You know it’s a full-time job keeping up with Keith Windschuttle — or the several people writing under that name, and offering completely contradictory accounts of history.
Following Tuesday’s account of Komrade Keith’s attempt to argue that Aboriginal child removal in the 1930s was based purely on welfare considerations — and the documentary refutation of this by the makers of Rabbit-Proof Fence — a friend writes to remind me that Keith himself had earlier believed that child removal was a deliberate attempt to “breed out the colour”.
When? The 1970s, when he was advocating Aboriginal peasant revolution? No, 2008. Here’s Keith, from an obscure publication called The Australian:
In Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the two greatest villains in this story were A.O. Neville and Cecil “Mick” Cook. Both publicly endorsed a program to “breed out the colour” with the ultimate aim of biologically absorbing the Aboriginal people into the white population.
This was an obnoxious policy that well deserved Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Neville as a fastidious, obsessive bureaucrat in the film Rabbit-Proof Fence.
Robert Manne has covered this in a piece for The Monthly last year, but Windschuttle’s recent turnaround marks a new personal best in the Windschuttle Speed.
Windschuttle Speed is a ratio consisting of the degree of turnaround in a political position divided by the number of years over which it occurs, thus Keith’s belief in peasant revolution, superseded by a belief in the Christian nature of the British Empire, has a numerator of 1 (total turnaround) divided by 22 years has a Windschuttle speed of 1/22, or 0.045 approximately.
Windschuttle’s views on 1930s eugenics thus has a Windschuttle Speed of 1, a 1:1 ratio — and Keith seems hell-bent on crossing that line as soon as possible. Technically, there is no limit to Windschuttle Speed — indeed the Windschuttle Shear (the acceleration of Windschuttle Speed) of WS1/0.045 x 22/1 (being the current W.Speed over past W.Speed multiplied by the division of the time periods in question) of approximately 484, suggests that Windschuttle will be completely changing his position three times over every two days by the end of 2010.
Why did Komrade Keef so cavalierly go from endorsing Rabbit-Proof Fence to damning it now? The answer lies earlier in his 2008 article:
It is also worth observing that by apologising, the Rudd Government will go a long way towards demolishing one of the Labor Party’s strongest calls on loyalty: its sense that it alone offers a historical progression towards “the light on the hill”. One thing the university historians who first established this story kept largely to themselves was that the major pieces of relevant legislation were all passed by Labor governments.
In NSW, the 1915 Aborigines Protection Amending Act, which allowed the Aborigines Protection Board to remove children without recourse to a hearing before a magistrate, was the work of the first Labor government in the state headed by James McGowen and W.A. Holman. The Act’s 1943 amendment, which allowed Aboriginal children to be fostered out to non-indigenous families, was introduced by the Labor government of William McKell, one of his party’s favourite sons who later served as governor-general.
In Western Australia, the 1936 Act that historians claim allowed A.O. Neville to implement his policy of “breeding out the colour” was the product of the Labor governments of Phillip Collier and John C. Willcock. By apologising, Kevin Rudd and his colleagues will be effectively trashing the reputations of their party’s predecessors.
The article was written at the time of the Rudd government’s apology. Windschuttle had earlier written a book on the White Australia Policy, which attempted to portray the policy as purely a Labor invention, and to paint liberals as proud opponents of Labor’s racism — a ludicrous claim given the general passion, from Deakin on down, with which the notion of a white Australia was held.
So the article was nothing other than a feeble attempt to give a swift kick to Labor at a time when its power was total, and give the coalition a bit of a boost. To do that, Keef needed to boost the eugenics side of the story. Now he needs to talk it down. Truth becomes subject to politics.
Well that’s Keef and all the other right Maoists — Pearson, Christopher and Piers Akerman — who simply adapt Mao’s thoughts on the relationship between politics and knowledge in his essay “on Contradiction” to the service of racial politics, climate change etc. Windschuttle’s reputation, steadily falling these past years as his Wiindschuttle Shear rises, must be close to zero by now. He has nothing to lose.
But this latest fiasco makes one wonder just what is going on at Australian Spectator. Writers change their minds over time, but to publish a writer saying the exact opposite of what he said a year ago — and then to have it easily demolished — suggests lack of concern with consistent argument, based on facts. For people who whinge about postmodernism etc, the right seem to have a Nietzschean view of the matter — “there are no facts, only interpretations of interpretations”. How can this happen?
Furthermore, Australian Spectator know about Windschuttle’s sloppiness. In 2005, The Australian’s op-ed section published an article by Keef damning the organisers of a Sydney Uni conference, which had invited the Italian radical academic Antonio Negri to speak. Negri had been involved in some of the fairly seamy far left politics of late 1970s Italy — and falsely charged with being a member of the Red Brigades, and convicted in absentia. Today everyone accepts that the Red Brigade charge was a stitch-up, but Keef launched a lead op-ed article to demand that this man be barred from entering Australia — despite the fact that during the same period, Windschuttle himself was advocating violent revolution in Australia.
In true Windschuttle fashion, the piece included an unattributed chunk of material by an article of Roger Kimball’s in the New Criterion, but all this was moot due to the fact that Negri had already withdrawn from the conference (easily checkable on the conference’s website), and the article was a waste of space.
Western Maoism collapsed as a political movement at least in part because its subordination of truth to politics not only made a clear reading of reality impossible, but also because it eventually drove its initial supporters out of politics altogether, in frustration and disgust.
Today, that’s happening to the Right. Windschuttle is now an official punchline, but witness also the embarrassment of Ian Plimer’s chaotic implosion on Lateline this week. And what’s happened to the Australian’s “What’s Right” series? After an ideas-free kickoff by Peter Coleman, the rest has been silence (at least online).
Sooner or later they will have to cut out this crap and do some real work in fashioning a post-Howard liberal-conservatism — as David Cameron has done with the Tories in the UK. In the meantime, enjoy the shear pleasure of the dancing Keith Windschuttle’s chorus.