Is aboriginal genocide, the most dishonorable interlude in Australian history, about to join Rigoberta Menchu’s “I, Rigoberta Menchu” on the ash heap of fabricated realities?

“I, Rigoberta Menchu,” as you may recall, won the Nobel Prize in 1993; it told of Ms. Menchu’s life and heroic deeds among the poor and oppressed of Guatemala. It was embraced by the left and Ms. Menchu became an icon.

There was just one problem: Her story wasn’t true. At least in the conventional sense of it did or it didn’t happen.

Ms. Menchu insisted it was true in a way: “My story is the story of all poor Guatemalans,” she said. “My personal experience is the reality of a whole people.” Some schools continued to teach the book as if it were true in the sense that it had actually happened.

An Australian historian called Keith Windschuttle is now arguing that there is no evidence that the stories of aboriginal genocide are true in the sense that they actually happened and that “social historians” have low regard for the truth. (They usually write the “truth,” notes Mr. Windschuttle.)

This is a longish quote, but it’s well worth reading for those of us who don’t put the “truth” in quotes:

“In her book ’The Aboriginal Tasmanians’ Lyndall Ryan claims that British colonists killed 100 Aborigines in Van Diemen’s Land between 1804 and 1808. Last year, on Channel Nine’s program Sunday, Ryan confessed she didn’t have any evidence for the figure. I had pointed out that the source her book quoted, the diary of the colony’s chaplain Robert Knopwood, only recorded four Aboriginal deaths. Ryan, however, claimed that footnote was a mistake and her real source was a report by the explorer John Oxley in 1810. But if you look up Oxley’s report, there is no mention in it anywhere of 100 Aborigines being killed. Pressed on the issue by journalist Helen Dalley, Ryan said: ’I think by the way Oxley wrote that he seemed to think there had been a great loss of life from the Aborigines.’ Helen Dalley then asked: ’So, in a sense, it is fair enough for [Keith Windschuttle] to say that you did make up figures? You’re telling me you made an estimated guess.’ Ryan replied: ’Historians are always making up figures.’”

“Historians are always making up figures.” “My personal experience is the reality of a whole people.” This is all too often the reality of those who abuse history to their own ends. Social historians and polemic fabulists like Rigoberta Menchu don’t believe in such a thing as history in the sense of it did or didn’t happen.

“By abandoning the traditional approach to history based on a narrative of major events and their causes, in favour of interest group politics, history loses its explanatory power,” writes Windschuttle. “There is no integrated story that links events into an intelligible framework. In short, the attempt to use social history to tell national history becomes incoherent and unintelligible. This is the major problem of the historical displays at the National Museum and in most of the Australian history written by people employed by our universities today.”

The most recent fabulist/mythmaker embraced by the left is Michael Moore, whose Fahrentheit 9/11 shows scant regard for the truth–or the “truth.” But that is not stopping Moore’s fans from embracing it. “To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability,” writes Christopher Hitchins in Slate. “To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of ’dissenting’ bravery.”