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Treading the fine line between past and present, This Week, in History is a round-up of the latest historical events and findings which continue to impact the world today. Whether unearthing documents with continued relevance, illuminating accounts of current figures in their formative years, or breaking news that contributes to a narrative spanning decades, This Week, in History is that broader context to current affairs. This week, we look at the historic relevance of Something Awful, the IRA’s execution of informant Frank Hegarty and Sean Spicer’s take on the Holocaust.
Documentary Sheds New Light on the IRA’s Killing of Frank Hegarty
Two weeks after his passing, Martin McGuinness is back in the news, this time in relation to the case of Frank Hegarty, a British informant executed by the IRA in May, 1986.
For years, McGuinness repeatedly denied his having played any role in the killing of Hegarty. However, British intelligence agents have often responded to the contrary.
Why intelligence was certain that McGuinness had a direct part in this murder was not previously been disclosed. However, on Tuesday, in the lead-up to the release of his new Panorama documentary, Spy in the IRA, journalist John Ware revealed that the intelligence services had been listening in on phone-calls between Hegarty and his family who were living in Derry.
Writing in the Irish Times on the day of its first airing, Ware said that British services had tapped the phone, and heard Hegarty’s mother Rose tell Frank, who was living in a safe house in Kent, that McGuinness guaranteed his safety were he to return home.
McGuinness had been visiting the home for thirteen weeks, and according to the taped phonecalls was also present in the house while Rose Hegarty spoke with her son.
Frank Hegarty had been a member of the IRA during the 1970’s and early 80’s. Then in 1982, after being appointed as the organisations Northern Command Quartermaster, he was outed for having an affair with the wife of an Ulster Defence Regiment soldier and subsequently pressured to stand down.
Following this, he was successfully recruited by the British Front Research Unit and persuaded to rejoin the IRA. Despite being a liability, hence his expulsion, Hegarty managed to re-enter the Northern Command Quartermaster’s department. Then, when he helped thwart a Libyan arms dump, to ensure his own safety he was was forced to go into hiding.
Placed in a British safe house, Hegarty would eventually give up this protection, returning to Derry upon learning from his mother that McGuinness just wanted to have him talk with a group of men in Donegal.
According to Ware, this proved to be the moment that British intelligence effectively abandoned him to his fate, since they had an FRU agent acting inside the IRA, Freddie Scappaticci, codename Stakeknife, who would have been aware of the organisation’s plan to execute him for his actions.
Scappaticci was operating from within the IRA’s Nutting Squad, the unit that would eventually kill Hegarty. However, over the course of the three and a half weeks that Hegarty was in Derry, no attempts were made to alert Hegarty to this threat.
… and the Award for Worst ‘Worse Than Hitler’ comparison goes to Sean Spicer
It is rare that we get to see a member of the Trump administration begging for forgiveness and at the mercy of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, but such was the case with Sean Spicer, for his revised take on the Holocaust in the lead-up to Easter.
Only a few months after Trump presented the world with a Jewish-free description of the atrocity, former-Easter Bunny and current Press Secretary Spicer stole headlines for a Hitler-Assad comparison so weak, one almost feels sorry for his idiocy.
That is of course, until you remember it is Sean Spicer we are talking about.
Offering up his own variation on the ‘Worse than Hitler’ cliché, Spicer overstepped his mental capabilities by discussing the Sarin gas attacks in the Syrian province of Idlib on April 4th, which resulted in 80 deaths, 27 of which were children.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
It does not take much of a stretch to recall that in the concentration camps, the pesticide Zyklon B was used to exterminate Jewish prisoners, but again, this is Sean Spicer. Logic is but a concept for the elites and brainwashed liberals.
When questioned about his remarks, he defended himself by pulling out the shovel in order to dig deeper.
“I think when you come to Sarin gas—there was no, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Ashad [sic] is doing. I mean, there was clearly—there was not—in the, he brought them into the Holocaust centers, I understand that—but I’m saying in the way Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down, to innocent—into the middle of towns.”
