Ever since Bruce Pascoe’s book first slithered from the press, it has had a thrashing over its inaccuracies, exaggerations, and baseless assertions. Because those slamming the book were perceived to be on the conservative side of politics, the criticisms were ignored or sneeringly dismissed. As expected, foremost among the critics of the conservatives’ view were ABC people. Their comments and support for Dark Emu showed they had uncritically swallowed Pascoe’s dodgy dish.
That grubby foul-mouthed Benjamin Law said, ‘Dark Emu will calibrate everything you know about Aboriginal architecture, engineering and agriculture on this continent.’ Political commentator Patricia Karvelas claimed that Dark Emu made ‘heavy use of primary extracts – it’s all there.’ Well, it wasn’t all there. It’s a mild criticism to say the book is a lot of rubbish. It deserves a lot more.
But now two academics of the left have written book to debunk the hoax (see below). But do you think the left will back down? Not on your life. Dark Emu is a massive propaganda tool. The left will not let it go without a struggle.
Debunking Dark Emu: did the publishing phenomenon get it wrong?
In 2014, Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu revolutionised interpretations of Indigenous history, arguing that Aboriginal people engaged in agriculture, irrigation and construction prior to the arrival of Europeans. Now, in a new book, two highly respected academics say that there is little evidence for these claims.
By Stuart Rintoul, The Age, JUNE 12, 2021
The walls of Peter Sutton’s home in country South Australia are hung with ghosts – black-and-white photographs he has collected from second-hand shops over the years, the long-gone people he calls “poignant strangers”, staring out from the past, without families who want or remember them.
It’s a rambling old house of stone and timber, everything you would expect an anthropologist’s home to be: rooms filled with books, papers, a large volume of genealogies of Wik families from Cape York among whom he has spent much of his professional life, including some 2000 records of births and deaths. Sutton has spent many decades with the Wik people; danced with them, cried with them. There are other records, from western Arnhem Land, Daly River, the Murranji Track – ghost road of the drovers, Central Australia and the corner country of the Lake Eyre basin.
Sprawled across a dining room table is an almost-finished book about the early 20th century Queensland anthropologist Ursula Hope McConnel, who was brave and brilliant and solitary.
Sutton is one of Australia’s leading anthropologists. A gifted linguist, rigorous, sometimes controversial, a debunker of myths who stood, grief-stricken, in the little cemetery at Aurukun, on the west coast of Cape York, in September 2000 and began to think the thoughts that gradually formed themselves into his heretical essay and then book, The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus, which exposed the gulf between progressive ambition and dysfunctional reality in Aboriginal communities.
Quietly spoken, with a restless curiosity, independent-minded Sutton is now almost 75 years old but doesn’t seem it. An outsider in many ways throughout his life, he was born in working-class Port Melbourne at a time when men in hats and shabby suits played two-up on the other side of his grandmother’s back fence.Advertisement.