Windschuttles and weathercocks

Amid the voluminous commentary on the Windschuttle hoax(es), the most telling, for me, was a summary of his political peregrinations from Guy Rundle at Crikey. It’s paywalled but I’ll quote the best bit:

The man who’s now editing Australia’s premier conservative magazine was advocating the revolutionary potential of LSD in the 60s, media studies as “radical pedagogy” in the early 70s, was enthusiastic for Pol Pot peasant-style revolts in the late 70s (“the oil is almost gone — soon the Aborigines and poor whites will rise up” he wrote in Nation Review in the late 70s) and re-emerged in the 90s, after the global collapse of the left, as a man who thought there was no Tasmanian genocide, that the White Australia policy was a left-wing plot, that John Steinbeck made up the Great Depression and that the British Empire could not have been cruel because its officers were Christians.

Like a mendicant Pope, he’s spent his life wandering from one state of certainty to the next, in the search for godknowswhat.

The only stage missed was his (“Killing of History”) period as a scourge of postmodernist and relativist theory and fan of the empirical approach of researchers like Henry Reynolds.

That brings to mind the more general phenomenon of migration from dogmatic left to dogmatic right, which I discussed quite a while ago here, and linked to Paul Norton.

82 thoughts on “Windschuttles and weathercocks

  1. Alanna @ 13:

    “Didnt Brendan Nelson and Michael Costa do a similar thing ie left right left or right left right?”

    Sounds like the salsa to me. But which of them’s leading?

  2. Chris Warren @ 39:

    I wouldn’t get too bound up in interpretation or definition based on reductive etymology. Rather I’d read about the intent and purposes of Raphael Lemkin in inventing the term in the 1930s. There are worse places to start than Samantha Power’s ‘A Problem From Hell’.

  3. The removal of children to keep as domestic servants, or use as guides, or to exploit for their labour, could more than reasonably be called genocidal.

    I don’t doubt this, so long as the policy is pursued in a determined fashion and with intent.

    Until the 20th century there was no such intent.

    Overwhelmingly, until the 20th century Aboriginal children in the major Aboriginal population areas continued to live with their families. That is why government policies, when they were enacted on Aborigines, were so traumatic.

    To argue otherwise dilutes and trivialises the concept “genocide”.

  4. mister z

    Unfortunately in law such rigour is needed.

    Social sciences are awash with drivel and dogma precisely because there are competing plastic definitions and everyone wants to create their own definition or interpretation that suits their (often hidden) agenda.

    The Convention definition has to be upheld and not expanded on or contracted or qualified.

    So if my etymology conflicts with the Convention then the Convention applies. This may occur over the issue of “intent” which does not arise in my earlier post.

    Anyway it is worth rethinking.

  5. The UN Genocide Convention is irrelevant. It was written for the world of the mid twentieth century, not the early nineteenth.

  6. Simon

    This is too easy to say. If I formally outlaw Gulags today does this mean there were no Gulags in the past.

    Genocide is outlawed because it is morally wrong – and (this is the important bit) it was morally wrong prior to being formally outlawed.

    Genocide and slavery was wrong even going back centuries. The UN Convention just makes definitions easier for analysis.

    Genocide (in the terms of the Convention) pre-existed the Convention.

    So clearly it has some relevance.

  7. That is correct Chris Warren.

    But the question is when did genocide come to be seen as a moral wrong?

    The Old Testament is full of stories of genocide carried out with alleged divine approbation. The fate of the Canaanites is one of the more noteworthy.

    Biblical injunction was also used to justify slavery, slaves allegedly being the offspring of Ham and therefore damned.

    Thus generations of people who sincerely believed themselves to be moral could construct moral arguments favouring genocide and slavery.

    Enlightenment philosophy attempted with some success to discredit these faith-based views.

    It is sobering to recall that this debate for and against slavery was raging in the US during the period of greatest territorial spread of Australia’s pastoral system. Yet these bible-based ideas hardly took hold at all in Australia.

    Already, most nineteenth-century white Australians had abandoned bible-based justifications for regarding others as being inferior and as meriting discrimination or even annihilation.

  8. misterz#51
    Both Costa and Nelson salsa’d themselves left right left right off the dancefloor. Windschuttles pirouetting as fast as he can but I think the hes spinning off the dance floor as well.

  9. For anyone to suggest that aboriginies were not killed, caused serious physical and mental harm, did not have the deliberate infliction of economic conditions so harsh as to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part, have children forcibly removed to another group (and women and men to slave for food only on patsoral stations), segregated, run of their lands, marginalised into poor lands, brought back only for free labour – for anyone to suggest our combined actions were not genocidal is so wrong.

