I agree with Hendo!
Well, at least in part! Maybe it’s because Hendo is trying to ward Chris Sheil off from a potential move back into the blogosphere by learning from Chris’ frequent demolition of his logic to actually supply some, but last week I felt that Hendo made a bit of sense about Eureka. This week, I’d suggest, he makes even more on the topic of Keith Windschuttle.
The definitive blogosphere action on Windschuttle’s latest (a new book on the White Australia Policy) is happening at John Quiggin’s and Tim Dunlop’s places (The good professor has 233 comments across two threads at the time of my writing!). So I just want to restrict myself to noting my agreement with Gerry:
The problem with Windschuttle’s work is that, at times, you get the impression that he is a Marxist turned conservative waging a personal war on the very left-wing interpretation of Australian history that he once embraced and proclaimed. His revisionism is essential reading for anyone who wants to join the debate on Australian history. Yet, because his history contains a substantial degree of personal polemic, it sometimes lacks empathy. For example, in his revisionist interpretation concerning the fate of the Tasmanian Aborigines, Windschuttle recorded that “only” about 120 had been killed. His assertion has not been disproved, yet the word “only” was regrettable. It is much the same with his current work.
NB: Too tired to fisk Gerry, but I’ve underlined the Hendo bits I don’t find myself in agreement with.
ELSEWHERE: In the tradition of the much lamented BackPages feature “The Shorter Hendo”, William Burroughs’ Baboon summarises the Quiggin thread for the time-challenged blogger. David Tiley, as always, has something to say well worth reading.
JUST IN: David has some thoughts on why John Howard might be so inclined to fight the culture wars at Barista.
TROPPO CONTEST: In what is fast becoming a regular Troppo feature, a mystery prize will be awarded to the commenter who correctly guesses the number of weeks before Hendo doesn’t mention B. A. Santamaria or the Groupers or the Labor Split in his column.
Hendo goes on:
What is missing from Windschuttle’s book is empathy for individuals who were the victims of the policy, which was often harshly administered by bureaucrats, along with a recognition that the policy was a bad policy. It made little sense for an immigrant trading nation based in the Asian region to ban Asian immigrants because of their race. Yet Windschuttle maintains that “even through the eyes of its instigators it was a rational, and in a number of ways progressive, product of its times”. In fact, there was nothing rational and progressive about the policy – which is why it was junked half a century after it began.
Last week, Gerry was calling for the PM to enter the culture war lists on the side of a conservative view of Eureka. This week, I sense Hendo is a reluctant warrior damning his own side with faint praise, and at the same time introducing some actual “balance” by pointing to the flaws in Windschuttle’s work.
In her chapter in Robert Manne’s Whitewash: On Keith Windschuttle’s Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Dr Cathie Clement points to the dissemination of Windschuttle’s line and its quick acceptance as fact through a media itself largely unaware of Australian history. Gerard Henderson is an honourable exception to this process of forgetting the past, and this week, I think he’s worth reading.