 years ago

I was going to simply post a comment on this article, but I decided to make a blog post out of it:


Chris • 8 years ago

Why did God create alcohol?

So the Irish wouldn't control the world ..

ms. mischief • 8 years ago

Drink is the curse of the land.
It makes you quarrel with your neighbor.
It makes you shoot at your landlord.
And it makes you miss him.

Chmeee • 8 years ago

It was Whiskey, sir, that God created, and the Irish are very fond of it, as I can personally attest.

The Gaelic name for it is 'Uisce beatha', which literally means "the water of life".


TheNextKenJennings • 8 years ago

Regardless of the question whether the "No Irish" signs were "a myth" or very real, I think we can all agree that these kind of signs and the racial and religious discrimination behind it are very much deplorable.

If so, then why do some of us still insist on discrimination based on religion, race, sexual orientation, and so on? And why do some of us insist on showing symbols of that discrimination?

dacushing • 8 years ago

Praise be that we've moved from the historical era of macro-aggressions to the current era of micro-agressions.

Tom Reeves • 8 years ago

This is called the Ladder of Inference and the concept outlined by MIT's Chris Argyis and Peter Senge. It's very damaging in business as leaders tend to develop, unknowingly, a set of mental models appropriate what helped them succeed - when situations change, the mental models are no longer appropriate but the leader doesn't know this. They keep doing the same things expecting success.

nikuj • 8 years ago

I am always surprised how can on Humanitarian ground , Govt gives perks for having 3-4 child.. when a person can't afford it..

If Govt gives perks and subsidy to wrong people just to increase population will bring Poverty and Messy life and then in future all Humanitarian laws will fail to help Common public...


ms. mischief • 8 years ago

Especially since we have super-duper good people like you to decide who is good.

Guest • 8 years ago

And the change from "alien" to "immigrant" was also an earlier, deliberate change intended to emphasize the lawbreakers were now American, and thus deserving of legal/Constitutional protection.

JonF311 • 8 years ago

In what dictionary is "immigrant" defined as "American"? An immigrant is someone who has moved their residence from one country to another. A change of citizenship may or may not be part of that move.
You are splitting semantic hairs.

bannedforselfcensorship • 8 years ago

No he's not.

They used to be called Illegal Aliens.

Then they became Illegal Immigrants.

Immigrant has a far more positive connotation.

BTW, I have an Alien Residence Card for another country...they apparently aren't afraid to call people aliens.

I suppose that some aliens really are immigrants in that they never plan to go home, so maybe its a good change.

JonF311 • 8 years ago

While "alien" has a legal dictionary definition that makes it technically correct, in popular parlance, "alien" conjures up images of little green men from the Planet Zoz. "Immigrant" simply works better.

Guest • 8 years ago
TheNextKenJennings • 8 years ago

Quite to the contrary. Keep on fighting it!

ms. mischief • 8 years ago

When the damage done by fighting something is greater than or equal to the damage it does, leave it alone.

Hmm. How to judge now. . . .

jhertzli • 8 years ago

Consider the following scenario: There is a school of thought that makes a theoretical prediction based on what appear to be good reasons. For some reason, the evidence to back up said prediction does not seem to be forthcoming, which is cited by people disagreeing with it. Time passes ... and something resembling evidence at long last shows up. On the other hand, it's much less than the people who originally issued the prediction had in mind.

How skeptical should we be about the prediction? In a related question, what is the track record of earlier predictions that fit the pattern?

I can think of several predictions that fit the above pattern. One of them is believed by the Left. Another is believed by the Right. I am disinclined to take either that seriously. On the other hand, there are other predictions that I am inclined to take seriously that also fit the pattern.

free_agent • 8 years ago

"these signs were occasionally posted by Irish Americans themselves"

It reminds me of Steven Pinker's report that research shows that members of various groups tend to agree that stereotypes of those groups are accurate. If Irish-Americans were considered undesirable as workers, there's no reason to believe Irish-American employers disagreed.

In regard to discrimination, I read (many years ago) that someone had managed to find evidence of how much waiters were paid in Boston in the 1840's, just after the big immigration wave, and found that black waiters were paid more (on the average) than Irish waiters. That sort of immigration is less subject to trouble with counting and biases in the sorts of materials you can find.

