Tell the Truth, Get Wiki-Whacked

Recently, after becoming aware of a paper by anthropologist Dr Ian Keen that challenges the main claims of Dark Emu, I highlighted some of its conclusions in an article here at Quadrant Online. It then occurred to me to check if mention of Dr Keen’s paper had incorporated in Wikipedia’s Dark Emu entry, whose editors have censored all efforts by myself and others to make mention of my own book, Bitter Harvest, which exposes Bruce Pascoe and Dark Emu for the frauds they are.

Sometimes, a small victory: An adult step into Wikipedia’s Dark Emu debate

So, once more, I went through the Looking Glass and down the rabbit hole into the bowels of Wikipedia.  I found that, yes indeed, an attempt had been made by  those behind the excellent Dark Emu Exposed website, to have mention of Dr Keen’s article included. What follows is both a transcript of the ‘discussion’ that ensued and a warning to anyone who might have been tempted to answer Wikipedia’s pleas for donations and public support.  (This is an unusually long article, for reasons which will become apparent at the end.  I hope readers will bear with me. A scant record of attempts to expand the Dark Emu wiki and their deletions –though not the text of the to-and-fro arguments can be found here. With the exception of some very minor edits, needed to prepare the text for Quadrant Online’s publishing system and display purposes, what follows is exact record of the ‘debate’. Where appropriate, underscores have been added for emphasis.)


Austhistory99: As many of have been saying over the past year, this Wikipedia page does not accurately reflect the critical response to the book, and any attempts to address this are rigorously resisted by Dark Emu‘s Wikipedia supporters who claim critics have COI (conflict of interest) or are unreliable sources. But events are proving our claims that Dark Emu is deeply flawed. Editors are invited to read “Foragers or Farmers: Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture“. Published online: 05 Jan 2021 in Anthropological Forum A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology by Dr. Ian Keen, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

My suggestion is to include a paragraph in the “Critical Reception’ section along the lines of “Australian anthropologist Ian Keen has ‘subjected the evidence for Aboriginal farming presented in Dark Emu to scrutiny, and finds that while the boundary between foraging and farming is a fuzzy one, Aboriginal people were indeed hunters, gatherers and fishers at the time of the British colonisation of Australia’. –Austhistory99 12:24, 6 January 2021

Editor Michael Bednarak: Unfortunately, there’s very little “published online” at the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences’s School of Archaeology & Anthropology’s blurb. Without a proper publication or at least a transcript/video, there’s not much that can be usefully presented here. — Michael Bednarek 13:19, 6 January 2021

Editor Laterthanyouthink: Exactly – that blurb to publicise a seminar does nothing to challenge Pascoe’s assertions in the book. He does not suggest that all Aboriginal peoples were practising agriculture nor that they were not hunters and gatherers as well; he just highlights the existing research and evidence showing that there were settlements, aquaculture, grinding of grain, etc. in some parts of the country. There are always lively debates in topics such as history and archaeology, and differences in opinion about the extent of the farming do exist — we know that. But I have yet to see a serious examination or specific criticism about anything that he has written about, because he is mostly reporting what has already been written elsewhere. — Laterthanyouthink 13:46, 6 January 2021

Austhistory99: It appears you have missed my recent point — we have moved beyond the “seminar blurb” stage – the peer-reviewed academic paper has now been published on 5th Jan 2021. Do you have access to this paper? — [1] Austhistory99 20:43, 6 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: In an area as fraught as this, with blatant irrational attacks by racists, bigots and haters being the main criticisms of the book, all we have here is an abstract a few lines long. That abstract does not explicitly contradict the claims in the book. Like much of the criticism we see of this book on Wikipedia, this sub-section begins with a breach of WP:AGF and, effectively, WP:NPA. It deserves to be ignored, and the perpetrator deserves to be disciplined. — HiLo48 21:11, 6 January 2021

Austhistory99: I have sent you only the publicly available abstract – if you cannot access the whole paper I am happy to send it to you, subject to copyright (only for your own research and not to be posted). If you haven’t read the whole of Dr Keen’s paper then you perhaps shouldn’t be jumping to your conclusion. His paper is all about a critique of Dark Emu and Pascoe’s methodology and some of his supporters and points out myriad examples of why Dark Emu is wrong and its detractors are ‘correct’. Below is an excerpt from this paper where Dr Keen writes,

“Many critiques of Dark Emu have come from the political right. They include the writings and broadcasts of Andrew Bolt (Morton 2019); articles in, and a book published by Quadrant magazine (O’Brien 2019), whose editor Keith Windschuttle engaged extensively in the ‘history wars’; and the Dark Emu Exposed (Anon. 2020) as well as the Quadrant online (quadrant.org.au) websites. Unfortunately, in my judgement these critiques of Pascoe’s treatment of his historical sources are largely correct. The forthcoming book by the anthropologist and linguist Peter Sutton and the archaeologist Keryn Walshe (Sutton and Walshe, forthcoming), brings a high standard of scholarship in scrutinising Pascoe’s claims, and adopts a non-political stance.

