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92 responses to “The Wilson/Windschuttle Quadrant hoax: the washup continued”

  1. alan

    There is a big danger of over intellectualising this. It was just a wonderful joke played on a pompous windbag and his efforts to justify it and the efforts of his mates makes it even funnier. I don’t think ethics comes into it.
    But I agree the left right cultural wars prosecuted mainly by The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald are tedious in the extreme. The column by Larry Buttrose in the Oz the previous weekend was a case in point. Some nobody lecturing the left on how they should get it right this time. No mention of the fact that that the dominant ideology of the past 20 years has been economic rationalism and Reagonomics, trickle down etc etc now a tragic catastrophic failure that is doing more damage to the world than 1,000 Osma Bin Ladens. What exactly is it that the left has to get right?
    The idiocy of all this is demonstrated in today’s Australian (again) by Greg Sheridan’s piece on George Bush. With the ideological blinkers firmly in place Greg creates a whole new reality and you have to wonder what world he lives in. In Crikey this week Guy Rundle went off on a little fantasy rave of his own on Hamas and Gaza.
    The Middle East conflict suffers from commentators who put ideology ahead of reality.
    Only McGeough in the SMH is able to provide some sort of analysis John Lyons in the Oz is as usual hopelessly out of his depth.

  2. Margaret Simons

    I’ve made some comments on this debate over at Jason Wilson’s blog.

  3. AC

    Whatever you might think of Windschuttle, at least he lit a fire under the arses of historians who favoured relativism over research.

  4. Nick Caldwell

    Hi AC. Fascinating to see you deploy the “big lie” approach to blog commentary. Hope it works out well for you.

  5. AC

    Your post makes no sense Nick. Is it some sort of joke? Or are you in denial?

    Thanks for your kind thoughts, regardless.

  6. Stephen

    I’d just like to point out that discrediting Windschuttle does not discredit his past work. It’s a logical fallacy. No matter who unreliable a source, each argument should be taken on its individual merit. Hoaxing Windschuttle does not say anything about his ‘contributions’ (for want of a better term) to the history wars.

    A lot of people here seem to take this incident as ipso facto proof everything he’s ever said is rubbish. That’s not how it works.

    Taken just as a prank that proves nothing, but acts as a way of making a smarmy academic squirm, I think it was marvelous.

  7. Nick Caldwell

    AC, you’re the most entertaining little troll in ages! Have a cookie!

    Mark, I suspect the “blogger vs. journalist” framing will never go away because it’s become a crucial, constitutive myth for journalistic practice in an age of declining interest in traditional print media. Or, more optimistically, it’ll only vanish when News Corp and other publishing platforms come to terms with blogging by synthesising journalistic practices with bloggery ones rather than simply assimilating (and forgetting about) them (to take the Tim Dunlop example). See the New York Times for an interesting, ongoing experiment in integrating new media with old.

  8. BlackMage

    A good point above: WHAT left side in the culture wars?

    Robert Manne carries on vendettas from his bloody departure from the right — and they can have him back. David Marr is a bloody-minded civil libertarian, sputtering in a constant state of outrage. Philip Adams takes potshots but not the column-length screeds of his counterparts; he phones in a column to The Oz every week and devotes his energies to LNL.

    Is there any left-wing equivalent to the constant campaign waged by Henderson, Sheridan, Albrechtson, Switzer, and the Devines?

    The culture war seems to be right-wingers beating strawmen to rags, screaming into the dark against non-existent opponents.

  9. AC

    Stephen@6: I agree with both aspects of your comment. There’s no harm in taking a potshot at a too-smug academic! But it doesn’t really affect the merits (or otherwise) of his own actual contributions, despite what some here may think as they strut their Internet pygmy victory dances.

  10. Nickws

    In that vein, it’s worth noting that the culture wars have largely been fought between ex-lefties and – in the Australian context – liberals masquerading as “the left”. I don’t think David Marr and Robert Manne actually are “the Australian left” in any meaningful way, and I think it’s significant that Manne comes from a background as a cold warrior

    Wait, who’s maquerading as a lefty?

    Marr and Manne? They’re dragging the sainted Left into a war against the Left’s will?

    I’m sorry Mark, that just doesn’t make sense, unless what you’re really talking about is the Oddrant right posing as the heirs of scientific liberal enquiry (hence your reference to Popper) and then using that to attack anyone they don’t like.

    Defining just what the ‘Australian Left’ is in the middle of a kulturkampf sounds like an incredibile waste of time and energy. Particularly if anti-anti-communist values are inherently Left–that means Whitlamism has to be crossed off the list!

  11. AC

    AC, you’re the most entertaining little troll in ages! Have a cookie!

    Apparently a troll in your book is someone who holds a contrary or even merely more nuanced position to your own. I would have posted similar comments if someone had hoaxed Marr or Manne, two writers whom I admire greatly.

    Keep your cookie, I note there’s flecks of spittle on it.

  12. Nick Caldwell

    To be serious for a moment, AC, I should clarify that I’m entirely bemused by this Quadrant hoax – my opinion of hoaxes is comparable to Heinlein’s regarding practical jokers and airlocks.

    I’m simply taking issue with your bafflingly ignorant assertion that Windshuttle’s sloppy, politically motivated ‘gotcha-ism’ regarding the scholarly conduct of reputable historians constitutes anything even remotely resembling the act of lighting a fire under anything.

    Try harder, kid. There are adults here.

  13. Nickws

    Robert Manne carries on vendettas from his bloody departure from the right — and they can have him back

    Er, his ‘vendettas’ include an ongoing, incredibly tough verbal knife fight against allcomers in which he defends the Stolen Generations.

    Someone in the comments thread at Quiggin’s blog suggested Windschuttle’s baleful influence has been to stop Australian historians using the term ‘genocide’ (though JQ suggested ’tis isn’t true)–I have it on pretty good authority Manne does believe in the applicability of ‘genocide’, has discussed this with Aboriginal community leaders, but is quite bitter that he can’t use it publicly because of the lowness of his oponents in the still ongoing anti-Stolen Generations campaign.

    Don’t know what Adams’ work habits have to do with anything.

  14. AC

    “I’m simply taking issue with your bafflingly ignorant assertion that Windshuttle’s sloppy, politically motivated ‘gotcha-ism’ regarding the scholarly conduct of reputable historians constitutes anything even remotely resembling the act of lighting a fire under anything.”

    Exposing poor intellectual rigour and political spin in academia is an act to be applauded, no matter how stupidly you may choose to characterise it. You clearly have some emotional investment in the matter. You’re not a Left wing historian by any chance? I suppose you also hate Peter Ryan for exposing Manning Clark, hm?

    “Try harder, kid. There are adults here.”

    I love the hardboiled patois. It contrasts amusingly with your gravatar. I’d keep working on it if I was you. Try reading some Peter Doyle. Doyle is a local historian too, and has written some terrific historical crime novels set in Sydney. “Amaze Your Friends” is my favourite. Anyway, don’t give up.

  15. Nick Caldwell

    “I suppose you also hate Peter Ryan for exposing Manning Clark, hm?”

    Heh.

