The great Windschuttle hoax

The publication by Keith Windschuttle of a hoax article on science has been all over the papers and the blogs. I agree with Tim Lambert (who gives lots of links) that the article sounds reasonable by comparison with the nonsense commonly published on scientific topics by Quadrant.

Just before this, I was thinking about another hoax, namely the repeated promise of a Volume 2 of The Fabrication of Australian History. When Volume 1 came out back in 2002, Windschuttle promised further volumes on an annual schedule, covering Queensland and WA. Since Queensland in particular was the focus of Henry Reynolds’ main work, and since the evidence of numerous massacres seems incontrovertible, this promised volume was central to Windschuttle’s claims of fabrication. The promise was repeated year after year, but no Volume 2 ever appeared, and the “research” supposedly already undertaken has stayed out of sight.

Then in February 2008, Windschuttle published extracts from a Volume 2, promised for publication “later this year”, but now on a totally different topic, that of the Stolen Generation. His target this time was Peter Read, an eminent historian who’s done a lot of practical work reuniting Aboriginal children with their birth families. It’s 2009, the promised volume hasn’t appeared, and there hasn’t been any reference to it on Windschuttle’s site for some time.

The real hoax victims here have been those on the political right, who’ve repeatedly swallowed Windschuttle’s promises to refute well-established facts about Australian history “later this year” and who are now getting their “science” from his discredited magazine.

137 thoughts on “The great Windschuttle hoax

  1. #91 John Dawson – you might like to consider this. A week ago I would have accepted someone claiming to have had something published in Quadrant as having some veracity. This week I know that being published in Quadrant is no big deal and that there is no guarantee of any kind of accuracy in what is presented. What a difference a week makes.

    On another note about the impact of disease on native populations there is little doubt that it was used by the colonisers. By the time Tasmania was settled it was well known that Aboriginals were very susceptible to disease. Governor Phillip had documented exactly this phenomenon in Sydney. The colonisers took no precautions to limit the effects of disease and were belligerent to Aboriginals who tried to protect sacred sites or to teach the colonisers respect.

    Windschuttle’s failures as a historian are many. His hoax as Prof Q has pointed out is that he has promised us more but unlike the ads on TV has failed to deliver the steak knives.

  2. #114 Good to see that I have something in common with Alanna, namely an ancestor who was an (Irish in my case) soldier in the Rum Corps.
    Can’t say the same for sticking to the point. Where now is her insistence in #100 that genocide must be understood as the crime defined in the 1948 Convention? Instead we are told “Collectively, innocent motives, murky motives and guilty motives combined to form genocide of the Tasmanian aboriginies.” With “innocent motives” the game was over and Alanna might as well not have wasted her and our time by entering the field. Now “genocide” means when she uses it the actual wiping out by whatever causes of a people, no more no less (in which connection I refer Alanna to the story of the Beothuks of Newfoundland, wiped out by 1829. Those nice proper Canadians, OK Newfies because they weren’t Canadians till 1949, couldn’t have committed a genocide could they?).

    Chris Warren is in need of a good 6th grade teacher to make him read things carefully and pause before he says something stupid – and wastes everyone’s time. He started by saying at #113
    “Good to see that Jeremiah has backed away from wanting his “german anti-semitism” as a criteria [sic] for genocide.” Mr Warren then chooses the words “it wasn’t there” from what I said, or, as he put it “it (german anti-semitism) wasn’t there” as contradicting what I had previously said when he should have summoned up the mental stamina to read and repeat my full refutation which showed that I wasn’t talking about a criterion or defining condition or standard for genocide but a possible reason (or criterion to adapt Mr Warren’s terminology) for inferring, or rejecting the inference of, genocidal motive in those who did in fact harm Aborigines. What I said was “I didn’t “back away” from anything. It was never there as misconstrued by Warren to back away from. I don’t want a new criteria [sic – sorry the patronising pedant arises again] for the existence of genocide. I merely pointed out that the deliberate act or policy of genocide requires motivation (as an ingredient of being deliberate in case I need to spell it out), and, if you don’t find the motivations for classic known genocide you need to look for alternative motivations if you are to make people believe in the intent – the deliberate quality – of the policy or genocidal results of actions.” As can be seen my use of the comparison with German anti-Semitism was even weaker than the suggestion that it could aid in inferring genocidal intent; I merely pointed out that the Alannas and Warrens needed to give some persuasive explanations if they were convince others that there was the genocidal intent.

