Can we move on, please?

The running feud between Christopher Sheil and Norman Hanscombe is really getting quite out of hand IMO, and spoiling everyone’s enjoyment of what could otherwise be challenging and worthwhile debates. I don’t intend to censor or ban anyone from this site because it’s against my principles, nor am I going to get into refereeing the dispute or assigning blame. I just want both of you to bloody well stop. There’s not a single point that either of you is now making on Windschuttle et al that hasn’t already been rehashed ad nauseum. I enjoy the aggressive cut and thrust of robust debate as much as the next bloke, and more than most, but this situation has long since passed that point.

Cut it out and let’s move on. Let each other’s wrong-uns go through to the keeper. Most of them aren’t on the stumps anyway. No-one except the dickheads will think less of you for showing such restraint; in fact most of us will breathe deep sighs of relief.

PS – For me at least, this is a significant test of whether blogging is capable of sustaining worthwhile civil and civic discourse. If we have to ban someone, or if a participant storms off and starts a blog where they can choose who’s permitted to participate in discussion (as Niall Cook seems to advocate), then the whole exercise has invalidated itself and become a futile argument fest for closed minds. Surely we’re capable of better.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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mark
2022 years ago

Well said, Ken.

(Not that I’ve any right to share the high moral ground wit’ you, of course…)

James Russell
2022 years ago

I agree entirely (having posted about it on my own blog the other day), and was in fact about to leave a comment on the “Had it with you” post to the same effect.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mark,

I don’t know about the high moral ground. That’s the trouble with a situation of this sort. You inevitably sound dreadfully pious, when I know as well as anyone that I’m entirely capable of similar behaviour myself. I’m frankly at a loss to know how to deal with this situation, I just know something or someone has to give (preferably both sides).

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Ken,

This argument, which I sincerely regret, is not about Windschuttle, but me. Norman has made many allegations about me and what I have written, the central one being that I have repeatedly written that “Windschuttle had made only ‘ONE INNEFECTUAL’ criticism of Reynolds’ work”. This is untrue, and yet he keeps writing it here at Troppo and at sundry other blogs, to which he usually appends several other snide remarks. If Norman can prove, or anyone else can prove, that I have ever written this, I have now offered a free CD of choice. I also strongly recommend that Norman be sin-binned for at least a month, unless and until he can establish his case. Applying sanctions against repeated vexatious lying is not in my view condoning censorship. Quite the contrary.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Chris,

From what I can see you’re both accusing each other of arguing in bad faith. I’m sure you didn’t make the claim of which Norman accuses you, although I have to admit that I stopped absorbing the detail of the squabble some considerable time ago (as I suspect did most other readers). I DO think it would be more than useful for Norman to acknowledge that, but I don’t intend to “sin-bin” him. I felt both of you were making some valid and interesting points about the “history wars” before it descended into the current unpleasantly acrimonious fiasco. I don’t think either of you is arguing in bad faith, but I do know the whole thing is giving me the shits bigtime.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

I’ve now forced myself reluctantly to read the comment thread containing Chris and Norman’s latest bout of feuding. It’s worth distilling the following observations, I think (if only to save others the bother of reading it all):

Chris didn’t make the “one ineffectual error” claim of which Norman tries to convict him. That underlines my previous comment that it would be more than useful if Norman would acknowledge that fact. Chris actually acknowledged that Windschuttle had “convicted” Henry Reynolds of TWO errors (both relatively minor). Chris also now says that by using the label “convicted” he meant to leave the door open for the possibility that other claims of inaccuracy might subsequently be established. I must say I didn’t glean that latter meaning from what Chris wrote at the time, but it’s an open interpretation from his words and I accept without hesitation that that’s what he meant.

At the end of the day I don’t understand why Norman is so fixated on either Henry Reynolds or whether Chris claimed he’d been convicted of one error or two errors. Nor do I understand why Chris is so upset about it. He’s not being accused of child sexual abuse, plagiarism or even minor intellectual dishonesty. He’s just being accused of making a statement that he didn’t make, which he’s now fairly clearly demonstrated that he didn’t make.

However, the general purport of what Chris asserts is that Windschuttle only proved a tiny number of minor errors by Reynolds (in contrast to the apparent situation with Lyndall Ryan), which he promptly and gracefully acknowledged. I don’t recall Norman ever arguing that this proposition is incorrect, so what are Chris and Norman both arguing about? Who gives a fuck whether it was one error or two? It doesn’t fucking matter.

Niall
2022 years ago

I suspect you may feel differently, Ken, were Hanscombe to be making constant ad hominem attacks against you personally. I may be wrong in my assertion, but having been in both positions over the last few years, it seems more often than not to be the case.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

I’m not yet sure what substantive outcome will emerge from this blogging Chris versus Norman fiasco (which seems rapidly to be assuming not dissimilar acrimonious partisan attributes to Tim versus Tim). I suspect the wash-up probably won’t be positive in any sense. However, it seems to me that I can only continue applying my own fundamental principles, and pursuing what I see as an honest broker role.