  16. Paulus

    I’m quite surprised by the assertion that Robert Manne isn’t on the left. His views on foreign policy, Aboriginal affairs, and civil rights would seem to dovetail pretty nicely with the views of most people on the left (if LP is any guide to the latter).

    Sure, he was an anti-communist, and sure, he edited Quadrant (when it had quite a different political flavour to its current one). Do those things automatically, and for all time, get one refused entry to Club Left by the bouncers?

    I have it on pretty good authority Manne does believe in the applicability of ‘genocide’, has discussed this with Aboriginal community leaders, but is quite bitter that he can’t use it publicly because of the lowness of his oponents in the still ongoing anti-Stolen Generations campaign.

    Say what? Manne has never been one to shrink from a fight because others disapprove of what he’s saying. And anyway, he’s a tenured Professor — what could the ‘still ongoing anti-Stolen Generations campaign’ (whoever they might be) possibly do to him?

  17. Mark

    AC and Nick – please be civil. I’ll be deleting any further meta-commentary about teh stoush type comments on this thread, so don’t waste any time making them.

    Nickws and Paulus – part of the problem with the Australian culture wars compared to the American ones is that there is actually no “conservative movement” here – just a bunch of puffed up pundits masquerading on the side of the “silent majority”. Similarly, “the left” is largely a fictional entity. There is the ALP left and parts of the union movement, but there really is no real alternative political force (and I don’t include The Greens as part of “the left” for a range of reasons, including their own unwillingness to accept the label in many instances) or any social movement that transcends particular issues and identifications.

    This has consequences, both for the direction of policy and the tone of the debate.

    Marr should be seen as a litterateur and journalist interested in civil liberties. Manne rarely addresses himself to economic issues or social justice in any real way, and continues to pursue the same sort of debating style I’m talking about (see his interminable and tedious exchanges with Gerard Henderson for instance). Both really speak for a largely absent soft liberalism, if they speak for anyone much bar themselves, and they’re certainly not interested in social organisation or activism.

    You can argue the toss as to whether it was worth Manne etc. engaging their ideological mirror images during the Howard era on issues like the three Rs. It is almost certainly a waste of time now, because it only gives undeserved prominence to a field of debate which has very little applicability or resonance with people’s lived experience in this country and very little purchase on politics. So I think it’s wasted energy for the most part, unless your objective is to maintain your own status as a “public intellectual” – which is not really a political aim.

  18. Mark

    More on the issues about journalism and blogging from Margaret Simons:

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/contentmakers/2009/01/17/more-on-bloggers-journalists-and-checking/

  19. Nick Caldwell

    Apologies to Mark and to innocent bystanders.

    Steering back on topic, I’ll just perhaps point back to my point (at comment 7) that I don’t think anyone CAN abandon the journos vs bloggos frame because – thanks to the economic and ideological conditions of possibility governing knowledge production in Australia – it’s actually politically necessary to retain it. When those conditions change decisively (advertising revenue for print editions vanish, or Craigslist finally builds out a usable localised Australian site) the frame will vanish just as quickly and we’ll discover that journalists have been bloggers all along.

  20. Mark

    Further to my point @ 17 – I’d contend that with regard to the Stolen Generations, it would have been politically more effective to have laid out the case positively to a much greater degree rather than spend enormous amounts of time on refuting nonsense. There is a need to do the latter, but as with the climate change debate, there’s a greater need to frame the issue for its own importance and on its own merits. Just in terms of political and communications strategy, the whole point about the culture wars style of debate from the right is largely entrapment. It sucks in an enormous amount of energy, and you can only actually change the conditions of possibility for certain things to occur (ie the Apology) by reframing the issue rather than spending all one’s time on polemics, which tend to alienate anyone watching who isn’t actually participating.

  21. Mark

    Thanks, Nick.

  22. crankynick

    I think the issue in the journalist/blogger debate is the same as that hoary old debate within journalistic circles – the difference between reporters and commentators – there’s not essential difference in the arguments, for mine.

    It’s difficult to do both, in my view – both report stories and break news, and commentate and give opinions on the issues of the day, without significantly confusing your role as a journalist (and your readers to boot).

    It’s an issue the Australian has been facing under Mitchell’s editorship – its opinion pages are the most reliably right wing in the country, but its newsroom broke some of the most significant stories of the last decade, and significantly contributed to the downfall of the Howard Government.

    Wilson has left herself in a difficult position on this front: her previous contributions to Crikey have been walking a fine line between the two – she’s arguably been dressing up opinion as reporting on the GM debate for some time, and this time has completely crossed over in a way that leaves no effective return.

    Whether it was the right thing to do ethically or not, Wilson will never be able to present her work as straight news reporting again, whatever the direction her career takes her.

  23. AC

    Well, I stand by my initial comment; but of course happy to drop the frivolous sparring with Nick if it’s irritating you Mark – and it certainly isn’t germane, I agree.

  24. Mark

    Thanks, AC.

  25. albi

    the culture wars have largely been fought between ex-lefties and – in the Australian context – liberals masquerading as “the left”. I don’t think David Marr and Robert Manne actually are “the Australian left” in any meaningful way.

    And in comments

    and I don’t include The Greens as part of “the left” for a range of reasons

    Thanks for the post Mark, but I find the two above comments to be extremely confusing. Just what do you define as ‘the left’ in Australia? As a member of the Greens, I’m particularly interested to know your reasons for not including us.

  26. BlackMage

    “I’m quite surprised by the assertion that Robert Manne isn’t on the left. His views on foreign policy, Aboriginal affairs, and civil rights would seem to dovetail pretty nicely with the views of most people on the left (if LP is any guide to the latter).”

    Many of his 1990s essays reveal quite conservative social views on issues such as pornography, which he says he still holds. If his wife’s views are any indication, he’s really much more in the Malcolm Fraser mold: economically wet, socially paternalist.

    “Er, his ‘vendettas’ include an ongoing, incredibly tough verbal knife fight against allcomers in which he defends the Stolen Generations.

    Someone in the comments thread at Quiggin’s blog suggested Windschuttle’s baleful influence has been to stop Australian historians using the term ‘genocide’ (though JQ suggested ’tis isn’t true)–I have it on pretty good authority Manne does believe in the applicability of ‘genocide’, has discussed this with Aboriginal community leaders, but is quite bitter that he can’t use it publicly because of the lowness of his oponents in the still ongoing anti-Stolen Generations campaign.”

    I’ll concede unfairness with regards to much of Manne’s work on the Stolen Generations. But his tedious conflicts with Henderson, Bolt, Windschuttle etc have evolved beyond genuine discourse into mere score-settling. I quite like his writing style and many of his stances have been admirable, but I can’t shake the impression that much of his modern punditry is shaped by personality conflicts.

    “Don’t know what Adams’ work habits have to do with anything.”

    I meant it in the sense that there’s no organised ‘left chorus’ in the same way that there’s a large contingent of right-wing editorialists. There’s Manne, Marr and Adams, who is not now that strength that once moved heaven and earth.

  27. Nickws

    part of the problem with the Australian culture wars compared to the American ones is that there is actually no “conservative movement” here – just a bunch of puffed up pundits masquerading on the side of the “silent majority”

    The problem is the reactionaries aren’t stronger and more coherent?
    We need the contradictions heightened some more, eh?

