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The R-word

December 5th, 2004

My post on Keith Windschuttle’s statements defending the White Australia policy drew an interesting response. No-one, as far I can see, was prepared to defend Windschuttle outright, but there was a sudden and startling outbreak of caution. Maybe Windschuttle had been misquoted. Maybe the interview gave a misleading picture of his book and we should all wait to read it. Maybe the term “White Australia policy” was never used officially. Maybe the dictation test was administered so as to admit educated Indians. Maybe my links were inaccurate.

All of this is very uncharacteristic of the blogosphere. The nature of blogging lends itself to summary judgements based on limited evidence, not waiting for years until all the evidence is in. You read the papers, make a judgement and (at least among the better class of bloggers) if you turn out to be wrong, you admit it with good grace. Why has the response in this case been so different ?

I think it’s because of the R-word racism. There is only one real instance of political correctness in Australia today and that is that you are never, ever allowed to call anyone a racist. It’s OK to say that Adolf Hitler was a racist, and that apartheid was racist, but the idea that any actual Australian could be a racist is utterly taboo. Even I can’t resist the Zeitgeist on this one. In my post, I called Windschuttle “a consistent apologist for racism, happy to use racist arguments in support of his cause”.

It’s obvious why this taboo has emerged. Racism is an evil, bloodstained ideology and no one wants to admit association with it. Hence, almost no-one is silly enough to come out with a clear-cut statement like “white people are inherently superior to black people, and should be able to use them as they see fit”.

In this respect, racism is very similar to Communism. But while few people were willing to endorse Soviet Communism openly, particularly after the purges and the exposures of Kruschchev’s secret speech, there were plenty who were always willing to make excuses for the communists along the lines of “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” and so on. With his characteristic turn of phrase, Lenin called people of this type “fellow travellers” to their faces and “useful idiots” behind their backs.

Since his (still unexplained) swing from far left to far right about a decade ago, Windschuttle has consistently sought to excuse racist actions by whites (or, more precisely, British whites) by the usual range of strategies including denial of the facts, quibbling about irrelevant details, denunciation of witnesses and attacks on the victims as subhumans responsible for their own demise[1]. But, in politically correct Australia, that’s not enough reason to call him a racist. So, I’ll just call him a fellow-traveller.

fn1. There’s an obvious model for this kind of thing in the recent historical literature, but I’ll leave the identification as an exercise for readers.

In case people have forgotten Windschuttle’s track record on matters of this kind let’s look at a couple of examples of blatant inconsistency, invariably operating to put whites who might be accused of racism in a good light, and blacks in a bad one. In his book on Tasmania, Windschuttle denies that Aborigines resisting white occupation could be viewed as displaying humanity or compassion on the basis of claims (for which he had almost zero evidence) that they had no words for these concepts. On the other hand, in claiming that the Aborigines were responsible for their own extinction, he accuses them of prostituting their women, a concept that is meaningless in a society without money or formal concepts of trade (leaving aside the well-documented and widespread incidence of rape).

In the interview promoting his new book on White Australia, Windschuttle supports the view, often stated by apologists for the policy, that it was the product of economic incentives. By contrast, in this New Criterion piece on the history of the British Empire, Windschuttle defends the view that the British abolition of slavery was due to moral revulsion rather than economic motives. In other words, when the British (taken here to include white Australians) do the right thing, this is evidence of the moral superiority of British/Christian civilisation. When they do the wrong thing, it’s a “rational and, in a number of ways, progressive, product” of economic circumstances.

If you want to confirm all this, I have a long essay here or you can search the site for chapter and verse.

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  1. December 5th, 2004 at 13:12 | #1

    And what a wordy journey it is!

    Those who rely too heavily on dictionary definitions are doomed. Words are alive, and often connote far more than they are defined to mean. That’s why we have so many different words, to eek out each connotation, and to differentiate. Calling military service slavery (unless done in a metaphorical tone) just gets people thinking you’re odd. It’s like vegetarians saying “meat is murder.” May wake people up, but turns them off just as fast.
    Vernon Imrich

  2. gordon
    December 5th, 2004 at 13:38 | #2

    It is interesting to consider the extent to which racism underlies and may to some extent support nationalism. I am an unashamed nationalist (of a sort of Wilsonian type), but would quibble over definitions with anyone who called me racist. Yet it seems that racism in some form tends to reveal itself when national existance is (or is thought to be) threatened. Witness Nazi Germany, post-Franco-Prussian-War France (antisemitism), Dutch South Africa, wartime UK (“the only good German is a dead one”) and Australia (anti-Asianism?). Perhaps someone more familiar with the origins of national feeling and the emergence of nation-states would like to comment.

    It is also interesting to remember that there are primatologists and anthropologists who would gladly see chimpanzees, Neanderthals and even Homo Erectus enrolled as in some sense “human”. I have never felt attracted to such views; such an enlargement of the category “human” would render it meaningless, and possibly be insulting to chimpanzees and Neanderthals. But it reveals something about our sensitivity towards acknowledging differences. We seem to be unable to handle the idea that people (including races or even extinct species) are different from each other without at the same time running a kind of competition about which is “better”. Maybe the real problem is with our understanding of what “better” means?

  3. December 5th, 2004 at 13:44 | #3

    I think it is pretty obvious that a country that supported a White Australia was dominated by racist institutions and the individuals that led those institutions. Certainly deciding which Aboriginal child would be kidnapped by the government (state and federal) based on skin colour is racist.

    It is also tyrannical government. Racism and despotism in the same 70 years. Huzzah for Australian government. Australia’s black armband history has been supplied by the government. The “culture wars” are a farce.

  4. wpc
    December 5th, 2004 at 13:58 | #4

    If Windschuttle is unfairly making anglos look good, and aboriginals look bad, then he is just doing the opposite of 90% of journalists who are at the other extreme. They are just as bad as he is.

    Remember one prominent female historian who, when exposed fraudulently giving statistics of how many aboriginals had been killed by anglos, defended herself with this line:

    “Historians make things up all the time”.

  5. IRA
    December 5th, 2004 at 14:03 | #5

    “As soon as I call someone a racist, everyone hates me,” cries hard done by professorial economist raking in $150,000 per annum. You’re a bloody professional victim, mate. And it’s a bit unseemly on your wages. Here’s a word we CAN use. It’s the P word: Prat.

    Arguing that calling people racist is “utterly taboo” in Australia today is utterly crap. You’re a disgrace to academia and intellectual commentary.

  6. December 5th, 2004 at 14:53 | #6

    IRA – if you don’t have anything constructive to say – why bother?

    I think that one of the reasons that the word “racist” is avoided when describing Windschuttle’s work is that it is too easy a label to apply. It’s too straightforward for a journo or other commentator to simply dismiss the man as a racist, and doing so would realistically not serve to progress the debate any further.

    The best way to approach the kind of fascist revisionism that he has produced recently is through refutation of the claims and evidence that he puts forward.

  7. Just another bloke
    December 5th, 2004 at 15:48 | #7

    I remember reading somewhere else that multiculturalism had begun to make the classical definition of a nation-state somewhat harder to pin down. It used to be that ‘nations’ were collections of cultures sometimes more easily defined by race and language. It also used to be quite conventional to protect these ‘nations’ by restrictive or nonexistent immigration policies. Were these policies racist? If so, in the absence of a true multicultural society, were these policies defensible? When did multiculturalism as we define it today first come into vogue? Was Australia a multicultural society in the 1950s? Is it permissible, even today, to attempt to preserve cultural aspects (such as race or language) through restrictive immigration practices?

    I’m not an academic and I wasn’t alive in the age of the ‘White Australia policy’, but if someone was prepared to re-examine these issues, I’m not sure I could label the process racist. (For info, I say that as someone perfectly comfortable with present multicultural policies and immigration practices).

  8. Alex
    December 5th, 2004 at 16:20 | #8

    Jphn is right about the reluctance to accept people using the “racist” epithet. But is there a good reason for that reluctance? Isn’t it all too often an easy way to dismiss someone’s opinions as valueless, without actually engaging with what they say?

    JQ, I look forward to more substantive rebuttals of Windschuttle (not necessarily from you) after his book is released on Monday. Until then, I at least am willing to withhold judgement.

  9. Just another bloke
    December 5th, 2004 at 16:22 | #9

    Reading your other thread John, I suppose you could construe parts of my previous post as a partial defence of the ‘White Australia policy’. I guess I keep thinking of the analogy of Iceland, particularly in the 1940s or 50s (less enlightened times). Would the Icelanders be justified in restricting or excluding immigration on the basis of trying to preserve their unique language, way of life and maybe even race? Is Australia’s situation during the White Australia policy analogous? If so, should we feel guilty about it? If the answer is yes (which may be Windschuttle’s argument – I don’t know, and neither do you apparently), is that argument inherently racist? Not sure myself, but undoubtedly others know for me.

  10. observa
    December 5th, 2004 at 17:14 | #10

    My take is Windscuttle is really having a go at the holier than thou attitude of multiculturalists who would brand culturalists as racists. Certainly Australians have been culturalist in their past and the WAP was founded in protecting this culture. eg in worker’s unions wanting to protect their lifestyle from ‘scabs’, a policy which was rooted early on in antipathy to the influx of Chinese workers in the goldfields and hung over with post-war ‘wog’ immigration. Ipso facto all unionists are racists and pro immigrationist bosses are all nice luvvy multiculturalists like Prof Q. Welcome to sunny Qld Kanakas and ignore those racist unionists or perhaps the NT aboriginal elder who, when a boat-load of refugees pulled up on his patch, told them they couldn’t stay because they didn’t have a permit. Was this elder a culturalist or a racist, by using current immigration policy in this way?

    My own view is that ordinary Australians are culturalist, rather than overtly racist. Indeed they may espouse openly racist derogatory remarks at a macro cultural level but this hardly ever carries across to true racism at a micro one on one level. It is why they can support broad immigration measures to decide who comes here and yet be accommodating toward the individuals who have slipped through the net and into their local communities. All KW may really be saying, is the debate should be about the degree of practical emphasis on culturalist vs multiculturalist ideology, as racist may have outlived its usefulness as a derogatory term for both sides. Perhaps like all discriminating groups, unionists, sexists, racists, leftists, islamists, elitists, etc the good Prof Q may simply be a bit fearful of the stranger moving in on his erstwhile, comfortable patch.

  11. zoot
    December 5th, 2004 at 17:25 | #11

    You omitted “rightist” from your list of discriminatory groups. Any particular reason?

