Quadrant’s vacancy filled

As The Australian reports this morning, the Quadrant editorial vacancy has been filled – by controversial historian Keith Windschuttle.

Windschuttle’s first target will be the arts:

Windschuttle is not feeling charitable towards luvvies. “I’ve become concerned in recent years about the cynicism and decadence that you get in the opera, in the theatre, in other parts of high culture – even the dance companies,” he said.

Consider Wagner’s Tannhauser, that myth of the sacred and profane now on show at the Sydney Opera House. “There’s a guy painted in gold (who) stands there with a giant erection – symbolises lust or something,” Windschuttle said yesterday. “That kind of gratuitous offensiveness is almost everywhere.”

Those who have the print version of The Australian will see a photograph of Windschuttle next to one of the ‘Look Right’ warnings painted on Sydney streets, to try to reduce the number of tourists run over after forgetting which side of the road cars drive on here. That perhaps doesn’t bode well for the ‘sceptical and non-ideological’ spirit Paddy says he has tried to revive during his editorship.

The end of the Cold War made Quadrant a less necessary place for the anti-totalilatarian left (as opposed to the merely non-totalitarian left), so it was always bound to narrow ideologically in the 1990s. But it would be good to have a magazine in which genuine diversity and debate was a constant feature, even if only within the broad centre-right and right.

42 thoughts on “Quadrant’s vacancy filled

  1. I think we should have some faith in the Quadrant board on this. In any event, it’s not clear to me that Windschuttle is a hard-line right-winger as opposed to being a stickler for accuracy. His Fabrications was excellent. His White Australia Policy would have benefitted perhaps from a public choice analysis. He writes well. He is not afraid to tackle the hard issues – so what more do you want from an editor?


  2. Andrew
    commiserations on not getting the gig. The Quadrant board has chosen an old fart who will appeal to no none but other old farts who share the same prejudices. Quadrant will whither on the vine, sustained, but only in the short term, by its Australia Council grants.

    Picture the following scene at the ABC Board meeting.

    KW: “As my editorial in last month’s Quadrant said, it is a disgrace that we at the ABC are funding and promoting the decadant arts”

    Methinks Keith is going to have to choose whether he hunts with the hounds or runs with the hares.


  3. I, Windschuttle, aim to be the matronly cold spoon of conservative thought. Down boy! Now, here’s the script of Die Walkure, only make sure all the dirty pillows are covered up properly.


  4. If you accept a Labor victory at the coming election as likely, if not given, then a Windschuttle-edited Quadrant will play an important role in defining exactly what conservatism means in twentyfirst century Australia.

    McGuinness did play an important role in applying standards to artistic commentary. The sort of critique that seems good enough for radio – I haven’t seen/read [controversial art piece], but I’m using it as an excuse for a rant about families/ decadence/ patriotism/ whatever gets up my nose these days – would not work under McGuinness. It may work under Windschuttle.

    From McAuley to Gaita, the magazine has had real intellectual heft that no amount of quibbling about its funding could fully dispel. However, if, as I suspect, no contributor to the magazine is allowed to outshine the editor then all we’ll see is pieces from Albrechtsen or Abbott which they didn’t make it to the daily broadsheets.

    Fabrications was based on a silly premise; let’s hope Quadrant doesn’t just become some tiresome troll-cave where losers play out vendettas and shoulda-woulda-coulda revisions of recent history. Indeed, it would take considerable skill as an editor – in terms of interpersonal skills, not just blue-pencil work – to make this happen.


  5. “quibbling about its funding ”

    It is a pity that the CIA isn’t still funding Quadrant. The standards would be much improved.


  6. It will be interesting to see how it goes. Judging by his site Sydney Line Windschuttle is more of a polymath than some might assume, and I think you need to be one for this particular gig.


  7. Spiros says:

    “It is a pity that the CIA isn’t still funding Quadrant. The standards would be much improved.”

    hahahaha Let me redit that for you, Spiro.

    It’s a pity the Sovs are no longer around to fund the Socialist Forum (where Julia Chavez was ONLY a typist even when she was afully fledged lawyer). The standards would be much improved.


