Tags: public intellectuals

19 Jun 2006, Comments Off on Thinktanks redux

Thinktanks redux

Author: Helen

Did I mention the Right is having a field day, moaning all the while about how oppressed they are? Robert Manne explains the Windschuttling of the ABC board (it’s already been Albrechtsened and Bruntoned) in the Age today, while John Roskam of the IPA complains that even that isn’t enough to root out the commie pinko culture of the damn place (hoick, spit).

Picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennelong

I might have also compared the IPA to lantana, or one of those funguses that spread and spread until they occupy the subterranean equivalent of several office buildings? Maybe we’d better scrub that idea and replace it with a huge fungal infestation, not of the IPA, but of many thinktanks. Because as we know, strange consanguinities often pop up – or maybe it’s just because the public intellectuals of Australia are such a small pond?

The thinktank which released the report about Aboriginal culture in schools (anti) was not from the IPA or the CIS but the Bennelong society. Obviously, a group which calls itself the Bennelong society would be in some way concerned with Aboriginal welfare, or reconciliation, or culture. Right? So what does the Bennelong Society website tell us?

Well, it’s a com.au and an inc., not an .org or an .edu. It has some beautiful graphics on its header – from Aboriginal paintings by Noongali, a member of the Balardong clan from Western Australia. Its aims are, in part, to

*promote debate and analysis of Aboriginal policy in Australia, both contemporary and historical;
*encourage research into the history of the interaction between Australia’s Indigenous people and the Europeans and others who settled in Australia from 1788 onwards, and of the ideas through which this interaction was interpreted by both Europeans and Aborigines;…
[and disseminate this via the internet].

Another stated aim is to promote Aboriginal welfare.

This site may not be familiar to you, but click through to Who we are and Useful Links and hey, you could practically play “Rightwing Thinktanks plus Quadrant bingo” with the results. On the board, Dr. Gary Johns (IPA), Peter Howson (Minister for aboriginal affairs under the McMahon government), Senator Jeannie Ferris (current Liberal government), Des Moore (Institute for Private Enterprise, H R Nicholls society), Ray
Evans (Lavoisier group). There are two or three actual Aboriginal people on the Board (one’s even a woman!) but there are no Aboriginal office bearers. “Useful links”: Centre for Independent Studies, Quadrant and Keith Windschuttle. “Articles and Speeches” is pretty much a Johns-Howson-Brunton showcase.

It’s just like the IPA but with Aborigines (and global warming denialists).

How does Noongali feel, you have to wonder, having his art showcased by, and an integral part of, such a website. On the one hand, it should bring him lots of hits and interest, so great. But if I were in his shoes I’d be saddened to see it giving prominence to the writings of Keith Windschuttle. As Robert Manne said in his article:

On the basis of a comically flawed methodology, Windschuttle argued that the British settlers killed only 118 of the Tasmanian Aboriginal population; that those Aborigines who resisted the destruction of their way of life were no better than vicious common criminals, robbers and murderers; and that, as a “dysfunctional” people, the Tasmanian Aborigines were actually responsible for their own demise. In Fabrication, Windschuttle wrote about the collapse of Tasmanian Aboriginal society with a moral coldness not seen even in the 19th century settler accounts.

With friends like the Bennelong society…

Now the ABC’s full of them.

29 Oct 2005, Comments (0)

Typing with intent redux

Author: Helen



Thanks Laura of Sills Bend (via comments on Road to Surfdom) for finding the transcript of the panel discussion on RN which I’ve referred to in a recent post.

I knew any post based on something listened to on a deck chair on the Balcony (as opposed to read, re-read and checked) would contain errors. But did I listen to myself? No? (Slap!) So, I owe Hilary McPhee an apology; it was Ramona Koval saying

And I put to Hilary McPhee the question of whether something like New Matilda would ever only be preaching to the converted. Unlike publishing a newspaper or hard copy magazine where you can hope that maybe on a train or in some dentistís waiting room, a person whoís never bought that newspaper or magazine might well pick it up and read it, but thereís nothing accidental or serendipitous about reading an online magazine or a blog, you have to actually log on to the site, you actually have to want to know and seek out whatís there. So how do you broaden an online readership beyond those who are already in the loop?

So the remark about people running online magazines not understanding how the internet works is completely invalid, because it wasn’t Hilary making the statement.

Still and all – an experienced cultural commentator like Koval should probably be better informed. Koval is someone I have a lot of respect for, so I’m not implying some kind of overall cluelessness. The problem is that public intellectuals like this can comment on the blogosphere without having, as it seems, been there much. But that’s just re-stating what I’ve already said.

Here’s a parallel: My own memories of the attitude of “mainstream” musicians to the burgeoning punk / new wave / alternative movement (with its DIY, untutored element) gives me a strong feeling of deja vu in this discussion.