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February 11th 2009 print

Michael Connor

Academic Left vs. Left academic

During 2008 there was a bloody prize-fight between Left and Left over the ghastly remains of Wilfred Burchett. Robert Manne said he smelt bad, others on the Left said he was perfumed like a red saint.

During 2008 there was a bloody campus prize-fight between Left and Left over the ghastly remains of Wilfred Burchett. Robert Manne said he smelt bad, others on the Left said he was perfumed like a red saint.

Remember when the Australian Public Intellectual Network (this is not a satire) voted Robert Manne Australia’s Top Australian Public Intellectual (this is not a satire)? When the Left turned on Manne they did so in terms chosen to undermine his intellectual authority and question his professionalism:

It illustrates Manne’s tendency to consider selectively other scholars’ research and his penchant for redefining the terms of an argument to suit his current agenda.

Wash those criticisms over his book Whitewash, his “stolen generations” arguments, and much of his writings on Aboriginal politics. Observe how little remains, then wonder at the cowardice of the Left for not pointing out these truths before.

As their teeth sank into poor Robert the arguments of his Left critics were cloaked in nauseating and unbelievable Left-speak moral platitudes:

We believe that advances in the cause of human rights will come more easily without dividing scholars into ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, or into ‘pro-Burchett’ or ‘anti-Burchett’ parties.

In September Quadrant Patrick Morgan reviewed Tibor Meray’s fine book on Burchett which had caused the Left vs. Left ruckus. Morgan made a pertinent observation:

Meray points out a fact I had never realised. There was something equally important to Burchett as communism, and that was himself.

Take that thought, apply it to the Left, and you come closer to understanding the reality behind glittering careers based on self-advertised virtue and goodness.  

Postscript:     Those who left teeth marks in Robert Manne were -

Tom Heenan, Lecturer, National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University;

Ben Kiernan, Whitney Griswold Professor of History, Yale University;

Greg Lockhart, Sydney writer;

Stuart Macintyre, Ernest Scott Professor of History, University of Melbourne;

Gavan McCormack, emeritus professor, Australian National University.