Defences of Dark Emu have come from the political left. Rick Morton of The Saturday Paper, for example, writes: ‘after reading the explorer journals on which the book is based’ he was ‘unable to find any errors’ in Dark Emu (Morton 2019). This is quite surprising, as we shall see. Professor Marcia Langton is reported to have said that Dark Emu ‘is the most important book on Australia and should be read by every Australian’ (Lee 2020). Again, coming as it does from an eminent scholar, this is an unexpected judgement”. (ibid, page 2)

Your biased position in uncritically defending Pascoe and Dark Emu and preventing countering viewpoints being available for Wikipedia readers, will be shown to have put you on the wrong side of history, especially when Sutton’s book is published this year. There is no reason not to include the respected Dr Keen’s (who has his own Wikipedia page!) academic views on Dark Emu — Austhistory99 00:52, 7 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: Please drop the personal attacks. — HiLo48 02:36, 7 January 2021

Editor Laterthanyouthink:  The publicly available abstract does not indicate what position the author has taken (if any), and even after your quote above, there is no specific criticism of the text — just a string of names, and his opinion. We need better than that for Wikipedia. Also, unless I am mis-remembering, are you not banned from editing this topic owing to COI? Let’s await the Sutton book for a meaningful debate. I have no problem with robust criticisms which actually address specific topics in the book, but I don’t see any yet. What Pascoe has done is throw light on past research which shows that many Aboriginal Australians did practise agriculture and aquaculture and in some cases had quite strong domestic economies, and I have yet to see anything which disproves this. — Laterthanyouthink 06:31, 7 January 2021

Editor HiLo 48: Laterthanyouthink – You ask “…are you not banned from editing this topic owing to COI?” Not sure about being explicitly banned, but there’s an interesting note regarding Austhistory99 and likely COI right near the top of this page. — HiLo48 07:02, 7 January 2021

Editor Bahnfrend: In my view, and in light of academic and other commentary over the last twelve months about the book the subject of this article, the article was failing the WP:NPOV requirement until just now, when I expanded the “Critical reception” by adding a new “Criticisms” section. As a consquence of strong criticisms of the subject book that have been made, not just by rightwing commentators, in the last twelve months, the book now appears to be largely discredited. Whereas the previous version of the article did not even mention most of the criticisms, the new section makes clear that the book has been heavily criticised, for various reasons. As the new section indicates, rightwingers have criticised the book for exaggerating its sources, and others have said not only that the exaggerations discredit the book’s central thesis (which some of the critics support), but also that in any event that thesis is a disservice to Aborigines because it implies that agricultural pursuits are more worthy than hunting and gathering. (One of the academic critics has also critised (sic) certain other academics who have praised the book, but I chose to leave out that academic skirmishing.)

I also now respond briefly to some of the above comments about “reliable sources”, which seem to me to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of that term. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. If and to the extent that Wikipedia publishes assertions of fact, those assertions should therefore be supported by a citation to a “reliable source”, ie a source of factual information that can considered to be reliable. Speaking generally, quality newspapers such as The Guardian are regarded as “reliable sources”, because they generally publish reliably what purport to be facts, and publishers of opinion pieces are not regarded as “reliable sources” because opinions are debatable. Although some of the comments above criticise Quadrant on the basis that it is not regarded as a “reliable source”, that criticism is misplaced. The reason Quadrant is so classified is, simply, that it publishes opinion pieces, not news focusing on reliably reported facts.

In the circumstances, if The Guardian publishes an article asserting that the subject book and its author “… have been targeted by rightwing commentators”, as The Guardian has done on more than one occasion, that assertion can also be published in Wikipedia as being sourced to The Guardian. Similarly, if an academic associated with a reputable university writes an article in an academic journal, and especially if both the academic and the journal are the subject of separate Wikipedia articles, and the article identifies the rightwing commentators who have criticised the subject book, then the relevant passage can be quoted in Wikipedia and sourced to the author and journal. That is how the new section I have just added to the subject article begins, and it proceeds in similar fashion. No portion of the new section is sourced to Quadrant, or any book published by Quadrant, or any anonymously published website.

Finally, it is not correct to assert by implication that Associate Professor Keen’s article is not publicly available. It is publicly available, albeit behind a paywall, just as Pascoe’s book is publicly available, albeit that you have to buy it from someone. As a Wikipedia editor, I have assumed good faith on User:Austhistory99’s part in quoting a passage from Keen’s article on the assumption that User:Austhistory99 has correctly quoted that passage — Bahnfrend 12:30, 19 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: As soon as you wrote “the book now appears to be largely discredited”, you lost all credibility. Your Criticism section is twice the size of the Praise section. That’s completely inappropriate. — HiLo48 05:06, 20 January 2021

Editor Laterthanyouthink: I don’t have any problem with criticisms being appropriately expressed, but see WP:CRIT. In the case of this book, Bahnfrend, the section you added was just way too long and quoted the critics at inappropriate length, definitely WP:UNDUE and NPOV. While there certainly are issues, and opinions differ (a lawyer posts his opinion here, highlighting some of the commentary and the heat in the debate), it is certainly not true to say that the book has been “largely discredited”. This is not the impression returned by Google, even if you add “controversy” to your search terms. A few brief mentions of the criticisms, relating to the fact that Pascoe is not an historian, and the fact that he embellishes and adds his own opinions here and there, is enough. This is Wikipedia, and as there is no way to cover the wider debate in a concise way, in my view it is better to err on the brief side.