  12. December 5th, 2004 at 17:27 | #12

    Wrong again, JQ.

    In case you haven’t realised it yet, you yourself were being uncharacteristically bigoted on this subject. Now, when dealing with prejudiced people, you cannot deploy the full range of reasoned factual arguments. You have to work away at what little is left open to work on, as any direct application of “brute reason” will be rejected out of hand as “ah – another racist aplogist to be ignored” (you almost telegraphed that).

    So you – or in this case we – have to approach the topic indirectly, much the way Harriet Beecher Stowe esplained the wrongs of slavery to a slaveowner not in the larger terms which he was accustomed to tuning out but in terms of what would happen to his slaves once he, the beneficent paternalist massa, was gone. Maybe some damned yankee would neglect them!

    But I see you are still interpreting objections in terms od some pattern of how people get at the world, not in terms of any pattern of error of your own. You have a long way to go yet.

  13. Spiros
    December 5th, 2004 at 17:28 | #13

    Here is an extract from what Wikipedia has to say about the origins of the White Australia Policy

    ” The main rationale of the policy was to keep Australia racially pure. “I am prepared to do all that is necessary to ensure that Australia shall be free for all time from the contamination and the degrading influence of inferior races.” (Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, 12th Sept 1901 p.4845) The trade unions and their political party, the Labor Party, was the driving force for White Australia. Chris Watson, the leader of the Labour Party stated that “The objection I have to the mixing of these coloured people with the white people of Australia – although I admit it is to a large extent tinged with considerations of an industrial nature – lies…in the possibility and probability of racial contamination.” It was widely believed that racial purity was essential for social and political stability. “The unity of Australia is nothing, if that does not imply a united race. A united race not only means that its members can intermix, intermarry and associate without degradation on either side, but implies one inspired by the same ideas…” (Alfred Deakin, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, 12 September 1901, p.4807) ”

    And from the same article, this is what our first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton had to say:

    “The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman.”

    Source for the above quotes:

    Barton, Deakin, Watson: these weren’t fringe characters. They were all Prime Ministers at or shortly after Federation. Our national leaders, the architects of the WAP, didn’t mince their words. They spoke of the need to avoid racial “contamination” and “degradation” which would result from mixing the races.

    So tell us again, Mr Windschuttle, how the WAP was not based on notions on racial superiority.

  14. December 5th, 2004 at 18:05 | #14

    Wrong again, JQ.

    In case you haven’t realised it yet, you yourself were being uncharacteristically bigoted on this subject. Now, when dealing with prejudiced people, you cannot deploy the full range of reasoned factual arguments. You have to work away at what little is left open to work on, as any direct application of “brute reason” will be rejected out of hand as “ah – another racist apologist to be ignored” (you almost telegraphed that).

    So you – or in this case we – have to approach the topic indirectly, much the way Harriet Beecher Stowe esplained the wrongs of slavery to a slaveowner not in the larger terms which he was accustomed to tuning out but in terms of what would happen to his slaves once he, the beneficent paternalist massa, was gone. Maybe some damned yankee would neglect them!

    But I see you are still interpreting objections in terms of some pattern of how people get at the world, not in terms of any pattern of error of your own. You have a long way to go yet.

    Oh, and I take the cries of racist suffering as so much bleeding heart over-statement if taken as a full description. Even Sharpeville pales into insignificance compared with what the blacks did to the whites in the Congo about the same time (did I mention that our family had to be rescued by Belgian paras after a three day siege with the white community in a block of flats in Luluabourg?). And the extreme of institutional racism that is continuing at the moment is in Zanzibar, against the Arabs and even more against the Parsees, at the hands of the blacks. It’s perfectly understandable, but two wrongs don’t make a right, and there’s no occasion to turn “racism” into an anti-white tool.

    Indeed, the concept of racism is unhelpful to the extent it draws attention to process at the expense of actual human harm. For instance, the other day some rednecks beat up some burglars in Queensland and that is being made out to be racism because of the coincidence that both blacks and whites were involved. Yes, racism prior to that no doubt no doubt created the situation, but the beating wasn’t racist – the culprits would have done the same to anybody. Which should not be taken by members of the race industry as meaning that it didn’t matter – it was still wrong.

    Now if you want someone willing to give an apologia from the things done in past times, try this – but don’t use your own prejudices as an excuse not to assess either this or my previous Windschuttle remarks on their merits.

    Both “separate but equal” and apartheid do represent noble ideals, though quite possibly put forward by cynical realists as a stalking horse. Who could possibly object to that sort of splendid isolationism, allowing each to disregard the lifestyles of the other yet not suffer thereby? Only, it was never practical policy, at least for implementing those ideals, and many realised it even at the time. But you can’t blame people being fooled for being racists, only for being fools. And the ideal is still nobler than multiculturalism, which cannot ever be worth pursuing in itself. It is at best good policy with a poor propaganda gloss, and at worst it doesn’t even deliver a quiet life.

    But my willingness to live and let live isn’t practical, even though that is just precisely what apartheid set out to achieve. Apartheid was like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Unfortunately the remedy consists in putting something at least as predatory and even more sneaky in charge – and that alternative was clear to the want-of-better supporters of apartheid in the ’60s, and while it does not justify them, it explains them as pursuers of the lesser evil – which they genuinely were.

    Now, consider this dilemma: if I had not spoken out, you, JQ, would have supposed that nobody was willing to take a stand for truth, that the other side had no part in truth. Yet, now I have, have you adjusted your view of anything I say so that forever and forever you will not take anything I say on board – the very problem with enmity to truth that I and many others hold against the whole PC movement?

    If the latter, only your readers can determine, and then only for so long as you do not mark these sorts of things as “uncivilised” and worthy of censoring. But I object to people who seek to cause harm as evil, and to mindless things and processes that lead to it as bad, whether I work within the PC framework or not. I even have no problem with using the word “nigger” within an argument for deeper purposes, any more than leading lights of the ’60s objected to nude scenes that served dramatic purposes.

    Here I stand, I can do no other (which, I know, was subtly mocked in Peter Lorre’s closing speech as the child molester in the film “M” – which highlights our very human problem in matters of conscience).

  15. Katz
    December 5th, 2004 at 18:20 | #15

    This is a very disturbing topic that may herald most unfortunate developments in public discourse and perhaps public policy.

    Racism is so multi-faceted it is worth identifying its varieties and deciding which of those varieties is germane to a discussion of polemicists like KW or polemicists who pose as historians.

    some categories:

    1. visceral racists who find it difficult to acknowledge the humanity of members of certain groups (there is no evidence that KW belongs to this category)

    2. Scientific racists who construct rationales for unequal treatment of certain races. This attitude to race informed the Australian constitution and the Immigration Act of 1901. (KW declares that this attitude to race was justified at the time, given the world-view of dominant groups in Australian and international society.) There is nothing particularly objectionable about this statement in itself. But my objection to KW on this subject is that, given his subject is the rise and fall of official racism in Australia, it is incumbent on him to declare if and when such a policy ceased to be understandable and justifiable in his judgement. It is possible to accuse KW of counterproductive coat-trailing on this subject. As a public intellectual it is incumbent on him to make his position clear on this issue.

    3. Apologists of the racism of historical actors. This is what KW is most famous for. His history of the Tasmanian Aborigines is driven by two major projects:

    a. exculpation of European settlers by a critical and often tendentious assessment of the evidence of genocide. KW scored a few hits on his shoddy historian opponents, but he suffered more hits due to his disingenuousness in distinguishing and disallowing evidence. People of good will are capable of assessing the worthlessness of KW’s research methods.

    b. redefinition of racism. KW’s declarations about the innate inferiority of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture, both physical and moral, are designed by KW to serve as an omnibus exculpation of racist actions of Europeans in Tasmania. According to this view it was impossible for Europeans to be condemned as racist because Tasmanian Aborigines did not merit treatment reserved for human beings. This is an appalling view which releases the hobgoblins of racism into Australian political and social discourse.

    This latter project makes KW’s quoted statements on official racism under the Australian Constitution particularly worrying and worthy of debate and condemnation. It should be clear that KW’s representation of Tasmanian Aborigines is very much in the mainstream of the same scientific racism that informed racist elements of the Australian Constitution.

    The disturbing thing about this is that KW’s comments about the racism of the Founding Fathers can now be seen to have a personal significance for KW. No longer is KW defending understandable but perhaps regrettable ideas of a pack of dead blokes with beards. Rather KW is defending his own view of the world. This is a world where it is desirable and perhaps necessary to disqualify the right of certain groups from the privilege of membership of common humanity.

    And if it is OK to do this for peoples in the past, then maybe it is OK to apply the same principles to treatment of our contemporaries. (Might KW be thinking about Aborigines and Arabs?)

  16. December 5th, 2004 at 18:36 | #16

    in politically correct Australia, that’s not enough reason to call him a racist. So, I’ll just call him a fellow-traveller.

    I think that Jack Strocchi at December 5, 2004 04:54 PM beat you to it.
    That may make Windschuttle a “fellow traveller” with racists, or vice-versa.
    I am not that interested in Windschuttles history and certainly oppose the reintroduction of WAP and the Aborginal caste status. What does annoy me is the hijacking of historical debates for contemporary political purposes. (I concede that conservatives do this, but I feel that progressives have been the worse offenders. Having been educated at Uni Melb in the eighties I am entitled to have some slack cut for me on this score.)

    There is only one real instance of political correctness in Australia today and that is that you are never, ever allowed to call anyone a racist.

