Like a brick thrown into a pond, the Quadrant hoax continues to send ripples encompassing a widening circle of intellectual Australia.

The Quadrant site now carries strongly worded attacks on a number of those who have criticized it over the last week, including the academic and writer Dr Kerryn Goldsworthy, journalist David Marr and the editor of The Monthly, Sally Warhaft.

Goldsworthy, who blogs under the name Pavlov’s Cat, was critical of Quadrant’s masculine tone on the blog Larvatus Prodeo last week. For that she earned this spray on the Quadrant site from Michael Connor. Goldsworthy is described by Connor as:

A good representation of the cultural gatekeepers who keep the culture dismally PC and utterly Left … When she cut loose about Quadrant her attitudes and frozen in time prejudices captured the platitudes of the Left establishment she belongs to and writes for and provided a good example of the Left totalitarianism which will not allow any dissent to be voiced.

Goldsworthy has responded in the comments section of this post on Larvatus Prodeo with the following words:

I don’t mind being identified as someone who thinks that what little she’s seen of Connor’s writing (nowhere apart from Quadrant itself) is ridiculous and indeed this latest effort lavishly further demonstrates my point … I hope Mark [Bahnisch] will forgive me correcting a few of its more egregious inaccuracies here. Yet again, Windschuttle has been the editorial proprietor of something full of mistakes.

But she also retracted earlier comments alleging that Quadrant did not often accept submissions by women.

About that, I was clearly wrong — and I retract.

In one of the most pointed pieces of commentary during the hoax affair John Quiggin widens the critique of Windschuttle to suggest that the real “hoax” is his unfulfilled promise to publish Volume II of The Fabrication of Australian History, which was to focus on Queensland and Western Australia. Says Quiggin:

Since Queensland in particular was the focus of Henry Reynolds’ main work, and since the evidence of numerous massacres seems incontrovertible, this promised volume was central to Windschuttle’s claims of fabrication. The promise was repeated year after year, but no Volume 2 ever appeared, and the “research” supposedly already undertaken has stayed out of sight. Then in February 2008, Windschuttle published extracts from a Volume 2, promised for publication “later this year”, but now on a totally different topic, that of the Stolen Generation. His target this time was Peter Read, an eminent historian who’s done a lot of practical work reuniting Aboriginal children with their birth families. It’s 2009, the promised volume hasn’t appeared, and there hasn’t been any reference to it on Windschuttle’s site for some time.

Larvatus Prodeo’s Mark Bahnisch, meanwhile, has published a new post reflecting on Quadrant and the wash-up from the hoax. Bahnisch suggests the hoaxer, Katherine Wilson, should have left Quadrant to itself, but has in fact managed to rescue it from irrelevance:

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.

Other commentators on this post include Andrew Norton, research fellow at the Centre of Independent Studies, who suggests the hoax shows the magazine lacks quality control. Norton says:

I hope the lesson Quadrant draws from this is that they are better off publishing fewer but higher average quality articles. Windschuttle expanded each issue from 96 to 128 pages, but there is not the material to justify it. The Gould/Wilson piece should have been rejected on quality of writing grounds even if it did have valid points to make.

On his own blog, Norton recounts his history of blog disputes with the hoaxer, Katherine Wilson,

The hoax affair also seems to me to fit with Wilson’s modus operandi. She isn’t much interested in debating the substance of issues with people on the right. Her aim is to discredit them on other grounds.

Norton suggests that the hoax misfired — or was practiced on the wrong magazine. A hoax about genetic modification would have been more appropriate if targeted at the Institute of Public Affairs magazine, IPA Review, he says.

Meanwhile in the mainstream media, David Marr had this spray at Quadrant in the Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend — and Quadrant has returned fire on its site with this bit of, er, wit, as well as this response that ropes Morrie Schwartz’s Black Inc, his magazine The Monthly and its editor Sally Warhaft into the ruckus.

Michael Connor suggests that Marr and Warhaft’s criticism of Quadrant is motivated by the fact that Quadrant has been critical of them in the past.

Round and round we go.

Back with the mainstream media, in today’s Australian the author and poet Hal Colebatch — who is also a Quadrant contributor — argues that the hoax is not a patch on hoaxes past, such as Ern Malley and Sokal, but:

Makes no point except the rather obvious one that small magazines depend to some extent on trust and cannot employ exhaustive fact checkers. It is simply squalid and nasty in a petty, Smeagol-like way. Hardly a coup to boast about. It is a feat of derring-do on about the level of stealing books from libraries on busy days.

Meanwhile Graham Young at Online Opinion has a thoughtful and non-partisan piece that teases out some threads about the nature of public debate, including online and blogs.

And the affair has also made the UK Independent newspaper.

Finally, the Quadrant site still carries this post by Windschuttle strongly suggesting that I constructed the hoax, and this later one, alleging that the hoax was the doing of “a team” associated with Crikey and me. Both allegations are false.

The way in which the story about the hoax came to me and to Crikey was detailed last week here and on my Content Makers blog here, where I invite debate.

More debate, and information, about the whole thing is in this more recent post on my blog, and in the comments thread.

Peter Fray

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