Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Prisoners

Keith Windschuttle introduces Swedes to Aboriginal his-story

Between 22:00-23:00 on Monday 4th February 2008 the program 'Historiens Fångar' (History's Prisoners) (streamed online now) by Danish film maker Poul-Erik Heilbuth was shown on Swedish Television Channel 1 with a repeat planned for next Sunday 10th February 2008 at 14:25 on the same channel.

I have registered a complaint with the Swedish Broadcasting Authority about the way the program 'Historiens Fångar' was presented without any discussion or dissenting opinion to those expressed by the main figure interviewed in the film. This man is well known in his homeland, Australia as holding extreme and controversial opinions when it comes to the exact subject matter the film dealt with, indigenous peoples. While many of the opinions expressed in the program do have basis in the situation experienced by many indigenous Australians (the area I am most familiar with, although the program dealt with indigenous North Americans, Sami and Inuit peoples) they were presented to viewers without any counter arguments or alternate opinion.

The most notable voice in the program was from Keith Windschuttle, a controversial figure to say the least in the debate around the history of white colonization in Australia and the Aboriginal people. Windschuttle is widely recognized as being a revisionist historian with a political agenda that is inevitably fulfilled by his research. To quote the respected Australian journalist and critic Gerard Henderson:

The problem with Windschuttle's work is that, at times, you get the impression that he is a former Marxist - turned political conservative - who is waging a personal war on the very left-wing interpretation of Australian history that he once both embraced and proclaimed. His revisionism is essential reading for anyone who wants to join the debate on Australian history. Yet, because his history contains a substantial degree of personal polemic, it sometimes lacks empathy.
The Trouble with Windschuttle, The Age Dec 7 2004.

Due to the one-sided nature of Mr. Windschuttle's account of Black-White relations in Australia and the way this was presented as a general reference point in the program for indigenes of the USA, Greenland and even Scandinavia, there should have been some counter balance provided in the documentary 'Historiens Fångar'. There was not. I suggest that the Australian current affairs program Four Corner's edition The Cape Experiment is one example that could lend an element of balance to some of the more ideologically motivated claims made by Windschuttle in 'Historians Fånger'. Windschuttle's books are self-published through his Macleay Press. By a even a quick review of the total published titles from MacLeay one can easily detect the ideologically narrow approach taken by the company:

The Invention of Terra Nullius: Historical and Legal Fictions on the Foundation of Australia by Michael Connor

The White Australia Policy: Race and shame in the Australian history wars by Keith Windschuttle

Washout: The academic response to the fabrication of Aboriginal history by John Dawson

The Killing of History: How a discipline is being murdered by literary critics and social theorists by Keith Windschuttle

Corrupting the Youth: A history of philosophy in Australia by James Franklin

The Multicultural Experiment edited by Leonie Kramer


Barnaby said...

Hello from

We campaign against European appropriation of indigenous people's culture and spirituality. We're outraged by this documentary. Its message is that "these people" (a phrase used more than once by Windschuttle) cannot manage their own destinies. It is completely false to say that indigenous people in Australia, America or Greenland have had autonomy for thirty years. That's why the only "experts" we see in the film are a trio of racists: you've covered Windschuttle. Yeagley, billed as a 'columnist', has made a career of sorts by impersonating a Comanche and railing online against 'darkies' for his ultra-right-wing masters. He's a pariah in Indian Country. Barbara Lindsay is a full-time political campaigner against Indian sovereignty with a lobby group called One Nation United. If that was mentioned, I missed it.

I'm British by the way. The nearest thing I can liken this film to in a British context is someone at the BBC deciding it would be a good idea to cobble together ancient newsreel footage of happy natives abandoning their primitive ways and learning to sing "God Save the Queen" under the tutelage of wise Imperial administrators.

Here's our forum thread about the film, including the director's email address:

((((((((ö)))))))) said...

Thanks for the input Barnaby. I was notified yesterday I have a case pending with the Swedish Communication Authority regarding the broadcasting of this program. The will investigate my claim that it is unbalanced in the opinions to depicts and the broadcaster should make this known as part of the broadcast, which they have yet to do.