    This must be one of the silliest things that Pr Q has ever said. What planet is he living on?
    Does Pr Q remember the moral panic that progressive elites whipped up about racism when the Country Party made a re-appearance under the guise of Ms Hanson? I know it was way back in the late nineties, still it should not be lost in the mists of time, I think.
    Does he remember the infamous outbreak of Howard-hatred that spread like wildfire amongst the progressive cultural elites after the 2001 election, which was fuelled by cries of racism against persons who supported a strict border protection and a lawful settlement program?
    (The non-racist supporters of Howard can now feel morally vindicated in that many of the Tampans have been lawfully resettled in AUS without public outcry. This proves that respect for civic law, rather than an urge to wage race war, was the majority factor in this issue.)
    In fact, one of the first things done in any AUS political debate about “our role in the world” is to pre-emptively take the high moral ground by calling ones adversary a racist. A check of google brings up 391,000 hits for “Australia + racist”.
    This attitude has always puzzled me, perhaps because I have been painfully aware of the wisdom of John 8:7. Having grown up with people from all walks of life one gets used to applying a rhetorical discount to the occasional bit of sledging.
    Dr Knopfelmacher always used to say that racism is the last taboo subject, replacing sex. He meant rational analysis of race, not the use of “racism” as a swear word, which still has a pandemic potential in polite circles.
    He also used to say that moral rhetoric was the last legitimate form of inter-personal aggression. Maybe thats why people get so touchy when the R-word is used.
    It is hard to take all this hoo-ha about racism and apostatsy too seriously. It is important to take a stand against actual and existing racists but, pace General von Moltke, one is tempted to ask: if there is a race war on then “Where are the (neo-nazi) prisoners? Where are their field guns?”.
    To a post-baby boomer it looks more like the replay of a schoolyard fight that started in the fifties, continued on through uni and is now being revived in graduate school, replete with name-calling, foot-stamping and face-pulling.
    I think its time to treat the Culture Wars as a kind of kabuki play that can be analyed by Weberian clinical sociology. The term “racist”, like the older but cognate term “fascist”, has now almost exhausted its cognitive value as a rallying cry against injustice.
    It is now a political football used by progressive elites as a dominance marker to take the prestige moral ground in a social status struggle with lower-status elites. By the same token, the lower-status elites are trying to bolster their political position by taking the popular moral ground by siding with the masses and their folk histories.
    On this reading, the progressive Cultral Elites are the New Establishment. Windschuttles apostasy is just a counter-revolutionary pose with him, as usual, on the militant side of the barricades.
    This is all quite amusing to watch but those not invested in the debates of the seventies are entitled to be underwhelmed. Mr Howard has leap frogged ahead in this symbolic politic game. Those, like Pr Q I am sure, who are interested in practical results, rather than moral grandstanding, will welcome this development.
    Hayek, in the Road to Serfdom, quotes Hume on the embarassing pedigree of ideas. The fact that “mulit-culti” boilerplate is still used with a straight face by progressives is a source of never ending amazement to me. Does the anti-Windschuttle side recall that the first modern political party to use the term
    “multiculturalism” in political discourse was Konrad Heinlein’s “Sudetendeutsche Partei”?
    Just to rub it in a bit further: In the midst of all the (quite appropriate and welcome) celebration of Eureka Stockade Day has any one of the multitudes of progressive caught up in the nostalgia paused to consider that the subsequent Eurekans were out and out racists as well as ecological despoilers?

    A Eureka like flag was carried in the 1861 incident at Lambing Flat [Young NSW] when the diggers rose against “the Chinese plague”, and again in 1878 the Eureka flag was raised during the Sydney maritime strike against Chinese labour. In 1891 the shearers of Queensland flew the “flag of blue and silver stars” in their fight against poverty by an overseas induced depression, taking to arms to defend their cause.

    Should we now tear down all the Southern-Crossed-spangled banners? On Pr Q’s ideologic it would be hard to object to this form of politico-moral puritanism.
    I suggest that political morality is relative to time and place. What exactly are we trying to prove when we say that Foundation Australians were vicious or virtuous? The founders of this country were neither angels nor devils. They were just poor forked creatures who had a go and wanted a fair go for their own kind.
    History is a two-edged sword and those who wish to wield it for political purposes may find themselves run through by their own weapon.

  17. December 5th, 2004 at 18:42 | #17

    On a point of information, wasn’t that Haenlein, not Heinlein, in the Sudetenland? I believe the similarity caused some awkwardness for Robert A. Heinlein, the SF author to be, as he was trying to get into politics in California at around the same time.

  18. Alex
    December 5th, 2004 at 21:21 | #18

    Another question for JQ: where were you when various people were making apparently racist remarks recently in the debate about Condi Rice’s suitability to be US Secretary of State?

  19. Don
    December 5th, 2004 at 21:38 | #19

    Has anyone noticed the way the picture of Windschuttle in the SMH makes him look just like Penfold from Danger Mouse?


  20. Anthony
    December 5th, 2004 at 21:50 | #20

    Congratulations Alex! I was waiting for that. We need a new version of Godwin’s law to cover the ‘If you didn’t say P about Q, you can’t say X about Y” positions like this.
    “Unless JQ denounces *categorically* some alleged remarks by unnamed people pertaining to an irrelevant event in another country (if necessary travelling back in time to do so), he is banned from writing about an actual issue in this country”. I like it.
    As a matter of interest, where were you when that happened Alex? Is it a thing like the moon landing or the Kennedy assassination where you always remember what you were doing?

  21. Alex
    December 5th, 2004 at 22:08 | #21

    Hey, don’t overstate my case! I didn’t say that not commenting on the Condi Rice case automatically disqualifies JQ from having a go at Windschuttle. However, it is worth asking the question, because it may be that JQ is more interested in having a go at Windschuttle than at Condi Rice’s tormentors because on other issues he disagrees with W, whereas he disagrees with Rice (and therefore is less concerned about criticism of her, even if apparently racist).

  22. John Quiggin
    December 5th, 2004 at 22:18 | #22

    Alex, I hadn’t heard anything about attacks on Condi Rice but a Google search suggests that you are referring to a Wisconsin radio host (who has since apologised). For the record, I deplore his remarks.

    With this preliminary issue out of the way, I look forward to your condemnation of Windschuttle.

  23. Alex
    December 5th, 2004 at 22:34 | #23

    JQ, see my earlier post on this thread (4.20 pm) and my comments on the other thread re conflating of various issues.

  24. December 5th, 2004 at 22:43 | #24

    For the record, I am a racist. Lots of my best friends are white. In fact, now I think on it, they all are. Oh, except one – but she’s really the wife’s friend. I believe racism is a natural human attribute. Any decent psycho-evolutionist will tell you as much. So much for the science.

    It’s the politics that’s interesting. For the record, I am not a racist. For mine, those who profess to be above unimportant squabbles like racism – Strocchi – are as much the problem as those – Windschuttle – who seek to provide political justifications for the overt expression of our common and innate racist impulse.

    Racism, in a confined space, is a problem just like aggression and which we must combat in order to achieve the good life on this here earth. There can be no shirking of the issue. Progressives understand this. Recalcitrants just muddy the water and need to be ignored – Strocchi – or howled down – Windschuttle.

    Prof JQ is, as almost always, correct to call it out loud and early.

    One of the Bahnisch boys is on the money too saying that Windschuutle is a media tart and calculates this an issue to attract column inches and notoriety. However there is a reason matches are put in the high cupboard and there is a reason why playing the fool on this issue is as bad as playing for real.

  25. Alex
    December 5th, 2004 at 22:50 | #25

    Oh, and apart from the Wisconsin radio host, there was also this

    and this


    and this


    although Mr Carlton claims irony as his defence, apparently

  26. Katz
    December 5th, 2004 at 23:09 | #26

    Jack Strocchi,

    “Racism” and “racist” are usually terms of abuse which, as you imply, close off debate. As I hope to persuade you, that’s the racists’ choice.

    “Racism” and “racist” are also analytical categories that allow identification of a fairly broad but also finite set of social, political and cultural ideas.

    As Winthrop Jordan has shown, racism was deeply ingrained into English culture by the beginnning of the seventeenth century. He demonstrates how racism was nurtured by a particular understanding of bibilical texts that were peculiar to the English speaking world. (This is not to imply that only English were racist, just that their racism took on a particular, historically determined shape.)

    The most potent form of racism, and the one most influential in the development of Australian official racism that informed the Immigration Act of 1901, and the racism that KW refers to and perhaps flirts with, is neo-Darwinian “scientific racism”.

    In discussing the rise, elaboration, adoption as public policy, systematisation, partial eclipse, and possible recent recrudescence of scientific racism in Australia one is compelled neither to don a black armband nor a white blindfold.

    Racist ideas existed and still exist. Public figures adhered and still adhere to racist ideas: they are racists. This is a simple matter of analysis. Disagreements around the margins should not blind us to the existence of the core.

    Racist ideas and policies range from genocidal to relatively gentle exclusionism. Very few racists call for the Final Solution. The Left is sometimes blind to these nuances.

    A measure of the success of liberalism in our culture is the reluctance of racists to self-identify. “I’m not a racist but…” This is a relatively recent victory.

    Liberals (small l) who have as a tenet of faith that all human beings share identical potential and deserve equal recognition of their human dignity feel it is a victory when racists are shame-faced about their obsessions.

    If they want to be proud about them, however, then let them identify themselves and bring it on.

  27. December 5th, 2004 at 23:16 | #27

    Katz is now officially my intellectual hero. (Sorry, Rob!) Which is by way of saying “wot Katz said” except in this case, that would have sounded presumptuous.

  28. December 5th, 2004 at 23:28 | #28

    Great post John. At times like this … I miss the freedom of the ‘sphere.

  29. December 6th, 2004 at 01:31 | #29

    Katz, you write ‘A measure of the success of liberalism in our culture is the reluctance of racists to self-identify. “I’m not a racist but…” This is a relatively recent victory.’

    That is not a success of liberalism, unless by “liberalism” you mean a sort of newspeak opposite of the real thing. This very real victory is retrograde, consisting in the success of intimidation and suppression – not of any persuasion of people that they (we, in many cases, since in many cases I am one of these) are in the wrong.

    I know damned well that the claque will go to work if I try to bring out those things that their tunnel vision lumps all together to be ignored, so by and large I go about things differently in my pursuit of and bringing out of such truth as I can find.

    But “PC” is an enemy of this, so be damned to any categorisation which serves in the end not to highlight but to mark for suppression – which your formulation shows is a view you hold in practice, whether you know it or not.

  30. kyan gadac
    December 6th, 2004 at 01:52 | #30

    Back in the 1960’s the historian C.D.Rowley drew a simple map to distinguish between what he called colonial and post-colonial Australia. Post-colonial Australia(the south east cities and the south west) was distinguished from the rest by racist views not being overtly expressed and by the absence of overt racist actions.

    This distinction was still present in Australia in the 1980’s when I was working in Cetral Australia. I vividly remember in 1981, when a group of 11 Aborginal people were poisoned by a bottle of port that had been laced with strychnine in Alice Springs. The Coroner at the inquest made the observation that the wrong case before his court was receiving the publicity at the time. The wrong case was the death of Azaria Chamberlain and the Coroner was Dennis Porrit.

    In 2000, in one of the books written about the experience of the rabbit proof fence story – the author relates how a bullet was fired into a camp by a passing ute of white fellas. It was a commonplace event that hardly bore remarking from the local indigenous population. ‘what can yu do?’