  3. Jeremiah# – my rum corp forbear married a second fleet convict woman (the nightmare transportation) who had become relatively wealthy in four years after arrival by inheriting the land grants of her first rum corp husband (she must have been assigned to him Im supposing – anyway he didnt live very long on Lord Howe – or was it Norfolk? (memory failing) island. Oh btw, she stole a silk handkerchief to be granted transportation – so cliched isnt it ? but women had it far worse than men – most unfair. Now Jermiah – I am going to work so Ill have to check your story about the Newfoundlanders later but Ill be back.

  4. Jeremiah

    Such wordplay and abuse will get you nowhere.

    It is a not necessary to have evidence of genocidal intent in the historical record to have had a genocidal outcome.

    So this is just a diversion by a denier.

    And a game I find rather too common, boring and useless.

    I gave sufficient causal factors in #112 above so I am not going to repeat them here. If Jeremiah wants to contests real positions, he should start here – not in Germany.

  5. #128 My Rum Corps ancestor also married a convict woman who ended up the respectable mother of many fecund daughters by three marriages. This female ancestor of mine was transported, I infer, for social engineering reasons, which included getting her and her first daughter away from the bad man she was living with who was not convicted of the petty theft for which she was transported.

    #129 Chris Warren: In your terms your use of “wordplay” is itself word play – and the resort of one who is unused to precision of thought or language and, on the evidence, incapable of it. A most important item of evidence is that you are now saying or implying that I am denying that there were “genocidal outcome”[s] in Australia and therefore denying that white settlement led, for example, to the wiping out of the Tasmanian aborgines. As a close relation of mine wrote one of the first books on the subject that would be unlikely and is in fact quite false as attention to what I have written on this blog would demonstrate.

    From the outset I have tried to convey the major point that “genocide” is an inappropriate word to use for what happened in Australia because anyone with sensitivity would understand its historical connection in fact and in usage with the Holocaust. Many dead metaphors have started off as mere exaggerations in innocent examples of limited vocabulary (e.g. when the cricket commentator says “they had to literally blast him out”)but the acceptability of loose language can be affected a number of factors. Here I would cite first the well known and justified sensitivity of Jews to suggestions that almost any other persecutions of people compared in magnitude or evil motivation with the Holocaust. Then there were the people who ought to have known better using Nazi and Hitler analogies of Jeff Kennett when Premier of Victoria. In the current context there is also the (prima facie deliberate) switching between meanings of genocide to insinuate that someone (who? anyone who was some part of a causal chain?) had the kind of criminal intent that would have allowed (some senior people constituting)the colonial authorities – or maybe the representatives of some fictional private association (“The Top end of Town”?) – to be convicted of what was later defined as the crime of genocide, or maybe just held morally culpable as if they had committed genocidal acts or created genocidal policies with such a guilty mind.

    I suspect that part of the reason that you are all over the place is that you are ignorant of the context of debate raised by what Windschuttle has actually written. The old lefty discovered in his researches that the colonial authorities were by and large a very proper lot of officers and (perhaps even) gentlemen much influenced by the evangelical Christianity which had led to the abolition of the slave trade, the abolition of slavery itself in the West Indies, and, eventually to all sorts of protections of the weak like restrictions on child labour, not to mention the ending of widow burning in India and other mere impositions of Western prejudices. Of course he did also get particularly angry with people like Lyndall Ryan and a few others who were completely unscrupulous in their fabrications of evidence about actual numbers of Aborigines killed. He was answering the whole package of misrepresentations (which, as I have previously indicated, may be a much more formidable task for him if he tries to do it comprehensively on Queensland and Western Australia although a few articles he has written appear to hit the mark) which includes both physical facts and motivations.

    As to the causal factors you say were sufficiently set out in #112, I presume you weren’t referring to your “maybes” and are reasserting the view that “ignorant racism” and the need for land (given by you as “lebenshchraum”) were universal. But you still haven’t made the connection. It goes without saying that nearly all whites were as ignorant of Aboriginal ways as Aborigines were of modern European culture and it is likely that the views of many , even most of our white forbears fell within a range from “hopelessly primitive culture which can’t last in the modern world” to “in some ways admirable but basically inferior people who won’t be able to adapt to modernity” which takes the argument nowhere. Even Indonesian peasants desperate for land don’t try and wipe out the Orangutans just because they are inferior being by some criteria. Irish Catholics, English Evangelicals and Scottish Presbyterians would have all been horrified at any people being treated like vermin (as Muslims presumably would have too if the people in question would accept Allah as the one god).

