For Once…

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.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
This entry was posted in History, Politics - national, Print media, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
14 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David Tiley
2022 years ago

‘his assertion has not been disproved” says Hendo of Windschuttle. As I understand it, the problem is that Windschuttle demands standards of evidence inappropriate to the times and documents.

If it’s not in black and white, it didn’t happen. Oral and family history doesn’t count. Even though a lot of the activity – killing blacks – was clandestine, and attacked by those of our forebears who could call a murder a murder.

Apply these standards to Saddam, by the way, and we cannot say he did significant harm to his own population, which remains the final junk defence for the invasion of Iraq.

Windschuttle is unable to answer the question that the Left side of politics poses – what happened to the several thousand Aborigines who lived in Tasmania? The disease theory is not enough.

I suspect Mr Windschuttle has provoked a very different battle this time. If he is lucky, no-one will particularly care. If his detractors are given space, he will go down in a heap. This time round, there is a huge amount of written evidence. People were proud of their racial superiority and there was nothing furtive about their imperious Britishness.

mark
2022 years ago

Please, “fisk”? Fisking is stupidity incarnate! Fisking is pulling an article into half-sentence fragments and making supposedly-humorous remarks, to the collective sniggering of the dull-eyed, brainless gilded youths that collect around the small, flash, and above all utterly worthless ‘bloggers who encourage such behaviour.

If you had the energy, you might refute Gerard’s arguments. You might answer the points with which you disagree. You might even, God forbid, hurl forth crap like so many howler monkeys. But you are too intelligent to fisk!

mark
2022 years ago

Or, lest I repeat myself further, you can just look up: http://blog.donotuselifts.net/archives/2004/08/19/121/

Robert
2022 years ago

Yep, my interpretation is that Hendo doesn’t want to support Windschuttle on this one but feels compelled to join him in battle. After all, while last week he said “culture wars can be fun”, they also require you to reluctantly fulfil unwanted obligations occasionally.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Windschuttle is unable to answer the question that the Left side of politics poses – what happened to the several thousand Aborigines who lived in Tasmania? The disease theory is not enough.”

Hmmmm. I think that introduced diseases were the significant mortality factor in every other indigenous society that experienced European incursion, so I’m not altogether sure why Tasmania should be “different” in that respect. The Americas, the Pacific, NZ, mainland Australia, all the indigenous peoples encountered therein in the age of European colonialism suffered hugely from measles, smallpox, influenza strains etc, etc. In NZ, entire Maori tribes were wiped out in a generation through the viral and microbial influences brought by European sealers and whalers. This was well before European settlement per se.

My sense of the Tasmanian experience is that disease was the major destructive influence upon the indigenous people, notwithstanding the well-documented instances of more direct violence perpetrated upon them.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Geoff, I’m sure it was a big factor. The evidence on population decline and its precipitate nature in Latin America, while hotly contested, are illustrative.

But it may not be a sufficient explanation, I think Rob is saying. I think you also acknowledge that. It’s an important point, as Windschuttle is doing his level best to minimise through an ahistorical and pedantic approach to historical methodology – as David remarks – the contribution of violence.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

Windschuttle is more right than wrong on the Aboriginal history question.
He has shown that some major historians were either lazy or dishonest. Unfortunately he does go over the top and becomes a lot like the people he criticises.

On the stolen genration question I am in the Ron Brunton camp who is mch more measured then windschuttle.

Neither person denies that some massacres occured or that some children were stolen.

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

Agree with you Mark, except that “Windschuttle is unable to answer the question …” was too sweeping a statement. He has answered the question, it’s just that David, you and many others dispute the adequacy of his answer.

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

Oh, and me. Windschuttle is not immune from excessively sweeping statements, either.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“It’s an important point, as Windschuttle is doing his level best to minimise through an ahistorical and pedantic approach to historical methodology – as David remarks – the contribution of violence.”

I understood his central thesis to be that the Tasmanian experience was not an organised, Auschwitzian genocide per se (as – he alleges – some have portrayed it) but more a conflation of factors common to many other indigenous societies impacted by European colonialism. As I read him, he doesn’t dispute the fact that armed violence was part of that experience. He does dispute the significance of it’s contributory effect in terms of mortality statistics.

At the end of the day the bullets or disease debate is one that no-one can win because we can never quantify the fatal impact in prescriptive or detailed cause of death terms – we just don’t have the data. It seems not unreasonable to me to accept that the Tasmanian experience unfolded in broadly similar terms to other colonial/indigenous experiences – deeply damaging to the latter in whatever way you wish to quantify it.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

We can go a long way with this – I would be really happy if someone posted a lead article on it so we can go further.

The diseases were central to contingent history, as Geoff points out. So are the many ways a wounded civilisation was finished off by the colonialists.

I am left to ask a more speculative question – if the Tasmanian Aborigines had been immune to disease, do we think that the colonists would have left them in peaceful occupation of their territories?

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Great idea, David – maybe Geoff would oblige since I think this is something he has specialist knowledge of.

Nic White
2022 years ago

Anyone remember this post by Henry Farrell from 20th June, 2003? Mark it may be worth you reffering to this.

There is also an interview with Windshuttle himselfon ninemsn.

Nic White
2022 years ago