    In 2003, the West Australian published a letter from a local complaining about the ‘Aborginality’ of a particular violent child sex offense. This was after the paper and the TV had made sure that the race of the offender was clear. Why did the publish the letter? and other’s like it at the time? They published a letter from me a week latr pointing out that his race was ‘australian’ and that he was probably at least part English as well as part Aboriginal. And that blaming a minority for a heinous crime is a way of avoiding recognizing our collective responsibility and was a path that had been used by Goebbels prior to Crystalnacht.

    I remember my grandparents and other people of their generation talking about ‘boongs’ and ‘niggers’ and ‘wops’ without any sense of guilt or economic self-interest. It was smugness and arrogance and pride that was in their voices that struck me as a youngster.

    To all those apologists for white australia and the racist attitudes of this country – you are forgetting your own personal as well as your country’s past. I’m 52 years old, I can still remember all these things, I was there. It is a precondition for facism, this wilful forgetting.

  31. dk.dk
    December 6th, 2004 at 02:28 | #31

    That is not a success of liberalism

    Yes it IS a victory of liberalism. The notion that we are not governed by ‘natural laws’ or ‘facts’ or ‘truths’ like that of ethnicity or race is THE legacy of liberalism. If this infiltrates our daily abductions, that IS a huge victory.

  32. Ed M-S.
    December 6th, 2004 at 02:41 | #32

    (1) Saying that racism (etc.) is the “last taboo”, or even just a “taboo” label, is a bit strong – although it is deployed with a good deal of caution. I suspect this is because the ‘average’ person associates racism with a ‘deep-seated’ ATTITUDE or an EMOTION – viz. fear and/or hatred. So, calling Hanson in the 1990s a racist or Howard in the 1980s a racist was a risky move because the burden of proof, falling on the accusor, was quite large – it required a demonstration of a deep-seated psychological state, something that was not really evident in the public personas of either Hanson or Howard.

    (2) I had the good fortune of reading through almost every word in the Commonwealth Hansard on the early 1900s debates about Australian immigration, and so can say that the majority of speakers on the matter saw non-Anglos as a threat first and formost to British culture. British culture was seen as superior to all others and that its purity, virtuousness, etc., would be corrupted by adding people of inferior cultural backgrounds. It was an easy rhetorical and conceptual slippery-slide from race to culture and back again: an inferior culture denoted an inferior race, and an inferior race was a threat to the purity of a superior culture (which was, of course, thereby associated with a superior race). In the heat of debate, even on one-hundred year old yellowing pages, the passion with which these beliefs were held burns brightly. On reading wave after wave of it, it is hard, nay impossible, to come to any conclusion other than the White Australia policy was borne out of a deep-seated fear of “the Inferior Other Races”.

    (3) As to Windschuttle’s “(still unexplained) swing from far left to far right about a decade ago”, apparently he attempted something of an explanation in November 1999 in Quadrant. Here is Bob Gould’s mildly amusing take on the whole thing: http://members.optushome.com.au/spainter/Windschuttle.html The relevant part starts from the section entitled The Grapes of Wrath as a communist conspiracy.

  33. December 6th, 2004 at 03:37 | #33

    John, you write: “Racism is an evil, bloodstained ideology and no one wants to admit association with it.”

    So why do you maintain a link to Margo Kingston, who a few months ago claimed that “the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia”? And what about this, from a guy many of your fellow leftists link to?

    As you wrote a few days ago, “don’t whinge when you get lumped in with them.”

  34. John Quiggin
    December 6th, 2004 at 05:05 | #34

    Jack, since we were both typing, simultaneously as far as I can tell, that Windschuttle is a fellow-traveller with racism, let’s agree to agree on this one.

  35. John Quiggin
    December 6th, 2004 at 05:23 | #35

    The attempt to find racists I haven’t condemned is getting kind of desperate here. Alex digs up a rather lame piece of humour from Mike Carlton, and Tim Blair points to a (rather half-hearted) apology about a racist remark from someone who might have been linked by someone I linked.

    Tim also rehashes his Margo Kingston obsession with some OTT remarks by Margo that might be construed as anti-Semitic code, but might equally well be a clumsy reference to Christian fundamentalists and Likud supporters.

    Again for the record, I found the ‘jokes’ linked by Alex to be tasteless and crass, and I think Margo should take care to avoid this kind of phrasing in future. If Tim can point to clear-cut anti-Semitism on her part, I’ll delink her.

    Given that Tim and Alex have set the bar so high, I’m waiting, still, to see their condemnation of Windscuttle.

  36. d
    December 6th, 2004 at 06:47 | #36

    Well in today’s Australian we finally have access to what Windshuttle himself says rather that “filtered spun and adulterated” versions. On the face of it, to me it doesn’t quite seem to be the vile diatribe that Q sketched out. Whether it is factually accurate is the question, which well have to wait for the sources to verify I’d say.

  37. Giles
    December 6th, 2004 at 07:26 | #37

    I think a bit of perspective is need in judgment of WAP. The turn of the century came at a time when the world had experienced its largest ever mass migrations – I think something like 10% of the world emigrated 1870-1910(Higgins).

    In other words the size of immigrant flows were large enough to literally change the character of the receiving nation. So when people made the choice about how to restrict immigration, they were quite literally choosing the cultural their nation would take. And 1900-1910, virtually every emigrant nation of note imposed some sort of racial restriction- so Australia was hardly the exceptional character. And race restrictions are still imposed – what about the US visa lottery – for instance.

  38. John Quiggin
    December 6th, 2004 at 07:38 | #38

    The whole claim that “White Australia was exceptionally racist” is a straw man erected by Windschuttle, to deny the obvious fact that White Australia was racist.

    What’s really interesting here is the comparison with apartheid. Windschuttle and other defenders of White Australia want to maintain a sharp distinction between White Australia and apartheid. But (as he ought to remember) the people who were most prominent in comparing White Australia and apartheid in the 1960s and 1970s weren’t leftist academics, they were apologists for apartheid, from Verwoerd on down.

  39. Katz
    December 6th, 2004 at 07:43 | #39

    P.M. Lawrence:

    “But “PC” is an enemy of this, so be damned to any categorisation which serves in the end not to highlight but to mark for suppression – which your formulation shows is a view you hold in practice, whether you know it or not.”

    So I guess that, objectively, I’m a totalitarian. I confess this comes as something of a surprise to me. Oh well, so be it.

    I bet all you non-PC closet xenophobes, monoculturalists, ethnocentrists, chiliasts and sundry teleologists out there in your survivalist bunkers now regret sticking your noses in the blogiverse because we objective totalitarians know your names and we know where you live.

    Expect a midnight knock on the door and a one-way ticket to the John Stuart Mill Mung Bean Collective and Political Re-education Facility.

    [For those who still need to be told, this is an attempt at irony.]

  40. December 6th, 2004 at 07:57 | #40

    wbb at December 5, 2004 10:43 PM. stands astride the Olympian high moral ground, like the moral Colossus he is:

    For mine, those who profess to be above unimportant squabbles like racism – Strocchi – are as much the problem as those – Windschuttle – who seek to provide political justifications for the overt expression of our common and innate racist impulse.

    I dont think that racism is unimportant on the global scene. All indications are that the global political struggles are getting more ethnolgogical and theological, as the 19-20th Enlightenment ideologicial struggles peter out.
    The genius of AUS’s post-Menzies liberal Vital Centrism is that it has successfully contained the problem of racism through the dialectic of Whitlamite progressive racial differentiation and Howardite conservative social integration. FWIW, I put myself as a conservative-liberal, rather than a progressive-liberal, end of the Vital Centrist spectrum. The owner of this site, and most commenters, seem to be on the progressive-liberal side of Vital Centrism.

    Racism, in a confined space, is a problem just like aggression and which we must combat in order to achieve the good life on this here earth. There can be no shirking of the issue. Progressives understand this. Recalcitrants just muddy the water and need to be ignored – Strocchi – or howled down – Windschuttle.

    Yes! Thats the modern progressive way to learn and progress. Censor dissent and ignore unpleasant truths. Not.

  41. December 6th, 2004 at 08:01 | #41

    John Quiggin at December 6, 2004 05:05 AM

    let’s agree to agree on this one.

    I wish I had thought of saying that first.

  42. dk.dk
    December 6th, 2004 at 08:02 | #42

    And race restrictions are still imposed what about the US visa lottery for instance

    Giles, you’ve committed the cardinal sin of assuming a simple isomorphism between citizenship and ethnicity. Nation, state and (imagined) biology have never been neatly packaged together, as much as extreme nationalists would like to promote the contrary.

  43. December 6th, 2004 at 08:05 | #43

    Katz: all human beings share identical potential

    If this is what I’m required to believe to join the elite PC brigade… then I guess I’ll just skip the semantic tricks and sign up as a racist. I think the idea that all humans share identical potential is patently absurd. We are not clones. Perhaps this explains why the left has no time for individualism?

    However, it is difficult to question anything the left says regarding race for fear of being branded evil and immoral. For a long time I was too scared to debate such issues. I believe that this response (fear) is exactly what the PC brigade wants… which is why they are so arrogantly dimissive of immoral idiots that dare question them.

    And yet, strangely, it is often people on the left who support government policy explicitly based on race (affirmative action).

  44. Katz
    December 6th, 2004 at 08:24 | #44

    John Humphreys:

    Potential DOES NOT EQUAL achievement.

    I thought this distinction had been made clearly enough by 1776 when Thomas Jefferson penned the notion that the nascent United States was dedicated to the principle that all people were created equal — i.e., equally deserving of opportunities to develop their potential. Do we really need to reinevent that wheel?

    There are arguments for removing the rights of individuals for a variety of reasons: crime, idiocy, insanity.

    But to argue that there are classes of human beings who are inferior at their moment of conception and thereby merit discriminatory treatment is a most regrettable point of view and one that cannot be justified emperically.

  45. d
    December 6th, 2004 at 08:25 | #45

    Katz: all human beings share identical potential

    Steven Pinker has just killed this simplist meme in The Blank Slate.

  46. Katz
    December 6th, 2004 at 08:41 | #46



    A brief summary of Pinker’s thesis goes like this:

    “Pinker attacks the notion that an infant’s mind is a blank slate, arguing instead that human beings have an inherited universal structure shaped by the demands made upon the species for survival, albeit with plenty of room for cultural and individual variation.”

    To assert (note that I am not claiming that it can be proven empiricially) that human beings are born with equal potential IS NOT the same as saying they are born as a BLANK SLATE.