We don’t need continuing edit-warring over this. The book has been lauded, and it has been used to raise the awareness of the general public of some history that was largely being ignored. Geography teachers have developed teaching resources around it. Wikipedia is not here to be the mouthpiece of opinions. Let’s give enough in the citations and further reading for those who wish to dig deeper to do so, but trying to represent a multitude of opinions in this article is only going to lead to further arguments. There are many many controversial books (I just thought to have a look at The Lucky Country as an example), but Wikipedia doesn’t seek to cover all of the criticisms and opinions. I don’t want to have to keep coming back to this page, and I’m sure a few other editors feel the same! — Laterthanyouthink 04:38, 22 January 2021

Austhistory99: Thanks for your effort User:Bahnfrend and please don’t give up. Have another go at writing a much shorter paragraph noting the critique of Dark Emu by the academic Dr Ian Keen. Yes, I am quoting from his article exactly in good faith. If you fail again, we will look to bring in some other independent Wikipedia editors to resolve what is starting to look like bad faith from some current editors. — Austhistory99 01:14, 23 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: That is a bad faith faith post. My concern about the edits by User:Bahnfrend centred around them creating a criticism section twice the size of the praise section, plus using the words “the book now appears to be largely discredited”. That was a bad faith comment. Have you read the book? Fully? — HiLo48 03:31, 23 January 2021

Editor merlinVtwelve: I would like to add my support to the efforts of User:Bahnfrend. The article in its current form does not reflect WP:NPOV and the valid criticisms from Ian Keen, and apparently some other respected academics as well. — merlinVtwelve 03:01, 23 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: Keen’s major work on Aboriginal people was done almost half a century ago. We now know a lot more about this subject. Dark Emu is a much more modern view. Throwing around the adjective “respected” about other cherry picked writers is unhelpful. Have you read the book yourself? — HiLo48 03:36, 23 January 2021

It was at this point that I decided to enter the fray. 

Peter O’Brien (Petro Antonio): Dr Keen has not retired from active research and his 50+ years of experience surely count for something. — PetroAntonio 21:53, 23 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: Yes, they count for something, but over that time period most white people have recognised that Aboriginal society and lifestyles were far more complex than generally believed fifty years ago. If Dr Keen still thinks the same way he did fifty years ago, he is not a very good scholar. Have you read Dark Emu? — HiLo48 23:37, 23 January 2021

Peter O’Brien (Petro Antonio): Dr Keen has been active all that time, so, certainly, his views would have been informed by later research. But his review of Dark Emu is current and, presumably, based on his understanding of the latest research, which is obvious from the references he cites in his paper. Yes I have read Dark Emu very carefully. Have you read Dr Keen’s paper? — PetroAntonio 23:54, 23 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: No. My local library doesn’t have it. It has several copies of Dark Emu, because it’s an excellent book in which I see no flaws. — HiLo48 00:05, 24 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: Perhaps you should take up the offer of Austhistory99 to send you a copy of the Keen paper. — PetroAntonio 00:53, 24 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: Firstly, will you bloody well learn how to indent your posts properly! I keep fixing for you so you don’t look like the novice editor you obviously are. Secondly, I see so point in reading Keen’s paper. Dark Emu stands on its own. I find it fascinating when newbies, obviously from the hateful, racist right, pop up here with allegedly good sources, but which nobody else has ever heard of, while the vast majority of the population carries on respecting their target far more. — HiLo48 01:34, 24 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: Sorry about the indenting. Hopefully this works. My book Bitter Harvest has been summarily dismissed by most editors of this article, partly on the basis that I have no qualifications to evaluate Dark Emu because I am ‘not a historian’. Setting aside that neither is Bruce Pascoe a historian, you say that you can find no flaws in Dark Emu. May I, with great respect, ask if you are a historian? And what are the odds that a history written by a non-historian would have no flaws? — PetroAntonio 01:56, 24 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: Oh dear. I should have recognised the name. Your conflict of interest here really makes your contributions worth nothing. — HiLo48 02:35, 24 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: Having a ‘conflict of interest’ does not prevent me from contributing to discussions. It does prevent me from directly editing articles but the rules do allow me to request or propose an edit via this forum — PetroAntonio 02:44, 24 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: This isn’t a forum. It’s a place to discuss improvements to the article. And you stuffed up the indenting again. A serious recommendation I frequently make to people like yourself is to go away from this area of editing. Work on some other areas of Wikipedia where you can be of use. Your writing is excellent, and a lot of articles need massive cleanups. Engaging only in areas where you hold extreme opinions is a bad move. If you contribute elsewhere for a while, you can learn a lot more about standard Wikipedia conventions, and simply how to be more useful to the project. — HiLo48 02:59, 24 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: Let’s hope I get the indenting right this time. HiLo48, I note what you say, nonetheless I would still be interested in your response to my questions. — PetroAntonio 06:02, 24 January 2021

Editor Mitch Ames: Dark Emu stands on its own — For the purpose of the Wikipedia article, Dark Emu cannot “stand on its own” – Wikipedia requires reliable independent sources. — Mitch Ames  02:30, 24 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: I would like to propose the following addition to the Critical Acclaim section:

“The central premise of Dark Emu viz that Aboriginal people were essentially sedentary agriculturalists rather than nomadic hunter/gatherers, was challenged by anthropologist Dr Ian Keen, in a paper entitled “Foragers or Farmers: Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture” published in the journal Anthropological Forum in January 2021″.

