Windschuttle versus Manne

The February edition of The Monthly is out, including Robert Manne’s eagerly-awaited ‘Comment’ on Windschuttle.

Windschuttle attacked Manne in January’s Quadrant, saying that he should stand down from his position at La Trobe, then on Monday went on ABC radio’s Counterpoint to summarise the general case against the stolen generations ‘myth’ that forms the thesis of his Volume III. The debate is a bit hard to follow, because Manne has responded to Windschuttle’s print arguments on radio, and to his radio arguments in print. That is, Manne replied to Windschuttle’s personal attack on Late Night Live, and, contrary to Phillip Adams’ advice, it turns out that the piece in The Monthly adds nothing to that — it’s just a general critique of Windschuttle’s book.

Windschuttle accepts that most of the personal accounts in Bringing Them Home were genuine, and that many children were forcibly removed. His contention is that the children were taken from incompetent and alcoholic parents, from the same motives that applied to neglected white children in the same era. The notion that there was a policy to break down aboriginal culture or ‘breed out the colour’ is a fabrication, with no basis in the archival evidence. And while there were a couple of officials who wanted to contain the indigenous gene pool — Cecil Cook in the NT and in AO Neville in WA — their schemes had to do with marriages rather than the removal of children.

Windschuttle argues that the ‘myth of the Stolen Generations’ has been pernicious in fostering an attitude of victimhood amongst indigenous people, which in turn has brought unnecessary resentment into the dealings of activists with governments, and distracted then from the real fundamental problems.

The specific charge against Manne is that, in a pamphlet he wrote in 2001, he claimed falsely that the Lyons Government endorsed Cook’s policy in the NT, and that this demonstrates that forced removals were part of a general policy to breed out the colour. Manne accomplished this, Windschuttle maintains, by (1) misrepresenting the status of a Commonwealth departmental officer who favoured the approach, (2) suppressing the fact that the federal minister rejected Cook’s advice anyway, and (3) failing to remind readers that the issue didn’t relate to removing children in any case.

Manne responds (in the radio interview) by saying that Windschuttle has completely misunderstood the documents. The only thing that the Minister objected was Cook’s idea of forcing ‘half-caste’ girls to marry white men, which was never on the table anywhere. On the other hand, it was policy to encourage such marriages, and any official policy applying in the Territory was in any case by definition a Commonwealth policy. Manne further accuses Windschuttle of simply failing to comprehend that removing mixed race girls from the communities was an essential prerequisite to making them marriageable to white men.

Let’s see if Windschuttle allows Manne to reply in writing in Quadrant. My guess is that a great deal may hinge on where ‘encouragement’ ends and ‘force’ begins. In any case I doubt that Windschuttle will convince more than a few of his diehard fans that Manne’s scholarship was seriously deficient, let alone that the whole thesis supporting The Apology was a concoction.

Even if Windschuttle has been right to caution against exaggeration, his polarising antics are not conducive to the lay public’s getting a balanced sense of where the truth lies. No, it probably isn’t helpful to speak of genocide, but a sense of indignation over that particular accusation shouldn’t be a license to forgo empathy for a people who saw their culture uprooted in the space of three generations.

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30 Responses to Windschuttle versus Manne

  1. billie says:

    I can remember my father and grandfather arguing about the forced removal of aboriginal children from their parents.

    In the 1950s following Soviet experience it was believed that if children were removed from their parents you would be able to destroy their culture. The people advocating the forced removal of children from their parents thought that this was the best way to bring aborigines into the 20th century. They weren’t aware of the squalor of aboriginal orphanages or even white orphanages.

    It’s hard to believe that between 1920s and 1970s a whole industry existed for removing children from their white or black mothers and rearing these children in underfunded, poorly supervised, unaccountable orphanages. The lucky few were adopted out with greater or lesser success.

    Windshuttle is trying to rewrite history and he has no credibility.

  2. Gummo Trotsky says:

    As Merv Bendle’s article at the thinking person’s Daily Telegraph shows, it’s more a case of Quadrant versus Robert Manne.

  3. Peter Patton says:


    Whatever Windy’s faults – and they are more one’s of showing compassion to victims that they are getting the story closer to right than his opponets, such as Manne.

    One of the cruel ironies, is that Manne’s The Culture of Forgetting is no longer about Helene Demidenmo/Darvilee/Dale/Whatever. No, the ‘culture of forgetting’ is exemplified by Manne himself.

    To be fair, this whole issue can only be properly understood in the context of Mannes sacking from Quadrant, and his understandable need to rebuild his credibility. Manne – perhaps understandably – chose to go commando by trying to destroy the credibility of those he perceives destroyed his own credibility Quadrant. To do that, he had to convince enough people that he was correct in the first place to embrace Bringing Them Home so uncritically.