For present purposes that involves treating both parties fairly and openly. My immediately preceding comment post was a publication of my substantive private email response to Christopher Sheil. I also propose now publishing my substantive response to Norman, but I need first to publish Norman’s response to my primary post so that my comments are put in context. There have been other emails to and from both parties, but this exchange encapsulates the discussion fairly, I think*. Norman responded to my primary post in the following terms:
Unless I’m seriously flawed in my analysis of the whole event, one of us has been attempting to conduct an analysis of the other’s points to a far greater degree than his protagonist. has, and done it much more directly, not to mention succintly, than the other. I’ve become accustomed to being attacked by both left and right because I decline to blindly support their respective shibboleths. I’d not see my position on blogs generally as supporting left or right, so much as questioning the various sets of Emperors’ New Clothes. In any case, how you can call what’s occurred as the “cut and thrust of debate” is puzzling, to say the least. I’m not sure those who ajudicate debates on a regular basis would even be inclined to honour the process with the title of “debate”
I then responded to Norman as follows:
There comes a point where you’re simply not achieving anything any more by prolonging a debate on a particular topic. Some readers might believe you’ve proved the Emperor has no clothes, others that the argument is trvial and you’re both obsessing over nothing worth arguing about, but nearly everyone wishes you’d just stop.
You’re quite right about the Musquito point, I think, but I also think Christopher is quite right about the “one error or two” point. Surely you can see that you were just wrong on that point, just as he was wrong on the Musquito spelling point. I’m not sure whether he ever acknowledged his error there, but it’s obvious that you haven’t so far acknowledged error here. The survival of civilised debate requires that we retract when an error is made (after all that’s partly what the whole Windschuttle saga is about), and also that we are prepared to walk away once a point has been reached where you’re just shouting past each other. You agree to disagree and move on. You’re not persuading anyone or achieving anything other than to demonstrate that both of you are very stubborn and unyielding people.
I said I wouldn’t get sucked into being a referee, but that seems to be where I’ve ended up anyway. The bottom line: I agree that Chris descends too quickly into abuse when challenged, and that his belief systems are somewhat rigid. However, in a slightly different way exactly the same is true of yourself. You seem utterly obsessed with this Windschuttle issue (it was the main focus of your equally acrimonious blow-up with Robert Corr), both in its own right and as what you seem to see as an indicator of the dishonesty and lack of intellectual rigor of the left. Frankly, lack of intellectual rigor and a partisan and complete inability to disengage from strongly held ideological beliefs and to analyse and assess competing arguments and evidence with at least a modicum of objectivity, seem to me to be characteristics that afflict the hard left and hard right equally**. You seem to fix only (and obsessively) on the sins of the left ideologues, and almost only when they relate to indigenous issues.
For what it’s worth, my own evaluation of Windschuttle is that he caught Ryan out in a significant number of significant errors, for which “fabrication” may well be a legitimate label. His indictment against Reynolds,on the other hand, is essentially without substance (no more than a handful of minor errors which don’t affect any of his principal arguments in any substantive way, and which he openly acknowledged as soon as Windschuttle pointed them out). Moreover, Windschuttle himself bases his work on some odious and utterly erroneous conceptions about indigenous culture and attachment to land, as Ron Brunton persuasively points out. Perhaps that’s what your reference to “land” is getting at. I would certainly be prepared to look at a post about this issue, as long as it avoids rehashing your dispute with Chris, and ad hominem abuse generally. On the other hand I’m not promising to publish it either. I ultimately need to consider the wishes of readers because I want to maintain and build an audience. I’m quite sure the vast majority of readers have simply had more than enough of this issue whatever the merits of particular points, and would groan and click to another site as soon as they see yet another article on any aspect of Windschuttle/Ryan/Reynolds. I think there’s a difficult balancing exercise between promoting fearless, free and open debate and retaining an audience’s interest. Your obsessive focus on this particular issue when it’s long ceased to be even vaguely interesting to most readers, together with Chris’s inflammatory and needlessly confrontational reaction to you, together create a situation where I suspect the only way of dealing with it may be to insist that this topic be labelled exhausted and put off limits at least for the moment.
* I’m conscious of a certain irony in claiming to be an honest broker and then publishing an exchange of private emails. I wouldn’t normally do so, but I think this dispute has reached a point where it may conceivably assist a favourable resolution (although I doubt it).

**I’m in no sense suggesting that Christopher Sheil has been guilty of lack of intellectual rigor. In fact I think many of his quite important historiographical points (which I had rather been hoping he’d continue developing for us) are being overlooked or misunderstood, in some cases deliberately and in others because commenters perhaps haven’t really followed the discussion sufficiently closely.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Norman has now emailed me in the following terms:
Point taken, Ken. I know I expect more from the left than I do from the right. I’m conscious of many bright young lefties I encouraged to become involved in the 60s who were eventually driven out of the left by one form or another of anti intellectual dogmatism, and this does cause me to become annoyed by what I see [rightly or wrongly] as a continuation of this process. Howevr, I’ll make a greater effort to not rise to the bait, real or imagined, so readily.
I’m not, incidentally alone in seeing Chris as having suggested Keith raised only one [ineffectual] argument against Reynolds at the debate, and none of those sharing this view are looking at it as historians, per se. Anyway, thanks, and I’ll now try to bite my metaphorical tongue more determinedly. Regards, Norman.
It’s not the fulsome retraction and apology Chris no doubt wanted, but it seems to me that Norman has given some real ground in a positive direction, which may assist in allowing vaguely civilised debate to resume. Anyway, we shall see.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Well refereed, Ken. some of this rage may well have to do with intra-Labour Movement (must get my terminology right to avoid treading on Chris’ pedantic toes) hatreds which of course are notorious. Norman apparently is a life member of the Labor Party. Norman is also a prominent member of his local Toastmasters Club, where it’s stated that “In kindergarten, Norman Hanscombe was very shy and hardly spoke. The problem these days is quite the opposite! Norman has always had an inquisitive mind and growing up in the hilly Eastern Suburbs area gave him plenty of scope to explore. He liked to confirm information. By five, for example, he had scaled a pole in Cooper Park, to confirm there was indeed a small electric current in telephone wires. Norman was a Headmaster in Argentina where he lived and taught for a number of years.”

