Honest History E-newsletter No. 42, 21 March 2017

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

The Honest History Book

Launches: Canberra, 6 April; Sydney, 12 April; Melbourne, 20 April

About the book, including Advance praise

‘This is collective history at its finest.’ (Melanie Oppenheimer, Flinders University)


New on the Honest History website

Getting the whole picture at Gallipoli: did 85-year-old Walter Phillips’ visit change his ambivalence about Anzac Day?

Circling around Manning Clark: Doug Munro on the biographies by Brian Matthews and Mark McKenna

Allusions in Beanland: David Stephens looks at For Country, for Nation at the Australian War Memorial

Australia’s initial take on the Russian Revolution of February-March 1917: Divided sunburnt country (21)

Mark Latham’s prescience on Insiders and Outsiders: questioning the tired old Left-Right spectrum

Griffith Review 55 State of Hope: a South Australian collation is reviewed by Marian Quartly

Into the Heart of Tasmania: Tjanara Goreng Goreng reviews Rebe Taylor’s book about an Englishman who exploited the stories of Aboriginal Tasmania

Top recent posts on the Honest History site

Centenary Watch

Malcolm Turnbull and Benjamin Netanyahu find modern resonance in Beersheba 1917; Vietnam War commemoration nervously gears up again (but not at Long Tan); Gallipoli and Beanland


Words matter. ‘I’m not trying to convince you that economics is stupid – I don’t think it is. But I am trying to convince you to join the fight against people who use econobabble to conceal their self-interest. Just as you don’t need a black belt in karate to call out bullying when you see it, you don’t need an economics degree to call out bullshit when you hear it. Until enough of us name econobabble for what it is, our public debate will never have room for good ideas based on evidence, logic and our collective values.’ Richard Denniss, Econobabble: How to Decode Political Spin and Economic Nonsense (2016)

Historical hydraulics. ‘One could add to this two-way explanation [of how historical myths take hold – partly top-down, partly bottom-up] a version of Parkinson’s law: interpretations of history, some of them dishonest because they lack or misuse evidence – they are really just myths – expand to fill the space available, particularly if there is no contest from alternative interpretations … Bullshit flows relentlessly to fill the space available. Myths build Anzac into Anzackery, overshadowing the many other parts of our history that deserve examination and, sometimes, celebration.’ David Stephens & Alison Broinowski, ‘Introduction’, The Honest History Book (coming April 2017)

Team effort. ‘He [McCarthy] had come to rely on him [Cohn] for almost everything – contacts, information, ideas, scheduling, briefings, and political advice.’ David M. Oshinsky, “A Conspiracy So Immense”: The World of Joe McCarthy (2005), describing the relationship between extreme anti-Communist and anti-gay Senator Joseph McCarthy and his adviser 1951-54, Roy Cohn.

Cohn job. ‘Reckoning with Trump means descending into the place that made him. What he represents, above all, is the triumph of an underworld of predators, hustlers, mobsters, clubhouse politicians and tabloid sleaze that festered in a corner of New York City, a vindication of his mentor, the Mafia lawyer Roy Cohn, a figure unknown to the vast majority of enthusiasts who jammed Trump’s rallies and hailed him as the authentic voice of the people.’ Sidney Blumenthal, ‘A short history of the Trump family’, London Review of Books, 16 February 2017

Line of succession. ‘“I hear Roy in the things he [Trump] says quite clearly,” said Peter Fraser, who as Mr. Cohn’s lover for the last two years of his life [1984-86] spent a great deal of time with Mr. Trump. “That bravado, and if you say it aggressively and loudly enough, it’s the truth — that’s the way Roy used to operate to a degree, and Donald was certainly his apprentice … “Having trained or mentored someone who became president,” he said, “that would have been quite exciting for Roy.”’ Jonathan Mahler & Matt Flegenheimer, ‘What Donald Trump learned from Joseph McCarthy’s right-hand man’, New York Times, 20 June 2016

What price ‘the better angels’, Mr Lincoln? ‘A scam artist, an ignoramus, a professional liar, a colossal and malignant narcissist, a vulgarian, a casino operator, a serial bankrupt – a Roy Cohn–mentored billionaire with deep Mob connections – is in the White House.’ Don Watson, ‘American berserk’, The Monthly, March 2017

We the people? ‘Bill Leak drew for a country that no longer exists. The majority of the words written since his death have been a kind of specious voodoo – a hope that Leak’s Australia could somehow be reanimated, that racist intimidation would once again dominate, that freedom of speech may be co-opted as a tool to keep down the future and the diversity of people who will make it.’ The Saturday Paper editorial, 18 March 2017

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