I apologize in advance for any mistakes or omissions I have made in formatting. — PetroAntonio 21:23, 24 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: Only if we balance your cherry picking with reference to this new ABC article, which says of the book

“…if you’re looking for facts, look no further than Amy’s other recommendation: Dark Emu.

“…This text accesses the diaries and notes of the invaders/settlers/explorers to challenge the stories of exactly what was first seen and ‘discovered’ when this continent was invaded some 230+ years ago,” she says.

“It does a lot of great work in correcting misinformation about the who, what and how of these lands were prior to invasion [and will] continue to be relevant to days of mourning and protests such as January 26th … it’s a myth-busting title that will take a bit of intentional reading time but be worth every minute.” — HiLo48 21:43, 24 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: Fine by me. I’ll let you make the necessary addition. — PetroAntonio 22:03, 24 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: I don’t believe either addition helps the article. They are just clutter. And point scoring attempts. — HiLo48 22:28, 24 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: The current Critical Reception section contains the following criticism

“The main criticism of the book by academics has been of Pascoe’s claim that since 1880 there has been an academic suppression of alternative historical accounts about Aboriginal peoples’ housing, farming and cultivation practices.”

That is followed by an expansion which includes the gratuitous observation that “Lourandos and McNiven are delighted at the book’s success in reaching the broader public”, which sounds rather like clutter to me. But that is by the way. There is now criticism of the book by another well qualified academic. My proposed addition makes no judgement or assessment of Dr Keen’s analysis. It simply points out its existence. Surely that is the purpose of the article – to provide the public with relevant information about the topic? — PetroAntonio 22:49, 24 January 2021

Editor Laterthanyouthink: “The central premise of Dark Emu viz that Aboriginal people were essentially sedentary agriculturalists…” I don’t have my copy to hand because I lent it to someone, but I’m pretty sure that this misrepresents the content of the book. Pascoe mentions specific examples, such as the eel traps and villages of the Gunditjmara, and he certainly doesn’t claim that the peoples of the central desert area were settled agriculturalists. Remember that there are many different peoples (and were more, with hundreds of languages), and anything which suggests that they were a homogeneous society is clearly wrong. (I used an outdent because my tablet app doesn’t show any indenting and can only see what I’m typing.) — Laterthanyouthink 22:58, 24 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: The back cover of Dark Emu, presumably with Pascoe’s imprimatur, states that

“Pascoe puts forward a compelling argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing – behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag.” — PetroAntonio 00:12, 25 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: “My proposed addition makes no judgement or assessment of Dr Keen’s analysis. It simply points out its existence. Surely that is the purpose of the article — to provide the public with relevant information about the topic?” Who decides on the relevance, when do we decide it’s enough, and when do we leave it out because it’s from a known liar? Andrew Bolt has said an awful lot about the book. We include nothing of what he has said, and won’t. — HiLo48 23:47, 24 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: Are you saying that Dr Keen is a liar? Or that I am? — PetroAntonio 00:12, 25 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: This article attracts a lot of novice and naïve editors with minimal experience and understanding of how Wikipedia works, many of whom seem to have the single goal of proving that Aboriginal people were primitive savages who deserved to be conquered and have their land stolen. Because of this we need to be constantly vigilant with any negative additions. It’s up to you to convince us that your proposed addition really adds anything of value to the article. I also note that you still haven’t demonstrated an interest in assisting with and learning from any other area of Wikipedia. It looks a bit obsessional, and narrow. — HiLo48 00:20, 25 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: HiLo48, I notice that you are adept at avoiding answering questions, so let me answer yours. If I am to become more proficient in editing Wikipedia articles, I would prefer to do my learning in an area in which I have some expertise, to wit Dark Emu. When I wrote Bitter Harvest it was not my intention to prove that “Aboriginal people were primitive savages who deserved to be conquered and have their land stolen”. That is not what I believe. I set out to demonstrate that Pascoe had failed to prove his theory.  In respect of the fact that I have developed an argument against Dark Emu, I could be said to be partisan, but that does not, of itself, discredit my views.