    You may Chris Warren want to inhabit a private world where there is some question about what happened to Aborigines but, for most people, there is a completely different context for discussion of genocide in relation to Aborigines, beginning, perhaps, with the sanctimonious insensitivies of Wilson, Manne and Gaita or maybe later when Windschuttle led the counter-attack with Fabrication and a number of published articles about particular alleged massacres.

    Don’t waste a good word. That Aboriginal life as it was 220 years ago has simply ceased to exist is not in question, but if you want an actually useful way of bringing “genocide” into the conversation you might consider broadcasting “genocide of Aborigines continues apace today. It is the genocide by alcohol and drug abuse, untreated STDs, child abuse, physical violence and obesity related diseases produced by a rotten diet and lack of exercise. And this genocide is largely committed by Aborigines against themselves.” That should get you two minutes attention, like calling Kennett a Nazi and it contains an element of truth even if the fundamental fact of a genocide is nowhere to be seen: Aborigines are actually increasing in numbers despite the fact that the unforgivable policies of Coombs, Fraser and other high-minded fools have done more harm to more people than all the policies towards Aboriginal people of the first 180 years.

  6. Jeremiah: “From the outset I have tried to convey the major point that “genocide” is an inappropriate word to use for what happened in Australia because anyone with sensitivity would understand its historical connection in fact and in usage with the Holocaust.”

    This is wrong. The events in Germany have got nothing to do with what happened in colonial Australia. Our historical discourse is based on Australian circumstances and genocide is a completely appropriate theme for discussion.

    Whether it occurred and/or how, is a separate issue.

    demonstyrating some association with some criminal intent or guilty mind is not relevant.

    I am sorry you cannot see the connection between ignorant racism, lebenshchraum and genocide.

    Windschuttle is too partisan to be taken seriously. His discussion is a political exercise based on a working thesis that the only deaths that occurred were the deaths that were recorded by colonial authorities. He had an opportunity to clarify possible errors in the history, and this would have been of some use, but he ruined his chances.

    Whether someone wants to see colonial authorities as a proper lot of officers and evangalistic bibleists is not relevant except as a contrast to what was done by them to Australian natives – including possibilities of massacre, starvation, mass slaughter, dispossession and social breakdowns.

    Ignorance of one races ways by another, is hardly the point. Ignorance is no excuse for inhumanity and is probably a false pleading anyway.

    I have not explored whether genocide is relevant to today. This is not my context. It is also not the context where the original aggression occurred. But I well understand the tactic of trying to deflect attention away from Australia’s colonial history.

    Why hide one context with another?

  7. I must agree with Chris – especially when I heard that one of the last of the abororiginies in Oyster Cove (where the only few remained) – on his death they cut off his head to “eaxmine” and put in a museum and someone made a tobacco pouch out of his scrotum. I think this demonstrates how little regard the white community of that era had for the aboriginies. They were seen as something akin to animals and I believe a process of dehumanisation allowed this to occur.

    Much the same happened to the jews. If you want to do something really bad to another race first you need to marginalise, separate (Oyster Cove – reservations etc) and then slowly but surely dehumanise them. The literature has it that Tasmanian Aboriginies could not make fire – interpret as too backward to make fire – yet there is evidence witnesses saw them making fire and using logs as boats.

    Dehumanisation is the only way a person could consider, or other people would permit to occur, the making of a tobacco pouch out of someone’s scotum after their death (lampshades where made out of dead jews skin in concentration camps).

    In this, my friend Jeremiah, you may have raised an interesting point by denying a parallel between Nazism and the extinction of the Tasmanian aboriginies. Was it really much different? How do you know, Jeremiah? I dont see much difference now. The dehumanising process started there with the branding of jews who were made to wear the star of david as an armband.

    People can apparently only do horrible things to other people when they no longer consider them human. Perhaps this has more influence in the Tasman aboriginal situation than you wish to acknowledge.

  8. Chris#133 Re your link – Rare man who had the ability to actually see a fallacious argument and very eloquently call to account its shortcomings.

  9. #135 Karsten – people like you mark yourselves by your vindictive ability to insult others with no intelligent opinion of your own.

  10. #135 Oh and Karsten – JQ stamps out personal attacks. Not acceptable in here and not acceptable to me. Offer a point of view not an insult and if you dont know how – do some reading.

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