    Similarly, “the left” is largely a fictional entity. There is the ALP left and parts of the union movement, but there really is no real alternative political force (and I don’t include The Greens as part of “the left” for a range of reasons, including their own unwillingness to accept the label in many instances) or any social movement that transcends particular issues and identifications

    Mark, if the existence of an electorally viable Green movement doesn’t mean there is fertile soil for a Left in Australia then where on earth is there anything of which you talk? France? This about comparing us to France, isn’t it?

    Both really speak for a largely absent soft liberalism, if they speak for anyone much bar themselves, and they’re certainly not interested in social organisation or activism

    You’ve never lived in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne?
    That’s not sarcasm, BTW, but a genuine observation of Age-reading men and women. They exist, they read Manne in the paper (when he occasionally still writes for it), they read the Monthly at the library, they’ve read Marr’s books, and they still mourn the demise of the 3LO call sign.
    This is a genuine social tendency, Mark, and just because you dislike the two M’s it doesn’t follow that said tendency doesn’t exist.

    So I think it’s wasted energy for the most part, unless your objective is to maintain your own status as a “public intellectual” – which is not really a political aim

    So these two are vulgar careerists!
    I couldn’t care less if Manne ran his little zine with the ruthlessness of an Eddie MacGuire.

    Also, on the stolen generation. I mentioned above what someone had told me about Manne’s activism on that issue. That was close to the beginning of the decade, and I don’t know whether or not he has publicly used the ‘G’ word since then; whether or not he has I’m certain he’s received more hate mail than most other activists in Australian history, thanks to the efforts of a certain tabloid ranter.

  28. Ambigulous

    OK, Nickws

    Let’s try to characterise this Eastern Suburbs of Melb ‘tendency’. Socially ‘progressive’, tending to dissent on some Govt policies, may have marched against Iraq War 2, or for reconciliation & an apology. What else? Vote ALP or Green? Listen to Jon Faine. Many are university graduates. Do we include the “doctor’s wives” here?

    I think
    i) some would be as likely to support Petrou Georgiou as Labor, esp if they’re in his electorate
    ii) small-l liberal is not necessarily “left” in other ways
    iii) most are not ‘activists’: c’mon, you can’t count donating to World Vision or Greenpeace…..

    There may be fertile ground for ‘left politics’ there, but where’s the evidence of a forthcoming resurgence? What issues are clearly ‘left’? Where is the left Pied Piper who’ll gather in the crowds and inspire them to struggle towards glorious victory?

    BTW: personally I have nothing against bourgeois liberals; some of my best friends are delightful instances. OTOH smug, self-styled “public intellectuals” you can blody keep.

  29. charles

    Hoaxing Windschuttle has highlighted his past work when the political power of the far right is crumbling. It’s not the hoax that will discredit him but his past.

  30. skepticlawyer

    [Y]ou can only actually change the conditions of possibility for certain things to occur (ie the Apology) by reframing the issue rather than spending all one’s time on polemics, which tend to alienate anyone watching who isn’t actually participating.

    Now this — especially the last sentence — is the unvarnished truth. It would be nice to see the ‘culture wars’ die a natural death. I think it’s perfectly possible to disagree on many things — like the things Manne and Henderson disagree about — without subjecting everyone else to endless (and very tedious) exercises in ad-hominem and mutual blaming. Peculiarly Australian debates were foolishly interpreted in light of peculiarly American debates, and it really didn’t work. It was also very unpleasant to be caught up in it — these people were (and still are, sometimes) out to destroy their enemies. Rawlsian ‘reasonable disagreement’ it ain’t.

  31. AC

    “Hoaxing Windschuttle has highlighted his past work when the political power of the far right is crumbling. It’s not the hoax that will discredit him but his past.”

    History will be the judge of that, thank goodness.

  32. charles

    I remind you AC that the whole fiasco was over the interpretation of history. History is political ( the winners write it), yes history will be the judge and it will not judge Windschuttle kindly, the politics have changed.

  33. John Ryan

    AC is very good at deploying the big lie its his stock and trade

  34. John Ryan

    Sorry Mark no offence you you

  35. Nickws

    Ambigulous, in bringing up the supposed ‘doctors wives’, or whatever the Bernard Salts are calling my neighbours these days, I was merely responding to Mark’s assertion that

    Both [the Ms] really speak for a largely absent soft liberalism, if they speak for anyone much bar themselves, and they’re certainly not interested in social organisation or activism

    which, BTW, I think is merely one of three unprovable assertions in that one sentence.
    (Though the other two assertions, that the Ms speak for nary but themselves, and that neither of ‘em is interested in social activism, are pretty minor compared to ‘there are almost no parlour pinks in Oz so what’.)

    But the most shocking thing for me, and I’d hope for you (if you can get over your fascination with my neighbours’ ideological wishy-washyness) is this, and forgive me for cutting and pasting another para for the second time

    Similarly, “the left” is largely a fictional entity. There is the ALP left and parts of the union movement, but there really is no real alternative political force (and I don’t include The Greens as part of “the left” for a range of reasons, including their own unwillingness to accept the label in many instances) or any social movement that transcends particular issues and identifications

    So there aren’t any leftliberals or leftists in this country?

    Any, I’m afraid our gracious host is tilting at windmills if he reckons political ideologies don’t exist if they’re not corralled into movements, chapters, clubs.

    That seems to me to be the very opposite of what ALP progressive (but not necessarily Left) icons like Whitlam, Chif, Red Ted Theodore, have tried to accomplish over the last century–it’s a kind of ornery anti-outreach type of politics.

    (Also, the French! My favourite political frog is Bernard Henri Levy–don’t sneer, phds–not these less glamourous theorists. That why I can’t agree with Mark’s
    broad assertions about a lack of social political movements retarding the Left in Austrlia. And I’m uninterested in the anti-boomer arguments, or the residual anti-anti-communism.)

  36. professor rat

    My working definition of the Left is that it is about a third of the average population that sometimes convinces enough waverers in the middle to let them lead.
    Another third of the population are Right. Then the Left breaks down into three main groups with democratic-socialists being the majority, followed by libertarian-socialists and a smattering of authoritarian-socialists ( Marxists for short ) bringing up the rear.
    The Rights megaphones job is to try and conflate the vanishingly small number of Marxists with the entire Left and spread fear and loathing about the Red Menace.
    The Lunar-Rights mongrels sound particularly shrill when they realize how few they are, and how badly their platforms are eroding, and well…at times like this.
    Take ‘ AC’ above for exhibit A.
    The Left is – or should be imo – a broad Big Top with many rooms. And so long as we don’t let too many Marxists, ‘recovering’ or otherwise in, then we should be top-dogs for a very long time – touch-wood.

  37. crankynick

    Scepticlawyer at 60:

    I think it’s perfectly possible to disagree on many things — like the things Manne and Henderson disagree about — without subjecting everyone else to endless (and very tedious) exercises in ad-hominem and mutual blaming

    Hah!

    That’s the entire point.

    Where would either of them be without endless regurgitation of arguments about who supported which murderous dictator in the sixties? They have no other point of reference.