    But Windschuttles 2001/2002 bombshells opened up the whole debate onto a much greater battle-field. So Manne had to fight on another front as well. This time he ran a massive PR and recruitment drive to build his vanguard. He needed both cavalry and cannon-fodder. The discovery of how shoddingly trained some of his older cavalry were (such as Lyndall Ryan) forced him to up the stakes in his offensive offensive.

    The Aboriginal women and children who festered in tawdry mid-20th out-of-town missions are not Mannes subject. Manne leverages this whole issue to try to ruin the credibility of the editors of the magazine who took over Quadrant after he was sacked. It is only then he Manne feels that he can achieve redemption.

    It seemed for a while in the mid noughties, Manne was getting his wish. Since then his wish has receded from a possible reality to a pipe-dream, and perhaps even a delusion.

    It would benefit the Australian polity a great deal of he went on television admitting his gullibility and attendant sloppy scholarship.

    Alas, even to this day, his recent Monthly bait and switch does not loud and proud come out and declare, “look I made a huge mistake on the genocide claims I was wrong”. But no, what he does, he still peppers his articles with the ‘g’ word but can’t help his trade-mark oleaginous self.

    Watch his torture, as he tries to keep the genocide alive and well but not by declaring it irrelevant himsel, but by a curious presumption that if he can unsettle’s Windy’s denials, his job is done. But of course, by unsettling the evidence Windy musters against genocide, the reader can only conclude, “come on Bobbie, you actually do believe the <i.genocide.

    Here’s a few:

    Windschuttle also claims that Nevilles famous question to the 1937 Canberra Conference

    “Are we going to have a population of 1,000,000 blacks in the Commonwealth, or are we going to merge them into our white community and eventually forget that there were ever any Aborigines in Australia?”

    which combined the aspiration to breed out the colour of the “half castes” with the certainty that the “full bloods” were doomed, is no genocidal thought. He claims Neville did not “subscribe” to the belief that “the full blood Aboriginal population was destined to die out.

    Here were have Neville offering assimilation of whites, ‘half-castes’ and ‘fullbloods’ as a policy objective, or allowing the full-bloods their land and autonomy, with the expectation their ways of life would lead to a reduction of their numbers and eventually extinction.

    What would WE he decide today? I’d want to ask the full-bloods themselves whether they wanted to be integrated or left-alone. If the latter the fact the anthropological consensus wouldd be that they worl eventually die out is neither cruel, racist, and especially non within coo-ee of genocide.

    Now, we all know from our basic rhetoric courses, that the poition you agree with, you present, leaving the position you actually believe to last. Why> It sets up an anticpitation of rebuttal unlike the agreed with statement, and it is the last think we remember.

    And Manne does not fail to use this rhetorical muse, of which are equally trained.

    Once more he [Windy] is simply wrong. In May 1937 the Brisbane Telegraph reported that Mr Neville holds the view that within one hundred years the pure black will be extinct.[xxvi]

    Hold on, let’s unpack this. Who is the subject of this quote? The British Telegraph reporter. Did Neville really say this, and if so, so what? I am sure the full-blooded Aborigines who wanted to be left alone could give a rat’s about Neville’s reported musings thousands of miles away. As long as Nexille doesn’t rocket with AK-47’s to expedite their 100 year life, it is meaningless as Tony Abbot’s climate policy.

    But notice Manne’s completely amateurish attempts at playing historian. Any first year student know the difference between a newspaper reporter says, and what was actually said. But Manne thinks he is a “GOTCHA” moment. How can somebody’s surmise about conditions in 100 years times constitute genocide

    Sorry to go on, but if Club Troppo, I’d like to type another instalment anon.

  4. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Whatever Windys faults and they are more ones of showing compassion to victims that they are getting the story closer to right than his opponets, such as Manne.

    An interesting opening, Peter, and possibly the first time I’ve heard anyone accuse Keith Windschuttle of showing compassion to victims of the historical wrongs he works so hard to deny. “Get over it, it never happened” doesn’t sound all that compassionate to me. Moving on…

    You’re right that this goes back to Manne’s sacking from the editorship of Quadrant. I didn’t read the magazine under his editorship, and under Windschuttle’s I only read for the hoaxes, like this superb verballing of HUman Rights Commisssioner Tom Calma by someone calling himself “George Pell”. Keith starts yet another year by getting sucked in by a yet another factually inaccurate article that agrees with his mature hatred of all things left.

    Where we disagree is in who we believe in this argument. On the vbasis of a cherry pick of Robert Manne’s response to Keith and a lot of supposition, you side with Keith. You’ve chosen to ignore, I note, Manne’s allegations that Windschuttle misread, misquoted and misrepresented archival research by Mark Copland in Queensland and other cogent cticisms Manne makes.

    What would WE he [sic] decide today? Id want to ask the full-bloods themselves whether they wanted to be integrated or left-alone.