    To suggest we were just sailing along trying to make our own way, minding our own business, and the aboriginies inadvertently got in the way – and it was a battle for resources – and it was all very innocent – we only had little accidents at times is just an nasty false whitewash. In the town of Shepparton in 1972 where I went for a holiday I was disgusted to find the aboriginal, half quarter and eighth and sixteenth castes were not allowed to swim at the same end of the swimming pool as white children. The memories were apparently long in that town because how the pool attendants could tell the difference with some kids Ill never know. They must have known these kids families. So deep did the feelings run a couple of little ones told me “we arent darkies – we are quarter castes” and “we stay away from the darkies” Nevertheless they were still swimming in the black end of the pool.

    I also knew another aboriginal boy and he told me the first time he ever realised he was black was shortly after he started school and he made friends with three white boys and went to one of the boys houses after school in Kempsey. He distinctly remembers the mother answering the door and saying “you boys can come in but Im not having that thieving little bastard in my house.”

    We have a lot to answer for. If we think we are somehow less racist that the South Africans or superior to slave traders in the U.S. we need to have a good long hard look at ourselves. Its not pretty (in fact its pretty damn ugly) but you cant show respect to Aboriginies, and they wont feel that respect, until we do have a good long hard look at our history. The aboriginies dont need the “wipe it white” Windschuttles of the world. They need to know that we are capable of changing and showing respect for them, their culture and their race. What makes it all so much worse (and so much more obvious) is that they are one of the most peaceful races very much unlike us.

    To even enter into argument about semantics or dates or definitions of genocide or footnotes is just reducing it to a patter of meaningless words and in that process still we dont see them or acknowledge them or give them the respect they are due. Its not facing up to it. Why dont we ask them what they think and why doesnt Windshuttle do that?. I know why – because he is either too scared to ask or because he is as racist as some ever were. Perhaps he doesnt want to know how much they hate us but more likely he doesnt care -aboriginies remain just some separate indefinable race he doesnt care to understand, not part of his society. I guess some people dont have the metal in them to face horrendous things and thats what it mostly boils down to.

  10. Reading over the thread from 2005 I’m embarrassed by the length of my posts, but I’m still intrigued by the question I raised:

    Does anyone know of anyone born after 1964 who has done this sort of jump from doctrinaire left to doctrinaire right? Particularly anyone prominent.
    Alternatively anyone moving from moderate left to hardline right would be interesting.

    If this doesn’t seem to have occurred then it throws an interesting light on the reasons for the shift for older figures. It also creates hope that we will eventually be done with people such as Windshuttle – they will die out and not be replaced.

  11. “As new materials become available we must always revise and rewrite our history. This is something rightwing dogmatists such as John Howard and self-style ‘conservative objectors’ such as Windschuttle (and others) are desperate to avoid.”

    Never a truer word said and here’s the latest facts readers of the UK Telegraph are consuming at present about enlightened ‘Stolen Generations’ Antipodeans at present-
    Essentially ‘it has emerged’ that “There are now more than 4,500 Aboriginal children in state care in New South Wales (NSW), compared to 1,000 in foster homes, institutions and church-run missions in the state when the forced removals policy ended in 1969.”

    This on top of the breaking news that around 30000 Australian children overall are in foster care at present, a doubling over the last 10 years and that’s certainly on Howard’s watch and some wall to wall Labor States for most of that. However let’s concentrate on that 4500 aboriginal children in NSW. UK readers might be forgiven for thinking genocide, eugenics and child stealing is alive and well in NSW at least on those figures and perhaps listening to expert actors like Hugh Jackman on daytime US TV chat shows. Windschuttle clearly begs to differ with the new conventional wisdom and with those 4500 aboriginal children in the ‘child protection system’ in NSW now, the opportunity to shut him up for good presents itself. How so?

    Well let ‘Glenda Stubbs, a foster parent and chief executive of Link-Up NSW, which reunites children from the Stolen Generations with their families’put it succinctly-

    “If you are placed in a home or you have a family that didn’t learn parenting skills then you don’t have these skills to pass on,” she said. “If you are a domestic servant all you learn is how to clean things, you don’t learn how to nurture children.”

    Ipso facto you’d logically expect an extremely large proportion of these children to be the descendants of stolen parents, or more likely grandparents given the 40yr time lapse since the stealing policy lapsed. Lets have an independent commission of enquiry to establish this clear and obvious link and shut Windschuttle up once and for all eh? Or has the research already been done by our enquiring seekers of truth and I missed it? What proportion of the children are descendants of the stolen generation? Eighty or ninety percent as we’d all expect?