But getting back to Dr Keen, other editors have read his paper and judged it a credible and substantive critique from a highly qualified source. If they are correct, then Dr Keen’s paper deserves mention in a section titled ‘Critical Reception’. You, on the other hand, have declined to read Dr Keen’s paper on the grounds that, in your opinion, Dark Emu is flawless, which incidentally would make it unique in the annals of non-fiction writing. That makes you a partisan player, not an objective editor. — PetroAntonio 00:43, 25 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: You have misrepresented my position. And my suggestion to edit elsewhere, one I have made to many new editors over the years, is precisely to avoid working on topic where you know a lot. That’s not necessary to become a great contributor to Wikipedia. Being able to write well, and consistently apply our policies and guidelines on ANY article is just as useful. — HiLo48 01:34, 25 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: In what way have I misrepresented your position? Could you clarify please. — PetroAntonio  02:17, 25 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: “in your opinion, Dark Emu is flawless” An obvious example of something I did not say. HiLo48 02:50, 25 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: “My local library doesn’t have it (Dr Keen’s paper). It has several copies of Dark emu, because it’s an excellent book in which I see no flaws.” — PetroAntonio 02:55, 25 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: Not quite the same thing, but I take your point. I STILL recommend you get out and see a lot more of how Wikipedia works. — HiLo48 03:01, 25 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: The only way they could not be the same would be if you meant “there may be flaws in Dark Emu, but if there are I can’t see them”. If that is what you meant, why then why would you not be interested to see what those flaws might be? — PetroAntonio 05:54, 25 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: Because most of those who have come here to point out “flaws” have done so using the Andrew Bolt approach, and those of us who care about the article’s quality have become rather sick of protecting it from racist and bigoted nonsense. Not your fault, of course, but that’s reality. Given that history here, your argument has to be particularly convincing. — HiLo48 06:23, 25 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: Is there another editor out there, who has read Dr Keen’s paper, who believes it does not deserve to be mentioned in the article? — PetroAntonio 04:41, 25 January 2021

Editor HiLo48: While you wait for answers, how about you find everything written by all academics about Dark Emu? That way you can move away from charges of cherry-picking. — HiLo48 05:13, 25 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: The Critical Reception section contains three unqualified positive reviews by academics and two by academics who support the book but take issue with one minor peripheral issue. My book Bitter Harvest, critical of Dark Emu, has been ignored because I am from the ‘hateful, racist right’. The Dark Emu Exposed website is not acceptable for presumably similar reasons. That there would be no valid dissenting views on a work of history or anthropology defies common sense. So I offer an opinion by a qualified academic, almost certainly not from the hateful racist right. I am not the one cherry picking. — PetroAntonio 06:21, 25 January 2021


It was at this point, not having heard from any other editors, I inserted my proposed addition into the article.  It lasted 20 minutes.  Discussion then resumed as follows:


Editor Laterthanyouthink: May I suggest that you both take at least a day off this page, PetroAntonio and HiLo48, and return when we have at least one other editor involved, and/or a better understanding of what is going to be agreeable to all parties? PetroAntonio, I’m sorry to have reverted your change (and another introduced by a vandal after yours), but you had neither linked nor cited properly, but more importantly, as per my comments above, your characterisation of the content of the book was just plain incorrect. Pascoe definitely does not claim that [all, or any] Aboriginal people were “essentially sedentary”. I will come back to this once I’ve had more time to concentrate on this, get my copy back, and preferably without the headache I have right now.

You cannot use the publisher’s blurb (which, btw, most writers don’t have control over), and create a straw man argument. I don’t have time for a thorough search now, but “There certainly was a lot of movement … but there was also a lot more sedentary living than we were led to believe.” It is very difficult to achieve a nuanced debate in a Wikipedia article within a reasonable length and without doing some of the contributors (sources) a disservice, hence my reluctance to keep growing this article.

However, I would like to hear from more editors, and come back to this when I am better able to give it the attention it deserves. There is no rush. PA (sic) — I have put a welcome panel on your page with a lot of links to help you with some of the basics of editing Wikipedia, and may I suggest that if you want to get a bit of practice, create something in your sandbox first – then perhaps an addition to the Keen article, which looks as if it could do with a bit of updating? — Laterthanyouthink 09:51, 25 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: Laterthanyouthink, thank you for your intervention and your suggestions. I welcome the input of other editors and I apologize for my ineptitude in linking to sources.

I do accept that Pascoe does not explicitly state that Aborigines were essentially sedentary agriculturalists but he has structured his narrative to give that impression to the general public, and that is what Dr Keen is attempting to address. I would be content to have my contribution amended along the lines of:

“The evidence that Dark Emu offers in support of the extent of pre-colonial Aboriginal agricultural practice has been challenged by anthropologist Dr Ian Keen, in a paper entitled ‘Foragers or Farmers: Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture’ published in the journal Anthropological Forum in January 2021. Keen argues that the evidence has been exaggerated and that the designation ‘hunter-gatherer’, that has traditionally been used to describe Aboriginal society, is appropriate.” — PetroAntonio 11:41, 25 January 2021

Editor Bacondrum: Um, both user Austhistory99 and user: PetroAntonio author of Bitter Harvest have serious and still undeclared conflicts of interest and it is completely unethical for either of them to be contributing to this article in anyway. Their contributions are unethical, intended to defame — Bacondrum 11:16, 25 January 2021

Peter O’Brien: Laterthanyouthink, I have no conflict of interest in relation to Dr Keen’s paper and I have made no secret of the fact that I am the author of Bitter Harvest. I have made no secret of the fact that I believe Dark Emu is seriously flawed. In this thread I have made no attempt to promote my book. In any case, as far as I can ascertain the COI [conflict of interest] rules do not preclude someone with a conflict to propose an amendment or to participate in discussion. — PetroAntonio 11:50, 25 January 2021

Editor Bacondrum: You have written extensively on the subject, you are blatantly violating COI rules. The fact that neither you or Austhistory99 have declared this at any point in this discussion is deceptive and unethical. –Bacondrum 11:54, 25 January 2021

(editor’s note: readers wondering just what sort of people dominate Wikipedia’s editing and decide which items, observations and links get flushed down the memory hole will have their understanding expanded by visiting Bacondrum’s Instagram page. It is quite the education — rf)


It then being 11.00pm, I decided to retire for the night.  The following morning I woke to find that I wasn’t in Wonderland anymore, Toto, (excuse the mixed literary metaphor) but was now listening to 1984‘s clock strike thrirteen in Winston Smith’s Victory Mansions.

