First published on Quadrant Online
Left academics are ideologues first and second, and scholars third.
In 2004, John Dawson published Washout: the academic response to The Fabrication of Aboriginal History (Macleay Press).
Dawson examined Whitewash – a book edited by Robert Manne which presented a collection of self-interested essays defending academic historians whose work had been criticised by Keith Windschuttle.
Washout is an important book.
Dawson compares the claims by Windschuttle and the responses of the academics. He does so fairly. His approach is clear and interesting. He quotes both sides and suggests who is right. In the Left controlled literary journals, the Left controlled universities and in books from the Left publishing houses he has been ridiculed and misrepresented.
A campaign of denigration was waged to make Washout disappear. It began with unfair book reviews.
Washout was dealt with in the Left’s Australian Book Review in May 2005. The review was destructive and incompetent and completely biased against Washout yet it was highlighted by the journal’s editor. On the front cover its title was given a dramatic and eye-catching presentation in large, bright yellow letters – the reviewer surely not unaware how that colour had been so usefully employed by anti-semites in Hitler’s Germany. It was a single yellow word spelt out in bold capital letters against a rich, red background – “HOGWASH”.
The review of Washout, a book critical of Robert Manne, was written by – Robert Manne. In 1600 words he ridiculed and denigrated an honest book.
The Australian Book Review is a weapon of the Left used to attack books critical of the old historians by passing them for review either to the academics themselves or their friendly colleagues.
The cover of the following edition of the Australian Book Review (June-July 2005) was more friendly. This time it was used to publicise a book and puff its author with a review by Barry Hill. The book was by – Robert Manne.
The cover art work incorporated a blow-up from Hill’s text. Gloriously, it likened Manne to a duck and a weathervane:
Such values — the Kantian, humanistic values — do not usually need arguing. But Manne’s work has involved the necessary activation of them in the battles to which he has been drawn like a duck to water in the shooting season. Politically, he has always been a meteorologist, a spotter of bad ideological trends, the better to name them and to combat them as matters of history and political judgment.
Prominent also in the artwork was a large, professionally shot, colour photograph of – Robert Manne. Gerard Henderson, amused by Manne’s opportunistic use of the Australian Book Review to publicise a new book of old essays, and himself, noted that Manne has consistently accused his opponents of “conflict of interest”.
At the time Robert Manne reviewed a book critical of himself in the Australian Book Review he was the Chair of its management committee. He was a politics professor at La Trobe University. La Trobe University was the chief financial sponsor of the Australian Book Review.
Washout remains a vital criticism of error ridden, politicised and corrupt history writing. Manne’s Whitewash is as soiled as it ever was.