Rarely has a review of mine generated so much commentary or so many viewings; and even more rarely has so much bile been directed to it and, by extension, to me. That review I entitled ‘Unreadable nonsense‘, a critique of a pseudohistorical publication pretending to have identified not just one but two candidates for King Arthur.
It provoked a range of responses, from readers agreeing with my assessments through to commentators prepared to politely disagree, and on to fanatical supporters of the book’s authors, many of whom share a common inability to answer criticism with any degree of logic. It is the comments from this third cohort I want to discuss here because they seem to me to exemplify the irrational side of some individuals, the type who believe that being contrary indicates a valid antiestablishment position, regardless of how nonsensical the taking that position is.
Note, roughly half of the sixty-plus comments on that post are my answers, and the antagonistic comments number just a handful.
Online views of my review leapt from 207 in 2020 (when the review was first put online, in July) to 696 in 2021 by early May — they’re rapidly approaching 800 now — while the average views per day went from one last year to five this year. This rise in interest is interesting, but what it signifies one can only speculate. The fact that views of that piece outnumbered combined views of the following posts — on Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone, the benefits of isolating during a pandemic, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein — may indicate the obsessive nature of some of those adhering to this pseudohistory, typical of trolls.
I’m going to refer to these adherents as fanboys, despite the fact that I shall later be deprecating any insults. I use this term in a neutral but accurate sense: they not only all fanatically support the author’s hypotheses but they are to a man all, well, men. I also use a couple of terms to describe them that are equally accurate. Be warned, I’m going to quote these fanboys at length (you may see the comments with my replies under the original post) and I shall refer to them as Fanboy A, Fanboy B, and so on — partly because I’m not even sure if the names they use are their own or if it’s one or other of the authors using multiple names.
Here’s Fanboy A. First, he responds to a comment I made to another blogger about antivaxxers, this being a full five months after the post and initial comments. He accuses me of being against people not sharing my opinion (presumably he means he takes my views as a personal affront) and concludes by making unscientific and unsupported statements.
Calmgrove, so you are obviously against people having a different opinion than your own. Why give yourself something that you don’t already have. Vaccines are supposed to work, by giving you a mild dose of the current sickness. Why are there so many Schools for vaccine injured children. Vaccines cause autism.
He then reappears (using a different email, I should add) with scattergun statements dressed up as rhetorical questions, seemingly thinking he’s refuted my critique — he hasn’t — but in effect tilting instead at straw men. Oddly, my response elicits no further response from him but is followed up by Fanboy C (to be discussed later).
Calmgrove, so you are saying an Engineer has no right to use his skills to determine fact from fiction. Are you saying as a Welshman he could not read the Welsh language, seems strange. Are you saying this applies to all Welshmen, or just Alan. Did Alan not read the Egyptian hieroglyphs, did he make that up. I think he has stepped on your toes sometime.
Fanboy B now puts in an appearance with this rancourous diatribe and the odd emoji:
Well the fact that you are trying to push an oxford Imperialistic anti anything before the Anglo Saxons , you are just contradicting yourself with your text book history knowledge. It is in the names in Welsh towns, and landmarks taken off modern maps is why your text book history knowledge can’t get around it. Alan makes it very clear the linguistic properties, as well as recorded history that it’s quite literally set in stone. If you try to say it’s bad Latin I am pretty sure Latin would of been altered in Britain to suit the Celtic tongue. If your any way educated on the Brythonic (Celtic ) languages you know it evolves quickly and frequently and the linguistic pattern arranges naturally second spoken languages in its own way. If you don’t believe me look at Yeats’s earlier plays it shows how Hibernian English was spoken in the same linguistic pattern of the Irish language. Also you couldn’t be more wrong linking up Alan, and Barram to be far right pushing historians, they are trying to say descendants of a lot of us came from Syria and near modern day Turkey for god sake! What far right wing historian would want that to be heard?😂 You push imperialism not wokeness my friend, so stop contradicting yourself and state what your real “academic” agenda on your imaginary thesis will be…
Fanboy B demonstrates why precisely it’s pointless attempting a reasoned discussion with his ilk:
- Assumptions. I’m accused of pushing an Oxford imperialistic [sic] point of view, with only a text book view of history, also of having no regard for placename evidence, and no understanding of how languages can evolve over time and space.
- Inaccuracies. I don’t ever link up the two authors with ‘far right historians’. They’re far right, beyond doubt, because they stood as British National Party candidates in local elections; but they’re not historians in the academic sense, and even right-wing historians would have utter disdain for their illiterate grasp of all the requisite disciplines.
- Insults. Whenever people resort to insults (and especially insults on someone’s personal blog) they’ve lost the argument. The sarcastic use of “my friend” for example, and the pejorative use of the term “woke” earned Fanboy B the threat of having similar ad hominem comments sent to spam; and that in fact turned out to be the case.
On to Fanboy C, in response to Fanboy A.
congratulations Dave Owen u r the first on this page to say something intelligent
I’m not sure if I have anything to add to this. Fanboy D came next. I admit it, I’m sceptical that Modern Welsh can decipher ancient hieroglyphs, so therefore I have no braincells, I’m brain dead, and I’m a scoffing preducial [sic] moron.
Wilson and Blackett have proved that you can use the Welsh language to decipher the hieroglyphs.
If you have 1 Braincell you should know that you can’t “fake” the cypher, so if you can’t follow and see that it works you are just proving that you are utterly brain-dead. Just a scoffing preducial moron.
Let me introduce you to Fanboy E with what could be his totally devastating putdown of my careful review.
“The lady (calmgrove) doth protest too much, methinks”
And finally, here’s Fanboy F, who then provides, as ‘evidence’, an academic presentation of recent research into ethnic movements around the Old and New Worlds over time. Forgive me if I missed the reference about the Tribe of Dan being the Scythians, whose migration to Britain confirmed the medieval Brutus legend. At least it’s acknowledged that the two pseudohistorians were a bit wobbly around the edges — though I’d emend that to very wobbly, and throughout.
You do know that new DNA evidence is proving their thesis that it was the tribe of Dan that were the Scythians who eventually moved through europe and got to Britain, as the Brutus story explains? So what if they’re a bit wobbly around the edges…
I’m sorry to resort to imposing these illiterate passages on you all; my main purpose has been to share certain observations regarding this sordid experience, what in fact led me to characterise it as ‘unreadable’ and ‘nonsense’.
- Fanboys never directly answer specific criticisms; instead they offer rhetorical questions which, if you counter, they ignore; they introduce spurious new assertions designed to direct one off the main argument; and they offer no proper references to independent academic research, apparently on the grounds that such work is part of a widespread Oxford imperialistic conspiracy to hide the truth.
- The language of fanboys often displays two facets. The first is of persistent illiteracy in terms of grammar, punctuation, phraseology and sometimes spelling; an inability to express yourself frequently leads to an inability to offer a cogent argument. Secondly, with little warning, they’re liable to skip a few gears and go straight to top insult gear.
All the foregoing characteristics was what led me to call off a correspondence with the authors four decades ago. It’s a bit dispiriting to find that, all this time later, their supporters feel no need to pursue a civil line to win arguments and influence people.