I had been indefinitely blocked as a Wikipedia editor, and the entire discussion, reproduced above, had been expunged from the Dark Emu article talk page! Rather ironic, I reflected, given my surname matches 1984’s inquisitor and rightthink enforcer. Fortunately, some sixth sense had urged me to take a copy of the talk page before I went to bed, and it is this which is reproduced above.

I had been blocked for ‘disruptive editing’, which is summarised thus:

A disruptive editor is an editor who exhibits tendencies such as the following:

Is tendentious: continues editing an article or group of articles in pursuit of a certain point for an extended time despite opposition from other editors. Tendentious editors not only add material; some engage in disruptive deletions as well, e.g. repeatedly removing reliable sources posted by other editors.

Cannot satisfy Wikipedia:Verifiability; fails to cite sources, cites unencyclopedic sources, misrepresents reliable sources, or manufactures original research.

Engages in “disruptive cite-tagging”; adds unjustified {{citation needed}} tags to an article when the content tagged is already sourced, uses such tags to suggest that properly sourced article content is questionable.

Does not engage in consensus building:

    1. repeatedly disregards other editors’ questions or requests for explanations concerning edits or objections to edits;
    2. repeatedly disregards other editors’ explanations for their edits.

Rejects or ignores community input: resists moderation and/or requests for comment, continuing to edit in pursuit of a certain point despite an opposing consensus from impartial editors.

As far as I can see the only one of these that applies to me is failing to cite sources.  I have appealed my suspension, acknowledging my fault in this respect and promising not to do it again.  I confidently expect to be re-instated.

You might wonder why I bothered.  I was tempted to say ‘what the hell’ and let it go, but then I reflected that the reason we on the right are losing the big battles is because we accept losing the little ones.

Keep in mind that all of the above transpired because Austhistory99 and I sought no more than to have mention made of Dr Keen’s paper included in the Dark Emu article.  Neither of us attempted to argue our case, or Dr Keen’s, against Dark Emu within the article itself.

As far as Dark Emu is concerned, it seems to me that Wikipedia is just another cog in a vast ideological racket dedicated to making sure that Bruce Pascoe is never held to account for his manifest deceptions. Indeed, despite its claims to honesty and any inclination to bias, Wikipedia has once again demontrated the truth of O’Sullivan’s Law, which states  “all organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”

You can order the new edition of Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest by clicking here

  • Alistair

    Reality is a right-winged plot against the left’s world-view.

    Here’s a prediction. The much anticipated Sutton book will never be published. I cannot imagine that Melbourne University Press will be allowed to print a book which undermines their political decision to offer Bruce Pascoe a Chair.

  • March

    Wikipedia… 2 + 2 = 5

    Meanwhile somewhat comforting that neither Pascoe nor his crappy book merit a mention at Encyclopaedia Britannica

  • Peter OBrien

    I should note that wiser councils have prevailed and the discussion has been restored. Comrade Bacondrum, who did the deleting, has been over-ruled. And my tongue-in-cheek confidence that I would soon be re-instated has, of course, not been justified. I now find out that my crime has to do with a conflict of interest. My response to that charge:

    “Last year I attempted, in good faith, to include a mention of my book Bitter Harvest in the Dark Emu section of the Bruce Pascoe article. I did not attempt to argue my case, just to highlight the fact that the book existed. When I became aware that I had inadvertently breached Wikipedia protocol, I argued my case for inclusion in the talk page. It was ruled that I had a conflict of interest. I respected that decision and have not since attempted to have the book included. Recently I engaged in discussion on the talk page of the Dark Emu article, supporting the inclusion of mention of Dr Ian Keen’s academic paper as a valid criticism of Dark Emu. Again I made no attempt to argue my own case. I have no conflict of interest in respect of Dr Keen’s article. It seems my conflict arises from the fact that I am a critic of Dark Emu, which, I accept, makes me a partisan player. But I do not believe that should preclude me from participation in discussion or even proposing edits to the article itself. Editor HiLo48, in arguing against the inclusion of Dr Keen’s paper is also clearly a partisan player having declared that he/she “sees no point in reading Dr Keen’s article because Dark Emu is an excellent book in which he/she can see no flaws”. It is clear that many other editors are also in this camp.”

  • Tony Tea

    That’s a great save, Peter. You would have kicked yourself had you not taken a copy of the backroom debate; what’s more I reckon posting the exchange here forced them to put it back online. Which, come to think of it, was a generous act on their behalf, since it makes various Wiki gnomes look like fools and/or tendentious partisan shills.

  • NFriar

    [Alistair – 27th January 2021
    Here’s a prediction. The much anticipated Sutton book will never be published. I cannot imagine that Melbourne University Press will be allowed to print a book which undermines their political decision to offer Bruce Pascoe a Chair.]

    My thoughts also – this book was to be published last November…..