  38. crankynick

    At 30, in fact.

    Mails fail at 36 (or 72, following my dodgy adding up)

  39. Labor Outsider

    I think Mark’s point is, and correct me if I am wrong, that the left/right distinction isn’t a particularly useful way of describing political ideologies in Australia or anywhere else for that matter.

    Take totalitarianism in its communist and anti-communist varieties – the authoritarianism is at least as important as whether the state owns the means of production. Other examples abound. The greens and the pro-industry/protectionist elements of the ALP both receive the left label at times, but what does that mean when their differences are as important as their similarities? On the supposed right we can have liberals that favour little government intervention in both the economic and social sphere and social conservatives that don’t have much of an economic ideology but want the state to be heavily involved in the regulation of social and private activities. There are many thinkers that believe that open markets, together with active redistribution through the tax/transfer system are pro-poor policies. Does that make them left or right wing and does anyone really care?

    Stop trying to fit everything into the left/right binary categorisation and add some nuance to the discussion. As far as I am concerned, the labels are used as terms of abuse in debate more often than a way of enlightening discussion. And I’d rather you take your simplistic way of examining political affairs to the uni bar than polluting this blog.

  40. John Passant

    I describe the hoax on my blog as a set back for the Left (http://enpassant.com.au. I argue that we on the left (widely defined for the purposes of the discussion as reformers, thsoe who vacillate between reform and revolution, and revolutionaries) should not lie. The hoax doesn’t challenge Windschuttle ideas. It gives the right ammunition to say in fact that it just further proves that the left are devious and resort to trickery and lies for their arguments. And it opens up the possibility of tit for tax.

    we shouldn’t lie to the working class. And we shouldn’t lie to those we are battling against in the realm of ideas becuase that has the seeds of stalinism in it and can create doubts in the minds of workers about our truth telling generally and to them in particular. Although, thinking about that statement I suspect the HowRudd Government is doing more to destroy faith in the reformist left among workers and other sections of society than any pathetic little hoax. The hoax just echoes and reinforces the self-destructive but pre-ordained path of Labor in power – to attack workers to restore profitability.

  41. AC

    charles:I remind you AC that the whole fiasco was over the interpretation of history. History is political ( the winners write it), yes history will be the judge and it will not judge Windschuttle kindly, the politics have changed.

    Don’t you think that’s both ironic and tragic? Someone comes along and champions fact-based history as opposed to Australia’s long relativism and political agenda-pushing. Whether it is naive or not (in the face of the politicising of academia), Windschuttle’s objective should be the shared objective of all serious historians, don’t you think? Are you happy to surrender to the alternative, shrug and throw your hands up?

    I fear your assessment may be right, but it doesn’t reflect well on the health of Australia’s intellectual discourse. Whether history in the writing is spun to the left or to the right is not the point – the point is it shouldn’t be spun at all.

  42. AC

    John Ryan @33: AC is very good at deploying the big lie its his stock and trade

    This from the man who threatens people with ciolent retribution in the Gaza thread because they don’t march in a conga line behind his “consensus reality”.

    Anyway, back to the discussion of the hoax and Australian historians.

  43. Paul Burns

    For anybody wishing to read a nuanced discussion of the question of genocide in Aboriginal history (especially in Queensland) I recommend chapter 7 in Jonathan Richards’ The Secret War. A True History of Queensland’s Native Police.
    He also knows how to deal with Windschuttle’s specious arguments. He simply ignores him.

  44. charles

    AC :- Windschuttle problem is he didn’t stick to the facts and has as a result has promised things he couldn’t deliver. He now has to live in the nest he built, the hoax has reminded everyone of what he has done, little more.

  45. AC

    Charles – can you be a little more specific? Please cite the actual pages from books, journals and articles where Windschuttle “didn’t stick to the facts” in his own writing.

  46. AC

    “He also knows how to deal with Windschuttle’s specious arguments. He simply ignores him.”

    And he calls himself a historian? How can you point to willful ignorance/denial with any sense of admiration? The mind boggles.

  47. Nickws

    Labor Outsider, if you’re responding to my points you might have the courtesy of at least acknowledging me.

    Stop trying to fit everything into the left/right binary categorisation and add some nuance to the discussion. As far as I am concerned, the labels are used as terms of abuse in debate more often than a way of enlightening discussion

    I’m sorry I had to respond to Mark on a day when he must have got out of the wrong side of bed, but his arguments here I take issue with are (a.) there is a “largely absent soft liberalism in Australia” (b.) the Left in Australia is “largely a fictional entity” outside the ALP- and union-Leftwings, the Greens don’t count as Left, we are lacking a well-defined social activism. (His points sound binary, no?)

    And I barely got stuck into the specious argument that we have no social activism influencing political thought in this country–my fear is that Mark was wistfully writing about old fashioned class struggle (what do you think about that, Labor Outsider, you with your post-ideological ‘don’t you dare label me!’ shtick?)

    And I’d rather you take your simplistic way of examining political affairs to the uni bar than polluting this blog

    Labor Outsider, when everyone here was going ‘nanas over the 5% carbon reduction announcement, and you turned up to provide some level-headed analysis, asking everybody to cool down, I actually respected you.
    Yet here we are on a comments thread RE the kulturkampf Right; myself and others have made observations about the suppression of historical debate, the Stolen Generations for example, or the taboo status of the word ‘genocide’; and you sweep in with your bookstore-remaider-bin Lathamesque platitudes about being like, y’know, totally so over all this old politics crap.
    And now you have the temerity to appoint yourself gatekeeper of debate on a thread where you yourself haven’t gone anywhere near topic?
    ????

  48. Legal Eagle

    Here’s my take on the blog vs journalist issue over at Skepticlawyer.

  49. Ambigulous

    Nickws @ 35

    I agree with you that the “soft liberalism” is not “largely absent”. Actually, I don’t mind those folk being wishy-washy; that’s their very own business and I promise I won’t lecure them. Chacun a son gout.

    Some seem to believe you earn your “Left” badge by activism, or analysis of power structures, by Party membership, or some other fixed criterion. I disagree.

    Perhaps it may be useful to reinstate ‘radical’ as a term? There are radical human rights activists who are non-left. etc.

    Back closer to topic: Mr Henderson and Professor Manne are at it now just as they were circa 1969 in the Pubic Lecture Theatre at Melb Uni, debating some issue du jour. Can be tedious, … Manne’s articles are occasionally interesting. He has at least some idea of doing detailed research.

    The hoax on Keith Windschuttle doesn’t and cannot prove much. They never do. But the best hoaxes and parodies live on as reference points [Malley, Sokal, "A Modest Proposal"]. Some of the finest take many years to mature. They’re good to savour.

    I don’t think the Quadrant prank rates very highly. Thin soup.

  50. Paul Burns

    AC @ 45,
    Oh, why should I bother?

  51. Paul Burns

    AC @ 45,
    No. I will bother, actually.

    Any historian working in the field of Aboriginal history would treat Windschuttle’s lack of scholarship in this area with the contempt it deserves by taking absolutely no notice of him. It’s bad enough to have to read his Fabrication of Aboriginal History in order to come to that decision for oneself.

