Fanaticism is a scourge

In a Comment following my Post about Morrisseys PhD thesis,  “Brendan” makes a number of  statements that I would like to respond to. Firstly, he asks this question:

You keep calling people who sympathize with Ned Kelly ‘ Kelly fanatics ‘, but aren’t you (Dee) a Kelly fanatic yourself?
That’s a fair question, and this is my answer: No, I am not a fanatic; Instead I would call myself an enthusiast, as would many people on both “ sides” who are interested in Ned Kelly and the Kelly story.  Brendan thinks I am a fanatic because  he says I have spent all this time “posting on and creating Blogs about Ned Kelly” but if you look at a definition of the word “fanatic” you will see its not enough just to spend a lot of time on something or have a passionate interest in something to be a fanatic:
FANATIC: “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.”
There are two main  differences between an enthusiast and a fanatic, and the first is the intensity with which a belief is held – it has to be “extreme”. In my view, extreme Kelly enthusiasts are the ones who elevate Ned Kelly to the status of a national icon, who wreath images of him with flowers and kisses, who attribute to him lofty sentiments worthy of a Saint, and a reformer, who see him as an inspiration, a role model and unique Legend.  Their extreme enthusiasm is further demonstrated by the aggression and hostility with which they defend their views against all comers, regarding every person who has an alternative opinion as “anti-Ned”, as someone to be silenced if at all possible,as someone to whom no respect or courtesy is due.
The second important difference between enthusiasts and the fanatics is the way in which the belief of fanatics is uncritical. For example if someone were to suggest Ned was only ever kind and polite to women – that would  immediately be accepted.  No evidence would be needed to justify such a statement, because in the mind of the Kelly fanatic, its self evidently true. On the other hand, if someone were to suggest that on the contrary Ned was a bully and threatened and frightened women and children, that claim would immediately be rejected as Police lies, or  the opinion of newspaper men who were in the employ of the rich and powerful Squatters. Furthermore the motives, family connections and identity of the person making that suggestion would be attacked. This is fanaticism, and I have been the focus of much of it for more than a year.
No, Brendan I am not a fanatic. I don’t attack people who disagree with me, or by devious methods seek to have their web sites closed down and removed from the internet, because I am an enthusiast not a fanatic, and I support the right of people to have different opinions to mine. I listen to, read about and seriously consider viewpoints that are not necessarily my own, and it doesn’t concern me if other people have alternative opinions. I would not, for example ever have an extremist Facebook page devoted to attacking the author and supporters of a book that I didn’t agree with even before I had read it:thats extreme and fanatical. I might write a Post about what I don’t like about a book or where I disagree with its conclusions, but I wouldn’t advise people to use it for toilet paper or make mad racist remarks about its author because I am an enthusiast and not a fanatic.I think of Bill, Sharon and Brian as enthusiasts as well: we share an interest in the Kelly story but are not haters of people who hold other views ( and before you start jumping to conclusions the only connections i have with these people is what is Posted on the Internet) 
Now, next Brendan comments on my claim that, as he puts it “sympathisers  are not facing the ‘truth’ about Ned, deliberately avoiding articles and books that aren’t ‘ pro Kelly’” 

He says that I do “the exact same thing” 
and that I avoid “anything which is not negatve about Ned Kelly” 

( without the double negatve it becomes “I avoid anything POSITIVE about Ned Kelly” – which is easier to comprehend)
Well, I have to simply deny that absolutely. Have I not recently read Max Browns Australian Son?  There is no webpage or book or You Tube article, or Kelly “thing” or place of any kind that I could get my hands on that I wouldnt read, photocopy, download, visit, buy or borrow if it was at all possible. That’s because I am not a fanatic with a fixed inviolable belief, but an enthusiast, and I am interested in what the truth about Ned Kelly really is, not in defending a fixed predetermined Creed about Saint Ned. Unlike Fanatics I cant tell if a book  has something to teach me, or if I like it or not until I have actually read it. 
Lastly you say this :
“People who sympathize with Ned Kelly and his gang always will; no matter what you or anyone has to say, that will not change. We have all read what you have read and more; you views will not convert anyone.”
As a definition of what a Kelly Fanatic is, that statement pretty well says it perfectly, and its worth reading it again:  People who symapthise with Ned Kelly and his gang always will ; no matter what you or anyone has to say, that will not change Given this view of yours I am left to wonder about why you read my Blog. If nothing I write could possibly change your mind, why are you wasting your time here? Is it just to stir?

My final comment is to repeat something I have written several times before, that I am not interested, and have never been interested in converting the fanatics. I would be very happy for them to stay away from my Blog and hide away out of site in the Ned Kelly Forums secret Members Only hideout and leave me alone. It’s a pointless waste of energy and time to try to “convert” people whose minds are already made up., and who say that no matter what anyone says, they won’t change, as you do. No, my interest is in all the other enthusiasts and interested people searching the net for ideas and information and opinions about Ned Kelly, and in making sure that the fanatics aren’t the only people who have a voice.
PS : Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts, but do you realize you did exactly what I was saying Kelly fanatics do? Instead of talking about Morrisseys PhD thesis, which was the topic of the post, you were ignoring it and  having a go at me!
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26 Replies to “Fanaticism is a scourge”

  1. It would appear the word ‘fanatic’ fits you to a tee Dee, see below. I’ve included ‘uncritical for you as well, since you are relying on that to make yourself sound better. .


    noun: fanatic; plural noun: fanatics
    1. 1.
    a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.
    "religious fanatics"
    synonyms: zealot, extremist, militant, dogmatist, devotee, sectarian, bigot, chauvinist, partisan, radical, diehard, ultra, activist, apologist, adherent; More

    A person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause.

