Bennelong Papers

Why Did Exposing ‘Dark Emu’ Take So Very Long?

There’s something of America’s entry into World War II about Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers?, Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe’s assault on Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu — very, very late to arrive but, nevertheless, a most welcome game-changer. Yet Sutton, to his shame, damns Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest with faint praise. He slights the Quadrant book as ‘a polemic’ whilst presenting his own focused study as a work of scholarly provenance and merit, which it is without a doubt.

Professor Sutton brings late to the Pascoean Hoax his considerable authority. He arrives after Geoffrey Blainey reminded us that the ‘agricultural revolution’ made it to New Zealand and the islands of the Torres Strait but not to Australia and, in the final analysis, that this helps explain why Maoris, with their stable villages and tribal political systems, were able to force a treaty with the colonists while Aborigines were not. If the Aboriginal people were farmers and gardeners, as Pascoe would have us believe, then white arrivals in Australia were morally obliged to seek a similar accord. Pascoe preaches that pre-settlement Aborigines were a homogeneous, peaceful, federated group of sowers and reapers occupying their very own Garden of Eden when whitefellas “invaded” without so much as a beg your pardon. His book is animated by nothing so much as the radical political intent to steal the legacy of those who created Australia and give it to those who claim it did their ancestors wrong.

It seems Professor Sutton, after an extended period of reflection, has finally decided that a brilliant career and lifetime spent with Aboriginal peoples all over Australia, his integrity as an anthropologist and his seminal book The Politics of Suffering, are worth more than seeing the discipline that has been his life brought into widespread disrepute by a carpetbagger such as Pascoe. Coming tardily to the fray, Sutton puts the final nail in Dark Emu‘s coffin thanks to the high regard in which his scholarship is held. It must have been hard for him to hold his tongue for fully five years while Dark Emu collected prizes, amassed record sales, entered classrooms and its author was lionised by the mainstream media. The only naysayers to be heard — and pointedly ignored — were Quadrant, Peter O’Brien and the Dark Emu Exposed website.

Peter O’Brien: A Left-flank Dismissal of Dark Emu

The ABC and Dark Emu‘s publisher, Magabala Books (which only publishes Aboriginal writers and is the frequent recipient of much taxpayer support via the Australia Council and other bodies) and the entire army of leftist public servants and teachers all buckled down to the task of spreading Pascoe’s hoax so far and wide it could never be uprooted.

So Sutton has been forced, eventually, to call out a comrade whose fictions went several steps beyond the standard exaggeration and fabulism of ‘massacre maps‘ and the like. Pascoe’s fantastical misrepresentations of Aboriginal history — of what actually happened and what explorers witnessed and recorded —  were  a bridge too far. However, Sutton has not thus far been so outspoken about other significant misrepresentations of Aboriginal and Australian history. For example, I have not heard him give a clear explanation of the ‘genocide’ accusation Aboriginal activists brandish  with regard to the so-called Stolen Generations. I wonder what Sutton might say, were he moved to do so, about the monstrous accusations laid out in films such as Rabbit-Proof Fence, perhaps bringing his scholar’s clarity and integrity to that particularly noxious twisting of the past. Sutton must know the Stolen Generations myth is a nasty and aggressive papering-over of unpalatable facts by the post-colonial deconstructionists of the Left, and he must surely be aware that this meme has swept the pursuit of truth without fear or favour from indigenous studies courses in every university of the land.

Nor did I hear Sutton defend Keith Windschuttle when he demonstrated in The Fabrication of Aboriginal History that some of academia’s most revered names play fast and loose with what they present as primary sources. While Robert Manne led a pack of academic wolves against Keith, not a peep from Sutton to defend a damning expose of shoddy scholarship placed at the service of partisan politics.

Geoffrey Blainey, who might also have spoken up sooner and louder, had the good grace not to talk down to Peter O’Brien. Other academics, if not endorsing Pascoe’s absurdities, said nothing at all. O’Brien was no member of their little club, rather a prominent voice in a grassroots rising of ordinary people who discussed the Pascoe hoax for years before any of the ‘experts’ decided to break ranks. One can be forgiven for suspecting academia’s hand was finally forced as its players watched Pascoe and his book go down for the count.  The wider corruption of the entire indigenous studies industry risked harsh scrutiny as a flow-on result of the revealed holes in the fauxborigine’s fantastic thesis. Clearly, something had to be done to isolate Pascoe and cauterize such a grievous wound to a politicised discipline’s shaken credibility.

The experts were all silent while O’Brien and Dark Emu Exposed relentlessly and tirelessly decried and refuted Pascoe’s con job, sentence by sentence and reference by reference. All the while the Pascoen Leftist machine pumped his books into schools and universities, even pre-schools. Pascoe continued winning major awards, premiers’ prizes and a Children’s Book of the Year Award for his Young Dark Emu, which seeks to fill the heads of children as young as five years old with politically motivated lies.

When you think about it, the entire army of Black Armband indigenous studies professors claiming to be historians and expensively employed throughout every university in the country were silent. Melbourne University actually elevated the hoaxer to the post of Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture and created an entirely new department around him. Even as one arm of the university, Melbourne University Press, exposed a mountebank, a lucrative position was being prepared for him by the other.  Talk about cognitive dissonance! Meanwhile, the ABC declined to abandon a “significant” documentary contracted to an Aboriginal-only production company.

