Bennelong Papers

Pascoe’s Enablers Flog a Dead Emu

It seems the issue of Bruce Pascoe’s aboriginality is not quite so settled as we might have thought a week or so ago.  It is unclear if he is the target of a recent call by activists Stephen Hagan and Ann Weldon for more stringent scrutiny of claims of aboriginality, but given the level of support he has among influential figures of the Left, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, I think he is unlikely to be held to account. There is little chance, in other words, of the ABC/Screen Australia’s  two-hour twin-episode adaption of Dark Emu being dropped.

Order your copy of Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest here

That Pascoe continues to benefit from his notional Aboriginal heritage  owes much to Indigenous activist Professor Marcia Langton, who is heavily invested in Dark Emu, having declared it “the most important book in Australia which should be read by everyone”.  She has also stated that Pascoe’s “sources are correct”.  In a recent article in Quadrant Online, I provided two examples were this claim is quite clearly false.  I also provided another example of what Russell Marks has described as Pascoe’s  ‘embellishment and exaggeration’.  I reproduce that example here.

Page 98 of Dark Emu describes an encounter by Charles Sturt with a large number of natives who showed him some hospitality.  The section of interest is a footnote to the description of that incident:

Peter Gebhardt, poet, and Michael Perry, engineer, volunteered to read the journals with a view to examining the roast duck and cake story. Part of the test was to sort out Sturt’s longitudes and latitudes because he didn’t record them every day. We are confident, however, that the incident described above occurred on 3-4 November 1845 just north-east of today’s Innamincka at a latitude of 127 degrees 47 minutes south and a longitude of 141 degrees 51 minutes east.

The analytical skills of his recruits must be quite exceptional for them to be able to pinpoint Sturt’s location to within a minute of latitude and longitude. Unfortunately, their confidence regarding the location of this incident is quite misplaced, since a latitude of 127 degrees south would put Sturt considerably south of the South Pole, if that were possible.  Obviously a typo – and we can excuse that – but not, I think, the deliberate deception that Pascoe is perpetrating here, since, on 2nd November, Sturt, himself, notes ‘Our latitude here, by an altitude of Jupiter, was 27 degrees 47 minutes S.; our longitude by account 141 degrees 51 minutes E’.  His journal also records that the incident took place on the 3-4 November, as anyone who had actually read the journals would know. These details can be verified on pages 70 and 71 of Sturt’s Narrative of an Expedition into Central Australia.  Put another way, there is no way that Pascoe’s researchers could not have stumbled upon the fact that Sturt had done their work for them.

Why Pascoe would include this deception eludes me since it adds nothing to his essential premise. The significance of this example, and the reason I included it here, is that it shows that Pascoe will lie even when he doesn’t have to, just for the hell of it.  And advocates like Marcia Langton swallow it hook line and sinker.  Or do they?

Judging by her recent form, Langton, for one, is quite as deft as Pascoe at dissembling, albeit somewhat more subtly. Below, from a recent edition of The Australian, Langton holds forth on the topic of the High Court’s recent decision bestowing a special status on ‘indigenous’ people:

Moreover, the great fear of many Aboriginal people who directly bear the burden of our terrible history is the recent proposal to Home affairs Minister Peter Dutton for a registry.  This would be the worst instance of racial profiling and establish the bounds for a race-based purge of Aboriginal people.

Now pay attention to her choice of words. Langton makes a point to note the proposal was made to Peter Dutton – convenient bete noire of the Left – but neglects to say by whom the proposal was made – surely a pertinent detail. Anyone not been following the Pascoe saga would not know that the proposal was made by Aboriginal activist Josephine Cashman, which puts a rather different complexion on the matter.  As far as I am aware, Dutton has made no comment whatsoever on this proposal but Langton’s clear intention is imply that he is in collusion with ‘racist’ elements within the body politic.

And, by the way, it is hard to imagine how any form of Aboriginal sovereignty or a ‘Voice to Parliament’, both of which which Langton supports, could be sustained without some form of register to establish just who amongst modern Australians qualifies as indigenous and is thus allowed to vote. Is one great-grandparent enough? Does a big, bushy elder-style beard, a la Pascoe, get you over the racial line?

Then there is Langton’s vague — no, let us not mince words — her inane suggestion that such a register could be used to ‘purge’ Aboriginal people. Whatever does that mean?  From what does she imagine they will be purged and by whom?