  8. calling windschuttle controversial..
    sayng no one owns a job it is merely a contract..

    Norto wants to keep his job in case the left head of the hydra of government emerges as dominant


  9. I cannot for the life of me understand all the incredibly ugly bile that is directed at Windschuttle. His book The Killing of History was a fantastic expose of postmodern historiographic challenges to empiricism, positivism, and realism in general. No other Australian-authored book even ranks. There are few single books I have ever read where I have learnt so much.

    His Fabrication was the trenchant riposte to the the Sheltered-Workshop of Communists – and postmodernist refugees from Communism – that had turned early Australian colonial scholarship into a revival of 1970s Left Action circle jerks.

    Personally, I find empiricist historiography a la Windschuttle a little too Spartan, but it was dynamite on the sloppiness the Sheltered Workshoppers had descended into.

    He must have pained those Workshoppers REALLY severely to provoke their psychotic bile years later.

    Still, our culture could do with some cheering from the rafters. I hope Keith is the man for the job.


  10. John – Windschuttle is a ‘rat’. He was a lefty who saw the light, and then exposed the left for what they are. They’ll never forgive.


  11. John as a companion to KW’s critiqe of pomo historiography, let me suggest another book by two Australians which is one of the best replies to pomo in lit theory. Freadman (lit) and Miller (philosophy) pooler their resources to turn the tables on the pomos who have managed to intimidate the lit people by the pretence of philosophical learning. This is a summary of the book which has been endorsed by the authors as a fair commentary. http://www.the-rathouse.com/RC_FreadmanMiller.html

    The major task of the new editor (if he does not want to be the last) was identified by Andrew last year, that is recruiting and team building to have more (and more youthful) contributors.


  12. Greenfield/Sinclair/Rafe, you’ve got it all backwards. He isn’t hated as a rat who turned, he’s feted as a rat who turned. Previous life Marxists are always suspect, not because they turned, but because they believed in Marxism in the first place.

    His historical method has all the credibility of the guy who added up all the years in the Bible to arrive at the conclusion the world was only 6000 years old. Now you can eulogise about that kind of idiocy all you like, but clearly Windschuttle is no mental giant judging by his weird obsession with sex, and is fundamentally driven by social conservatism, not rationality.


  13. David I think that KW’s historiography is ok judging from “The Killing of History” and “Fabrication” and I was not aware that he has a weird obsession with sex. It is disappointing that his explanation for shifting from radicalism to conservatism is that he got older, one would have hoped for some more cerebral explanation. Still, the body of work that he has collected on his website is impressive.


  14. Rafe,
    If you were offered the editors position on an influential magazine, and you made it your first order of business to rid the world of gold phalluses, wouldn’t you expect the world to find your obsessions strange? Can’t he find something a little more important to do? His website certainly seems to have a broader focus, but we already did the decadence of art to death in the enlightenment period – it’s p*ssing in the wind. The only thing likely to happen is wee on his trousers.


  15. Now, now. Andrew’s site is already being caught by filters. The point about Windschuttle is that he didn’t just add up the years in the bible, he went and checked other sources and then said the years don’t tally. I was horrified by what I read in Fabrications. The thing to remember is that he wasn’t just ignored – the left went in hard, and failed, to dent his analysis of their work.


  16. I have spent quite a bit of time on the KW website though not in the last couple of years and I don’t recall anything about gold phalluses. Maybe this reflects an obsession on the part of David Rubie and I would like to see some more substantial criticism of Keith’s major theses.

    He is certainly fallible and he sponsored (reprinted) the silliest criticism of Popper’s philosophy of science in the English language. Still, you have to play each ball on its merits.


  17. Sinclair – the worrying thing about the right is that they’re full of old comms. The “long march through the institutions” has gone right through Quadrant. There are all manner of silly assumptions that they have brought with them, which make the task of deciding “What’s right? What’s left?” all the more difficult.


  18. You would hope that the supply of old comms is running out but against all the odds there was late recruitment of people like Stuart McIntyre and David McKnight so we still have relatively young “old comms” who show no sign of joining Quadrant. Maybe that will happen when they get a bit older, that is, old enough to be typical Quadrant readers:)


  19. Sinclair Davidson wrote:

    the left went in hard, and failed, to dent his analysis of their work.