  52. Lefty E

    Well, I must admit I haven’t been following so closely since the story broke, but my 2c worth, and my in-law relationship with Katherine noted upfront again: I’m not sure the activist/ journalist frame is really any more useful than the one under discussion.

    I’d like to know what these “questions” actually are – but then again, Im not sure they’d be terribly relevant. Katherine didnt do the hoax as a journo. ‘Gould’ didnt pose as a journo. Nor was it accepted as journalism. Does Quadrant even publish ‘journalism’? Windy accepted it as a science essay, his subsequent claims about “fraudulent journalism” notwithstanding.

    And sure, hoaxers cross ethical lines, by definition. Isn’t that stating the obvious? Its an orchestrated fib after all.

    As for Katherine, she’s not been following the debates at all; I dont think she’s even been on the net. Rundle’s Crikey piece is the only thing she’s read since the Age article – as someone physically printed that out for her. I imagine she’ll eventually catch up with it all, and have another say in due course.

  53. Labor Outsider

    Nickws

    I apologise for personalising my comments – let me be more constructive.

    I simply find the left/right culture wars crap tiresome, and a stumbling block to making progress on things like the wretched disadvantage of indigenous people in this country. Too much of Australian historiography seems to be caught up with advancing a current political agenda, rather than casting a nuanced light on events of the past. On one side we have historians that seem hell-bent on demonstrating that white policy toward indigenous Australians was benign and, ergo, that today’s generations share no responsibility for their current plight – hence the opposition to the apology. On the other, we have historians that seem to want to define Australia by its past wrongs. To me, it is advocacy, not history, and does a disservice to our understanding of our past, warts and all.

    I’ve been reading a lot of American history lately. And one book in particular resonated with me – What Hath God Wraught – about the period from 1815 to 1848. What impressed me most about that book was the author was able to balance sharp criticism of that generation of Americans’ attitudes to slavery and African Americans more generally, and the treatment of native Americans, with acknowledgement and celebration of the cultural, social, political and economic achievements of the country over that period. Neither black armband nor whitewash, but nuance.

    I wish there were more (some!!) books like it published about Australian history.

  54. Labor Outsider

    One more, hopefully constructive comment.

    On genocide, if we were to use the very broad UN legal definition, then a quite plausible case can be made for categorising past Australian government policies as being “genocidal”.

    The problem with that though, is that the lay understanding of the term genocide is caught up with events such as the Holocaust, or Rwanda, and thus the most extreme category of actions that full within the broader UN definition. If for no other reason, those that persist with using the word within Australian poltical debate, actually do the indigenous cause in Australia a disservice. Most Australians simply will not cop their ancestors being associated with policies that they think only apply to people like the Nazis. Any attempt to do so will actually push the majority of Australians closer to the Windshchuttles of the world.

    I think that would be most unfortunate and hence favour a more pragmatic approach that acknowledges that wrongs were committed in the past (and continue in different forms now) but focuses mostly on what can be done now on what can be done to improve the living standards of our indigenous population within the constraints of Australians’ political views and views of their past.

    Activists have an important role to play in raising awareness of the mal-treatment of disadvantaged groups both in Australia and elsewhere, but where they act politically, they also have to ask themselves what compromises are necessary to further the welfare of those they purport to represent.

    Is that so unreasonable?

  55. AC

    @50 – Paul Burns…

    That’s not an answer. That’s merely an indication that some people don’t want to hear what they don’t want to hear. Facts don’t fit your picture? Ignore the facts. Problem solved.

  56. charles

    AC – Windschuttle’s sin was a not some minor error in a footnote, it was the omission of a large body of evidence that didn’t support his theses. For a reasonable summary of that evidence read the works of those he attempted to denigrate.

  57. Paul Burns

    charles @ 55,
    well-said.

    AC @ 54,
    Facts? History is not about facts. Captain Arthur Philip sailed into Port Jackson on 26 January, 1788. So what?

    The questions that historians need to answer are simple ones. The same questions an actor asks when preparing a role: why, what, who, when and how.
    History is not about facts. Its about asking, repeat asking questions about those facts and trying to find the answers. You won’t of course – there’s no such thing as THe Truth in history.
    Part of the process, and only part of it, is to consider all, repeat, all the arguments put forward by other historians working in the area, even those you don’t agree with. (And believe me, historians never agree – if they did there’s just be one definitive history and therefore there’d be no point writing history – we’d know it all from that definitive history -)One has to challenge those interpretations one disagrees with, after considering all the relevant evidence, and propose one’s own interpretations. That’s ONE of the things one’s colleagues expect from good history. From what I could see, Winschuttle failed to do that. That’s one of the reasons his historiography on Aboriginals has been dismissed by his peers. His “Fabrication of Aboriginal History” is on a par with Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods and Gaven Menzies’ ridiculous fiction on fifteenth century Chinese maritime history. Historians don’t take them seriously either.

  58. Paul Burns

    Oh, that should read ‘ historians never agree entirely but they can come to a consensus on evidence/interpretations considered indisputable.

  59. Paul Burns

    AC,
    Just so you understand what I’m talking about, lets just take that indisputable fact of Arthur Phillip at Port Jackson on 26 January, 1788.
    Questions historians might ask about this event and its consequences might be.

    1. Was it invasion or settlement?
    2. Was he here to establish a penal colony? Was that colony intended to be permanent?
    3. Was he here because the location of Botany Bay was considerd strategically important in any potential conflict with England’s possible enemies, eg, French, Dutch, Spanish?
    4. Was he here because New South Wales was considered an excellent location for naval stores like flax and pine?
    5. Was he here to thwart French interest in NSW?
    6. What was Philip’s relationship with local Indigenous people? How did it differ, if at all, from his successors?

    So far as I’m aware the only question on which there is any definite consensus is 3. NSW was of prime strategic importance so far as all the maritime European powers were concerned. Even the intention to make NSW a permanent penal colony is still up for debate.

    I could go on for ages, but I’m sure you get the idea.

  60. Mark

    Just to clarify a few points – with regard to The Greens, there are a lot of Queensland Greens who will tell you their politics are “beyond left and right”. Perhaps there’s a greater willingness in other states to identify with the left. But the application of that label is also a deliberate anti-Greens tactic from political opponents – “extreme Greens” etc.

    With regard to Age readers, yep, they’re out there. I’m using the term “absent liberalism” to capture the fact there’s no organised political party or force holding a small l liberal position. The Democrats were, but of course, were never able to capture this entire constituency. I’d be more impressed with the political force of small l liberalism if it had in fact inspired more electoral losses by the Howard Liberals in “blue ribbon” seats – and then politicians would also have to take more notice. As it is, neither Labor nor Liberal is really a comfortable home for people who are small l liberals. I don’t agree with all that Labor Outsider says, but in some ways authoritarian/libertarian is as relevant an axis for understanding the practice of Australian politics as left/right. And it does, in my view, make a difference that this sentiment isn’t reflected in political organisation. It also makes a difference in terms of the “centre” of political debate that the Marrs and Mannes of the world are dismissed as “the left” and I think their own willingness or even enthusiasm to participate in the culture wars has been a mistake.

    I’m not knocking them by the way – though that impression appears to have come across.

