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Time to play dirty? Lessons from the David Starkey affair

By Paul Collits - posted Tuesday, 21 July 2020


Cancel culture is all around. It crushes rational debate and destroys freedom of thought and speech. The latest victim is the eminent British historian David Starkey, caught up cruelly in the Black Lives Matter debate. His cancellation raises important questions for how those who value freedom fight against leftist revolutionary thought and practice.

The endless dilemma of the thinking right is whether to play dirty. This question came, yet again, to mind in the wake of the "David Starkey affair".

For those in Australia (and elsewhere) who have not caught up with the events of the last week, the eminent and widely respected British historian David Starkey, now in his mid-seventies, has been cancelled, following his recent accidental outing as a "racist" during an interview.

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Yet another victim of identity politics and the cultural revolution now revved up following the death of an obscure, seedy, petty criminal in Minneapolis. Brutally killed, to be sure, in an act that may or may not have been racially motivated.

Oh, he was black. Did I mention that?

And so it has begun. The inevitable, rolling, out-of-control events that followed George Floyd's killing are now familiar across the globe. The sadly otherwise bored and unoccupied leftist faux-revolutionaries, down on their luck during the Covid confinement, have a new, err, old, cause on which to reignite their revolutionary fervour. The leftists have come alive again.

In merely the latest contribution to this "reasoned" debate, the former West Indian fast bowler and check-your-cricket-commentator-privilege ageing male Michael Holding has taken the proverbial knee, in hymn sheet coalescence with all the English and West Indian cricketers at Southampton.

The woke are cheering.

Michael Holding is hailed as some kind of latter-day Martin Luther King. The irony of these buffoons being compared to one who, if his sixties rhetoric is to be taken at face value, would find all the current BLM kerfuffle so much misplaced nonsense, and decidedly not what he thought would come of the civil rights revolution, is palpable.

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But back to David Starkey.

Starkey is, as I said, a prominent historian. An old fashioned septuagenarian scholar who has carved out an impressive career straddling the academy and the TV screen. He has eloquently defended the traditionalist approach to the study of history, you know, digging into what happened, when, where, how and why. This is an approach to history and of historiography that has gone the way of, well, history. Now history is merely an instrument of modern politics. End. Of. Story.

Real history has been cancelled.

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This article was first published on the The Freedoms Project.



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About the Author

Paul Collits is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern Queensland and is Research Director of the Economic Development and Enterprise Collaboration at the University’s Fraser Coast Campus.

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