The Fabrication of Australian Vaporware

It’s now the second half of 2009, so it’s a convenient time to remember that, early last year, Keith Windschuttle published a piece in the Oz, touted as an extract from his “forthcoming, later this year” Volume 2 of The Fabrication of Australian History . This Volume 2, devoted to the Stolen Generations, and attacking historians such as Peter Read is different1 from the Volume 2 announced back in 2002 and promised for 2003, in which Windschuttle was supposed to make good his claims that Henry Reynolds had fabricated the history of frontier conflict in Queensland.

Neither promised Volume 2 has appeared, and there is no sign that either of them ever will. And there was even supposed to be a Volume 3 at one time, IIRC.

1 I’ll leave to the philosophers the question of whether two non-existent books can be said to be different or (as I suspect on reflection) all non-existent books are the same.

65 thoughts on “The Fabrication of Australian Vaporware

  1. Jack I’d also be interested in your evidence that the intervention has been ‘a success’, that ‘children are being removed in great numbers under the Intervention’ and that it has ‘brought under control’ … ‘in-migration to cities, collapse in family structure and a massive substance abuse infliction’.

    Not saying that you’re wrong, just that I haven’t seen any evidence that any of this is actually true.

  2. Chris Warren :
    Ken

    It seems to me that Howard and Quadrant deliberately launched history war precisely as they were extremely worried about the then “here and now” as they saw it.

    Perhaps (though I doubt it) but if so why did the Left take the bait?
    The history war seems me to be a minority interest among historians, a bit like who started the Pelloponnesian war.
    Nothing compared to what we should do now to fix the mess we have created over the past 25 years in our treatment of indigenous Australians. That is difficult which is why I think so many – on the Right and Left – would rather argue over history.

  3. The “culture wars” and the “history wars” are largely imports from the USA. The “science wars”, which is not yet named by the pundits, is also an import from the USA. The book “The Republican War On Science” by Chris Mooney gives an account of the political strategies used to muzzle, or at least muffle, the scientific results that didn’t mesh with the Republicans’ political aspirations.

    The bit that I am stunned by are the claims that climate scientists have somehow departed from the best traditions (ideas, philosophy, etc) from the Enlightenment. Janet Albrechtsen is one scribbler who has done this, and there are others.

    I know that plenty of people from the Right side of politics do accept anthropogenic global warming (AGW) as the best theory we’ve got for understanding the current global warming underway. But when it comes to people that simply won’t accept that humans can influence climate, that is, the people who set up the fake research institutes and so forth, the weird thing is that they have much the same political beliefs. Invariably they are right-wing, and most are hard right.

    Now before I get flamed about dumping on the Liberals, let me point out that some of the right-wing reside in the Labor party.

  4. Ken tries the usual tactic of cover-up, viz:

    I don’t know who launched it and it really doesn’t matter now.

    Who started the History Wars?????????

    The real kick-off was the reaction to Noel Butlin’s “Original Aggression” particularly some reactionaries clustered around Quadrant in 1983.

    When Howard sunsequently launched his ‘Black Armband’ canard – he was following Blainey’s script in Quadrant – (July-August 1993).

    Subsequently, in 2000, the Murdoch family assisted peddling the false story that the British were exceptional, caring, peace seeking, conciliatory folks who would never use smallpox against aborigines.

    This has now blown up in their faces as these claims we based on fraudulent scholarship.

    The History Wars was a device of rightwing reaction (as others sought to bring out the truth) and not of legitimate scholarship or intellectual debate.

    Of course, now that their attempt to lock Australian History into old dogmas has failed, the Right naturally want to hide the facts of who and how it all started.

    Today it is good that W************ is relegated to Quadrant. This is where he belongs.

  5. Testing, testing – it seems that my comments are no longer being accepted.
    A technical problem or something I said?

  6. As regards remote indigenous health – Id bet money that the unhealthiest remote aboriginal communities are those with one white owned pub in the area and nothing else in the way of work.

  7. Chris Warren :

    Who started the History Wars?????????
    The real kick-off was the reaction to Noel Butlin’s “Original Aggression” particularly some reactionaries clustered around Quadrant in 1983.

    So we have a war about who said what 26 years ago about what happened over 100 years ago? Gawd…
    And, coming right up to date, we read that aboriginal health and other measures of welfare and going backwards.

    PS Seems my comments are now appearing. It must have been my machine.