    In fact, note the important word in the above gloss of Pinker’s thesis: UNIVERSAL. Pinker is saying that every human being has this potential, it is a confirmation (but not a proof) of the validity of liberal values.

    Unless you’ve got something better, Game, Set and Match.

  47. JC
    December 6th, 2004 at 09:03 | #47

    I can’t help but imagine a picture of Victorian feudal Lords, swilling their chardonary, squabbling over the true nature of their impoverished serfs.

    I am genuinally curious to know who here has actually been a victim of racism, given that you all seem to have authority over it and know it so well. And that is not sarcasm. I would really like to have a better understanding of the positions of those who proffess to know the true nature of racism in this great country. Left and right alike – I don’t care for political philiosphies here. When you’re being searched by police in the street or receive road-rage racial epithets or get rolled for being the wrong colour, you don’t have time to check if your assailant read Chomsky or Windshuttle.

  48. John Quiggin
    December 6th, 2004 at 09:22 | #48

    A good question, JC. I haven’t ever been a victim of racism. (My picture might provide some clues as to why this should be so.) But I certainly ran across plenty of it in my younger days, and have seen a revival (or rather a return to social acceptability) recently.

  49. December 6th, 2004 at 09:33 | #49

    Here FTR are my correct views on everything about racism.
    There is passive racism and active racism. All members of the human species who dedicate disproportionate personal resources to blood relatives and their kind are passive racists. All sub-special groups that dedicate political resources to subjugating or denigrating other sub-special groups are active racists.
    By this metric, the AUS federal settlement was a weak form of active racism. We disposessed traditional land owners, colonised South Pacific islanders and chased out Chinese gold diggers. Windschuttle, by supporting WAP, is attempting to justify this and is therefore giving aid and comfort to active racism, at least at the historiographical level. I see no evidence that Windschuttle is giving intellectual support to active racism in the sphere of contemporary political activity.
    Active racism has more or less disappeared from the AUS political spectrum since the ascension of Whitlam. But before we all start scrambling for the high moral ground and deafening each other with bawls of self-congratulation I would urge commenters to pause.
    Pretty much every person I know, including Pr Q, is a passive racist because they care for their kids more than other kids. The very word “kind” betrays that children (kinder), our blood issue, are micro-racial units of propagation. The Nazis were an extreme version of biological communitarians and got alot of mileage out of the slogan: ‘kinder, kusche, kirsch’.
    Familial groups are racist institutions since they are the building blocks of tribal, national and racial populations. A race is simply a scaled up family with a certain level of non-lethal consanguinal interbreeding. Plato knew this and preferred citizenship to kinship as the foundation of the state. So he advocated breaking up families to strenghthen the state.
    Humans appear to have evolved the moral sentiment of reciprocal altruism (tit-for-tat kindness) which was advantageously selected as the biological affinities in shared genes aided propagation and prolongation of familiar sub-species. The challenge of civilised statehood is to substitute kinship for citizenship, based on sociological affinities of shared memes.
    The multi-culti seperatists, who Windschuttle attacks, advocate kinship based political communities which is leads back to tribalism ie racism. They pose a much greater threat to a liberal civic culture than Windschuttle’s apostatic poses.
    Already AUS’s hardcore multi-culturalists have been associated with covering up criminal-political drug trafficking rings(Grassby), our first jailed cabinet minister (Theophanous) and our first political assasination (Newman). Not to mention the internal corruption of our oldest political party (ALP ethnic lobby branch stacking & immigration rorts). One could go on with the various rorts and wanks associated with equity and diversity bureaucracies and over-lawyering, but it would be too tedious. Every one knows this anyway but prefers to not mention it to avoid the Tickner treatment.
    Holland, which had gone done some serious multi-culti experimentation over the past generation, has proved Poppers theory that a liberal civitas cannot tolerate the intolerant. We have had a small taste of where this can go with recent disturbances by dis-integrating cults in Sydney’s South West.
    Where’s the outrage? I await, with unbated breath, progressive-liberal repudiation of the reactionary, vicious and stupid multi-cultural seperatist philosophy.

  50. Alex
    December 6th, 2004 at 09:51 | #50

    Katz, you are nuts. Are you really suggesting that I was born with the potential to be another Beethoven or Einstein?

  51. Alex
    December 6th, 2004 at 10:09 | #51

    Worth reading Windschuttle’s article in today’s Australian. While he may somewhat overstate his case, he also mounts a pretty good argument that others have overstated the opposing case, by a considerably greater margin.

  52. JC
    December 6th, 2004 at 10:13 | #52

    Thanks John.

    It is worthy to note that this applies to white racism as much as black, or brown, or pink with purple pokadots.

    You should be thankful for not ever being the subject of racism. It is not a pleasant experience. In my observation (and experience) people tend to have one of two reactions to it – they either respond violently (physical or verbal) to their assailant, or are so shocked by the unexpectadness of the assault that they curl up into a little ball or run away. This may be sudden in the street, or maybe covert in a workplace. The bottom line is that it hurts. I hope you all remember that when you form your discussion pieces, especially when you contemplate accusing your foes of being “intellectual elites”. Ha!.

    None of this of course detracts from one’s right to form opinions on the matter. It merely gives us all a better understanding of how someone’s opinions form and may lend credibility to said opinion given that this is an issue that happens to be experienced by real people on the ground and not at the comfort of one’s computer (at least where it counts the most).

    But don’t worry John, you’ve got plenty of credibility to throw around. You’re testimonials on the front page are evidence of that.

  53. December 6th, 2004 at 10:32 | #53

    JC, I’ve been a victim of racism. You see, I’m white, and when I was a child in the newly independent former Belgian Congo, the Force Publique mutinied and started killing all the whites they could find, and never mind whether they were Belgian or not. The Luluabourg community was besieged in a block of flats for three days until a local Belgain paratroop colonel disobeyed orders and made a drop to save us.

    That’s why I take examples of racism as much less serious when they fall materially short of atrocities.

  54. James L.
    December 6th, 2004 at 10:33 | #54

    JQ asked for specific experiences of racism.

    I recently asked the same question of my Beijing-born girlfriend, who has lived here since 1990. She says that she’s only had one experience, when an “old lady” muttered something to her at a bus stop.

    For the record, she believes that Australia is likely the least racist country on earth. She says that Chinese society is far more racist.

  55. December 6th, 2004 at 10:34 | #55

    Katz… I never said potential equals achievement. I also agree that all people are equally deserving of opportunities to develop (despite your weird implication that I don’t).

    I never argued for removing the rights of individuals or that certain classes of humans are inferior. I never argued for discriminatory treatment.

    Are you making this up as you go? You missed the bit about me eating babbies and clubbing penguins. I am also responsible for the Vietnam war, world hunger and reality TV.

    As for experiencing racism… anybody who has been to asian or africa has likely experienced racism (I have plenty of times). In Australia — not as much. Nothing that offended me… just the casual racism of my singapore friends.

  56. December 6th, 2004 at 10:43 | #56

    Alex — of course you could be Mozart! Or Thorpe. Or Michael Jordan! We all have identical potential! If you question this — you’re an evil racist. 🙂

    btw… from most of my conversations with my asian friends in Australia — they are far more racist to others than others are to them. We joke about it a bit. They say “I’m not racist… but indians are XYZ and you white people are ABC” 🙂 Nobody really gets offended in those conversations because they all (including chinese, indian, malay) all simply assume that racism is normal. When I question them on it, they look at me funny as though I’m talking about an alien concept. Then they say: “typical comment from a white guy”! 😉 lol

    Oh, but I forgot. It’s the white people that are evil. Actually white men. Heterosexual white men. Middle class heterosexual white men. I feel so ashamed.

  57. Paul Norton
    December 6th, 2004 at 10:45 | #57

    I’ve never (to my knowledge) been a victim of racist words or acts, but as an Anglo-Celtic child and adolescent at moderately multi-ethnic schools in Melbourne, I was both a witness and a perpetrator (mainly repeating spiteful nonsense about the diets of particular ethnic groups) until I saw the error of my ways at the age of 15.

    In the subsequent thirty years, in the course of taxi journeys, hitch-hiking trips, overhearing conversations in public bars, and participating in conversations with unenlightened friends of friends, I have seen and heard more of the same, and worse, such as the Sydney taxi driver who regretted that our colonist ancestors weren’t more liberal with the poisoned flour. No fine distinctions between racism and culturalism there.

  58. Katz
    December 6th, 2004 at 10:52 | #58

    Jack Strocchi,

    Categorisations of “out groups” are very flexible. Read L. Curtis Perry’s “Apes and Angels” on English attitudes to the Irish in the nineteenth century. According to dominant English opinion, the Irish represented the polar opposite to the English to a much greater degree than almost all other groups (races)at the time.

    Today there are some vestiges of these attitudes towards the Irish abroad in England, but racist attitudes, where they exist, have found other targets. I believe that the history of anti-Irish attitudes in England is a fair model for the evolution of racism in many places, including Australia.

    So long as popular prejudice is not reinforced and nourished by public policy the hatred and fear of a specific group of outsiders dissipates over time.

    I may be overstating the case, but it seems to me that our globalising world simply cannot accommodate pockets of xenophobia and ethnocentrism that are too blatant in the eyes of world opinion. This will be more true after the tragically misguided attempt by the United States to transform itself into the Middle Kingdom collapses under the weight of its financial and emotional costs.

    Indicative of the emotional fragility of the US today is the urgency with which Bush is hosing down the panic-inducing idea that the US food supply is subject to terrorist contamination. The food and water supplies are, of course, vulnerable, but the costs of making US food safe are beyond the now enfeebled financial capacity of the US.

  59. December 6th, 2004 at 10:52 | #59

    John Quiggin at December 6, 2004 09:22 AM

    I haven’t ever been a victim of racism. but I have seen a revival (or rather a return to social acceptability) recently.