  61. myriad

    there are greens around the country who eschew being forced to choose between the often false dichotomy of left and right. Ultimately it’s a distraction from just having a robust discussion about meaningful issues. Like Labor Outsider, I’m a big fan of the nuance.

    I’ve never understood how Manne and Marr (and to a lesser extent Adams, largely because he seems as someone above said, content to throw potshots but not get sucked in) got somehow voted the official representatives of ‘the left’. It’s bollocks. Apart from Manne’s excellent work on the Stolen Generation et al., I find everything else he’s written so self conscious and self-referential back to obscure arguments about a bunch of old men and who belonged to what club it’s – well pathetic mainly. Henderson is the same, without the excellent work on anything that I can determine.

    It boggles my mind as a woman too that anyone with half a brain would take 3 older men as somehow spokespeople for anything. What, no women on the left then? The whole thing is utterly contrived.

    I’m not convinced that Wilson meant to write herself into this particular script, I think she just wanted to prick the bubble of pseudo-academics with no real basis for their attributed credibility having their views accepted as rote – and by default their main publishing platforms. But it may be that I’ve misunderstood her intent – it might help if she actually said more about it.

    It simply amazes me, looking at the drivel published in Quadrant, that anyone thinks its of a standard to seriously contribute to debate. It’s like a bunch of c-grade op-ed pages wrapped up and sold together. Counterpoint on RN does a far better job of getting credible right-leaning academics on to foster debate and alternate views. Maybe that was her point too, I don’t know.

    but I’m not convinced either that her being a journalist was necessarily pertinent to the prank she pulled.

  62. Mark

    Good points, myriad, and I couldn’t agree more about Quadrant.

    I think you’ve got an excellent point about Wilson’s status as a journalist. The reason why I added the link to the article quoting Jonathan Green was that I think he probably does have a point about how others in the journalism profession will view her in future if she wishes to continue too practice journalism as such, and that if he’s right, that does raise some questions worth considering.

  63. Martin B

    there are a lot of Queensland Greens who will tell you their politics are “beyond left and right”.

    There are also a lot of Queensland (and other) ALP politicians who will tell you that they are conservative, and very definitely not socialist in any way.

  64. Mark

    To be sure!

  65. myriad

    Yes it’s true Mark, what Green said -whether she intended her profession to be associated with this action of hers, it will be for sure.

    As to blogging vs journalism, to me the narrative goes like this:

    – back when journalists were actually funded to carry out investigations, they more often than not produced worthy articles that gathered together facts on an issue & event, and may have offered some opinion based on their investigation.

    as funding dwindled for real journalism, more and more journalists turned to op-ed writing, which in the past was left to people who actually had some qualification on the subject. but journalists have been forced by lack of funding I think to enter into this realm, and often here they fall flat on their face because they don’t have any more expertise than me or the next dude. Nor are they resourced to resrearch the matter, rather they sit in front of the computer and google like I do.

    On top of that, the well documented reliance on press-releases-as-news has overtaken real journalism ’cause it’s cheaper.

    Into this environment, bloggers are just as legitimate as journalists as op-ed writers, and frequently more knowledgeable if blogging from their field. Then there’s also the blogger tradition of something akin to investigative journalism. Heck the blogging left in the USA using just google has again and again shown how lazy and flat-out factually wrong the acceptance of press-releases-as-fact approach is.

    So I’m not convinced of the importance of the telephone, although I appreciate the point Jason makes about it. but frankly having read through his article, I’m not really sure what his point was on the blogger-vs journalist thing – that some bloggers are as sloppy as some journalists these days?

  66. Lefty E

    I suspect Jonathan and Margaret have inadvertantly created a wee bit of confusion by writing about what interests/ intrigues them in the hoax – which is fair enough: they are journalists, and as such, interested in these aspects.

    But it seems to have been overlooked that Katherine doesnt really consider herself a journalist at all. Rather a writer/editor, who sometimes publishes in newspapers. In fact, I cant recall her ever writing as a ‘straight’ journo in the 10 yeasrs I’ve known her. She writes reviews, has edited Overland, had a number of large investigative articles on a paid basis – more often for journals mags than papers.

    I certainly CAN see that there may be some issues with that for her as a writer, in a post-hoax environment. Granted – but she knew that. Im just pointing out that some strict examination of journalistic ethics etc wont be entirely relevant to her situation.

    Perhaps she can follow the path of other hoaxers before her and found a new journal, like, oh, I dunno, say…. Quadrant?

    That’s a key part of the poetry, in my view. There’s somehting of a tribute to the greatest hoax(er) of all in it.

    Except, of course, McCauley was a genuine iconoclast – whereas Windy: he’s just an ideologue.

  67. myriad

    yeah, I think you just nailed it for me at least Lefty.

  68. Ambigulous

    Another thing about Ern Malley’s patrons, still intrigues me.
    It is sometimes said that the Malley fiasco “set back modernist poetry in Australia for 10 years” (estimates vary). It’s usually said with regret. Well, well, well. I’d ask, if one prank could achieve that, how weak must “modernist verse” have been, really and truly?

    Just one prank.

    (Don’t die of jealousy, Jonathan Swift. Just buy MacCauley a beer, mate!)

    I can’t see the Quadrant imbroglio having much effect on anyone. And Sokal? Are the reference-checkers more assiduous in the editorial sections of US journals these days? Are their balderdash-antennae quivering more strongly??

  69. Ambigulous

    McAuley
    McAuley
    McAuley

    I must learn to fact-check.

  70. AC

    Paul Burns: The questions that historians need to answer are simple ones. The same questions an actor asks when preparing a role: why, what, who, when and how.

    Each of those questions pertains solely to ascertaining the facts with the exception of the first (why) which involves interpretation based on established facts and speculation on motive based (hopefully) on impartial logical deduction.

    One has to challenge those interpretations one disagrees with, after considering all the relevant evidence, and propose one’s own interpretations.

    Well done! Exactly! This is the point Windschuttle has been making.

    That’s ONE of the things one’s colleagues expect from good history. From what I could see, Winschuttle failed to do that.

    Then you clearly haven’t read his work. That is the point he has been making – regarding the failure of many highly politicised historians to do just that. This attempt to invert reality to point the accusation back at Windschuttle is really desperate.

    That’s one of the reasons his historiography on Aboriginals has been dismissed by his peers.

    No. Incorrect. The reason it has been dismissed is because he proved a failure on their part to draw conclusions based on actual evidence. It clearly stung many of them, and the fact he was right and their behaviour (on the record) was untenable explains why a historian, as cited in this thread, would choose to ignore his work rather than addressing it and refuting it, factually. Because he can’t.

    It’s obvious he’s caused a lot of pain to people who needed a match lit under them. That’s why some fool resorts to a lame hoax. Can’t address his actual work? Then why not try to embarrass him with a juvenile prank instead?

  71. Matilda

    Mark, in your opening comment to this thread, you opine on “liberals masquerading as the left”. I wouldn’t disagree with that but do you seriously believe that LP is an authentic voice of the “Australian left” when you carry ads for multinationals, high finance corps, etc?