  8. Chris – actually the kick off of the culture and history wars goes back even further. It was an ugly bastard offspring of McCarthyism in Australia, Id suggest commenced in the early 1960s by an attack on the Labour historians society by the infiltration of a right wing mole with CIA links and ASIO credentials. (around 1963 – a conservative funded witchhunt of perceived left “enemies” but in reality nothing of the sort – just a convenient “internal enemy invented” for political advantage – similar to those persecuted in the McCarthy era in the U.S.). Given the conservative agenda for a power grab – it was then picked up and run with in successful so called “journal articles” (with little evidence of real research) by a Peter Coleman ( a journalist and former Liberal leader in the NSW parliament and federal MP. He was editor of Quadrant magazine for 20 years.).

    Some other names prominent in the history / culture wars. Dear old Miranda’s dad Frank Devine (recently passed away link below – and guess who is writing a tribute to Frank? Keith Windschuttle of course), Murdoch of course…

    Have a little read of the Debretts peerage of blue blood conservative smear……and track back yourself for their contributions to the withhunts and lies and denialisms over the years since

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25730104-31501,00.html

    It was a nasty well funded blue blood political beat up.

  9. @Alice
    Yes, you are probably right, Alice, although the race of the publican probably does not make any difference.
    So, what should be done?
    Every prime minister since about Gorton has cared and worried about the problem (and I am sure Howard for all his faults did not care any less) but all the actions taken and all the money spent seem to have made things worse.
    My guess is that most Australians would be quite happy to spend more on indigenous welfare if someone had any ideas of how to make things better.
    The only one who does make sense is Noel Pearson who recognises that there can be no grand plan but rather projects that are developed to meet local needs.
    Governments are notoriously bad at that kind of thing, firstly because they don’t make national headlines and secondly because to work such projects need bureaucracy to get out of the way. As we have seen with Howard’s NT intervention bureaucracy will almost never get out of the way.

  10. I suppose there has always been history wars, ever since Ancient Greek, Viking and Anglo Saxon, tales, sagas and chronicles were composed.

    However a particular strand is associated with the genocide issue that emerged from Butlin’s work (1983) which sparked off a specific right wing reaction that cascaded through Quadrant, Bulletin, the ABC, the National Museum and would have destroyed the schooling curriculum (but Howard was kicked out).

    The Murdoch wealth was involved but possibly too, others like Hugh Morgan?

  11. Several years ago now I was walking along the Mary Booth trail in Kirribilli and as I got to the main tourist phototaking spot (it faces the Opera House – Tim the weatherman often did his weather segments from there), I could see a big busload’s worth of Indigenous school kids, and many of them were agog. They were from central parts of Australia. It was great to see them just taking in the view, checking the bridge out and so forth.

    Seems to me that getting more of the Indigenous children out and about, in this supervised manner, would do wonders for igniting an interest beyond the remote townships. It couldn’t hurt.

  12. Ken – in fact one of the major problems has been the decline in spending on Aboriginal housing under Howard (across the board in many states) so in fact I dont JH really did care, until late in his reign and he thought he could get political points from an army based intervention (which was a huge waste of resources flying up specialists and professionals etc on weekends instead of acknowledging and supporting and putting more resources into existing public authorities who had worked with aboriginies on the ground for a long time and who in essence under JH were not supported. He created a new layer of bureaucracy with the army and outsourcing instead of going with existing structures of expertise).

    Dads army and Dads private army.

    JH contributed more to the problem than the solution of aboriginal disadvantage. One of the known problems is too many aboriginals living under the same roof now (due to lack of investment in public housing going back ten years) which contributes to domestic dysfunction.

  13. ‘… there can be no grand plan but rather projects that are developed to meet local needs.
    Governments are notoriously bad at that kind of thing …’

    Then why on earth should the government be criticised for not doing it? And why aren’t other people doing it?

    This use of the passive voice as in ‘are developed’ is the kind of thing I savage undergraduates for when then are asked to make recommendations and instead, they provide a wish list of outcomes. If proposals are to be of any practical use they should state what concrete action needs to be taken, when, and by whom.

    BTW Jack Strocchi I’m still waiting patiently for evidence that supports the extravagant factual claims you made about the effects of the intervention.

  14. @Ken Lovell
    KL: I have no recommendations. I just wish someone did or even that governments admit that they do not know what to do. I criticize governments for promising what they cannot deliver.
    I am surprised that savagery is still considered a useful part of undergraduate teaching.

  15. BTW Jack Strocchi I’m still waiting patiently for evidence that supports the extravagant factual claims you made about the effects of the intervention” – Ken L

    Pretty sure there was nothing “factual” about them.

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