In a recent edition of The Monthly, Russell Marks looks at Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu and concedes that Pascoe ‘regularly exaggerates and embellishes’. Here is his example:
But throughout Dark Emu, Pascoe regularly exaggerates and embellishes. One example: he quotes Thomas Mitchell’s description of large, circular, chimneyed huts Mitchell observed near Mount Arapiles, in western Victoria, on July 26, 1836, but leaves out the words “which were of a very different construction from those of the aborigines in general”. Pascoe adds his own commentary: Mitchell “recorded his astonishment at the size of the villages”; he “counts the houses, and estimates a population of over one thousand”; and “the evidence is everywhere that they have used the place for a very long time”. But in his own journal, Mitchell doesn’t express astonishment, he doesn’t count and he doesn’t estimate a population size. Nor does he present any evidence that would support a conclusion about longevity of residence.
Granville Stapylton, Mitchell’s second-in-command, recorded seeing one hut “capable of containing at least 40 persons and of very superior construction” on July 26. Pascoe includes this, but not the rest of Stapylton’s sentence:
“…and appearantly the work of A White Man it is A known fact that A runaway Convict has been for years amongst these tribes.”
That could be a reference to the well-known escapee William Buckley (who was found by John Batman the previous July), or it could be a racist myth. The point is that Pascoe simply left it out.
By themselves, examples like these split hairs. But they’re all the way through Dark Emu. Together, such selective quoting creates an impression of societies with a sturdiness, permanence, sedentarism and technical sophistication that’s not supported by the source material.
In speeches and interviews Pascoe is known to reach even further. And far too often Pascoe relies on secondary sources, including those obviously pushing ideological barrows.
Marks goes on to say:
My observations here will no doubt be seized upon with glee by Bolt, O’Brien and co as further proof of their accusations against Pascoe. It may even be seized upon by those instinctively defending Pascoe’s reputation as evidence that I’ve gone to the dark side.
Anyone who has read Bitter Harvest will recognize immediately that Marks has absorbed my book. It is also an example of Pascoe’s multitudinous ‘exaggerations and embellishments’ that Andrew Bolt and myself have already pointed out in various opinion pieces. So I am hardly likely to ‘seize upon his observation with glee as further proof’ since it is already well known to me.
But congratulations nevertheless, Mr Marks, for coming as close as a member in good standing with the tribe of the Left has done in rating Pascoe and his book highly suspect commodities.
Alas, that the same cannot be said for the ABC, which steadfastly refuses even to acknowledge Bitter Harvest‘s existence, even as it puts taxpayer dollars and its national broadcaster’s imprimatur into a TV series based upon what is, essentially, a ludicrous work of fancy, fake “facts” fiction.