Dear Keith Windschuttle
ozleft at optushome.com.au
Sun Sep 7 19:31:54 MDT 2003
By Bob Gould
Windschuttle's Chomsky article is of a piece with his general rewinding of
his own psyche. Who knows, he may eventually get back to childhood.
In his most seriously left-wing political period, as a confident young
veteran of tabloid journalism in his mid-twenties, he edited the Sydney
University student paper Honi Soit in a vintage year in the 1960s, and a
little later he was one of the editors of The Old Mole.
His journalism helped introduce to a provincial Australian audience key
pieces from the New York Book Review, and he helped to introduce to an
Australian audience, Chomsky's seminal political book, American Power and
the New Mandarins.
This does not sit very well with the picture of himself at that period that
he now gives. Windschuttle now suggests that he was a naive young Stalinist
at the time, but in fact he was a good deal better than that. The overseas
influences that he helped introduce into Australian intellectual life
included much better things than naive Stalinism.
It's those things he is now slandering in his attack on Chomsky. See my Open
Letter http://members.optushome.com.au/spainter/Windschuttle.html for
further elaboration on this point.
As an old associate and contemporary of Windschuttle I organised a debate
between him and John Docker on the subject of postmodernism in the central
area of my shop in 1996.
Windschuttle's criticism of postmodernism was more than half correct (again
see my Open Letter) but in retrospect that was an intermediate stage in a
shift to the far right.
Windschuttle is not alone in this shift in Australia. Several of the
intellectual leaders of Maoism and New Leftism, Albert Langer, Barry York,
Doug Kirsner, and others, have also shifted dramatically to the right.
Perhaps it would be interesting for Humphrey McQueen to challenge them to a
debate, as they were his old associates, just as Windschuttle was an old
associate of mine.
In a similar vein, a few years ago I organised another public debate on the
Aboriginal history question. I called in all kinds of old cultural and
social connections to set up a public debate in my shop on Aboriginal
Setting up a public debate on this topic is not easy because, in particular,
the conservatives whinge that they tend to be shouted down by the leftists.
But the fact that Paddy McGuinness (Sydney Morning Herald columnist),
Windschuttle and myself are all known to each other -- despite the fact that
McGuinness and I are old enemies, even from the long-past days when
McGuinness presented himself as a leftist anarchist -- these old connections
made the debate just possible.
McGuinness and Windschuttle found it acceptable to have Hall Greenland as
chair. Even though Hall is firmly on the left, he is also an old
acquaintance of theirs.
In the event, about 400 people jammed into my shop, the speakers spoke from
the mezzanine level, there was extensive discussion, and the whole event
went on for three and a half hours.
The two defenders of the view that there were massacres of Aboriginal people
at the core of Australian historical development were Professor Henry
Reynolds, the foremost historian of the question, and myself. On the other
side were McGuinness and Windschuttle. My contribution was to do a very
thorough overview of the historical material in popular Australiana, often
from eyewitnesses or participants, which document the massacres that the
Windschuttle-McGuinness denialists now contest.
This debate was the first attempt to puncture the hysterical momentum that
the denialists had been given by the overwhelming support for their views in
the Australian bourgeois press. Subsequently there have been a number of
I still have a video of that first debate.
I subsequently worked up my contribution, including much additional
material, into a 30,000-word overview and bibliography of Australian
contemporary and historical literature about massacres of Aborigines.
Unfortunately this is not yet on the web, but a hard-copy version printed in
Labor Review, the magazine of the Melbourne Labor College, is available from
Ozleft. Send us an email ozleft at yahoo.com.au and we'll send it to you.
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