    Nasty slip there – you got sucked into the same sort of colonial thinking that Windschuttle is at such pains to defend.

    Quite a few of Windy’s faults (and the faults of the Quadrant faithful are on display in this affair – petty vindictiveness, mercenary self-promotion and a nasty whiff of something else:

    Senator HUMPHRIESWhat do you think we should do about activist scholarship in the context of universities and how it affects the teaching of subjects?

    Mr WindschuttleThat is a very difficult question. I have been looking at this issue…

    I do not know what a group of political people can do. I think the great danger in any of this is throwing out the baby with the bath water. I think academic freedom is an absolute, rock solid basis of our society and politicians should not interfere with it, should not pass legislation and should not go around telling anyone what to do. As far as I can see, what this inquiry can accomplish is to simply express an opinion. I do not think you should actually do anything. I would join the ranks of those opposed to you if you did want to do anything about it rather than express an opinion about it. (Senate Inquiry into Academic freedom in school and higher education, THURSDAY, 9 OCTOBER 2008, SYDNEY – my italics)

    On second thoughts, maybe it isn’t hypocrisy – after all Windschuttle isn’t a politician, he’s merely the editor of a minor, government-subsidised, literary magazine with a very narrow niche audience.

  5. JC says:

    I only read for the hoaxes, like this superb verballing of HUman Rights Commisssioner Tom Calma by someone calling himself George Pell.


    Underneath the piece you linked to it says:

    This is the text of the Australian Christian Lobby National Conference Dinner Address that Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, gave in Canberra on November 20.

    Are you really suggesting that’s a hoax, that in fact it wasn’t a speech given by Pell? I’m really curious.

  6. Gummo Trotsky says:

    I think the word you were looking for to finish your comment was “humourless” JC.

  7. JC says:

    Thanks Trot. I wasn’t sure, if you know what I mean.

  8. Peter Patton says:

    Gummo TRotsky

    Can I be Frank? And yes you can be Earnest. Tom Calma is presicely what is wrong with this debate.

    What is he? A barely literate (I’d guess an IQ of 80, how about you) race-baiter living high on the hog of his never-ending six-figure salary sinecures whose extraordinary wealth relies on travelling the country spreading the country spreading racial discord.

    The guy is a moronic carpetbagger, whose true station is life is collecting tickets at Taree station. The simpleton is a pox on our polity.

  9. Peter Patton says:


    What sort of Australian are you? You are prepared to support, find refuge for the most repellent half-wits in Australian academia and their genocide lie, long after they have been exposed as the scummy liars they are. Why are you n ot demanding they be sacked from their university positions? [Rest of comment deleted at author’s request – JF]

  10. Gummo Trotsky says:


    If all you can bring to the debate is witless personal abuse and overactive salivary glands, you’ve lost it already.

  11. Edward Mariyani-Squire says:

    It seems as if some (much?) of the debate hangs on divining the correct interpretation of various government documents, and this, in turn, hangs on knowing the beliefs and intentions of the authors. These are certainly questions of fact, but it is obviously difficult to establish where the truth lies when it comes to such matters (perhaps requiring something like the R.G. Collingwood approach to “recollection” of the way of thinking in the past).

    With that said, I have doubts about Windschuttle’s capacity to correctly interpreting intensions and other internal states because of what I perceive to be his woeful divination of more recent history.

    In his Jan-Feb 2010 article in Quadrant, Windschuttle interprets the reaction by Aboriginals (in 1983) to being told that they had been subjected to a racist separationist policy (of which they “had been ignorant”) not as one of horror, disgust, anger, outrage or any kind of emotional trauma. Rather, according to Windschuttle, Aboriginal people found it “deeply comforting” because “instead of reproaching themselves, Aborigines could suddenly identify as morally innocent victims of a terrible injustice” (p.16). (Needless to say, Windschuttle suggests that Aborginals should indeed be reproaching themselves because they are responsible for “the bad choices they made themselves”.)

    The inference of such an emotional reaction – comfort, satisfaction, a perverse sense of pleasure – at being told genocide was attempted against them strikes me as not just false, but utterly bizarre. How can one make that inference without simultaneously presupposing that Aboriginal people are not quite emotionally ‘normal’? (It reminds me of another de-humanising and racist inference pointed out by Rai Gaita: the claim that terrorism occurs in the Middle East because Arabs don’t really love their children, they are just fodder – i.e. Arabs are not quite emotionally normal human beings.)

    Now, if that’s the low – and perhaps racist – quality of Windchuttle’s interpretations of people’s thoughts and intentions from as recently as the 1980s, what confidence should I place on his interpretations of people’s thoughts and intentions before that time?

  12. Peter Patton says:


    Could you please delete post #8? Upon reflection the identification of an individual in that manner was highly inappropriate.