Remember this, Bruce Pascoe hates Australia, and I bet he hates most Australians too. Pascoe depicts our ancestors as liars, cheats and murderers; he hates whitefellas because he is incapable of seeing them as anything but the enemy. He believes that whitefellas have harmed his country with cloven-hooved animals and the stump-jump plough.

There’s grist there for Professor Sutton, or any other academic not chained to the millstone of ideology, to further examine the grotesque creation that is, ahem, ‘proud indigenous man’ Bruce Pascoe. Chances are  we’re in for another very long wait.

Order Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest here

9 comments
  • Tony Tea

    Tick. V.G.

  • gary@erko

    Peter O’Brien’s refutal was easily glossed over by Pascoe’s support swarm as just an ordinary far right polemic, Sutton and Walshe’s study with their credentials has created a fresh arena that’s being used to raise the bona fides of Pascoe – it’s now being framed by the Pascoe horde as a dispute among respected academics, and as proof of how even academia is circling the wagons in defence of colonialist genocide.

    Like conspiracy theories that are proved by the success of hiding the evidence, any criticism of Pascoe is further proof of how well yet another field of studies has been used to support the colonial invasion. The publication of Sutton and Walshe has initiated a new mode of battle – we’re being told that western based concepts are unable to comprehend pre-invasion Indigenous modes of sustenaance and life style, that western concepts associated with the terms “agriculture” and “hunter gatherer” have no valid relevance.

  • Michael

    Dark Emu is best considered as an example of hoax literature.

  • Tony Tea

    “it’s now being framed by the Pascoe horde as a dispute among respected academics”

    Point of order: it’s the “Bruce” hoard; Bruce saps invariably call him Bruce.

    The Bruce saps have been hard at work portraying him as a saintly cove for generously welcoming dissenting voices to the debate. They aren’t honest enough to point out that their Bruce’s qualifications aren’t within cooey of Walshe and Sutton’s academic clout. And their Bruce knows he can’t go toe to toe with them, so makes with the airy fairy waffle. And he wouldn’t want to duke it out anyway, after the wrote that he fundamentally misunderstands indigenous culture.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    I’m sure they all knew Pascoe was a liar and fantasist, but either calculated that the lies would support their politics or were afraid of being cancelled by their woke mates. The few serious anthropologists among them eventually realised that their entire life’s work was being flushed down the toilet, and faced with that reality finally summoned up the courage to join the growing chorus aimed at ending the charade.
    All credit to PO’B. Whatever the cowards call him, he was first and he was right.

  • john.singer

    I posted this comment at another posting of the same article.

    It is easy to take a one-eyed approach to this subject and just criticize Bruce Pascoe ignoring the other players in the field. Apart from Pascoe, there were journal writing explorers, 21st century academics, experienced activists and an eager press.

    So along comes experienced activist-storyteller Bruce Pascoe, fudging as novelists do with history and he is just what the academics want to advance their leftist ideals (without getting skin in the game). It is exactly what the leftist media wants too. The old style activists who along with Nugget Coombs feasted on Rousseau and the modern activists who care not a jot for the “Noble Savage” but just want control over land and people. Of course the Government and the awards committees just follow the mob.

    Into this mess come a few Bloggers and Facebook posters who say hey this is not right and from among them comes Peter O’Brien who writes a boring but forensic compilation of the errors and mis-statements in Pascoe’s book. O’Brien is ignored by the pack but not by the people who want the history of the Australian Aboriginal people to be honest and factual and not a political hammer. So the leftist media and their fellow-travelling academics trot out the old war-horse (Henry Reynolds) with Bill Gammage lending a hand too and finally a pair of academics join the hue and cry and suddenly people actually have a look.
    What do they see? Pascoe wriggling on a skewer? Probably when they should be attacking the bureaucrats that put the fiction into classrooms and curricula, The Public Officials that swore by his credentials and the Activists who used him for their own ends. Let us also not overlook the University that creates him an “Enterprise Professor” in a non existent field of activity.

    The heroes are not Sutton and Walshe but Peter O’Brien and his publisher.

  • wbaer0

    The Premier’s award should be withdrawn.

  • Tezza

    Very telling insight in the second paragraph.

    Andrew Bolt deserves credit too for courageously initiating and sustaining a robust criticism of the Dark Emu nonsense.

  • L Louis

    Bitter Harvest and Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers have exposed Dark Emu as a travesty. But this is only the first and necessary step to reverse the uncritical enthusiasm for this extraordinarily popular book. Such is the devastation of scholarship at universities and the depth of compromise of senior academics, that very few, if any, will follow the journalist Ian Warden, and confess they were conned. Rather every trick in the book will be employed to save face and evade responsibility. Dark Emu will be misrepresented as just offering another point of view and worthy of debate. Meanwhile, Dark Emu. A truer history will continue to inflict incalculable harm in schools.
    It is difficult to be optimistic. The fraudulent Dark Emu is not just an Australian aberration. World wide, with the triumph of identity politics, there is an existential threat to History as a rigorous discipline seeking truth by way of verifiable evidence.

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