  72. Adrien

    I don’t think David Marr and Robert Manne actually are “the Australian left” in any meaningful way, and I think it’s significant that Manne comes from a background as a cold warrior. What all this implies is that the targets and the terms of culture wars debates have always been both illusory and disconnected from political reality.

    Manne had his book of essays: Left, Right, Left which seemed to suggest that his place on the political spectrum had altered over time. There’s generally talk of shifts to the right, to the left and the rest. And the spectrum is different from country to country, time to time.
    .
    So if David Marr isn’t the left. If liberals masquerade as the left, then what actually is the left? What qualifies you, disqualifies you as part of the left? There’s a tendency to shrink from the definiton of terms into ‘it’s all meaningless’.
    .
    A tendency that is itself a tactic in the Cultural Wars.

  73. AC

    I suggest you read Nick Cohen’s book, “What’s Left?”

  74. Adrien

    I also think that this whole episode should demonstrate just how irrelevant and fundamentally pointless the culture wars are.

    Well you say that but, in furtherance to the point above, is that really where it’s at? Do you personally have a position in culture war issues like, say, whether there should be universal values underpinning Australian society and what they should be, or, the Henson thingie?
    .
    Let’s be old-fashioned structuralists for the minute. I think you can look at the Culture Wars and draw a series of oppositions. Some of these will be contradictory some will be genuine zones of conflict. For example the left will emphasize what is, I believe, an empirically demonstrable fact: the multiplicity of cultural regimes with contingent values and aesthetics which feature great variance over time and space. A challenge to any notion of a divinely ordained moral order. The right will stress the importance of universal values, that is they’ll carry on as if there is no challenge to this divinely ordained order except from the morally nefarious. Hence arguments viz ‘multiculturalism’.
    .
    In this arena part of the right dishonestly maintain that everyone who endorses multiculturalism refuses to make any judgements at all about the desirability of this or that culture so that a tribe that routinely mutilates the genitals of its girl-children is just as valid as a culture that promotes the sovereignty of an individual’s body and equality regardless of sex. This is inaccurate when describing the Australian left. However there are numerous instances of this very shoe fitting in Britain for example.
    .
    On the other hand there’s also the Science War which seem to resemble WWI with he scientists as Germany fighting on two fronts. In the states they battle the religious right over evolution. In the Anglosphere in general there’s a battle over the extent to which science is an ideological or cultural construct.
    .
    It’s here you have the crux of the issue because there are people on both sides of the Culture Wars who’re prepared to use scientific and mathematical language and prestige to back up very unscientific cases. Ann Coulter’s Godless attempts to portray Darwinian science as a cult and the Bible as the portal of all knowledge. On the other hand Quantum Mechanics, which almost no-one understands, is used as a basis for everything from whacky postmodern obscurities to ‘proof’ that there’s life after death!
    .
    I wager that the problem is the idea that truth is whatever you want it to be and that any dishonourable tactic of evasion, slander or distortion is acceptable as long as you score points. At its heart tho’ the so-called Culture Wars is a conflict ridden inquiry into value. And we need that inquiry into values post haste. Writing off these debates or the terms of them as irrelevant is not going to make them go away.

  75. Adrien

    AC – I suggest you read Nick Cohen’s book, “What’s Left?”
    .
    Not sure if you’re addressing me. But anyway, I have.

  76. Paul Burns

    AC,
    Maybe you should read Secret Wars. In it Roberts points out the uselessness of getting bogged down in statistics of body counts, instead of simply accepting the basic fact that numerous Aborigines were murdered by Europeans. You obviously haven’t read his book I have read Windschuttle. And not just his work on Aboriginal history. As another LP-er has remarked, he ignores evidence that doesn’t fit his thesis. Read Whitewash. There’s no point discussing this with you any more as I’ve exhausted everything I have to say on the matter.

    And to claim why is the only valid criterion a historian needs to apply is just so fallacious it’s laughable. You appear to have read no military history for starters – let alone political history. I could, for example, indulge you with numerous examples where all these criteria apply politically, militarily and indeed in social history, in my current field of study, the American Revolution and the American War of Independence, but I suspect it would be an utterly useless exercise.There are occasions when it is impossible to penentrate someone’s ignorance of historical practice. I suspect this is one of them.

  77. TimT

    Made the same mistake meself in a former thread Ambigulous.

    Having picked up a copy of Quadrant since the previous thread I have to say I quite enjoyed it. The best parts were mostly in the latter (arts/literature) half, which kind of suggests that Windy is just no good as an editor. (The incompetent set up of the Quadrant website would seem to suggest the same thing.)

    Maybe time for another coup d’etat unseating Windy and installing Les in his place?!?

  78. Adrien

    Last time I picked up Quadrant I read this review of Rock ‘n Roll which seemed to be mostly concerned with Stoppard being a conservative (apparently) and therefore hard done by in the world of the Arts. I found it very tedious. It reminds me of left-wing versions of the same thing where any and all culture bits are evaluated according to their agit-prop value.
    .
    Not only does it reduce Stoppard as a writer to a propagandist for Toryism, and I don’t think he an be properly described as a Tory, but you don’t actually get any sense of his plays. It’s like some social realist committee.

  79. TimT

    Review possibly by Michael Connor? I think he’s their theatre critic. He’s also their only blogger, and was presumably chosen for that task by Windy. His posts are boring, and worse – they don’t allow comments.

    Alison Croggon disliked Rock ‘N’Roll, one of the points she makes in passing being that it’s critical of communist regimes but not critical of the anarchy and disorder that occured post-Communism. Stoppard’s play is possibly one that allows of multiple political interpretations. I saw half of it myself, got bored with it, and caught the tram home. Interesting concept – but too worthy, and too long, by half.

  80. Mark

    Update: New post with more links around the ethical issues here.

  81. Nickws

    Labor Outsider, Mark, et al, I just realised that I didn’t make clear my own political beliefs–wavering, post-ideological, anti-groupthink.
    Like the late Robert Morley once said of himself, “I normally vote Labour but wouldn’t dream of trying to influence anyone else’s decision.”

    Though expressing your own worldview isn’t the same as categorising anyone (everyone?) else’s, is it?
    That’s why I’m far more comfortable with criticisms of the ‘collective media management Id’ throwing up Manne, Marr and the appalling Rightwing columnists, than I am with the surprisingly personal “Manne’s okay when he writes about the Abos, but geez, I’d wish he’d fuck off back to 1970″ views that many here seem to hold.
    But enough of this talk of one or two individuals sympathetic to people like us.

    Windschuttle. He said he’d be writing a series of books ‘debunking’ everything his feverish little mind thinks has been perverted in Oz historicism.
    So far he’s only got as far as White Australia (in which text he alleges the ‘good’ portions of the 1901 immigration act are the work of Free Traders & conservative Protectionists, while the nasty racist language of the era is all the fault of the Deakinites and Labor.)

    When’s his book about the Great War conscription debate coming out?
    I can’t wait to read about how he thinks Mannix, Chif, Calwell all should have been shot for treason.

  82. Mark

    Thanks for the clarification, Nickws.