    This is a qualitative anecdotal observation. The quantitative statistical observations all point the other way.
    NESB immigration is higher under Howard than Keating. Asian students top the Uni scores. Ethnic exogamy is at a higher rate. Asian students and tourists arrive by the boatload. The incidence of ethnic “racial vilification” are at historic lows. Pragmatic-substantive, rather than dogmatic-symbolic, Reconciliation is now the accepted way forward.
    Whats not to like?
    Ms Hanson was just the rump of the Country Party. Many of her statements criticising ATSIC and ethnic lobbies rorts were unexceptional have been validated by Parliament. The racist part of her politic has been consigned to the Dustbin of History, courtesy of John Howard’s artful politics.
    The so-called Culture Wars are over. The Vital Centre (Howard/Latham) has won. Modern AUS, with its Big Brother/Australian Idol watching constituencies, has moved on.
    Culture History Wars are now waged by a bunch of aging baby boomers (Henderson, Sheridan, Windschuttle v Manne, McIntyre, Reynolds,) raking over the radical embers of their uni salad days. My guess is that there is a institutional subtext of status-scrambling to the ideological supertext of race-debating. Windschuttle is trying to move up the academic status ladder by taking his progressive superiors down a peg or two, using whatever intellectual resources at his disposal. A glorified troll. Bor-ing.
    I repeat my questions. If AUS has reverted to a racist-sympathetic polity:
    Where are the AUS skin-head gangs and neo-nazi parties? Where are the race-baiters in op-ed columns?
    And where is the progressive-liberal outrage over the abuses of the multicultural industry and its associated clients?

  60. Katz
    December 6th, 2004 at 10:59 | #60


    “Katz, you are nuts. Are you really suggesting that I was born with the potential to be another Beethoven or Einstein?”

    Yes Alex, but better than that, you’ve been born with the potential to be the best Alex you can be.


  61. December 6th, 2004 at 11:07 | #61

    Just returning to your original comment john

    No-one, as far I can see, was prepared to defend Windschuttle outright, but there was a sudden and startling outbreak of caution. …
    All of this is very uncharacteristic of the blogosphere

    I think this is a good sign. Too often in the past decade has the left, feeling in control of the majority viewpoint (especially on racial and historical issues) dismissed rather than debated the issues raised.

    Of course many who do can later easily defend their positions, but just as many cant and seem to join the pack in renouncing & ignoring the arguments. Unfortunately that doesn’t deter the foolish claims as we may hope and with a right wing which maintains a persecution complex, this dismissal gives them further evidence that they aren’t getting a fair go.

    That’s why they celebrate people like Windschuttle & Hanson, because they get us lefties so worked up. Its like the kid in class who when asked to answer a question on the days topic deliberately chooses a wrong answer to spite the teacher.
    It’s a sign of the rights intellectual struggle that they have to cheer such extremists, but also a pox on the left as we haven’t been able to counter such foolish arguments to our political benefit.

    If we are to justify our hold on the majority viewpoint on these issues then it is even more vital that we coherently & carefully analyze & discuss the claims put forward, unfortunately even the ludicrous ones.

  62. December 6th, 2004 at 11:27 | #62

    Are you serious, Jack? You don’t know where to find a nazi or bonehead group in Australia?

    Open your eyes!

  63. Michael Burgess
    December 6th, 2004 at 12:20 | #63

    One of the reasons Windschuttle has become so prominent despite his all to obvious whitewashing of Australian history is the double standards of many cultural leftists (or post-modernist ex-Marxists). While they are quick to seize on transgressions by mainstream society, both real and imagined, they generally go to great extremes to excuse the excesses of minority groups (e.g. Muslims) or label racist anyone who criticises these excesses.

    Taking the piss out of Christianity is OK (as is attacking Israel at every opportunity) – eg Life of Brian, PissChrist etc but not Islam. Such double standards are not simply limited to a small number of political correct cretins but infect academia. Just look at Middle Eastern studies in the United States where senior figures (John Esposito etc) have repeatedly played down the extent of Islamic extremism in the Muslim world and, in the process, often put a positive spin on the actions of major human rights abusers such as Hassan el Turabi (Sudanese religious leader).

  64. wbb
    December 6th, 2004 at 12:25 | #64

    Admittedly I was at first under the impression that White Australia was a racist thing. But now seek forgiveness as I have learnt that indeed it was a simple matter of the workers preserving their terms of employment. An old song of the time illustrates that the concern was purely with protecting against scab labour and was in no way racist.

    Should an orphan ask assistance
    Would you drive him from you door
    And educate a Chinkie
    To import some thousands more.
    Sum Sings, Tan Moons and Saw Chows
    With Fuch Chongs and Ah Foys
    To practice their vile debauchery
    And increase the unemployed.


  65. Toryhere
    December 6th, 2004 at 13:45 | #65

    Every discussion of “racism” becomes one of definition. This is of course amusing because there is nothing wrong with preferrring one “race” over another. It is a natural human reaction. “Racism” is only a problem if it leads to the commission of a crime. Thus, if you kill someone because he is of another race, the fact that the killer may have illogically hated the victim because he was of a different ethnicity is irrelevant; the only crime that occurred was the murder.

    The White Australia was a kind of “racism” that did not lead to any crime. It is also the case that the host nation always has the right to refuse entry to anybody it so wishes. Therefore, even if the WAP was “racist”, it really doesn’t matter.

  66. wbb
    December 6th, 2004 at 13:58 | #66

    Except that if racism were leading to murders then as a root cause it is a problem. Murder is the what and racism is the why.

    The White Australia Policy may not matter to racists but it does to others.

  67. Mark Bahnisch
    December 6th, 2004 at 14:14 | #67

    Culture History Wars are now waged by a bunch of aging baby boomers (Henderson, Sheridan, Windschuttle v Manne, McIntyre, Reynolds,) raking over the radical embers of their uni salad days. My guess is that there is a institutional subtext of status-scrambling to the ideological supertext of race-debating.

    Couldn’t agree more, Jack. I just wish you were also right with this comment:

    The so-called Culture Wars are over.

  68. Paul Norton
    December 6th, 2004 at 14:15 | #68

    toryhere writes:

    “[. . .]there is nothing wrong with preferrring one ‘race’ over another. It is a natural human reaction. ‘Racism’ is only a problem if it leads to the commission of a crime.”

    So if it leads to morally wrong behaviour which isn’t mentioned in the criminal code, then it’s OK? I think not.

    Racism is about regarding person A less favourably than person B when you don’t know enough about them to make any kind of judgement about the sort of individual person they are. And it’s about treating them less favourably (in terms of immigration approval, employment, renting a house, approving a loan, admission to university, etc., etc.), not on the basis of anything person A has done or any attribute of person A which is relevant to a decision about these matters, but purely because they belong to a particular group of people labelled a “race”. Do I need to explain what is morally wrong with this?

  69. December 6th, 2004 at 14:17 | #69


    Darp is currently running a campaign to expose and get rid of the Patriotic Youth League, a white supremacist group with a moderate public front. They’re most active in Newcastle and around Sydney.

    These people are definitely around and if you check the PYL posts on Darp’s site, you’ll see that there’s plenty of outrage, and a fair bit of action being mobilised.

  70. Katz
    December 6th, 2004 at 14:27 | #70

    “Culture History Wars are now waged by a bunch of aging baby boomers (Henderson, Sheridan, Windschuttle v Manne, McIntyre, Reynolds,) raking over the radical embers of their uni salad days. My guess is that there is a institutional subtext of status-scrambling to the ideological supertext of race-debating.”

    It’s possible to pathologise the explanation for every human motive and every human act, from choice of religion to choice of mobile phone plan.

    So what? If we treat everyone who disagreement as evidence of mental illness, the only logical solution is to declare the whole country to be an asylum and turn over its administration to specialists who treat the criminally insane.

    It may sound old-fashioned but the only way to have an intelligent conversation is to assume the sanity and good will of your interlocutor until you have very good evidence to the contrary.

  71. Nabakov
    December 6th, 2004 at 15:12 | #71

    “Taking the piss out of Christianity is OK (as is attacking Israel at every opportunity) – eg Life of Brian…”

    Having just seen Life of Brian recently for the first time in ages, I can assure you it takes the piss out of everything except Jesus Christ.

    I’m also intrigued by the line of arguement that goes “You think Australia’s racist? You should see how bad it is in other places” Which it is as I’ve seen m’self. But somehow this arguement seems so well, morally relative. After all two wrongs don’t make a right, as Arthur Calwell almost said.

    And what is this “culturalist” thing? Is it like Intelligent Design? Eg: “Of course I don’t believe God created the earth 6000 years ago, however…”

    And how did that hypen get into ‘Anglo-Saxon’?

    I’m with Senator Bulworth here in advocating a program of progressive racial deconstruction by gettin’ yer freak on.

  72. Len Dripping
    December 6th, 2004 at 16:36 | #72

    Why (for most participants here) was the WAP wrong, morally?

    More generally, why (for most participants here) is it wrong for people (of any colour or race) to wish to associate with their own kind and to deny access to their society to other peoples? I ask this whether or not they regard others as inferior, sub-human, alien etc, or even superior, but do not persecute them and wish them no harm.

    Now I realise this may appear to be a provocative question given the nature of this blog site but you have my word that provocation is not my intention. It is really the more general question above that I am interested in. It seems to be taken as axiomatic here that one should welcome other peoples to one’s shores. Why?

  73. Spacehamster
    December 6th, 2004 at 16:39 | #73

    As one of those Australian-Born Asians that are tangentially and obliquely referred to in this interesting debate, there’s no question in my mind that Windscuttle is, in his own ham-fisted way, an apologist for the racist viewpoints that begat the White Australia Policy. My father was very nearly a victim of this Policy during the early seventies – although he was a legal migrant with valuable skills (a highly experienced biochemist, now retired), he was about to be deported, even though he had already qualified for PR and Citizenship. If it hadn’t been for a change in Government at that time, I have no doubt that I’d be raised in Malaysia instead of Australia.

    The argument of racist bigots like Pauline Hanson is that Asians “don’t assimilate”. You only have to look at families like my own, or John So (the re-elected Mayor of Melbourne) to realise what a huge lie this is. If Asians are generally so inferior to Anglo-Saxon Australians, then why was one of them elected Mayor of Melbourne? Why was my father the second-in-charge of his division if he wasn’t qualified enough to keep the job? It’s the achievements of people like these that make such erroneous claims a complete and total lie. Asians can “assimilate” into Australia just fine, without compromising their own sense of identity or culture.

    Sorry for the rant, but debates like these have been a personal obesession of mine since 1996. I can’t help but get involved, even when I know I probably shouldn’t.

  74. Jorge
    December 6th, 2004 at 16:42 | #74

    IRA: $150,000? Quiggin, as I recall, has a Federation Fellowship, which carries a salary of about $240K.

    Of course, bringing this fact up is both rude and irrelevant, but if you’re gonna do it then you might as well be accurate about it.

    Of course, for that kind of money you’d think we could get somebody better than Quiggin, who right here has managed to spend a few thousand words attacking Windschuttle’s historical article without addressing, or even mentioning, any of the points therein.