In respect to these slagging matches, I often find them enjoyable. As you would expect my sympathies in this case are with Norman, but on this particular debate I agree its use-by date was reached some time ago.

As you know I sometimes indulge in some point-scoring stuff myself as exemplified by my recent exchange with James Russell. In this case I was pulled up with the nicest possible phrasing of a reprimand by Geoff Honnor, a blogger and commentator I respect enormously. But sometimes it is much better to let some of this stuff go through to the keeper, which I have doing for some time in relation to Dave Ricardo. Dave and I had a useful exchange before Christmas on Ken’s blog about reminiscences of the Whitlam days and I recognise he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Australian, particularly Labor Party, politics. Unfortunately these days most of his discourse is in abusive terms. His recent relatively civilised exchange about National Competition Policy, refereed by Chris, may be a turn for the better.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

It had nothing whatsoever to do with ALP issues, Ron. True I used to be involved, representing the Left in two States at National Exec level, and being on Cttees in three States, before I dropped out and decided to take that Bs Aires job 20 years ago. After my return, I finally lost interest in the ideologically irrelevant and meaningless “left/right” tags you now find in Labor “politics”.
One of my preoccupations these days is with what I see as the intellectual emasculation of much of education. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong; but that’s what motivates me. My views attract a lot of flak from time to time; but off the record encouragement I receive from those who agree but [understandably] are reticent about speaking out, more than makes up for this.

parallel
parallel
2022 years ago

Ken,

Well written.

I dropped out of the debate with Chris after a couple of rounds because, as an old Usenet hand, I recognised the point where uesful information was no longer likely to be forthcoming. There were, and are, substantive points at issue here, but they were being buried and obfusticated.

So, could everyone just draw a line under everything said up to this point, and instead discuss some real issues? I have three questions:

1) What, if any, are the substantive errors of fact that KW has made? (Ken has referred to “loads”, but I haven’t seen any). Are they serious enough to invalidate his thesis?

2) What are the “historiographic” errors KW has made, and should non-historians care? (Chris has said it is “whacko”, and claimed expert status, but said it was hard to explain to a non-historian which makes me skeptical.)

3) If KW is substantially correct, what is the impact on our understanding of Australian history? Clearly Lyndall Ryan is gone, presumably work substantially depending on her is also suspect, etc… so what’s left?

I ask these questions in all seriousness because I WANT TO KNOW THE ANSWER.

In order to prevent rapid degeneration of any thread, I propose adopting PARALLEL’s RULES OF DEBATE.

1) NO references to previous posts (before this one), because no-one is going to slog through two months worth of dross to find the gems. This is the End Of History Rule.

2) NO references on other’s character, motives, drinking habits, or sexual frolics with goats. This is the Glass Houses Rule.

3) NO spelling flames or nit-picking. If someone gives a dud reference, or bad link, or misattributes a quote, point it out politely and move on if it is significant, ignore it if not. This is the Nit Picker Rule.

4) If someone makes a substantial point against you, ACKNOWLEDGE IT and adjust your argument if necessary. You will be amazed how much this simple rule can shorten and enlighten debate. This is the Converge to Truth Rule.

5) If you have to use an external reference, summarise what is useful to your argument first. This keeps writers honest and helps readers know if they need to follow it up. This is the Honest Reference Rule.

6) KEEP TO THE POINT. If you want to change the point, say so. Don’t pretend.

7) It is legitimate to point out someone’s infraction of the rules… but ONLY in private email, not on the thread.

OK, set one, game one, Chris Shiel on serve…

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Parallel has suggested ground rules which are badly needed. Could I suggest that Ken choose one of the suggested areas above, then initiate a post on it? I think that this would have a chance of generating the sort of discussion that both parallel AND Ken want.
At some point [or perhaps even simultaneously?] Ken could arrange for posts on the other aspects parallel [or anyone else?] has suggested.
If several clearly different issues are to be discussed, it does help to have some form of separation.
This approach could encourage others, loike parallel, to enter, or reenter the discussion.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Norman and Parallel,

I’m more than happy for you (and others) to discuss issues arising from Windschuttle’s book for as long as you like (subject to avoiding outbreaks of ad hominem unpleasantness). It was partly in the hope of facilitating just that sort of considered, extended discussion that I implemented the “10 Most recently Commented Posts” sidebar category. It should allow you instantly to see whether anyone has recently posted a rejoinder on the subject that interests you.

I suggest that you start posting on this thread for the moment. However, if it gets too long I’ll start another one for you.

Parallel’s suggested rules seem to me to be an excellent place to start, and I propose that participants in the debate should regard themselves as bound by them. Indeed significant infractions MAY result in “sin binning” (although that’s something I’d hate to have to do). To start the discussion off with some substantive material that might serve to focus thoughts, I stumbled yesterday across a very interesting article on the Evatt Foundation website by Stuart Macintyre titled “On ‘fabricating’ history – History, politics and the philosophy of history”. It deals to an extent with each of the 3 questions Parallel listed in his comment.

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Hi Parallel,

I’ve (for the most part) just been observing the Windschuttle/Reynolds/Ryan debate, rather than actively participating. However on the issue of Windschuttle errors, the following links may interest you.

Bain Attwood, has suggested that Windschuttle has misrepresented the views of the historians that he refutes (for example, Reynolds has argued against genocide occurring in Tasmania, and Ryan uses the term genocide in a very different context than what Windschuttle has).

Shane Breen (pdf) has argued that Windschuttle gets many of his facts on the Tasmania Aborigines wrong – such as not discovering fire, Windschuttle cites research that even it’s author has stated is wrong.