  12. As your ill-gotten income rises you move to the right.

    When you feel the need to mainipulate society to your benefit (or work for those who do) you move to the hardline right.

    The only thing countering this is a high IQ and high moral consciousness.

  13. Observa
    That would be a very interesting question “What proportion of the children are descendants of the stolen generation? Eighty or ninety percent as we’d all expect?” So it implies a multiplier effect from the original stolen generations to now. Thats what people dont realise, the mental feelings of hopelessness or shame or inferiority or even lack of parenting skills get passed on from prior generations to the next. Interventions that send in the army, to remove them or withhold income (like authoritarian parents controlling their money supply) dont help. Interventions like housing and education and health and sport and controlling liquor licenses that profit from economic hardship in regional areas do help – all positive policies seriously neglected in the past decade.

  14. But what if it’s only say 5 or 10% Alanna? Where would that leave the Stolen Generations story and conclusion then? Or is it the case that there are some questions we don’t ask because we’re afraid the answers mightn’t fit the prevailing orthodoxy? It’s a reasonable question to ask to show the causal link. Is that multiple jump in aboriginal children in custodial care today, the multiplier effect from past unjust removals(ie any prior to 1969)or not?

  15. Observa
    It wouldnt diminish the stolen generations story. If would diminish your idea (and perhaps mine) that the stolen generations has a multiplied effect in future generations. Well also it could be entirely false premise Observa. I think you and I both know that – there could be a whole lot of other variables at play. Are more children being removed because there has been little spending on housing for aboriginals and they are in decay with too many people living in one house leading to social problems, is it because of a shrinkage of available jobs in regional areas, is it because of problems with insufficient alcohol regulation. Define the variables and eliminate and then there could be a problem in your definition of the variables and there could be a problem in the data (are there differences in sub groups that the whole poulation doesnt capture). You ask me Observa? I know as much as you but it would be interesting just to know the first bit wouldnt it.

  16. Alanna

    There’s a lot in your posts here that seem a bit cut and paste. Has anybody here actually even intimated this?

    For anyone to suggest that aboriginies were not killed, caused serious physical and mental harm, did not have the deliberate infliction of economic conditions so harsh as to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part, have children forcibly removed to another group………

    One of the great tragedies for the aboriginal people is the number of otherwise well-meaning middle-class white people who use the Stolen Generation issue to pursue other present-day political battles.

  17. Tim # 69 I actually wrote that myself Tim but if you follow the threads above it (but perhaps you came late to the discussion?) that quote draws from the definition of genocide (which yes is a paste coming from the convention definition) and no I dont cut and paste and nobody but you has intimated that I do.

    I take it this is not intended as a compliment Tim but I will accept it as one anyway.

    It helps if you feel strongly about something and are articulate enough to express it.

    I pursue my own battles Tim but this one is about and for the Aboriginies not whatsome supercilious young thing happens to interpret as a slight on their political agenda.

    Dont bother me with this nonsense.

  18. Alanna

    Sorry, I did not mean you cut and pasted from someone else, but rather from a stump speech you might give whenever the word “aborigines” is mentioned.

  19. Tim#70

    Having said that I will happily criticise policy if you want. There isnt one social welfare agency or charity in Australia that has one ounce of respect for John Howard’s policies on social welfare over the past decade (Aboriginal or otherwise).

    There are reams and reams of media comments and pleadings over the years from charities to the Howard government. The Salvation Army isnt a political organisation and nor is the Brotherhood of St Lawrence and nor is the Red Cross and nor is it left to consider social welfare policy important. Social welfare has been in mainstream practice for over 60 years and quite normal in our society. There is nothing political about wanting to see good initiatives in these areas – not army interventions but housing, education etc

    Our society is not just a society for those of means and arrogant aspirational self interested young men. In this regard Howard left the mainstream of good governance and did not provide sound leadership.

  20. 71#Tim

    Rather than coming in here JUST to criticise, put down and attack others – why dont you state your own views Tim?

    Lets hear them. Im waiting.

  21. Ah…..silence (Well thats good. Something tells me I wouldnt have much liked Tim’s views anyway).

  22. Nowadays removal of children does not generally get followed with deliberate shifting around and renaming them. We don’t try to hide the children from their parents, unlike the rather common behaviour in the past.

    Where alcohol or violence is involved, the child’s protection from harm is the first concern. I don’t know how many of today’s removals are due to these reasons, or how many are from other causes.