  13. Peter Patton says:


    Re #4. Please accept my apologies, what was actually a silly typo clearly has huge implications. I wanted to say,


    Whatever Windys faults and they are more ones of NOT showing compassion to victims that they are getting the story closer to right than his opponets, such as Manne.

  14. Peter Patton says:

    Admin: Could you please edit my post 4 accordingly. Thank you.

  15. Peter Patton says:

    Gummo Trotsky

    Where we disagree is in who we believe in this argument.

    I am not a fan of either of these men in their capacity as historians or public personages. Having said that, I do have greater respect for Windschuttle for the sheer grit, rolled-up sleeves, untold hours he has spent reading and rereading everything written on the subject(s), before hitting the libraries for what must have been hundreds/thousands of meticulous and tedious checking,m re-checking, and adding new finds. Note, this admiration of mine says nothing about the rectitude of anything he wrote/writes as a consequence of this odyssey.

    Manne on the other hand – from what I gather, but please correct me if I am wrong – largely relies on lucrative ARC – and other – grants, which allow him to hire PhD students to do his grunt work. And sorry, having read the results, the level of attention to the detail, not to mention the depth and cross-referencing pales next to Windy’s. But again, great or even accurate history does not spring from sweat and ink fingers alone!

    What gets KW more browny points from me is his willingness to take issue with the conventional discourse developed and propagated by the Australian tenured academic History establishment. But once again, chutzpah need not be related to rectitude.

    On the vbasis of a cherry pick of Robert Mannes response to Keith and a lot of supposition, you side with Keith.

    Gummmo, please be fair, we have only started a skimpy blog convo. But I will say upfront, that having spent many, many hours getting on top of these “History Wars” I do “side with Keith” vis-avis Manne, but do not mistake that for being a KW cheerleader.

    I happen to share the criticisms made by many, including Manne, of KW’s pitiless tone. But even more, Manne strikes me as less sincerely anguished by the plight of the Aborigines as by his sacking from Quadrant. And given the very narrow empirical nature of Windy’s project and its methodology, to be fair there is not a whole lot of scope for wailing. For mine, I’ll take the reference book without the tear stained pages, please.

    Gummo, no doubt you will shocked to hear I find KW a very low rent stylist, and I think he is swimming way outside the flags when he tries to construct an alternative narrative/explanation; his attempts to do so reveal a man whose already published work has shown the world the limit of his historiographic talents, and particularly imagination.

    His fumbles at integrating the work into a broader dynamic of enlightenment ideas and British institutions seeping up through the desert, grasslands, and coastal rainforests that had nourished the indigenous inhabitants for 60,000 years without need of a common law, muscat, christ’s forgiveness, cannon, wheat, let alone stump-jump plow is dire. KW would do his readers a great service by stopping writing there and directing his readers to John Gasgoine. So no, I would never read KW as I might read Gibbon, or Thompson, or Hobsbawm, or Averil Cameron, or John Hirst or Richard Evan Evans, or Inga Clendinnen, or Geoffrey Blainey, or Howard Zinn…

    I read KW as a shortcut to the boo-boos made by others – either intentional or inevitable – and necessary ideological tactics of a cadre of so-motivated historians on these matters.

    For example, KW’s identification of all the academic historians of Australia and particularly the Aborigines who are/were Communists, blew me away. It is actually quite creepy now reading all those historians and seeing the same robotic pushing and shoving of historical actors, particularly the Aborigines, into the square pegs of Communist ontology. It is so bleeding obvious.

    Your criticism of me continues:

    Youve chosen to ignore, I note, Mannes allegations that Windschuttle misread, misquoted and misrepresented archival research by Mark Copland in Queensland and other cogent cticisms Manne makes.

    My post above was but a single brief blog post that covers probably just as much ground of my greater interest in these issues as it does for you. The one particular issue I was interested there was Manne’s characteristically oleaginous treatment of the ‘g’ word.

    Only once does Manne appear to explictly lay into Windys claims, when Manne utters one of the most fantastic sentences in Australian historiographic debate; Manne claims:

    Windschuttle either falsely represents the position of the orthodox historians or exaggerates their conformity.

    Now, THIS corker deserves a post of its own.

    Does Manne name names, pages, chapters, and verse? But no, what he does, he still peppers his articles with the g word but cant help his trade-mark s self. I am interested in the way that Manne’s discourses is spattered with easily missed weasel phrases designed to protect him from any charges that he is one of the genocide-porn pushers.

    Perhaps taking a leaf or two out of George Lakoff’s books, Manne dog whistles to his genocide-porn base, by mentioning genocide in the context of attempting to discredit the evidence he claims uses Windy uses to deny genocide. Now, if Manne sincerely thought there was no genocide, he would state so unequivocally, and move on.

    But by taking issue with Windys arguments denying genocide, Manne is actually allowing genocide to re-enter through the back door, dog-whistling and winking to his base as he does so. In fact, Manne’s Monthly rant mentions the ‘g’ word ten times!