H.A. Willis has suggested that Windschuttle has missed many Aborigine deaths. He has put together a table here with some notes on it here.

Finally, Mark Finnane has demonstrated that if you use Windschuttle’s numbers, it becomes clear that Tasmania was a incredible violent place (this arises because Windschuttle has used low estimates of both death rates and total population). I would suggest that if Willis casualty list was used instead of Windschuttles, the violence levels would be some of the highest in recorded history.

I’m starting to suspect that, Henry Reynolds is closest to the truth.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Ken Miles: 1]Windschuttle has made CLEAR distinctions between Ryan and Reynolds, and Ryan’s references to “genocide” HAVE become the basis for outrageous genocide stories here and overseas. 2] Early writers made far harsher assessments of indigenous Tasmanians’ cultural levels, including the inability to start a fire; but this was NOT in any case, one of the book’s important arguments. 3] Whatever the death rates were, a relevant question still to be asked is, what are the best estimates for those deliberately killed by Europeans, and what proportions of these deaths arose from the different causes. Windschuttle’s analysis of this, while clearly not the definitive answer, has far greater credibility than anything which preceded it. His analysis of Ryan’s figures is telling.

Gary
2022 years ago

The subject is more important then the reputations of the professional Historians and inflating or deflating the facts are equally damaging. Its a pity that Windschuttle didn’t or couldn’t go to Reynolds and others and say “Iv found some discrepancies” checked them out and written another book. I haven’t a clue on how things work but can guess its unrealistic to think like this.

mark
2022 years ago

Well said, Gary.

(I can’t believe I said it, either. But it was a good comment, and in the Norman-and-Chris inspired (heh) spirit of inter-commentor cooperation…)

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Norman, it makes no difference whether or not other people have used Ryan’s work to argue for genocide. If Attwood is correct, and Ryan used to term genocide in the sense of post-WWII assimilation policies (or cultural genocide as she puts it), then Windschuttle has misrepresented her. Didn’t he get Reynolds for misquotation?

I agree that the fire error doesn’t effect his overall thesis (however, what early historian’s said about the Tasmanian Aborigines is also irrelevant, there is far better information available), however it does suggest one of two things; (a) Windschuttle isn’t very familiar with Tasmanian history, or (b) Windschuttle selective takes what he needs from the literature while ignoring evidence that contradicts his thesis. Neither of these scenarios reflects well on him.

If Willis casualty lists are accurate, then it’s a pretty good indication that Windschuttle knowledge of the Tasmanian archives is weak. He essentially took a non-comprehensive list of casualties, removed the incidents he disagreed with, and stated the revised figure as fact. That’s poor scholarship on his part.

I would agree with you that there is benefit in looking deeply into the casualty figures. However, personally, I suspect that Windschuttle isn’t the person to do it.

Windschuttle’s caught himself out. In order to argue that the Tasmanian Aborigines didn’t die out from conflict, he has to argue that their population was very small. However, he shrunk it to the point where the violence rates are incredible. He’s caught himself out. If the population significantly rises, then the fatal impact theory falls apart; if it stays where it is, the violence rates are unrealistically high (I bet he wishes that he paid more attention to math’s at school). And that’s why I suspect that Reynolds has presented a much more realistic picture than Windschuttle.

Gary, what you’ve described is how most historian’s work. Windschuttle, on the other hand, opted for a full on assault.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Our new-found blogosphere civil civic discourse seems to have made remarkable progress overnight. We’ve all read the article by Bain Attwood and made the amazing discovery that, contrary to the premise on which discussion has taken place up to now, neither Reynolds nor Ryan has claimed that there was “genocide” of Aborigines in Tasmania. In fact quite the contrary: both have been concerned in their writings to debunk previous assumptions by overseas historians that the history of Tasmania Aborigines was one of genocidal extinction (or at least near extinction) (albeit that Ryan makes an argument about post-WW2 “cultural genocide” that I intend examining in a separate thread at some later time).

Norman nevertheless seems determined to make Windschuttle’s charges against Ryan stick, by saying that her “references” to genocide “HAVE become the basis for outrageous genocide stories here and overseas”. However, as Ken Miles points out, one can hardly fairly indict Ryan because others (not least Windschuttle) misunderstood and/or deliberately misused what she says, especially when claims of genocidal extinction are in fact almost exactly the opposite of what she was saying!.

But it’s actually even more fundamental than that. Norman’s assertion carries a tacit assumption that it was Ryan herself who put the word “genocide” into play in the first place. I can only assume that he’s obliquely suggesting that this is such an inflammatory and emotive word that she shouldn’t have used it at all. However, as I mentioned above, Ryan didn’t throw the word into the debate at all: other historians had long labelled Tasmania’s history as one of genocidal extinction, and Ryan was concerned to negative (or at least clarify) that situation. In fact, and somewhat ironically, Ryan and Reynolds seem both to have set out on a not dissimilar project to Windschuttle i.e. to negative simplistic assumptions about genocide in Tasmania (albeit that I think they did a rather better job of it).

It seems to me that we’ve now got the ‘genocide’ question pretty firmly nailed down. Are we all agreed it’s a furphy? If so then let’s move on.

Lastly, Ken Miles (and the articles he links) has done a pretty good job of highlighting some significant errors in Windschuttle’s book IMO. Norman, however, responds to each of them by saying e.g. “this was NOT in any case, one of the book’s important arguments”. Even if that was so (and I don’t think it’s correct for at least some of Windschuttle’s errors), you can say precisely the same about the errors of Reynolds and Ryan that Windschuttle has identified. Even Norman appears to concede that Reynolds made only a couple of minor errors. Ryan’s are rather more significant IMO, but you’d be hard-pressed to sustain an argument that they were any more significant or central to her book than Windschuttle’s errors are to his.

