Years ago, I used to read Quadrant – incidentally before Robert Manne became editor, if I recall correctly. Back in the day, there was a sense that there was some sort of contest of ideas, and thus there was some purpose to reading, or at least casting a glance across a range of “little magazines”. I think that time ended a long while ago. Certainly, I stopped reading Quadrant over a decade ago, and I can’t say I feel there’s some huge gap in my life.
After all the brouhaha about the Katherine Wilson/Keith Windschuttle hoax dies down, I suspect the most lasting insight to be derived from all the kerfuffle is that Wilson’s target had already disappeared into a long twilight of irrelevance. For mine, John Quiggin’s point about the saga is among the most telling – Windschuttle’s own credibility on the issue which has been central to the recent stages of his career – Indigenous history – lies in tatters because of his own inability to substantiate the claims he made many years ago now with further research. The biggest hoax, Quiggin argues, is Windschuttle’s own contribution to “the history wars”.
After a number of folks actually had a look at what’s published on Quadrant’s website these days, it’s painfully obvious that there’s very little credibility there to be undermined. Egregious grammatical errors, bizarre rants with scant evidence of an elementary ability to construct a coherent argument, to be sure.
So the other motto we might draw from the hoax affair is that it’s drawn attention to the absence of both standards and relevance in most of what Quadrant has to offer. Now that the mag, and its writers, no longer have their great patron John Howard sitting in Kirribilli, the phrase “paper tiger” comes to mind. Certainly that appears to be evident from this truly bizarre piece just posted on the magazine’s website by Michael Connor, referencing a comment made here at LP by Pavlov’s Cat – “the Left totalitarianism”, “the Left establishment”, “Hatred blows in from the Left”… etc. Perhaps Connor was rankled by his writing being described as “half crazed”. But what can all this hyperbole and nonsense mean, and does anyone bar Connor and his ilk really care? I think he and the rest of Windy’s wingnut stable’s response to the hoax contains an element of schadenfreude. They’ve been rescued – I strongly suspect temporarily – from their own feelings of relevance deprivation. It might have been better, I think, if the windmills had been allowed to fall over of their own accord, without the need for any tilting at them.