  • Michael

    For the left, in Kafka’s terms, Dark Emu has become not true, but necessary, a lie made to rule the world,

    “it is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary.’ ‘A melancholy conclusion,’ said K. ‘It turns lying into a universal principle.”


    “No,” said the priest, “you don’t need to accept everything as true, you only have to accept it as necessary.” “Depressing view,” said K. “The lie made into the rule of the world.”

    Franz Kafka, The Trial.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Well, anyone who follows the global warming debate is well aware of Wikipedia’s blatant editorial partisanship. Taking on that Hydra is courage over and above all reason, Peter. More power to your arm.

  • MungoMann

    Excellent summary Peter. And in reference to the comment by ‘March’ above. I hate to disappoint you – go to Britannica online and search ‘Australian Aboriginal’ and see what comes up! (viewable just before paywall starts), viz: “Australian Aboriginal peoples, one of the two distinct groups of Indigenous peoples of Australia, the other being the Torres Strait Islander peoples. It has long been conventionally held that Australia is the only continent where the entire Indigenous population maintained a single kind of adaptation—hunting and gathering—into modern times. Some scholars now argue, however, that there is evidence of the early practice of both agriculture and aquaculture by Aboriginal peoples. This finding raises questions regarding the traditional viewpoint that presents Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples as perhaps unique in the degree of contrast between the complexity of their..” Pascoe’s influence is everywhere! I wrote to Britannica a year ago to complain but no answer.

  • MungoMann

    And Amnesty International claims on their website that,
    “1. You learnt about the First Fleet. You didn’t learn about Indigenous settlements.

    Early explorers described Indigenous villages, irrigation systems, agriculture and grain harvest right across Australia. 30,000 year-old grindstones have been found near Walgett, NSW, and ancient stone fish traps at Brewarrina, NSW may be the oldest man-made structures on earth. And today at Budj Bim, Victoria, you can visit the remains of stone houses and an aquaculture system that pre-date Egypt’s pyramids by at least 4,000 years.” – with a reference link to, you guessed it, the ABC & Dark Emu! (see https://www.amnesty.org.au/five-things-about-indigenous-history-you-probably-didnt-learn-in-school/)

  • Phillip

    Keep up the fight.
    In my work experience I have visited and camped at several Aboriginal Reserves throughout Australia. Some remnants of hunting tools, boomerang, spear, woomera, were sighted, but most hunting is done with a gun nowadays. I never saw any evidence of agriculture, as the native survived off the native flora and fauna produce, hence survival was only by hunting and gathering. Lizard & goanna were plentiful & common in most diets. The coastal aboriginal was/is an excellent fisherman and they can show you some wonderful skill.
    For historical research I cannot recall viewing any aboriginal tools employed for agriculture, like a shovel, spade, a hoe or a rake etc.in a museum or other scholarly articles. There are numerous photos of the hunting tools about though.
    Surely if the aboriginal was an agriculturalist then that practice would have been passed down to present day.
    As for your anonymous combatants at wikipedia, I’m not confident that any of them have ever ventured out beyond their Melbourne cloistered laptop to live out in the sticks and find any factual reality to support their nonsense.

  • Doubting Thomas

    I’ve seen the fish traps on the Barwon near Brewarrina and they are hardly one of the wonders of the ancient world. As for 30,000 year old grindstones, ooh, lah lah! I have two such stones in my possession which, with several more, were found over many years along a non-perennial watercourse that bisected our farm in western NSW. So what? They are by no means rare.

  • lbloveday

    On a far less important issue, but even more provable correct, I tried years ago to have the claim that
    Anthony “Tony” William Mundine (the father of Anthony “The Man” Mundine) is “The only Australian boxer to compete professionally in four weight divisions” deleted. It’s still there.
    Australian boxer Jeff Fenech (born in Sydney) not only held 3 world titles (Bantamweight, Super Bantamweight and Featherweight), he fought unsuccessfully for a world (WBC) Super Featherweight title and for good measure, a world (IBF) Lightweight title. So 5 different weight divisions, for all of which I provided rationally indisputable proof (the fights are even correctly recorded on Wikipedia!) to no effect.

  • Oscar

    A revealing example of Wikipedia’s political bias is its annotated list for Wikipedia editors of “Reliable sources/Perennial sources”:


    That page advises that CNN, The Conversation, The Guardian, The New York Times and The Washington Post are all “considered generally reliable”.

    However, beware! “Most editors consider Quadrant generally unreliable for factual reporting. The publication is a biased and opinionated source.”