Of course, Ryan’s defenders engage in a fairly similar exercise in minimising, making excuses and condoning their hero’s mistakes. Humans are tribal animals, and our instinct is to defend members of the tribe against attack by outsiders. Hopefully, however, our intellects are capable of allowing us to develop understandings that are much deeper and richer than those sorts of basic reactions, and it’s precisely a civilised discussion between people endowed with good will and sceptical curiosity (like this one) that allows those understandings to develop.

At the end of the day I wonder what we achieve by playing “Whose Hero is the Biggest Goose?”. I’m not suggesting that identifying factual errors in historical scholarship (and scholarship generally) is either illegitimate or unimportant. However, that sort of exercise doesn’t justify all the passion and vitriol that has characterised this discussion until now, both in the blogosphere and mainstream media. It seems to me that once we acknowledge (as I think we must) that the indictment Windschuttle sought to prosecute against Ryan and Reynolds (of falsely promoting a black armband genocide theory of Tasmanian history) was fundamentally misconceived, it ceases to be legitimate to attach the label “fabrication”. We’re simply engaged on a much less “sexy” but nonetheless important search for factual, footnoting and detailed interpretive errors, and in those regards both Ryan and Windschuttle have been found somewhat wanting.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

The misuse of the term “genocide” issue is far from a furphy. Ryan’s book, based on her fabricated figures, became a seminal influence in developing the widespread impression of a systematic policy of genocide in early Tasmania. True the word “genocide” is now being used by many in ways that bear no resemblance to its original meaning; but IF there was a policy of genocide, it’s important to expose it. If, on the other hand, there was no such policy, but people have given that impression, it’s important to expose those who’ve been responsible, even if they now claim it was done inadvertently.
I gave an example, much earlier in the debate, of a partial quote of Arthur being misused to claim he was expressing a fear the indigenous revolt threatened the colony, when he was really expressing concern for the welfare of the native population; but no one responded. We diverted instead to matters of “interpretation”, “intent” and “meaning”. I believe it’s this continuous diversion away from the more important claims [by both sides] about early official policies, actions of individuals, and consequent killings, that [in part at least] that has destroyed the “debate”.
When I posted examples of Ryan’s gross fabrication of figures, the silence was deafening. When I gave an example re acreages that I saw as giving a misleading impression, responses flowed in. MY seeing it as misleading [or it being seen by others I showed it to as misleading] was of NO special importance. The fabricated figures were of MAJOR relevance to the debate — but they were ignored.
That, Ken [Parish] is why I’d suggest the question of fabrication hasn’t so much been dealt with, as lost in the heat and fury of personal shibboleths. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to hope that the reposting of some of the more blatant fabrications on a separate post, will eventually be seen as the logical starting point for a meaningful discussion of WHY Windschuttle’s book was needed.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Norman,

I agree that “cultural genocide” is a problematic concept for all sorts of reasons, and I intend blogging on that topic some time soon. However, that has little or nothing to do per se with the genocide issue as it relates to events in Tasmania during the 1800s. That is an argument purely about whether genocide in its original (deliberate physical extinction/murder of an entire race) sense can be said to have occurred. The important point here is that Ryan DIDN’T claim genocide, she did the opposite.

You say that Ryan’s book “became a seminal influence in developing the widespread impression of a systematic policy of genocide in early Tasmania”. But this is bald assertion. Where, how and on whom did it become a “seminal influence”? I can remember being taught at school back in the 1950s and 1960s that the Tasmanian Aborigines were exterminated and the Truganini was the last of her race. Lyndall Ryan didn’t write her book until 1981, so she clearly wasn’t responsible for that particular widespread impression. Attwood and others point out that other historians had long pushed the view that Tasmania was an example of genocide. Ryan didn’t create that view, she was trying to clarify/correct it. Nor, it seems, did her writings have the effect of generating any additional subsequent generally accepted perception among historians (or the general public) of Tasmanian genocide. As Attwood puts it:
Likewise, among academic historians there is no “orthodox interpretation that a policy of genocide existed in colonial Tasmania”, as one journalist has claimed. This is a fallacy peddled by Windschuttle, who confuses specialist academic scholarship in the sub-discipline of Aboriginal history with the writings of non-specialist historians, journalists and other writers.
Driven by his political agenda, Windschuttle fabricates a form of political correctness among Australian academic historians that simply does not exist. In war, it is often said, the first casualty is truth. So, too, it seems, in history wars.
It seems to me that you’re creating something of a strawman here, Norman.

That said, I agree that several of Ryan’s claims are demonstrably wrong or seriously misleading (e.g. the Governor Arthur quote), while others are largely or entirely unsupported by corroborating evidence (at least that has been produced to date). Whether that is “fabrication” or gross carelessness depends on her intent, I suppose. I certainly agree that Ryan’s errors are much more significant than Reynolds’, and I don’t find Stuart Macintyre’s apologetics for Ryan (inevitable inaccuracies in handwritten notes written in dim, dusty archive rooms etc) especially convincing. Ryan’s errors require substantive explanation or a clearcut admission of significant error. So far she’s given neither as far as I’m aware.

However, as I said in my previous comment, I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue convincingly that Ryan’s errors are any more serious than Windschuttle’s. That’s why I find this whole discussion so exasperating. You concentrate obsessively on the sins of Ryan, while brushing off and ignoring the equally serious inadequacies and errors of your hero Windschuttle, while Ryan’s fan club does exactly the opposite.