I suspect Langton is well aware that Dark Emu is a farrago of lies, half-truths and misrepresentations but it suits her political purposes to have a text in our schools that exults Aboriginal achievement beyond reality but, more importantly, fosters a sense of guilt among susceptible white readers and an enhanced sense of grievance among suggestible Aboriginals. Dark Emu does all of that on the trot.

Dark Emu is propaganda.  It is not history and should not be allowed anywhere near our schools in that or any other guise.

  • March

    Peter your in-depth knowledge of Pascoe’s misrepresentations required to point by point dismantle this propaganda piece on ABC…

  • Stephen Due

    This is the kind of inanity that Pascoe’s supporters on the ABC are serving up to Australian school children:
    “Pascoe explains Indigenous agricultural practices such as rope making, the use of stone tools, and using indigenous plants and grasses. Knowledge of these past practices, Pascoe insists, are crucial to the agricultural future of our nation, as we learn how indigenous crops will help us farm in a more sustainable future.”

  • L Louis

    Les Louis 7 March 2020
    Professor Langton’s statement is an example of the prevailing practice of obfuscation for political purposes. Activists and ignorant do-gooders have rendered rational, evidence-based argument impossible by exploiting the category of “indigenous”, which indiscriminately lumps together Aborigines and people of aboriginal descent, however tenuous. Living in totally different worlds, Aborigines in remote Australia have little, if anything, in common with self identified “indigenous” urban professionals with distant Aboriginal forebears.

  • Peter Smith

    I have been wondering lately what use I am. Now I believe I must hang around long enough to allow my grandchildren to grow old enough to, in turn, allow me to suggest to them that they should think for themselves. Their reaction might be a test of how effective has been/is the propoganda. I believe that searching for truth is so embedded in our nature that it will find a way through the minds of most or at least the minds of many.

  • L Louis

    L Louis- 7 March 2020
    Although Dark Emu has been demolished as a deceitful travesty by Peter O’Brien in Bitter Harvest, it is being introduced into schools, and is being accepted as a work of scholarship by museums. All universities have Indigenous Studies courses, for which Dark Emu is a ready made text.
    Even more ominous developments appear to be in train. The University of Melbourne has announced that it will invest at least $6 million to launch an Indigenous Knowledge Institute for world-leading Aboriginal knowledge, research and education.
    The University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) Professor Shaun Ewen said: “Only when Australian Indigenous knowledges, perspectives and experiences are centred at the University of Melbourne can it meaningfully recognise its place and begin to fulfil its aspiration to be a truly great Australian University for the world.” The Indigenous Studies course at the Uni of Tasmania (which was a genuine course) has been closed down, and instead, “From 2020, all degrees in the university’s College of Arts, Law, and Education will include Indigenous content”.
    Virtue signalling is common practice, but are we witnessing the first examples of universities uncritically accepting ‘cultural knowledge’ over and above evidence based disciplinary knowledge?.

  • wmrbuck

    We must not forget Wanda Koolmatrie and B.Wongar who also have contributed so much ‘knowledge’.

  • sdavis

    Dark Emu is so terribly disappointing and such a blatant attempt to rewrite our history as Australians. Where are all the other academics to help oppose this ideological proposal of the past and deceptive offer for future generations? Please continue to research and bring truth to bear and thanks to Peter O’Brien.

  • jbhackett

    Joanna Hackett-10th March 2020
    I wrote ‘The very Naughty Boy’ (White Emu) because the Pascoe/Dark Emu saga was crying out to be parodied. However, the matter is more tragic than comedic. Pascoe continues to profit financially from his untruths, continues to spread his faux history and continues to indoctrinate our children with his manipulation of our past. When did Australians become so foolish and gullible? Thank goodness we still have a few intelligent thinkers (like Peter O’Brien) who are willing to take on the likes of Pascoe, Langton and the shameful ABC.

  • tbeath

    When the genetic footprint of all of us is examined, one might be amazed at the complexity of the brew. Caucasians all have a touch of Neanderthal. Hence, by the High Court ruling, we are all Neanderthal. We all have bits and pieces from around the sex games outcomes over the millenia.
    I am sick of this playing on our sympathies by the “indigenous” “Activists”. As some one who tried to give continual employment at various places to the welfare recipients, I fear that the genetic footprint isn’t attuned to the modern world, but am no expert….

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