Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Windschuttle: to Australian historians, Churchill an "inspiration"

In a lecture titled, "The Struggle for Australian Values in an Age of Deceit," published in the January issue of the Australian review Quandrant, Aussie debunker of bogus history (and historians) Keith Windschuttle fingers Ward Churchill as a prime influence on the country's academic left. He explains:

For almost twenty years, certainly since the Bicentenary of 1988, Australian intellectuals have been part of a worldwide movement to disparage the nation-state and transfer its key functions to international organisations. This movement is based on two premises: that the nation-state is a racist warlike institution that is now an impediment to world harmony, and that economic globalisation has already rendered much of the role of the traditional nation redundant.

In academic history, the most commonly cited view about nations today is that they are, in Benedict Anderson’s phrase, “imagined communities”. That is, they are essentially artificial institutions held together by stories and myths. Nation building, according to the postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha, is a matter of “narrating the nation”.

Damn, the old narrative that everything's a narrative ploy. But, like Johnson fetching that famous rock a kick with his oddly shaped but philsophically acute foot, Windschuttle counterargues:

Now, most of this is postmodernist cant. Far from being artificial, nations are very real things. They are political structures and centres of authority. They are also economic communities of mutual dependence, and institutions for the defence of those within from usurpers without. Nonetheless, it remains true that historical narratives are important to them because of their ability to generate loyalty through stories about their origins and achievements. This is especially so of democracies, which can only defend themselves properly if they remain secure in their own identity and values and know what they are fighting for.

So there is an important truth to the idea that the way to undermine a nation is to challenge its central narrative, its history. That is why for the past thirty years left-wing academics have waged a concerted campaign to re-write the histories of their own countries, especially the histories of the settler societies of the Americas and the Pacific.

Cue the Genocide Kid!
Today, academic historians routinely accuse all these countries of committing genocide against their indigenous peoples. The American academic Ward Churchill argues that all the European settler-colonies established in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina were inherently genocidal in their very foundation.

Churchill’s work is widely quoted today by Australian historians in attempts to make the same case about the impact of colonialism on the Aborigines. In 2001, the editors of a special “genocide” edition of the journal Aboriginal History, Anne Curthoys and John Docker, declared the project owed its inspiration to Churchill’s work on the Americas.

The special genocide edition. Bet it flew off the stands, too (at least at the kind of places Australian historians tend to congregate). But Windschuttle notes a peculiar thing about Churchill's scholarship:
In May 2006 . . . a panel of his peers at the University of Colorado found Churchill guilty of academic fraud. He had engaged in falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, failure to comply with established standards, serious deviation from accepted research practices and had even been disrespectful of Indian oral traditions . . . .
Not exactly breaking news on either side of the quagmire, actually. Another non-surprise: Australian academics are reacting just like their American counterparts:

[I]f my experience over the past six years of exposing similar offences in the history of Australian Aborigines is any guide, none of this will affect the credibility within academia of any of his historical conclusions, which Churchill’s followers will continue to quote as reliable guides to the past.

Forever, and ever, and ever. Just like in the U.S. Windschuttle perorates along:

The reasons why so many Australians today want to think so badly of their own country are hard to pin down. . . . But it is clear that, for the past thirty years, the Evangelical Left has bloated itself on such a diet of myth, propaganda and atrocity stories about Australian history, about our role in the contemporary world, and especially about our chief ally and best friend, the United States, that it no longer believes in or cares about objective truth.

Clearly a poodle of the Americans, just like his paymaster, PM John HoWARd. Read the rest, anyway.

Update: Wonder if Windschuttle is close to completing the second volume of his The Fabrication of Aboriginal History? The first, Van Diemen's Land: 1803-1847, came out back in 2002, and it doesn't seem like he's been writing a whole lot otherwise.

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