    Watch his torture, as he tries to keep the genocide-porn alive and burning. But it is not Manne’s own genocide-wood his dear readers see paraded before them. It is only by pouncing on every utterance, regardless of context, of genocide Windy prints – which we all know Windy insists is not relevant to any Australian history – that Manne but not by declaring it irrelevant himself, but by a curious presumption that if he can unsettles Windys denials, his job is done.

    But of course, by unsettling the evidence Windy musters against genocide, the reader can only conclude,

    come on Bobbie, you actually do believe the genocide discourse, dont you?

    And finally, Gummo Trotsky, you drop this oddity.

    Me: What would WE decide today? Id want to ask the full-bloods themselves whether they wanted to be integrated or left-alone.

    Gummo: Nasty slip there you got sucked into the same sort of colonial thinking that Windschuttle is at such pains to defend.

    There was no “slip” and especially not a “nasty” one. What I said is the truth.

  16. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Re that last oddity:

    “Full-blood” belongs to a now largely archaic terms used widely in English speaking societies – particularly colonial and slave-owning societies – until the later part of the twentieth century. Related terms include “half-caste”, “half-breed”, “mulatto”, “quadroon”, “octoroon”, “high-yellow”, “cape-coloured”, “kaffir”, “boy”, “negro”, “nigra” and, of course “nigger”.

    Get the picture?

    More on the substantive issues when I feel like playing nice. Those have nothing to do with history – that’s just a pretext for another attack on academic freedom from the nationalistic conservatives who comprise the Elite Quadre these days.

    And much as I find Manne boring and pompous, attacks on academic freedom are not to be taken lightly.

  17. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Damn – solecism in the first sentence:

    “Full-blood belongs to a set of now largely archaic terms etc”

  18. Peter Patton says:

    Nasty slip there you got sucked into the same sort of colonial thinking that Windschuttle is at such pains to defend.

    Now, here’s the thing. Not only was it not a slip, but it was far from nasty. My choice of language was deliberate, appropriate, and correct to identify Aborigines whose lineage has not been influenced by whites – or non-Aborigines in general. You see, it is on this reality that the whole ‘Stolen Generations’ narrative lives and dies. And call me crazy, given this is how full-bloods themselves distinguish themselves from those urban carpetbaggers on their 6 figure salary Aboriginal Industry sinecure whose Nan was a half-caste.

    The real sucker here is you. You have been sucked in by Manne’s purse-lipped sham outrage expressed in his Monthly rant against Windy whom Manne finds:

    In one passage he quotes from a New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board report: “these children, a number who are half-castes, quadroons and octoroons, are increasing with alarming rapidity.”

    Mrs Manne had to rush a strong Tia Maria and milk, so shocked was Manne that Windy

    must be the only historian who is not repelled by the quasi-zoological terminology “quadroons”, “octoroons”, “cross-breeds” universally deployed. Almost all historians who use these words in their work place them in inverted commas, to distance themselves from their plainly racist meaning.

    Maybe they are forced to at La Trobe Professor Manne, but every other History student on the planet is taught to transcribe the historical agent’s words without alteration. If s/he wishes to paraphrase, that is fine, so long as the quote is placed inside single, not double quotation marks. The neophyte historian is further advised that to change anything from the original and place it within double quotes is ‘doctoring’ the evidence. Given the academic company Manne has chosen to keep post-Quadrant sacking, perhaps concerns for probity in recording the past have long been jettisoned as bourgeois vanities and delusions?

    Perhaps that is why he dismissed Windschuttle’s respect for scholarly integrity as “no doubt he would regard this as political correctness.”

    But tell me Gummo Trotsky how do you respond to Professor Manne’s treatment of the words ‘full-blood’, ‘half-caste’, ‘quadroon’, ‘octoroon’ and so on in the very chapter which lays out his position on whether pre-WWII half-caste removal, ‘breeding out the colour’ and ‘assimilation’ constituted genocide. The chapter “Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide” appears in Dirk Moses’ edited GENOCIDE AND SETTLER SOCIETY. Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children in Australian History published in 2004. Catchy title, eh? Perhaps he is missing a glittering career as a copywriter?

    Anyways in Manne’s 25 page piece, all your dreaded ‘largely archaic terms used widely in English speaking societies particularly colonial and slave-owning societies – such as include “half-caste”, “half-breed”, “quadroon”, “octoroon”‘ feature on just about every page – in quotes from A.O Neville, Henry Prinsep, Dr. Fred Goldsmith, and of course the inimitable Dr. Cecil Cook, whom Manne informs us

    In June 1929, Cook wrote of the advisability of keeping quadroon children in the Territory…

    No inverted comma for this ‘quadroon’ an especially odd omission given that Manne was not even quoting Cook, but using his [Manne’s] own words. Over a leisurely few ales, down at The Oak, I counted no less than 200 uses of these words by Manne in just 25 pages. Not once did Manne place any of these ‘racist archaic colonial relics’ in inverted commas; not when they were direct quotes from historical actors; not when their use was freely chosen by Manne himself.