    When it comes to Windschuttle’s claims about the stolen generation and more particularly the claims that apart from a few minor squirmishes, nothing much happened, I have trouble digesting it. In the early 70’s I recall watching government-made educational films about our Australian history – including the contacts with Aborigines. The actual footage of Aboriginal and boys in chains and neck manacles will remain etched into my brain until the day I die. They sure weren’t going on a picnic, and nor were they “criminals” being apprehended. It was a chain gang. And if anyone says it was some left-wing government propaganda (the films, that is), I don’t agree with them.

  23. Donald – everything to do with social welfare of any kind to the “plotters and schemers”, is a “left wing plot” or a “left wing” organisation except the irony of it all is that the so called “left wing plot” doesnt exist and never existed in this country and is a relatively recent (well about 35 years) crazy (far right) conservative fabrication (they publish absolute tripe en mass to snow the media).

    They dont call them the “crazies” for no reason (and many in their own party have had them up to the back teeth as well because they have gone beyond the pale naming everyone from academics, to scientists, to artists, to social welfare researchers, to the ABC, to environmental scientists, to public servants as left! Who is next?? Almost like they wish McCarthyism back. If we were all that left we would be calling each other comrade and they would be closed down or in jail as dissenters).

  24. “Nowadays removal of children does not generally get followed with deliberate shifting around and renaming them. We don’t try to hide the children from their parents, unlike the rather common behaviour in the past.”

    But wasn’t that largely true for all children born out of wedlock before the seventies Donald? In white society pregnant unwed mothers who did not want to run the gauntlet of backyard abortions were whisked away from their immediate surroundings to have them on the quiet and immediately given up for adoption. In that sense most white ‘illegitimate’ children were brought up secretly with adoptive parents. There was also a strong tendency to farm children out among friends and relatives should too many be a financial burden or the family fall on hard times.(it occurred in my mother-in-laws rural family of 8 where one brother would grow up to be a State cabinet minister) Noone saw any point in even telling children they were adopted, let alone having contact with the biological mother.

    Now when that polite society would come across neglected aboriginal ‘illegitimates’ and take them into care, why would we expect them to be treated any differently? Nowadays we want to ferret out and erect individual monuments to miscarriages buried in hospital grounds in the past and construct adoption registers for future biological reunions. How times change, but where was the racial discrimination in that discriminatory system by today’s standards, albeit if remote aboriginal women were largely preyed upon sexually by a white male underclass, their offspring would clearly be overrepresented statistically, particularly if shunned by the tribe. Our society today can’t even begin to fathom that ‘illegitimacy’ of the past and its social mores, any more than I can barely remember smoking the cigarette brand ‘doctors recommend’ in the office or train.

  25. Actually for a lesson in what ‘illegitimacy’ was like in 1927, perhaps instead of Rabbit Proof Fences teachers might play Blossoms in the Dust with Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson as the spectacular pioneering Edna Gladney in Bush country, Texas for some idea of the flavour of those times. Again I’d say let’s see the figures on those 4500 aboriginal children in NSW custody now that can trace their ancestry to a stolen parent and see the causal link or not.

  26. Observa
    “In white society pregnant unwed mothers who did not want to run the gauntlet of backyard abortions were whisked away from their immediate surroundings to have them on the quiet and immediately given up for adoption.”

    True Observa – it was really the rise of feminism that gave women the choice of keeping their baby even if they were single. So in the 1970s there was a rise in single mothers but it may not have been a sign of economic hardship breaking families up (but Im sure that played a part) – it was also the feminism whereby more single women kept their babies. Before that they were “almost” forced to give them up for adoption and they were taken away before the nother could barely set eyes on the baby and what you say is correct in that the child was often not informed.

  27. But Observa
    You are only focusing on one aspect of removal here (and many aboriginal removals were absolutely “forced” not “almost forced” ie the parents or mother had no say and they were not just unwanted pregnancies and specifically they were any child with one ounce of white in them. They left purebreds behind – didnt want those did they. That is racist.

  28. By racist I mean – it was not a policu driven by kindness (although on the surface it was portrayed thus) or else why concentrate on mixed bred aboriginal children with some white in them even if that white was the product of rape or abuse or defacto relationships of convenience???

  29. Observa
    I suspect they wanted the mixed breeds raised by whites to breed out the aboriginal genes conmpletely and that is genocidal but it was portrayed as a rescue of children and many involved in the program (the “rescuers” for example would sincerely have beieved they were doing the “right” thing for the child – so then it gets confused. But notwithstanding the key elements of the policy as designed (but not as carried out) were genocidal. This goes to the heart of the policy design and the intent behind it.

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