  75. Sean
    December 6th, 2004 at 17:10 | #75


    what is your point? Are you saying that you can’t match Einstein or Mozart because you are part of an inferior race, and that your ancestors should therefore have been denied entry to our fair land?

    Jorge, Prof Q’s point, in this post at least, is made by Windschuttle’s very argument: it now offends right wing PC to call the WHITE Australia policy “racist”. Whether it’s origins were in visceral hatred of “the other”, or in protectionism, it was still a system of judging people and affording them different rights, privileges and status according to their race. QED, it was racist.

    Good grief.

  76. Alex
    December 6th, 2004 at 18:59 | #76

    Sean, I was expressing my amazement at the statement by Katz “all human beings share identical potential”.

  77. John Quiggin
    December 6th, 2004 at 20:09 | #77

    “Of course, for that kind of money you’d think we could get somebody better than Quiggin”

    You’re getting me for free, Jorge. If you want to see the stuff I get paid for, go here

  78. rog
    December 6th, 2004 at 20:42 | #78

    OK spacehamster if you are an asian why arent you using an asian name like Won Hung Lo? By using the obviously anglo name spacehamster you are compromising my Aussie sense of identity and culture – sob!!

  79. Louis Hissink
    December 6th, 2004 at 21:43 | #79

    I did

  80. d
    December 6th, 2004 at 22:05 | #80

    I personally have been a victim of racism in another country. The racism was directed at my accent which resembled that of a regional group resented by my powerful arrogant opinionated white fundamentalist boss for racist historical reasons. It happened that I was NOT a member of that regional group. A female associate of my boss told me one day ” you’ll never get anywhere d unless you change the way you speak”.
    The adverse treatment I got was very distressing and to stand up for my right required considerable courage. I did not give way to the pressures but did not handle them perfectly. My very survival was threatened though. Another friend later told me that they admired my courage in the face of this treatment.

  81. d
    December 6th, 2004 at 22:24 | #81

    Belmont Club , http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/, has a great Thread called Tar and Feathers that’s highly relevant to this current thread

  82. Jill Rush
    December 6th, 2004 at 22:45 | #82

    The changing tones of what is PC or not under is illustrated in this argument. That KW is given so much press to promote his views, where evidence is altered to suit a world view which is very forgiving of the White Australia Policy, is evidence of how racism may not be the name – but it is the game.

    We may be importing people from the Horn of Africa these days but we will still expect them to do the dirty work. I remember times when people seriously discussed whether Italians and Greeks were really white people ie it was a slippery slope to let them into the country under the now disputed but very clear White Australia Policy.

    There are still many derogatory terms used about Indigenous Australian. The Palm Island and Redfern riots occurred as a result of the strong perception in these Indigenous communities that actions were racist. An Aboriginal woman who dresses well and is educated and senior in rank has cried in front of me, a stranger, because of the withering looks she receives daily when she walks into shops in the city.

    Keith Windschuttle is not encouraging debate but encouraging racism – he is a fellow traveller indeed – but how much easier it is to blame those without power or a voice than it is to confront the real history of oppression that saw Aboriginal people hunted in the South East of South Australia or manacled for crimes in the Flinders Ranges committed by another Aboriginal person for daring to try and protect precious water from theft by white shepherds.

    Let’s not examine the issue of Aboriginal People moved to “camps” far from their traditional lands which just happened to be where new white settlers wished to move.

    It is debatable to say that Aboriginal women prostituted themselves rather than admit the ugly side of white men who abused power relationships by rape and then gave food to make their rape OK. Not in every situation but too often.

    No KW is a racist not a fellow traveller as he is not interested in what actually happened but more interested in rewriting the history of the country and proving historians labelled “leftist” wrong. If he was interested in the truth he would have to admit that there is more to truth than the writings or omissions of the victor.

  83. James Farrell
    December 6th, 2004 at 23:09 | #83

    Len Dripping,

    Your question is easy to answer. ‘My kind’ of person is not defined by skin colour or native language. The gentle burmese lady next door is much more my kind of person than the foul-mouthed Scottish oaf on the other side of her. Anyone who thinks that a person’s true qualities can be predicted from surface characteristics is a bigot, and a racist is a subspecies of bigot. Bigots manage to find someone to despise, someone to label as ‘not our kind’, even when there are no differences in skin colour, language or religion. Are you a bigot, by any chance?

  84. James Farrell
    December 6th, 2004 at 23:15 | #84

    Michael Burgess

    You are slipping. You forgot to mention Chomsky, Pilger, acid in women’s faces, and how you were sacked for questioning David Suzuki.

  85. Nabakov
    December 6th, 2004 at 23:21 | #85

    And so what, ‘d”?

    Are yer gonna reveal, ta-da! that it happened while yer were an Aussie/Yank/white South African/Canuck in the UK/Europe or any comination of the above, thereby proving white folks suffer from racism too so it’s not a big deal?

    That doesn’t prove anything except yer not half the sneaky smartarse commentator yer thought yer were.

  86. December 6th, 2004 at 23:26 | #86

    Jill, I think where I have a problem with people throwing around charges of racism is when they focus on that, missing the point completely. You describe your friend as someone who “dresses well and is educated and senior in rank”, then you go on to describe how she was upset. But that, while nothing to do with her skin colour, is also an external and superficial categorising. It is just as wrong to upset someone who is not like that. Using terms like racism allows people to slip into forgetting that hurting people is the wrong thing here, that is t would be just as wrong to hurt someone who didn’t fit the description “dresses well and is educated and senior in rank”.

    I can see the point in using concepts like racism to analyse and to frame policies, but to make it the test of morality is a sort of idolatry, confusing means with ends. It’s like all those idiot Americans who go on about terrorists killing innocents, as though it was right to kill other people (it usually isn’t, though cases may differ).

    It’s that fundamental confusion that I object to, that makes people consider repression to be a righteous act and forget persuasion and true conversion. You should be able to imagine a John Newton come to grace without losing his fundamental self, but there are people around here who would be happy to thwart the John Newtons and consider that a moral rather than a practical victory. There is a fundamental failure of morality and compassion in people who think that is righteous, and yes, they are paving the way for any who come after and wield their own agendas with that as precedent.

  87. Mark Bahnisch
    December 6th, 2004 at 23:56 | #87

    Predictably, Gerard Henderson has taken up the cudgels on behalf of Windschuttle – sort of.

  88. December 7th, 2004 at 00:17 | #88

    Oh, Katz, you might want to follow up the link on my home page to what the Constitutional Centenary Foundation did when I tried to expose certain sorts of republicans as racists by showing them for what they were. That is just precisely the sort of repression and distortion that anti-racism leads to, a direct contradiction of the claimed purposes of these pharisaical hypocrites, setting up rules for compassion while disregarding the spirit of compassion.

    Do you really want to stand with them? For to mock what I have told you as objectively totalitarian is indeed – objectively – to be an enemy of truth and a servant of the lie.

  89. December 7th, 2004 at 00:32 | #89

    In re ‘Wilsonian’ nationalism, Gordon is perhaps unaware that Woodrow Wilson, American Liberal Saint because of his support for the League of Nations, was the most viscious racist ever to sit in the White House. His first act as president was to fire all black federal workers (as University President he had previously kept his school all-white); his review of a movie made of a close friend’s book, The Klansman (Birth of a Nation) was ‘it’s all true.’

  90. Nabakov
    December 7th, 2004 at 00:51 | #90

    “…You describe your friend as someone who “dresses well and is educated and senior in rank”, then you go on to describe how she was upset. But that, while nothing to do with her skin colour,…”

    Um.. Jill’s comment explicitly said it had everything to do with her race/skin colour.

    You don’t work as a paramedic do you PM Lawrence? ‘cos I’d hate to get CPR from you while suffering from a compound fracture.

    “Oh, Katz, you might want to follow up the link on my home page to what the Constitutional Centenary Foundation did when I tried to expose certain sorts of republicans as racists by showing them for what they were. ”

    I did and…huh? It seems to be an overly detailed, longwinded and poorly laid out account of a confused procedural bitchfight amongst a fringe group of constitutional activists.

    Not doubt what went down then is still fresh in your mind, but in the absence of context, or indeed relevance to this discussion, this means nothing to me, Vienna. Perhaps you could provide a quick 50 word precis explaining why it’s germane to this thread.

  91. December 7th, 2004 at 02:28 | #91

    A couple of overtly racist employers here and here. Bring forth the condemnations!

  92. December 7th, 2004 at 06:46 | #92

    A historical, not political, question: did any other nations on Earth have native ethnophilic – alien ethnophobic settlement/preference policies?
    Was AUS the only nation on earth where the state explicitly preferred its own kind?
    Or did every other nation on earth regulate its settlement/preferences on ethnic grounds?
    Or were other nations less ethno-communitarian and more individually libertarian – socially egalitarian in their treatment of Others?
    Morality, as proven by Evolution, is Relative, not Absolute. So if we are going to condemn the WAP in retrospect then we should know what were the prevailing standards in contemporary times and comparable places.
    (Self-defensive Post Script: I support a cosmopolitan-integrative settlement policy which discriminates on the basis of the migrants cultural psychology rather than biological physiology.)

  93. Fyodor
    December 7th, 2004 at 07:20 | #93


    I’m curious. How does evolution prove that morality is relative, not absolute?

    On the issue of relative vs. absolute morality, I don’t think anyone here condemning KW is arguing that Australians were significantly more racist than other people at the time of the WAP, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t racist.

    Morality may be a relative concept, but racism isn’t. Either you discriminate on the basis of race or you don’t. The WAP did, so it’s racist.

  94. Katz
    December 7th, 2004 at 07:50 | #94

    Jack Strocchi,

    Are the United States and New Zealand comparable enough?

    From apparently reliable web sites:


    1907: President Theodore Roosevelt enters into “Gentlemen’s Agreement” with Japan to limit Japanese immigration to the mainland and Hawaii. (A provision allows family members induding wives of Japanese to immigrate, thus allowing the Japanese to begin families and build their community.) It also includes a ban on further Korean immigration to the United States as laborers, thus opening up farming jobs in Hawaii for Filipinos. Korean immigration virtually ends during the period of Japanese occupation (1910-45) and does not resume until the Immigration Act of 1965 is passed.

    New Zealand:

    “The Poll Tax was unjustly imposed on Chinese immigrants in New Zealand over a period of just over half a century from 1881 to 1944 under the Chinese Immigrants Act 1881 (payment waived 1934). The imposition of the Poll Tax was an integral pan of the history of Chinese settlement in New Zealand. It is pertinent to the history of New Zealand and its identity.