However, I blame Windschuttle more than Ryan et al for that situation, because it’s mostly Windschuttle who has beaten the whole thing up into a tabloid, boxing grudge match-style confrontation. On the other hand, at least Windschuttle’s tabloid antics have succeeded in elevating aspects of Australian history into front page news and therefore the public consciousness. Whether that results in any greater general understanding of the complexity of the issues involved remains to be seen.

parallel
parallel
2022 years ago

Well done, children. It seems there is a fair bit of meat on the bone yet.

I am just about to go off-line for the next 5 days and I don’t have the time to do your posts justice but this is where I see my thinking on these points:

* Many writers on VDL history have claimed it was a genocide, and that is the common view.

* Ryan/Reynolds did not use the term “genocide”.

* Ryan did {or did not ?} claim there was a deliberate policy of extermination. Other writers may have used this as justification for claims of “genocide”.

* Windschuttle has shown that there was no such policy and that Ryan’s casualty figures are vastly exaggerated.

* Whether Windschuttle falsely accused Ryan of claiming genocide (whether or not that term was used) is not relevant to the historical facts, so we need not discuss it. (In terms of Parallel’s Rules, this means it is off point. Start another thread if you want to debate it.)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Parallel,

It’s important to clarify this point (if you’re still around to read this). You say:

“Ryan did {or did not ?} claim there was a deliberate policy of extermination.”

the answer, as far as I’m aware, is NOT. Ryan did not make such a claim (in terms of deliberate policy as opposed to intent of individuals, perhaps sometimes with connivance and active involvement of individual police or other officials).

And that’s the whole point. You then say “Windschuttle has shown that there was no such policy”. But neither Reynolds nor Ryan claimed that there had been any such policy. I would agree that if Ryan had claimed that there had been an official policy of extermination while not actually labelling it genocide, that would be a mere semantic distinction. But she made no such claim at all.

Thus, the entire discussion reduces to one about whether and to what extent Ryan (and Windschuttle) made errors in their respective books. We’re not discussing genocide, because no such claim was made and therefore suggestions that Windschuttle “disproved” them are meaningless.

Finally, on the issue of numbers of murders (and murders as a proportion of total deaths and of the total Aboriginal population), while it does appear to be true (subject to any evidence she may subsequently produce) that Ryan siginficantly exaggerated death figures in some specific instances, that doesn’t mean that Windschuttle is any more accurate, nor that as a whole “Ryan’s casualty figures are vastly exaggerated”. As Ken Miles pointed out:
H.A. Willis has suggested that Windschuttle has missed many Aborigine deaths. He has put together a table here with some notes on it here.
Finally, Mark Finnane has demonstrated that if you use Windschuttle’s numbers, it becomes clear that Tasmania was a incredible violent place (this arises because Windschuttle has used low estimates of both death rates and total population). I would suggest that if Willis casualty list was used instead of Windschuttles, the violence levels would be some of the highest in recorded history.
In other words, while Ryan may well have exaggerated the casualty figures of some specific events (or at least made claims for which she has little or no corroboration), Windschuttle appears to have massively understated the real extent of killing both in proportionate and absolute terms.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

This is definitely off point in terms of parallel’s rules, but I’ve just done a quick Google of “Windschuttle parallel” to check parallel’s previous contributions to this (by now for me rather tedious debate), here and elsewhere.

As this is Ken’s blog, perhaps we should allow Ken to run the discussion by Parish’s rules, or any other set of rules he wishes to adopt (up to and including Rafferty’s). To support this position, I’ll just post this link:

http://www.ubersportingpundit.com/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=1298

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Gummo,

Yes I see what you mean. Parallel isn’t just a neophyte entering the discussion with an innocent curiosity, but a hardened warrior in the history wars. Reading the previous thread (but not the one before that on Tim Dunlop’s blog) reminds me just to what an extreme extent this issue has been argued and re-argued from every conceivable angle.

I think Ken Miles made a valuable contribution to the discussion by linking and summarising Attwood, Breen and Finnane’s work. I don’t have anything further to say, and I don’t think there’s anything further that’s useful to say, at least until Ryan’s substantive defence (if any) is published. Norman and Parallel are welcome to talk on among themselves for as long as they like (although I’ll monitor the thread to make sure “flaming” doesn’t resume, and take immediate action if it does).

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Since this thread seems to be wrapping itself up, I’ll simply give my own uninformed opinion on the whole matter.

I see history as similar to storytelling, abet, with a difference. The story has to fit the facts. And just to make it more complicated, the facts don’t stand still. Rather they are open to debate and different interpretations. What one person considers to be a solid piece of evidence, is complete rubbish to others.

So how does this relate to Ryan, Reynolds and Windschuttle? All three of them have different stories to tell. Ryan’s one tells of the survival of a race against all odds, Windschuttle tells of the decimation of race because of their primitive culture and low numbers – that the Tasmanian Aborigines were screwed a long time before Europeans arrived. Reynolds story is inbetween these two.

Now, I find Windschuttle’s story to be unbelievable. It’s internally inconsistent, many of his basic assumptions are absurd, and it’s is based off flawed scholarship. However, this isn’t to say that it’s worthless. He has raised some interesting points, such as the contribution of bush rangers, with no tribal affliation, in the frontier conflict between Europeans and Aborigines. And this is what really annoys me about Windschuttle, because he has concentrated on attacking other historians with such vitriol, he’s diverted attention from the interesting aspects of his work.