  • Greg Williams

  • Tony Yates

    Peter, you’ve run up against the well-known Wikipedia phenomenon of ‘page commandeering’. As you probably know, it is when a relatively small group of editors control an article & its content & ensure that no point of view but their own preferred one gets represented in the article. This is possible on articles with a relatively small number of interested editors. If they don’t have the numbers, they get in touch with other like-minded editors & get them to join the ‘debate’ & outvote anyone else. There is an amorphous group of them who basically control all Wikipedia articles that relate to Aboriginal history & allow only their point of view in the articles. HiLo48 appears regularly in the talk pages & ‘debates’ on such Aboriginal history articles supporting the one-sided representation of history. His desire to exclude Keen’s work is entirely predictable.
    Some of them are Wikipedia Administrators with the power to block editors & they use it ruthlessly to eliminate any point of view but their own preferred one.
    If other editors join the debate to support your suggested amendments, they’ll find more to oppose them. You can never win because they never give up. Sources & links supporting any point of view that they don’t like are excluded on spurious grounds. Don’t expect to convince them to look at the facts, to look at the evidence, to read alternative sources….they aren’t interested in anything that contradicts their point of view.
    Their’s is not a rational belief system. Everyone who disagrees with their point of view is defined by them as ‘racist’, ‘extreme’, ‘right wing’, ‘fringe’ or whatever. Wikipedia might actually do something about it if it was a threat to the donations that support it but it isn’t. People who donate to Wikipedia are usually either supportative of the biased rewriting of history or just ignorant of how Wikipedia functions.

  • L Louis

    Re. The Conversation as a reliable source.
    Although it is supported financially by more than 40 universities, The Conversation is notorious for its censorship. The Wikipedia entry on Bruce Pascoe reports that “The book[Dark Emu] was well-received”, and cites “A favourable review” in The Conversation by Tony Hughes-D’Aeth,who opines, “One of the strengths of Pascoe’s book is its ability to bridge archaeology, anthropology, archival history, Indigenous oral tradition and other more esoteric but highly revealing disciplines such as ethnobotany and paleoecology…Pascoe assembles a persuasive case that Indigenous Australians farmed their land, lived in villages, built houses, harvested cereals, built complex aquaculture systems — possibly the earliest stone structures in human history — and led the kind of sedentary agricultural lives that were meant only to have arrived with Europeans in 1788”. Tony Hughes-d’Aeth is Associate Professor, English and Cultural Studies, University of Western Australia, and not an archaeologist or anthropologist. Their studies conclude that the Aboriginal people were hunter/gatherers. Now Wikipedia editors are refusing to include a reference to an article by an eminent anthropologist, Dr Ian Keen. There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from this intransigence.

  • Tricone

    “You can never win because they never give up”
    This suggests that they have unlimited time on their hands and are supported by the state somehow.

    Wiki used to be a fine resource, and still is on uncontroversial topics, but has been infiltrated by totalitarian activists.
    As night follows day, so will the number of topics considered “controversial” be expanded until we can’t even believe their science pages anymore. I used to donate to Wikipedia, but no more.

    I stopped Amnesty years ago after they became captured by activists pursuing obsessions unrelated to their original mission of supporting prisoners of conscience.

  • Searcher

    For long, it has been a mistake to believe anything one reads in Wikipedia. One may use Wikipedia to get a rough idea about a topic, but should be aware that such an idea might be very misleading. This applies to all topics, not just to politics. In particular, it applies to sciences with no political relevance. To all topics. The process of Wikipedia editing is fraught with error. One cannot expect reason to survive it. Sometimes what Wikipedia says is right, sometimes it is way off beam. Caveat lector. Caveat editor.

  • Peter OBrien

    Bill James reviewed my book Bitter Harvest at the NCC website and his introductory line is a beauty:

    “If Bruce Pascoe were Aboriginal, he would be an Aboriginal historian, if he were an historian.”

  • Michael Waugh

    Thanks Peter for that education on how wiki edits occur. It made chilling reading. Some of those editors seem nearly deranged ! Until now I’ve been a donator, although have suspected bias now and then. I may be obtuse, but why isn’t it proper to have a reference to Bitter Harvest on the critical reception page of Dark Emu ? Hasn’t BH received its own learned acclaim ? And can I also ask whether Wiki has any academic standing ? When my children were at school 10 -15 years ago, it was strongly discouraged to cite Wiki as authority for anything. Nevertheless, I realise it’s frequently the source of the average person’s information on a topic and you’ve shown me how dangerous it is to rely on it.

  • talldad

    MungoMann – 27th January 2021

    And Amnesty International claims on their website that,

    Isn’t Amnesty one of the earlier “do-good” organizations to succumb to the SJW juggernaut?

  • talldad

    Michael Waugh, my use of Wiki is limited to factual quotes in non-controversial subjects, usually with an expressed caveat “for speed and convenience only”.

  • andrewk1901

    Great work in capturing the whole discussion.

    This phenomenon is not restricted to Wikipedia. There are a nucleus of self styled “ skeptics” who deride complementary medicine, and whose boosterism for industrial pharmaceuticals and insecticides/ herbicides ( all very high profit products) is well known.

    They class themselves as “skeptics” and “ quack watchers”, and their means of bullying and domination are well known, and are identical to what you describe.

    In short, your earlier point that Wikipedia is unreliable except for uncontroversial topics is well taken.

    I use them to look up the names of familiar looking actors in movies I am watching.

    Sometimes they lead me to the correct scientific names of butterflies or other insects, or plants or fungi that I am looking up, but they can be wrong.

    Outside the realm of complete trivia, I do not trust them, let alone pay for them.

    I do not believe that anyone should give this organisation any money.

  • andrewk1901

    I had meant to say that these groups of leftist Wiki editors, and managers of anti complementary health blogs are closely linked.

    What is also interesting is that they are deeply allergic to any discussion of spirituality or the paranormal/ siddhis. I don’t know where that fits exactly, but I do think there is a book in it 🙂

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