Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Australian cultural warrior Keith Windschuttle, currently editor of the formerly Cold-War conservative journal Quadrant (but of late key cultural organ of Neocon-Neoliberals), has been one of the more prominent power intellectuals of the past 12 years in Australia. He waged a concerted war against New Historicist influences on Australian history and ran a News Ltd-backed campaign against historians of Aboriginal history, who he claimed -- in some cases with justification -- had falsified mortality figures and exaggerated such figures thereby working up a genocide when none had existed. Windschuttle's key counter-claim was that white settler intentions in Tasmania -- the written archive of which he based his meta-historiograhpic study on -- were good: there was not explicit record in the settlement archives of a systematic plan to 'remove' Tasmanian Aborigines. The (Australian) history wars are ongoing, with events today opening up a small front. But I'll come to today's events in a moment.

Windschuttle's postivist, mean-spirited exercise in forensic whitewashing linked into a similar ethos and policy orientation during the Howard government (1996-2007) and captured a key aspect of the national mood during the Australian sequence of the culture wars which reactionary populist politician Pauline Hanson did much to ignite. Windschuttle's success in the culture wars can be seen as being rewarded by appointment to the board of the national Broadcaster, and as editor of Quadrant.

Quadrant was once edited by the conservative poet-academic James McAuley, who with Harold Stewart perpetrated Australia's most notorious literary hoax -the Ern Malley Hoax - where they sent bricolage-style poems, aping what they saw as the worst elements of modernist poetry, to a journal sympathetic to modernist art -- Angry Penguins -- and invented a poet to authenticate the ruse. The journal published the poems, considered by some to be examples of post-modern pastiche, and was hauled into court over obscenity charges. The sour taste that the scandal left in Australian culture did much to diminish the post-war reception of modernist art in Australia.

So, there is some symmetry to discover today that a hoax of sorts has been conducted through Quadrant, with Windschuttle the target. Admittedly this hoax -- involving an article on the political correctness, in left-wing areas of the media, preventing acceptance of mixing human and plant genes in the furtherance of food production -- has little sting compared to the Ern Malley one, but Windschuttle's hyper-forensic standards have been shown up as ideologically compromised ones.

The black swan has trespassed. Again.

Durer: Innsbruck, 1495 - Ern Malley. (remixed)

*** Breaking news - Identity of hoaxer revealed by Crikey cartoonist, First Dog on the Moon (also scroll over the eliminated short-list of 'Sharon Goulds') *** More seriously, there is a growing blogosphere consensus emerging over the hoaxer's id.

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