If he altered aspects of his story, he could well make it more believable, but at a cost. The price that he would have to pay, is that his story would become very close to Reynolds – which for most people wouldn’t be a problem, but I strongly suspect that it would be a cardinal sin for him.

Now, on to the fabrication. He really doesn’t have much to go on here. At best, it can be said that Ryan has overestimated the number of deaths that have occurred. He has nothing on Reynolds that disproves Reynolds story. Personally, I don’t think that the whole fabrication thing has been played out yet.

To use an example, Windschuttle has claimed:

Ryan claims that frontier warfare in Tasmania’s northern districts in 1827 included: a massacre of Port Dalrymple Aborigines by a vigilante group of stockmen at Norfolk Plains; the killing of a kangaroo hunter in reprisal for him shooting Aboriginal men; the burning of a settler’s house because his stockmen had seized Aboriginal women; the spearing of three other stockmen and clubbing of one to death at Western Lagoon. But if you check her footnotes in the archives you find that not one of the five sources she cites mentions any of these events.

What is interesting about this, is what he doesn’t claim. That the events mentioned above didn’t happen. At the talk by Ryan which I attended, she had archival evidence for all of these events occuring (the only difference was that it was a settlers hut which burnt down, not a house). This is strong evidence that the “fabrication” is in fact, sloppy footnoting. Not so exciting now. However, as I mentioned earlier, the issue is still far from being resolved (and a lot of the blame for this can be placed on Ryan).

Also of interest, is that Whitewash comes out in the next few days. Expect everything to flare up again.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

It’s unfortunate,IF Ryan didn’t believe genocide occurred, and she spoke out against this impression being given, I missed it. She may have done so at her Canberra defence mentioned by Ken Miles; but if she did, it’s unfortunate she opened the event with a request that no one tape what she was going to say.
Her Newcastle Uni colleagues have yet to speak out in defence of her claims, and this doesn’t help clear up any misapprehensions which may have arisen about both the genocide and the fabrication issues.
Parallel came to the debate quite late, and {understandably] expressed concern over what he saw as a failure to deal with assesing the facts on which the “blog conflict” presumably centred. Those who saw this as a positive contribution on his part, didn’t do so because of any “neophyte” status. On three other issues:
1]I don’t seem to be able to access Breen’s data via Ken Miles’ links. Is there another path?
2]Can anyone direct me to evidence that Musquito wasn’t a sophisticated Sydney aboriginal?
3]I’d especially appreciate anyone who can tell me of EARLY writers who claimed indigenous Tasmanians could create fresh fires.

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Norman,

The Breen link works for me. Try coping and pasting the link directly in, rather than clicking on it: http://mentalspace.ranters.net/stuff/docs/shaynebreen.pdf%20

Did you click on the other links? I thought that it was quite clear as to where the information on genocide, or lack therefore, was made (hint: Attwoods article, which we were just discussing above – to the best of knowledge, Ryan made no mention of genocide at her defense in Canberra, it was solely on the issue of fabrication). The point is simple, Ryan’s book does not claim that genocide occurred in Tasmania’s early history. Windschuttle misquotes Ryan.

Incidentally, I plugged Willis’ numbers into a Mark Finnane style calculation, and it appears that during the martial law, black line etc period, the death rate was comparable with Cambodia in the Khmer Rouge era. This is a pretty good indication that Windschuttle’s account of the Tasmanian Aborigines collapses under it’s own weight.

adam
2022 years ago

also, try removing the “%20” before pasting.
ie, this link works.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Of course, it’s alwats possible that Norman couldn’t open the document because he didn’t have Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF) installed on his PC. If so, he’s certainly missing out on a lot of valuable material. Increasing numbers of articles, especially scholarly journal articles, are now being published only in PDF format. Fortunately Acrobat Readre is free and can be downloaded here.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Thanks all above for the advice. Having only recently “found” computers, I’m easily thrown by the simplest of IT instructions. I’ll even need the friend who’s coming to assist with your suggested download, Ken, which hopefully will enable me to open many of the other previously inaccessible areas I’ve encountered.
The only possible downside will be even less time available for reading. Fortunately, much of my travelling time is on trains, which provides a reading situation that’s more stable than buses, and far safer than doing it in my car.

parallel
parallel
2022 years ago

Back on deck again. Hello all.

First, a personal note, for Gummo and Ken. I never claimed to be a neophyte – I specifically stated that I “dropped out of the debate with Chris (Shiel) after a couple of rounds”. My position was, and is, that I found Windschuttle’s work plausible and wanted to know what the academic response was, and that I was disappointed in the quality of that response which I found ad hominem and elitist (you non-historians cannot understand why KW’s historiography is whacko).

Ken Miles and others – thanks for all the links you turned up. I have browsed them (the Finnane one doesn’t work, but a quick search found it for me). My comments follow. Remember that I am interested in three questions:

1) It KW correct (about VDL history being different from the genocide stories?)
2) What, if anything is wrong with his “historiography”?
3) What, if anything, is the impact on our understanding of VDL history?

Ken P: I had already read Stuart Macintyre’s article as Chris referred to it. I found it long on insinuation of dark motives, but little factual grist.

Ken M:
I found Bain Attwood’s piece surprising, as to my recollection no-one had claimed, when FoAH was released, that the genocide stories were wrong, rather that they were correct and KW was wrong. If, in fact, everyone agrees that no genocide took place, what are we arguing about? And why did these stories have such currency? Is Attwood’s account of Ryan’s position more accurate than Windschuttle’s?