There you have it. Rounding up one’s own people and gassing them in the aforementioned “Holocaust centers” is a lesser evil when viewed alongside the dropping of a nerve agent into a town. As State’s own Ben Mathis-Lilley rightly observed, the heinous crime of mass murder increases drastically when conducted outdoors. Although, it must also be pointed out that the Nazi party briefly experimented with using ‘gas vans’, prior to the construction of their gas chambers, an experiment that resulted in 700,000 deaths, which is larger than six million, because it took place out in the open.
Let’s be honest though, nobody could ever expect Sean “Holocaust Centers” Spicer to know about a fact like that.
If you thought Sean was done for the day, you were of course mistaken. Error number two was not enough to keep him quiet, because Sean, bless his mess tried digging again,
“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust, however, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people.”
There you go Sean, Jewish people were not innocent, so out popped statement number four,
“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on populations centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”
There you have it, on his fourth go, the Press Secretary of the Free World managed to clarify what he meant when using a historic reference to justify his case. One could call it a strong contender for blunder of the year, and yet, incredibly, Holocaust revisionism was only the second worst thing he said all day, because once the first set of remarks have finally been forgiven, he is going to need to clarify what he means by the Trump administrations intentions to “destabilize” Syria.
Chin up Sean, remember the good times when the press actually liked you. Those days might not be as far behind you as once hoped.
Pillowfuckers United Inc.: Vice’s Oral History of Something Awful
The idea that an online forum can be classified as a historic source is worth debating, especially when one of the names forwarded is none other than the shock comedy and proto-troll site, Something Awful. Previously deemed by the American Folklife Center as culturally significant given its influence on sites such as reddit, Facebook, Twitter and 4chan, the accidental innovation of S.A has been colourfully documented in a new oral history from Vice‘s Motherboard, entitled simply: ‘Fuck You and Die – An Oral History of Something Awful’.
Framed in the context of the dot-com bubble, this collection of interviews charts the rise and fall of what can be seen as the first dark corner of the web, conceived in 1999 by Richard Kyanka.
One could write a loquacious academic essay on his contribution to the web, but really his way of phrasing it is far superior,
“I’m obviously not a visionary, but I predicted that the internet would be shitty back in 1999. Everybody was talking about how the internet was going to revolutionize everything and everything was going to be great, but nobody ever talked about how shitty the internet could also be.”
Crudely dissecting this phenomenon in an age before online culture was deemed a cesspool of paper-thin debates on free speech, sexism and racism, it seems alien a concept to read the words of Joseph Boruff, a former administrator, when he observes,
“If someone was just a terrible, incoherent writer they would get run out. If someone was a racist or an idiot they’d get run out. There was never any desire to coddle people or hope they’d improve. You had to perform at a certain level or you were banned.”
For any internet obsessive, ‘Fuck You and Die’ is a fascinating and hilariously crass read, which helps trace back to its source the origins of movements such as the Alt-Right, the Milo Yiannopoulos Brigade, Incels, Otakus, Weibos and trolls. On its surface, it is just a bunch of former-administrators saying “fuck a pillow” a lot, but genuinely, if you wanted to grasp the now-almost opaque world of subreddits, which are as intimidating as they are incomprehensible, a lot can be taken from Kyanka when he says,
“A long time ago, if somebody said they really wanted to fuck a pillow with anime on it, if they went out in public and said that, they would be laughed at. There would be some element of shame. They would keep that inside and say, ‘Well, I want to fuck a pillow with anime on it but I can’t tell anybody’… [Then] the internet came along and they could get on a webring… Go to rec/all/fuckanimepillow or whatever. Then other people would say ‘I want to fuck anime pillows, too.’ You had this community of people who were very intent on fucking anime pillows. The typical person does not want to fuck a pillow with anime on it. This, of course, was back when fucking anime pillows was fresh and new… [Pretty] soon it’s Pillowfuckers United, Inc.”