    “The Poll Tax was only imposed on immigrants of Chinese ethnicity. As such the carrying out of such a policy was aimed at restricting immigrants who were Chinese from emigrating to New Zealand simply based on the fact that they were Chinese. No other ethnic group was required to overcome such a hurdle before entering New Zealand.”

    It seems that both of these countries followed racist immigration policies.

    The United States enshrined official racism into its constitution in the administration and enumeration of African slaves and Native Americans. In New Zealand the Treaty of Waitangi compelled recognition of the property rights and authority structure of the Maori. This bi-culturalism had its most immediate result in reserved seats in the New Zealand Parliament for Maori franchise.

    Neither of these countries enshrined racist provisions against intending immigrants in their Constitution. This appears to have been a uniquely Australian response. And let’s notforget that it embarrassed and angered the British Government at the time. So it appears Australia was an outlier if not an actual pariah nation even in the first decade of the twentieth century.

    A caveat: to identify a policy as racist is not automatically to condemn it morally. But it should be remembered that Deakin, Higgins and other members of the Australian Government in 1901 at the time of passage of the Immigration Act were a bit shame-faced about the way in which Australia expressed its racism.

  95. d
    December 7th, 2004 at 08:08 | #95

    A brief summary of Pinker’s thesis goes like this:..

    It seems that I need to quote Pinker more specifically to demonstrate that THE BLANK SLATE’s title is not the reason I referred to the book. The most relevant part is the chapter on The Fear of Inequality, and I quote key parts below which are more informative that Qs spin on the book.

    I suspect, despite your rhetorical and dismissive “sigh” that we are substatially in agreement.

    The Blank Slate – from the chapter on The Fear of Inequality

    Taking all these processes into account, we get the following picture. People are qualitatively the same but may differ quantitatively. The quantitative difference& are small in biological terms, and they are found to a far greater ex- tent among the individual members of an ethnic group or race than between ethnic groups or races. These are reassuring findings. Any racist ideology that holds that the members of an ethnic group are all alike, or that one ethnic group differs fundamentally from another, is based on false assumptions about our biology.
    But biology does not let us off the hook entirely. Individuals are not genetically identical, and it is unlikely that the differences affect every part of the body except the brain. And though genetic differences between races and ethnic groups are much smaller than those among individuals, they are not nonexistent …

    So COULD DISCOVERIES in biology turn out to justify racism and sexism? Ab- solutely not! The case against bigotry is not a factual claim that humans are biologically indistinguishable. It is a moral stance that condemns judging an individual according to the average traits of certain groups to which the individual belongs. Enlightened societies choose to ignore race, sex, and ethnicity in hiring, promotion, salary, school admissions, and the criminal justice system because the alternative is morally repugnant. Discriminating against people on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity would be unfair, penalizing them for traits over which they have no control. It would perpetuate the injustices of the past, in which African Americans, women, and other groups were enslaved or oppressed. It would rend society into hostile factions and could escalate into horrific persecution. But none of these arguments against discrimination depends on whether groups of people are or are not geneticallv indistinguishable.
    Far from being conducive to discrimination, a conception of human nature is the reason we oppose it…

  96. d
    December 7th, 2004 at 08:12 | #96

    As we’ve opened up Pinker and the R word , why not consider Richard Dawkins too:

    Richard Dawkins 2004 “The Ancestors Tale”. – Chapter containing the Grasshoppers Tale, p357 ff. On differences between races.
    It is genuinely true that, if you measure the total variation in the human species, and then partition it into between-race component and a within –race component, the between-race component is a very small fraction of the total. Most of the variation among humans can be found within races as well as between them. Only a small admixture of extra variation distinguishes races from each other. That is all correct. What is not correct is the inference that race is therefore a meaningless concept. This point has been clearly made by the distinguished Cambridge geneticist A. W. F. Edwards in a recent paper called ‘Human genetic diversity: Lewontin’s fallacy’. R. C. Lewontin is an equally distinguished Cambridge (Mass.) geneticist, known for the strength of his political convictions and his weakness for dragging them into science at every possible opportunity. Lewontin’s view of race has become near-universal orthodoxy in scientific circles. He wrote, in a famous paper of 1972:

    It is clear that our perception of relatively large differences between human races and subgroups, as compared to the variation within these groups, is indeed a biased perception and that, based on randomly chosen genetic differences. human races and populations are remarkably similar to each other. with the largest part by far of human variation being accounted for by the differences between individuals.

    This is, of course, exactly the point I accepted above, not surprisingly since what I wrote was largely based on Lewontin. But see how Lewontin goes on:

    Human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance either. no justification can be offered for its continuance.
    We can all happily agree that human racial classification is of no social value ‘ and is positively destructive of social and human relations. That is one reason why I object to ticking boxes in forms and why I object to positive discrimination in job selection. But that doesn’t mean that race is of ‘virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance’. This is Edwards’s point, and he reasons as follows. However small the racial partition of the total variation may be, if such racial characteristics as there are are highly correlated with other racial character-
    istics, they are by definition informative, and therefore of taxonomic significance. Informative means something quite precise. An informative statement is one that tells you something you didn’t know before. The information content of a statement is measured as reduction in prior uncertainty. Reduction in prior uncertainty, in turn, is measured as a change in probabilities. This provides a way to make the information content of a message mathematically precise, but we don’t need to bother with that.- If I tell you Evelyn is male, you immediately know a whole lot of things about him. Your prior uncertainty about the shape of his genitals is reduced (though not obliterated). You now know facts you didn’t know before about his chromosomes, his hormones and other aspects of his biochemistry, and there is a quantitative reduction in your prior uncertainty about the depth of his voice, and the distribution of his facial hair and of his body fat and musculature.

  97. December 7th, 2004 at 08:41 | #97

    Heil,herr windscuttle!
    Jack stroppy asks naievely-where are the racists?
    Come to WA jack,where we have had fire bomb attacks on chinese restaurants,some ten years ago,some a few months ago.
    The same gang puts up thousands of anti asian bills on poles and bus shelters with a crude
    drawing of an asian stereotype.
    Come to WA jack,where our local rag the worst australian prints some horrendous letters-usually from the same people.
    I remember the odium heaped on cathy freeman after winning that gold medal and daring to fly the aboriginal flag-don’t ya hate uppity blacks!

  98. December 7th, 2004 at 08:41 | #98

    I see the most hate here coming from lefties against racists… not by racists against other races.

    I also see a lot of stupid arguments. The fact that there is an asia mayor of melbourne is hardly proof of the virtues or vices of asian immigration.

    As for all the talk of “evil bigots”… do you arrogant bastards realise that you’re condemning nearly the entire populations of asia and africa… and probably the world? Would you really have this much hatred against a racist if the racist was non-white (which most are)?

    Personally, I can see little value in holding on to such hatred. But the left seem to enjoy it.

    Oh, and the PYL is a small band of kids… hardly a huge racist underground movement. To hold them up as the proof of Australia’s racism is to pretty much declare Australia an overwhelmingly non-racist country.

  99. December 7th, 2004 at 09:07 | #99

    As a matter of natural and social history, it is the case that organisms evolved moral codes Relative to niche-specific environments. I set aside more abstract considerations regarding the Ontology of Ethics.
    I do not deny that there are human-specific moral universals (eg anti-murder, incest etc). But Life, owing to the inevitability of evolutionary mutation, cannot have a moral code with an Absolute (ie perpetuitive and pervasive) universal moral obligation.
    In any case, there is something special about all morality. (Pun Intended). Lions and chimpanzees have moral codes, evolved relative to their niches, and these are definitely not identical to hominid morality.
    Hominids are famous for constructing a spectrum of moral horses for different social courses. Darwin was shocked by the Wasp’s behaviour, but could not bring himself to call it Absolutely immoral. She was only looking after her kids. If that is what it took to allow human survival then humans would do the same. (In fact we do anyway: anyone who has bought battery farm food for their family is as guilty as the Wasp.)
    Life, as depicted by Darwin and explained by Crick/Watson, is a single lineage with local and temporal (individual and special) differentiatons. The different branches adopt or adapt different codes of niche-specific behaviour that assist in survival, sexual and social operations in different environments. The
    “environment” includes everything outside the genetic nucleus.
    These (moral, mores, modal) behavioural codes may be fairly described as having relative validity, depending on the state, and rate of change, in the environment. Thus, if the environment radically changes then different moral codes are required. Or the organism, and its genetic line, dies out.
    These codes may be acquisitively adopted by nurtural-intutive, or cultural-intellective, learning processes. Changes within the genetic nucleus will also bring forth behavioural changes. They will be heritably adapted and become part of the organisms natural-instinctive decision making code.
    I agree with Pr Q that WAP, as a matter of historical fact, was intrinsically racist. It was practiced as such, and on that basis, by Federation Australians.
    Whether WAP was especially vicious or virtuous depends, as I have argued, on whether this moral code was out of line with prevailing standards amongst comparable populations. I think that it was more conservative than the generally progressive standards upheld throughout the Empire. But Britain was considerably less vulnerable than Australia to invasion etc. Who are we to judge?
    What none can deny was that WAP was extremely popular amongst voters. In a democracy its the numbers that count.
    It is the case that WAP was a defensive-passive form of racism. (Setting aside treatment of Native Indigenes.) It was therefore less objectionable than the offensive-aggressive form of genocidal racism practised by Nazi Germany.
    This has not stopped multicultural industrialists, like Pr. Kalantzis, from likening Federation Australians to Nazi genocidal fascists. Godwins Law was made with our Wets in mind.
    But Wet Revolutionaries are always coming out with nonsense like that. It is not surprising that Dry Reactionaries, like Windschuttle, are drawn to refute this folly. Thus does Wet stupidity and inanity make its own decline a dialectical inevitability.

  100. December 7th, 2004 at 09:16 | #100

    The incidence of militant White racism in AUS, in WA, QLD and Newcastle, are bad and should be subject to legal and moral constraints. FWIW I support the Racial Vilification Act. But AUS White Racism is statistically insignificant in size and politically trivial in effect.
    Intra-ethnic racist violence (between NESBs or against Caucasian natives) is a more significant problem, especially where it overlaps with ethnic criminal gangs. It should be noted that the greatest victims of this kind of violence are ethnic communities, esp more vulnerable women and children.
    Rational discussion and lawful regulation of this is occasionaly subjected to Pee-Cee taboo. Multicultural industrialists prefer to bump up investment in their cosy little neo-tribalist racket, rather than constrain actual and existing racial offences.

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