    Robert Manne went in hard – he’s not of the left that I can see (or has he been completely removed from conservative history now?). Andrew E is right – the major public conservative thinkers are all ex left, or have flipped and flopped so many times through their intellectual lives they stand for nothing at all rather than the principle of simply being contrary. There’s nothing wrong with being contrary per se, but if that’s your only guiding principle, you’re basically stuffed. If you’re all going to pretend to be staunch believers in individual freedom, encouraging censorship via the addled brain of Windschuttle is not going to get you far. Next week he might change his mind again.


  20. A “tiresome troll-cave” — Nicely put.

    It would be a shame if Quadrant ends up being defined by the things it opposes.

    Some right wingers developed an unhealthy dependence on communism. When it collapsed they went looking for another bogey to frighten their readers — something that stood for the destruction of Western civilization as we know it.

    I’m waiting for an update of the Reagan era mini-series Amerika — one where the United States becomes so weakened by postmodernism, phonics, obscene art etc that it gets taken over by Islamo-fascists.


  21. Don says:
    “Some right wingers developed an unhealthy dependence on communism.”

    Don, have you been partying too hard before the election?

    And the opposite of that comment. Oh, Jim Cairns, Jimmy Carter. The sort of people that should be at your party, Don. Those winners and cold war warriors really did a lot to help us roll it back.


  22. Why don, why stop there. There’s a whole welfare state to grind down to nothing before the work is done and we reach the “end of history”.

    Howver you made light of their work in terms of helping to win the cold war through the power of words and not nuclear annhiliation. Isn’t that a good thing?


  23. The issue of the rationale for organised liberal/conservatism in the wake of the communist menace has been on the agenda for two decades. Greg Sheridan flagged it in 1986 and I provided a reply that called for an alliance of market liberals and non-authoritarian cultural conservatives, with the economists being more aware of cultural issues and the conservatives getting up to speed on economic rationalism and deregulation. http://www.the-rathouse.com/hayuniting.html

    Robert Manne has been a man of the left for all practical purposes since he became an opponent of sensible economics and then embraced the whole range of divisive leftwing causes. Peter Coleman has helpfully charted his rakish progress from the time when he was an honourable opponent of the left. http://www.the-rathouse.com/PC_Manne.html


  24. Don the official cold war may be over but the “adversary culture” mindset remains, so that people who once would have joined the party now embrace other secular religions. Besides, there is still the mess to clean up that the communist regimes left behind, not only in the old USSR but also in the other nations of Africa and South America where communist movements in various forms are still active and where proteges of Russia or China are in the saddle (Zimbabwe for example).

    Who precisely do you think is having a problem in adjusting to the end of the cold war?


  25. Why do you need the cultural conservatives Rafe? They’re poison to any intellectual movement. Besides which, poor old Greg Sheridan’s dummy spit in the Australian yesterday seems to have conceded the culture wars. What a waste of effort they were.


  26. David, cultural conservatism is about preserving what is valuable in our cultural heritage, in the way that sensible environmentalists want to conserve valuable things in the natural world. Of course in both domains it is open to argument what is worth conserving and what should be done about it.
    I think you may have missed the point of KW’s concerns because many people on the hard left are essentially autoritarian and they probably project their own censorial mindset onto everyone else who they don’t like. There is a difference between challenging things on the basis of taste or aesthetics and using the heavy hand of censorship. Many do not get that and they write books about the suppression of dissent at a time when dissent is being cried from the rooftops (and even published in books!).

    Greg Sheridan is usually good value and I will be interested to follow up his piece and check it out.


  27. Rafe, I don’t think I missed the point of his concerns – the money quote:

    That kind of gratuitous offensiveness is almost everywhere.

    Perhaps he brought his authoritarian nature with him on his wobbly ideological orbit. Perhaps it’s just innate in some people, left or right.


  28. What evidence is there that KW has an authoritarian nature? Mind you, good editors do need to have a streak of authoritarianism in them.