    In another flourish of anti-racist integrity, Manne informs us that

    Dr. Bryan suggested for the half-castes, quadroons, and octroons… Again, not an inverted comma in sight.

    As the cocktail hour has begun, I shall bid you adieu, Mr. Trotsky, and look forward to the time ‘when you feel like playing nice’ as I am dying for “more on the substantive issues.”

  19. Gummo Trotsky says:

    In June 1929, Cook wrote of the advisability of keeping quadroon children in the Territory

    No inverted comma for this quadroon an especially odd omission given that Manne was not even quoting Cook, but using his [Manne’s] own words.

    There are at least two possible explanations for why this statement for Manne appears in this form:

    (1) Manne is guilty of double standards;

    (2) A copy editor got a bit overzealous about the punctuation.

    Thanks for the additional insights into your character. Well worth waiting 36 hours for.

  20. Gummo Trotsky says:

    WTF? Them tags got seriously scrambled.

  21. Peter Patton says:


    I would say 2) is vitiated, as I counted no less than 200 uses of these words by Manne in just 25 pages. Not once did Manne place any of these racist archaic colonial relics in inverted commas; not when they were direct quotes from historical actors; not when their use was freely chosen by Manne himself.

    I would say 1) is vitiated as it relies on anodyne language not fitting for Professor Manne. ‘Hypocrite’, ‘bereft of discourse ethics’, ‘out of his league’ begin to get closer to the reality. ‘)

  22. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Only six minutes out of cocktail hour. Guess you didn’t get invited on to the chinese restaurant to kick on.

  23. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Our Keith will be on Radio National at 6.00 pm:

    The history wars were largely fought over our heads by politically-opposed intellectuals, but what’s been the collateral damage? To mark the second anniversary of the national apology, we bring together a panel including two members of the stolen generations, the historian Peter Read and the revisionist Keith Windschuttle, who says the apology was a hollow public relations exercise designed to appease white audiences. His key argument is that Aboriginal children were removed on the same grounds as non-Aboriginal children – because they were orphaned, neglected or abused. He also disputes the number of children who were forcibly removed.

  24. Peter Patton says:

    Gummo, please don’t think I am a snob, but since the ABC axed The Religion Report, I don’t find it a sufficiently challenging source of information or debate. As to this program, you have suggested, there is no need to listen. We already know what the DJ’s – Daniel Browing – agenda is by this little give-away:

    the historian Peter Read and the revisionist Keith Windschuttle. (emphasis added)

    This already signals that the DJ is not appropriately qualified or educated to host such a show. The distinction between “historian” and “revisionist” ordinarily would be an empty one, as there are so many different types of revisionism.

    1. One type acknowledges that the very best historians are ‘revisionists.’ Imagine our understanding of ancient Rome and the ‘medieval’ era without the revisionism of Henri Pirenne or Peter Brown. Indeed, Thomas Kuhn shows us that ‘revisionism’ is history. Perhaps Daniel thinks Peter Read is more a plodding workaday historian unworthy of the benediction ‘revisionist’? Though curiously, Windy is not acknowledged as an historian, not even adjectivally. Unless the appellation ‘revisionist’ presumes as necessary, an historian?

    2. Another type is heavily theology-inflected; Marxist ‘revisionism.’ This sort of revisionism is meant as a slur against those who deign to claim themselves Marxists, while ‘revising’ the ‘Revelations’ of the messiah himself. So-called ‘social democrats’ are example of this.

    3. The third major style of ‘revisionism’ is overwhelmingly reviled as denial of established historical facts, despite the rock solid evidence that supports what this sort of revisionist is disavows. Holocaust deniers such as David Irving is a well-known example of this style of ‘revisionism’.

    While I – and maybe even you – would definitely describe Windy as a revisionist of the first type, one wonders if the ABC DJ means it that way? Except we don’t have to wonder, once we follow your link, do we? The ABC bio of the program’s host, Daniel Browning, informs us

    To everyone’s relief he eventually completed his Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) at the Queensland University of Technology, where he majored in painting.

    It is not easy to infer any historiographical preferences Daniel would have developed during this training, but perhaps other parts of Daniel’s bio might be more informative:

    Daniel is from the Minjungbal clan of the Bundjalung nation whose traditional country is on the far north coast of New South Wales. He grew up in the shadow of Wollumbin, the culturally significant peak that Captain Cook renamed Mount Warning. Through his mother, he is a descendant of the Kullilli people of south-western Queensland, with family who were dispersed to the mission at Taroom and later Cherbourg.