Shayne Breen starts badly by assuming Ryan’s body count stands up, while all the evidence we have seen goes the opposite way (see below). He later shoots himself in the foot by telling the story of the sealer Thomas Beedon, in his account an excellent father to his half caste child Lucy. The point of this is to dispute the argument that the descendents of scum like the sealer Mansell do not require compensation, but in my view, neither do the descendents of Beedon. In other ways, Breen’s piece is so personal and almost bitter I find it difficult to take seriously.

H.A.Willis presents an alternative body count, which is rather closer to KW than Ryan (188 vs 120 vs 700). His methodology and sources is not too different from KW, but a number of entries are very suspect – look at the entry for December 1925, which contributes between 14 and 16 almost certainly imaginary bodies to the total – and even if they were real, the deaths were in self defence and by a half-caste, not a white. Others are likely double counting (as Willis concedes, eg first entry for 1829) while some are anachronistic (11 July 1831). Without doing an incident by incident comparison, I cannot say how many plausible incidents Willis has that KW missed, but it seems clear that Willis’ total is too high. Further, it includes at least one non-Tasmanian black (Musqito) plus black criminals lawfully executed, and a quick reading shows that many (most?) black deaths were in self defence.

Finally, the reference to Mark Finnane’s “work” just proves that historians don’t know any maths. Taking the figures of 118 (120) deaths by violence from a population of 2000 over 30 years, how much violence is there? In other words, how likely is one to die by (white) violence rather than something else? Assuming an average lifespan of 30 years because I am lazy and it is plausible – particularly in an environment where exotic diseases were just introduced – then the proportion of deaths by violence is only 6%. Is this high for a tribal population? I don’t have references to hand, but I believe not. It is comparable with the death rate by violence for urban black youth in the US. If you include the fact that the population declined from 2000 to 0 into account, the proportion is even lower.

To summarise – on question 1, although the body count may be somewhat higher (140? 160?) KW seems to be substantially correct, and now everyone agrees that no genocide took place, Finnane notwithstanding.

There is no more information on question 2 (historiography) but KW is under attack for misrepresenting Ryan et al. On that question, I guess one has to read Ryan’s books. Has anyone done so?

On question 3, it appears certain that Windschuttle has at least put the popular notion of a Tasmanian Genocide to rest, even if the historians now claim they never believed in it. On the larger question of whether Tasmanian history has been fabricated (which I didn’t ask, but should have) this seems to depend on what that history was seen to have been.

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Parallel,

I really can’t agree with much that you have written.

The nature of the disagreement between Windschuttle, Ryan and Reynolds, isn’t over whether or not genocide occurred in Tasmania, but rather over the violent conflict between the native Tasmanians and the settlers. They disagree over both the magnitude (ie. numbers of deaths) and the nature (ie. war against Europeans for stealing their land) of the conflict. Windschuttle tries to downplay both.

I note that you have ignored the major point about Breen’s point. The KW overstates the primitiveness of the Tasmanians. That he makes an error over whether or not they controlled fire is a good example of this, an example which you ignore by disagreeing with him on one unrelated point (land rights) and erroneously stating that he accepts Ryan’s figures (he makes no statement as to whether or not they are ok, and even if he did, it would be irrelevant).

I find your description of the Willis work to be confused to say the least. You state that his figure is 188. Ignoring that it ranges from 188 to 333. Your dismissing examples based off a single sentence, rather than a good reading of the historical record. This strikes me, not as a fair and open minded review of the evidence, but rather a weak attempt at justifying an already accepted assumption. You also suggest that Willis concedes that double counting has taken place. To quote Willis:

Servents of Meredith and Allan attacked. One Aborigine shot near Lyne on 16 Jan; 9 more reputedly killed & 3 taken prisoner on 20 Jan. [The nine others killed is probably the incident, also referred to by Robinson, in which a detachment of the 40th Regt ambushed a black camp.

Willis gives a death rate of 1 confirmed and 9 other possible deaths. Firstly, the 9 later deaths are in the possible category, which you’ve already ignored – suggesting that you are the one engaging in double counting. And the second incident isn’t mentioned again throughout Willis’ list. It was only counted once.

Likewise, your rebuttal of Finnane’s work is equally confused. While you may dismiss his numbers as being low, I would suggest that the violent deaths of 6% of a population over a 30 year period is anything but low. The violent deaths of 6% of Australia’s population, is over a million, if foreigners entered Australia, which lead to violent clashes, which in turn lead to the violent death’s of over 30,000 Aussies ever year for 30 years, I don’t think that anybody could claim that the takeover was peaceful. Additionally, you’ve ignored the massive death rate over the later period during the Black War etc. During this time period, the death rate is ungodly. During this period, the violent death rate is comparable not to urban blacks, but rather to the death rates achieved by the Khmer Rouge.

Additionally, if your going to make snide remarks about the quality of Finanne’s maths, perhaps you should make sure that your own is in order. If the population declines from a starting value of 2000, then the violent death rates become higher, not lower as you assert, because the average population is lower than the starting value.

You also misrepresent Finanne’s view over whether or not genocide took place. His analysis shows that even in the Windschuttle fantasy land, the violent death rates were massive. When one moves out of Windschuttle’s distorted view, the numbers start to become more believable.

As for KW being substantially correct, this is quite frankly rubbish. He’s using a methodology which is incapable of getting anything close to a true death rate. What’s more he botched it, by not including all of the historically recorded deaths. Additionally, despite getting into the body counting business, he lacks the mathematically skills to properly evaluate what his results are telling him.

parallel
parallel
2022 years ago

Ken M:
I will post my response to your comment on the History Wars thread.

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2022 years ago

Can You Feel The Love?

Ken Parish, in his post of 17th instant “Can We Move On, Please”

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2022 years ago

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