    I guess another concern I have with Marr and Manne being seen as representatives of “the left” is that (a) they’re actually not representative in a political sense – ie accountable to a consituency and (b) most of the time they’re not arguing for a political position as such, merely taking a liberal stand on a particular issue. That’s very different from left politics, as I understand it – as a (perhaps now largely historical) practice. In Marr’s case, I’m not even sure his primary interests are political.

    I’ll repeat that I’m not seeking to diss them or what they do.

    @71 – Matilda – I don’t think a discussion of the ethics of advertising is necessarily what we should be doing on this post. But I would like to emphasise in response that I’m not making any counter-claim that LP is in some way representative of the left. My point is that there’s not much left left. To some degree that’s the collective fault of a lot of us who were involved in things like the left of the ALP and the New Labour Party in the late 80s and 90s, and I’d still like to see a revival of an overall focus on social justice that’s not limited to particular issues or identifications, and some of my work with groups like the Search Foundation tries to further that project (as does some of my writing).

    To some degree Labor Outsider may be right that we’re in a post-ideological space (certainly not a post-partisan one) – though that’s a fairly complex political and sociological argument I don’t want to go into here. But I do think that the social democratic tradition – combined with the best of anti-statist and liberal impulses – still does potentially have a lot to offer. To get from that statement of belief to something more real relies on long term (hopefully collective) endeavour, and part of that endeavour, it seems to me at least, has to be questioning too simplistic and stereotyped notions of what is “left”.

  83. AC

    Shorter Paul Burns: [puts fingers in ears] “Lah, lah, lah, I’m not listening, I can’t hear you.”

  84. Paul Burns

    AC @ 83,
    No, AC, Shorter Paul Burns is – You’re wrong, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, and I don’t think you’re worth bothering with.”

  85. Matilda

    Thanks for that Mark. I appreciate your eloquent reflections on the demise of the Left and the challenges in trying to build an authentic version for the 21st century. But I think a person’s or an organisation’s socio-political persuasion is gauged by the values adhered to – publicly and privately – more than by the ability to compose a persuasive argument steeped in intellectualism (that’s not intended as personal dig, more a general observation).

    So as LP is making pronouncements about where you/it believes various people lie on the left-liberal-conservative continuum, maybe it would be timely for LP to determine where it places itself on that continuum – particularly as while making those pronouncements you accept ads from corporate capitalists (some would label them corporate criminals!). Surely your position on the ethics of advertising reflects your personal value system which in turn feeds into your political persuasion. The only thing I’m not quite sure about is where the ‘you’ ends and the ‘LP’ starts.

    Perhaps you’d be more comfortable addressing this question in a new thread. Personally, I’m interested in teasing out this tension between personal values and public practice; the commitment made by those of us on the left to social justice values versus the trade-offs we’re forced to make in order to survive in a capitalist society.

    Nowhere is this tension (read hypocrisy) more overt than in the larger NGOs who will take government funds to do just about anything, whilst professing strong social justice values, appearing to reach out to the disadvantaged, the homeless, etc. The church-run welfare orgs are particularly, but not exclusively, guilty of happily sacrificing their professed principals in pursuance of the almighty dollar. If the corporatisied welfare/housing sector received the kind of forensic scrutiny on LP or generally in the blogosphere that is devoted to intellectual positions, as per (the earlier part of) this thread, a lot of stuff would come to light!

    So to bring this post back into the tone of the discussion, the absence of strong socialist-inclined lobby groups over the past 15 years has led to the socially and economically disadvantaged being ground further into the dust. That – along with the decline of health, housing and other public services – is surely more a more important outcome than arguing over the entrails of Robert Manne’s political oscillations.

    Finally, I can see why no other LP readers are bothered by the corporate ads. The kind of behaviour I’ve described above from NGOs has come to be par for the course. In our superficial, impoverished culture it’s okay to profess one set of beliefs whilst openly practising another. It’s now acceptable for social justice and human rights to be reduced to empty sloganeering. Think of how the global ‘make poverty history’ campaign amounted to wearing armbands! There’s a whole homelessness industry out there getting rich out of doing anything and everything for the homeless EXCEPT finding houses for them.

    So I just think that while intellectual theorising nourishes the mind, it doesn’t feed the soul the way that authentic behaviour does – if it becomes one’s primary preoccupation it obscures the need for integrity.

  86. Mark

    Matilda, I think you’re making some reasonable and strong points, but I agree they’re perhaps not best addressed on this thread.

  87. AC

    Okay, Paul. You keep on believing what fits your consensus reality. Keith sure seems to cut some folks deeply. Like this:

    In it Roberts points out the uselessness of getting bogged down in statistics of body counts, instead of simply accepting the basic fact that numerous Aborigines were murdered by Europeans.

    The numbers actually count, Paul. They affect the way events can be accurately assessed and characterised. Your language betrays your agenda. “simply accepting the basic fact” How can it be a basic fact if you aren’t interested in the actual facts? That approach to history is a joke, and that is what Windschuttle is fighting, as painful as it may be to those in denial.

    “simply accepting the basic fact”

    LOL. Well… one thing is accurate – your approach to academic rigour is “simple”.

  88. Mark

    AC, please stop personalising the issue.

  89. Adrien

    Matilda – So to bring this post back into the tone of the discussion, the absence of strong socialist-inclined lobby groups over the past 15 years has led to the socially and economically disadvantaged being ground further into the dust.
    .
    There’s a certain correlation between neoliberal policies and the emergence of an ‘underclass’. At the end of Margaret Thatcher’s rein I believe UK home ownership had jumped to 70%. However as (I think it was) John Gray observed 20% of UK citizens lived in houses where no-one had a job! So 7/10 Brits got a better deal under neoliberalism (arguably) and 1 out of 5 of them were relegated to the bin.
    .
    There’s something similar in Australia. I don’t have stats. But it’s obvious on the street that there’s heaps of unprecedented affluence juxtaposed to the, not so long ago, unthinkable spectacle of massive destitution.
    .
    But I don’t think it’s a mater of a lack of strong socialist voices alone at least. The Keynsian wave snuffed it in the 70s. It did so because the policies associated with it, which can’t really be entirely attributed to Keynes, brought about a mire to which neoliberalism provided some antidote. Comcomitant with this is, what is called the Left’s drift away from socialism in the 60s toward sexual politics etc. This New Left was increasingly alienated from the Old Left of strictly Marxist varieties with a lot of old fuddies still clinging to the notion that the Soviet Union would graduate from its dictatorship phase. Despite what many of these latter say, the anti-liberal, authoritarian and downright entrenched conservative mindset of traditional socialists still obtains. Some of the scariest people I’ve ever met are ALP Left union hacks. Truly.
    .
    What really impresses me about this lot however is the conservatism. The refusal to acknowledge the great difficulties with centralized planning and regulation for example. Or the corruption and bureaucratic self-preservation in trades unions. The mere fact that certain things just didn’t work.

  90. Paul Burns

    Thanks, Mark, the whole debate was getting quite tiresome and I have no more to say on it. Except:
    Long live Von Daniken!

  91. AC

    You’re right, Mark. I should have left the last sentence off. The rest, however, is accurate and fair.

    Long may ratiocination triumph over relativism!

  92. David Irving (no relation)

    AC, you should’ve quit while you were behind …