Julie__K • 8 years ago

Sometimes the strongest pressure on new immigrants to assimilate is coming from old immigrants of the same ethnic group.

MarcusColorado • 8 years ago

I rarely agree with Ms McArdle on economics or politics. This is another one of her very good, thought provoking articles. I grew up in a small Midwestern mill town. When I started dating a girl from the Catholic high school, I got grounded. The $250 car that I bought with my earnings from the grocery store was impounded by my mother. Was 50 years really so long ago ;-)?

Chmeee • 8 years ago

The Catholic church that ran the school my kids went to was built on Main St in a predominately Protestant town. No Catholics Allowed was the not-so-unspoken rule. In order to buy the property to build the church on, a straw buyer was hired to make the deal. When he was asked what the business was that would be established there, he told them that they would be 'mending soles'. Nice.

So every year on the anniversary of the opening of the church, shoes are placed in the steps to the altar.

MarcusColorado • 8 years ago

BTW, the Catholic girl in question was very pretty and still is.

Old Spotted Hog • 8 years ago

There's another reason why our hostess and the majority of us readers might welcome evidence of a widespread anti-Irish attitude—even those of us without a drop of Hibernian blood.

Most of us are inclined to oppose racial preferences in employment, education, etc. We acknowledge that blacks have been subjected to some fairly horrific racially-based injustices in the past, beginning with slavery and continuing through black codes and Jim Crow laws; but we take the position that, just as Irish and Chinese and Italians achieved mainstream success without government-mandated remedies, so should black Americans be able to make it without such laws and policies.

Evidence that the Irish et al. were treated very, very badly in the past tends to strengthen this argument. Thus many of us readers have an incentive to welcome Fried's findings, since they lend support to our views on current policy.

eyethink2 • 8 years ago

Trying again - censors blocked me :)

When I was a boy, every day you could hear (or tell) a joke that
started with an "Irish, a Pole and a Jewish walked into a bar" (or
Italian - pronounced EYE-talian or "N" meaning black or "Slav", or
"Chinese (or variants)", etc, etc.). We never thought of those as
discriminatory or racist, but they came from someplace. Because not too
many of those jokes started with "A white man of English descent walked
into a bar".

My apologies if I offended anyone, it was descriptive, not humorous. If you want the humorous if incorrect version feel free to search tasteless jokes.

dacushing • 8 years ago

When I was but a wee lad, I spent some time living in Montana. We didn't have Polish jokes there, we had North Dakotan jokes.

Known in my part of Montana (Rosebud County) as No-Dak jokes.

Airman Spry Shark • 8 years ago

Growing up in Texas it was all Aggie jokes.

bannedforselfcensorship • 8 years ago

I'm going to guess its New Englander puritans, aka progressives of those days, who didn't like the idea of "drunkenness" in the home or business.

johnny sunshine • 8 years ago

The first such "evidence" that came to mind for me, that people were so eager to believe that they never bothered to find out if it was true, is the legend of soldiers being spit on as they deplaned after returning from Vietnam.

Everyone 'remembers' it because they heard John Rambo tell the story. But it was actually made up years after the war ended by a professional Republican political operative from Texas. It couldn't have happened as he described it because the soldiers flew into military bases, not civilian airports. He claimed, starting years later, that he flew into a civilian airport, but military records showed he was lying.

There's no doubt that soldiers in uniform were spit on out in the world, though it's surprisingly hard to actually find soldiers saying it happened to them rather than they heard it happened to someone. But there aren't any contemporaneous - rather than years later - reports of it happening in any airport, even though there was plenty of coverage of the culture clash at the time. People were eager to believe it happened all the time back then, so they didn't ask if it was true.

ruralcounsel • 8 years ago

I've heard it in one version or another from real Vietnam Vets ... not some movie. Frankly, I'm inclined to believe them.

This seems like some rationale to excuse oneself (or others) from behavior that isn't socially acceptable anymore. The anti-war movement of the 60's was more pro-Hanoi than most are now willing to admit.

johnny sunshine • 8 years ago

But people of the time apparently were able to separate their scorn for the war and the warmongers from the mostly draftees who we sent to fight it. More able than people remembered ten years later.

ms. mischief • 8 years ago

ALL the people of the time? Every single one? Because it only takes one who is either unable or able but unwilling to make the story true.