Fair-ish and Balanced-ish
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
The History Wars and The Australian
One of the reasons for the name of this blog, was to poke fun at Australia's national newspaper. However, apart from thinking up the name, I've done next to nothing of the sort. Fortunately, the trained monkeys in The Australian's editorial office have given me the chance to rectify the situation.
In a recent editorial on the history wars, they wrote:
That said, the response of the academic establishment to Windschuttle's work has been lamentable. It is supposed to be right-wing columnists who "hunt in packs", but left-wing academics have done themselves proud with Whitewash, in which 19 of them launch into Windschuttle's supposed failings as a historian and a human being, even comparing him, unforgivably, with Holocaust-denier David Irving. Windschuttle's personality, politics, and credentials are all vigorously attacked in Whitewash, as they have repeatedly been for the past year. But his facts – or rather the serious factual lapses he located in his adversaries' work – are not convincingly rebutted.
The procedure adopted by many of the contributors in Whitewash will be familiar to anyone who remembers how Western left-wing intellectuals operated in the 1950s, when all challenge, all dissent, was routinely dismissed as "ideological" rather than taken on its merits. This process begins in Robert Manne's introduction, in which Windschuttle's book is located firmly in the context of John Howard's political agenda. Another of the contributors, Henry Reynolds, ends his piece with a rhetorical question about Windschuttle: "How do we explain the animus towards the Tasmanians? Whence comes the passion?" There could be any number of answer to this, but the only answer Reynolds can come up with is that Windschuttle is the "pied piper" to a "bevy of right-wing identities", and that he wants to undermine the "staples of indigenous politics". Last week, another left-wing historian, Stuart Macintyre, claimed Windschuttle – a lone unaffiliated scholar with no resources apart from his own time and intelligence – was part of "a campaign of vilification of historians and accusations against them and attempts to intimidate them".
It would be readily apparent to anyone who has read Whitewash that the preceding passages just aren't true. Starting with James Boyce's essay Windschuttle thesis was obliterated in detail. The other authors, looking at more specific claims, finished the job. Windschuttle's response, as published in The Australian, was too ignore significant parts of arguments put forward by Reynolds, and a weak rebuttal of the rest.
Anybody, who claims that Whitewash "routinely dismissed as "ideological" rather than taken on its merits", either (a) hasn't read it, (b) is an idiot, or (c) is a full feeing paying member to a brain-dead ideology.
Ironically, I would have agreed with the second to last sentence in the editorial...
The Australian itself has been depicted by Professor Manne, in his introduction to Whitewash and elsewhere, as a committed player in this history war, when all we have really done is provide generous space to all views.
...that is, if I hadn't read the BS printed along beside it.