    He also identifies as a South Sea Islander his paternal ancestors came from what is now Vanuatu. They were brought out as indentured slaves to work in the Queensland canefields in the latter part of the nineteenth century before being deported, leaving their youngest son in the care of a kinsman who was exempt from the forced repatriation.

    Would you like to make a gentleman’s wager on what Daniel means by ‘revisionist’ based on this blurb? ;)

  25. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Enough with the light entertainment, already. Time to take a look at the substantive issue of Windschuttle’s attempted attack on Manne’s academic freedom, with Merv Bendle as his second. Windschuttle isn’t content to argue that Manne erred on his facts (the usual standard in academic debate), he has accused Manne of actively “falsifying” – that is lying about – history and ants him to stand down from his position while the matter is investigated.

    There’s little chance Manne will do this, at either Windschuttle’s behest or Bendle’s. Nor should he. Despite Windschuttle’s prosecutorial zeal, he hasn’t yet shown that Manne did anything worse than make an honest mistake, even if that mistake is the major error of clinging on to, and arguing, a view that isn’t supported by the facts. If we sacked every academic who did that on the basis of misconduct we’d have no university lecturers of any political persuasion left at all.

    Windschuttle’s view of the purpose of history, and the role of historians and academics in general has changed significantly, and frequently, over time:

    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. Its paywalled but Ill quote the best bit:

    “The man whos now editing Australias 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.”

    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 Killing of History period was around 1996. In The Killing of History Windschuttle argued, often ineptly, that history should be an empirical, factual discipline, concerned with reporting past events accurately, as they happened and not an exercise in myth-making. History, he said, is (or should be) bracing. Now he’s arguing that Manne, as a scholar, has consciously misled people on matters of “national significance” and Bendle is supporting him with the egregiously emotive argument that the teaching of aboriginal history, in its current form, amounts to institutionalised psychological abuse of secondary students. Windschuttle has abandoned the idea that history should be empirical and factual, in favour of the view that history should foster a sense of national identity. So it’s out with bracing factual history and in with the nationalistic myth-making:

    Senator HUMPHRIESThank you for presenting that evidence to us, Mr Windschuttle. On the question of activist scholarship, as you put it, one could say in response to the concerns that are raised – and others have drawn attention to – that the idea of people publishing papers or writing books that use scholarship as a vehicle for promoting a political agenda might affront those of us who value traditions of academic integrity but it does not actually affect the rest of the world very much. What does it matter if the Churchills of this world write these sorts of books that sit in libraries somewhere and are not widely read? That is the argument that might be put there. What is the problem, as you see it, with activist scholarship in terms of the work of Australian universities?

    Mr WindschuttleIt is not just the work of Australian universities; it affects our national sense of ourselves. As far as Aboriginal history is concerned in terms of political impact, have you forgotten already the apology made by the Prime Minister in federal parliament, I think, in January or February this year?

    … The work of academic historians does not just sit in a library book that is only read by other academics or graduate students; Australian history has a profound effect, and has had since Federation, on a sense of ourselves, a sense of what we can accomplish, a sense of how we should behave to one another.

    Senator MASONIt is a statement of what happened, for Gods sake, is it not?

    Mr WindschuttleIt is a statement of who we are and where we have come from…

    Senator MASONAnd where we are going.

    Mr Windschuttleand everything we conceive about ourselves. It goes to our being. (Senate Inquiry into Academic Freedom)

    Of course what Windschuttle said in that exchange is not completely incompatible with a belief that history should be empirical and factual but it does create a possible conflict: what are academic historians to do when their research produces facts that, the historians honestly believe, show that we have come from somewhere pretty nasty; facts that compromise our conception of ourselves as paragons of virtue and not mere ordinary human beings, with human weaknesses and fallibilities?

    Windschuttle, despite paying lip-service to the idea of academic freedom at the Senate Inquiry (if he had genuinely opposed the idea of political interference in academia he would not have testified at the Inquiry at all, using it as an opportuniy to pay out on Henry Reynolds under the protection of Parliamentary privilege) has shown, by his recent actions, that his answer to that question is that they should shut up. And if they won’t do so, then it’s up to the editor of Quadrant and his mates to do their damnedest to them shut up.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that Windschuttle’s argument that Aboriginal children were removed on the same grounds as non-Aboriginal children is not original with him. It’s well known to anyone whose read Andrew Bolt on the subject. So is the strident way that Windschuttle denounces anyone who disagrees with his view of Aboriginal history as a “falsifier” – that is, a knowing liar.

  26. Peter Patton says:


    OK, if we – just for the moment – focus on Windy’s call for Manne’s sacking, then you and I are comrades in arms. Even to the extent you and I might disagree on this or that inflection in this or that part of Manne’s theses, to suggest those inflections constitute an insupportable form of academic dereliction is not only wrong, but contemptible. While I do dress on the side of Windy’s critique of the ideological bias and hivemind of Australian colonial historiography from 1970 to 2000, I do think Windy himself shows bias in arguing as though that was all that the history-writing of that period produced.