    I’m always a bit bemused when the left carry on about the “end” of the cold war. Yes, the cold war is over, yet the collaborators and quislings have yet to be hunted down and punished. Only then will it be the “end”.


  29. David you can argue about the truth of what he said, and there are several questions in play (a) is it true? (b) does it matter? (c) if yes to a and b, then what should be done about it?

    He tends to go in hard but that does not make him an authoritarian, and he may be an authoritarian personally but that need not translate into authoritarian public policies. You guys cut these issues off at the sox instead of coming to grips with the nuances.

    Incidentally i don’t think Sheridan’s piece was a “dummy spit”, it was a fairly realistic appraisal of the situation, again you can agree or disagree but it would help if you think about it for a minute or two and come up with some considered comments.


  30. Yes, the cold war is over, yet the collaborators and quislings have yet to be hunted down and punished. Only then will it be the “end”.

    Which of your colleagues would you like to purge Sinclair? Shoud we appoint a Committee on un-Australian Activities to investigate?


  31. Sorry, that should be:

    Yes, the cold war is over, yet the collaborators and quislings have yet to be hunted down and punished. Only then will it be the “end”.

    Which of your colleagues would you like to purge Sinclair? Shoud we appoint a Committee on un-Australian Activities to investigate?


  32. Purge is such a Stalinist phrase, Don. And punishing collaborators has a far longer history than does Stalinism.
    A “Committee on un-Australian Activities” is redundant. We already have sedition laws.


  33. I am not really sure who Greg Sheridan thinks he is to decide when and if the Culture Wars are over, which of course they are not. Just check out the AEU, university humanities and the softer Social Science departments, goervnment instrumentalities such as HREOC, the UN, the Leftist blogosphere, etc.

    Recall that the Culture Wars were imported to Australia by none other than a Mr. PJ Keating. For Luvvies to Tourrette’s-like bang on about HOWARD’s Culture Wars 24/7 really is beyond chutzpah!

    Pat Byrne, the AEU Fuhrer, shrieked with delight at the 2005 QLD Teacher’s Politburo. “Komrades” she boomed,

    We have succeeded in influencing the curriculum development in schools, education departments and universities. The conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum.

    Rest assured, while there are still people in the western world describing their Long March as “progressive”, the Culture Wars are nowhere near over.


  34. David Rubie says:

    “Why do you need the cultural conservatives Rafe? They’re poison to any intellectual movement. Besides which, poor old Greg Sheridan’s dummy spit in the Australian yesterday seems to have conceded the culture wars. What a waste of effort they were.”

    What he means is that he wants his side to be left alone teaching lies about our past. If it wasn’t for people like Keith W who did the work your side would be having us believe the nation was built by Nazis and a holocasut occurred. So spare me what it is you desire, David. It falls on deaf ears.


  35. jc wrote:

    hyperbole, nazis, blah, blah blah

    I’m not interested in censorship or pushing a particular barrow. I did not state that Windschuttle wasn’t entitled to his views or his flawed historical method- the issue here is whether Windschuttle’s desire to impose his own ideas on what represents acceptable culture is of any importance for people who’s primary aim is supposed to be liberalisation. I have no desire to be lectured on cultural matters by any old windbag, left or right, you included.

    Let me ask the question in a different way: How did Windschuttle become such an expert on what people want?


  36. David, you and I may or may not agree with Windschuttle’s views on a wide range of issues but the question is not how he came to his views but how he will run Quadrant.

    And the bigger issue is the conservation of the things that are good in our culture and politely but firmly challenging things that we think are bad. You may not want to be lectured but are you prepared to be challenged to rethink some of your assumptions?


  37. David Rubie

    How is KW’s historical method “flawed?” Can we infer you think those he exposes – Lyndall Ryan, Henry Reynolds, etc. – use a superior and not a “flawed” historical method?

    Onto whom or what does “Windschuttle’s desire to impose his own ideas on what represents acceptable culture?” I have never encountered anybody who has felt put upon by KW.


  38. Hyerpbole….flwaed analysis. you side has had long enough to prove Keith wrong and they have failed. They have failed because they lied to us about who settled this country.

    As far as I’m concerned, Keith is a bloody hero.


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