    Even if one takes exception to Lyndall Ryan’s methods in calculating the Tasmanian Aboriginal death toll during the ‘Black Line’ period, or her styling it a ‘war’ with the indigenes acting as proto Vietnamese ‘insurgence’, and then Henry Reynolds’ use of Ryan’s calculations of black:white death ratio to extrapolate onto Queensland, that in no way erases a hell of lot of other very useful and pain-stakingly researched work, even by those very same historians.

    For example, the characterization of the Tasmanian situation as a “war” with the Aborigines using the tactics of ‘insurgency’ and the colonists responding with ‘counter insurgency’ tactics to be a very intriguing frame through which to think about the period. A controversial and debatable frame to be sure, but certainly nowhere near beyond the pale of the work of an academic professional historian.

    Similarly with Manne. Personally, I think Manne has realized that the criticisms the Quadrant Board made about his uncritical embrace of Bringing Them Home, his consequent sacking, and his writings in the few years after, have proven him to have been wrong. Where Manne loses many points with me is his refusal to fess up about that, or at least to clear the air. Instead, he has resorted to very slippery and suggestive writings that never say in unequivocal language that he and BTH were wrong. Even worse – in my book – is his bait and switch tactics, where he argues, all this is just “nitpicking” as the real issue now is “racism”. This is not good enough. The example I quoted above about the quotes and inverted commas is a prime example of Manne compromising his own integrity and ethics, and is perhaps evidence of desperation.

    However, for a university Professor to be proud, stubborn, and even a borderline bigot – in his refusal to admit his errors in the light of evidence – is not only far from unusual among university Professors, but not even outside the expected range of personality traits and discourse ethics characteristic of universities.

    I still believe Manne could swallow his pride and come clean without diminishing his reputation. In fact, he would probably get props for integrity, and rightfully assume the mantle of ‘chairman’ of the debate going forward.

    Windy’s demand for an official inquiry exclusively on Manne, and demand for Manne to stand down while it is conducted is bizarre. Windy’s very own writings are in themselves that very inquiry. Though to be fair, Manne’s almost limitless stash of government grant money, researchers, and tenured academic historians, as well as foot soldiers dispersed right throughout the university system, and beyond does render Windy’s one man inquiry somewhat impotent.

    With that out of the way, maybe a little on the specifics of their respective arguments. ;)

  27. Gummo Trotsky says:

    The history wars were largely fought over our heads by politically-opposed intellectuals…

    What the producers of Awaye! (“…Australia’s only national Indigenous arts and culture program”) mean by that opening remark in their blurb for the panel discussion with Keithie, is that the history wars were fought over the heads of Aboriginal people. Windschuttle has revived, yet again, this nasty squabble between colonists about how their forebears treated the original native population where absolutely no-one involved has much more than token interest in how the descendants of those original natives see the so-called debate. Small wonder if some of them are disgusted by the carry on.

    I find it pretty disgusting too. I’ve carried my point on the subject of academic freedom, so that’s that. I’m just not interested in any more point-scoring dispute over the historical claims of either side. (Although I will point out that 200 uses of the word “half-caste” without scare quotes don’t amount to a hill of beans. Those that are quoted in the context of citing a historical document don’t require quotation marks. Those that might have appeared in running text could, as I said, have had scare-qutes removed by a copy editor. This might sound like a gargantuan task, but it’s what copy editors are paid to do and no more gargantuan than replacing every instance of the suffix “-ize” with “-ise” to standardise spelling – another task of the copy-editor.)

    (There’s a really bizarre parallel universe somewhere, where – somehow – Gummo Trotsky managed to infiltrate the Sydney Arts & Letters establishment. Yesterday, my counterpart in that bizarre world, as Chair of the Quadrant board, had a little chat with the editor about whether it was appropriate for the editor of Australia’s “leading general intellectual journal of ideas, literature, poetry and historical and political debate” to use the magazine’s resources to agitate for sanctions against his opponents.)

  28. Nabakov says:

    Knock, knock.

    Who’s there?

    Keith Windschuttle.

    Keith Windschuttle who?


    Yep, Keith’s greatest contribution to history is now becoming part of it.

  29. M Chen says:

    Manne seems to be an Australian version of Howard Zinn, intent on creating guilt to undermine Western societies, even if it is necessary to falsify history to do so. Basically an extension of Frankfurt School goals which sought to destabilize established cultures in order to bring down the “oppressive” order.

  30. Jim Stone says:

    Re Peter Patton; “And call me crazy, given this is how full-bloods themselves distinguish themselves from those urban carpetbaggers on their 6 figure salary Aboriginal Industry sinecure whose Nan was a half-caste.”
    One of my fullblood wives who now lives back in her remote community, always calls our half caste children, half colour. No one is offended by it.

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