    1. a person whose enthusiasm or zeal for something is extreme or beyond normal limits
    2. a person devoted to a particular hobby or pastime; fan: a jazz fanatic.


    1. Not critical; undiscriminating or indulgent.
    2. Not using critical standards or methods, as in evaluation.

    Noun 1. fanatic – a person motivated by irrational enthusiasm (as for a cause); "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject"–Winston Churchill

    Adj. 1. fanatic – marked by excessive enthusiasm for and intense devotion to a cause or idea; "rabid isolationist"

  2. Yeah, right.

  3. Things are looking up. Our friend has got himself a dictionary. This means that meaningful discussion can theoretically take place. I hope he looks up 'obsessive-compulsive behaviour'.

    I have a full copy of Morrissey's PhD thesis, laboriously photocopied over a day. Its not online. You can't buy a copy. I also have copies of all the journal articles that predated or were published after Dr Morrissey obtained his doctorate. The articles are not the thesis and, if anything, summarise some parts of the thesis.

    Bill asks in the commentary previous to this one, what were Morrissey's motives, religious and cultural background. I guess this is a legitimate, if unusual, series of questions. A PhD thesis is closely monitored academically. All I know is that his studies were about the social history of the Kelly family, their neighbours and wider circle of contacts. Morrissey mentions the catholicism of many of these people, but I have no idea whether Morrissey was a Catholic himself. He was breaking new ground, fossicking in the Lands Records which noone had done before. His exhaustive work has been all but ignored in the modern Kelly literature, all the more surprising given Morrissey's insights to the Kelly story.

    I don't know if this helps Bill or anyone else..

  4. Dee, you have given 'Brendan' a free kick. He comes here and rubbishes you and what you say. You have elected to respond to his mad pronouncements.

    As you already know, the main Kelly forums NKF and Iron Outlaw would not allow you to comment on their sites in the way 'Brendan' has done here. They would require that you register so they know who you are and can monster or expel you. The NedKellyForum Boards introduced you to 'fred' who hectored and threatened you, and got you expelled. How you deal with criticism is up to you.

    'Brendan' meantime has not made a single contribution to the Morrissey debate here..

  5. I am wondering why no one has ever heard one single solitary peep out of Douglas Morrissey at any point in time? Doesn't he go online and search Kelly stuff? If so he would have seen all the "desperately seeking Morrissey" posting that have been up in the past several years on various and sundry forums where folks want more info or to (heaven help us) "debate" him. Maybe he just doesn't want to get involved in all of the controversy and aggro? Or is he truly oblivious to all he has started? Or, hopefully, he has not passed away.

    Re Morrissey being the first to utlilize the Land Records, John McQuilton in his 1979 book "The Kelly Outbreak 1878-1880: The Geographical Dimensions of Social Banditry" lists under his sources.

    "Victorian Lands Department Collection which includes:
    The Crown Lands Bailiffs' Reports
    A survey of selectors by Land District, Beechworth, and Benalla 1861-2.
    Register of Land Sales, 1857-71.
    The Lease, License and Rent Rolls for various Acts.
    Individual selection files for every allotment selected under the various Acts, particularly the Acts of 1865 and 1869."

    He also accessed the "Victorian Registry Department, Register of Deeds" for various years.

    Morrissey also quotes from McQuilton in his thesis. Even though Morrissey supposedly has another unpublished and (unseen) 1977 thesis on the sympathisers (though I have seen the 1878 article derived from it), to be sure both of these men were tilling the same soil (pun intended) for about the same amount of time, especially given that McQuilton had an article published in 1977 called "Lawlessness and Settlement." More points by default go to McQuilton who actually got his book published and is more readily available to the reading public than the hard to obtain thesis is.

  6. Thanks Sharon, I also have wondered what happened to him. Alex McDermott is another academic who seems to have disappeared, and though Ian MacFarlane was a joint author of the “Psycopath” paper last year, he also has gone to ground.

    My very strong suspicion is that they have been so throughly harassed and bullied by Kelly fanatics that they have simply moved on, with the result that the forum gets left to the extremists, which of course is exacty what they want, but who could blame them?

    As you know theres a disgraceful Facebook page devoted to attacks on Ian MacFarlane, and Alex McDermott is regularly demonised and vilified in Kelly fanatic webpages. Closer to home, you and your fellow Blogger have been attacked, and the hate and venom that has been directed at Bill and Carla has been appalling – I really admire Bill and Carla for their refusal to give in to all this nastiness.

    This is a shameful feature of Kelly fanaticism which is continuing in 2015. The answer is to do what the french are doing saying “I am Charlie” Maybe all of us who support free speech should all say “I am Douglas, I am Alex, I am Ian” and determine not to be silenced by thugs in our midst.

  7. I have been in the Kelly world for over 12 years and never once have I seen Morrissey raise his head up. However, I do recall all of the abuse hurled at McDermott by a few people, though. While I might not agree with everything the man had to say as regards his take on the Kelly saga, he had every right to say it and he did bring out some interesting facts. I have asked myself a million times why don't people just try to debate/discuss the facts in a calm polite manner, why must they ALWAYS name call and degrade, denigrate, aggravate, put down, harass, threaten, and totally victimize a fellow human being? What really is funny is how I have folks on both sides of the Kelly debate trying to run me down! (Carla and Bill and Brian S also have the same problem) All it does is spur me (and them) on to greater heights. The abuse by a few will never stop, the more we try to be rational, the more irrational they become. So, let's just keep on doing on what do and not let these others derail the conversation.
    Oh, yeah, the whole "I am…." thing harkens back to Kirk Douglas in the 1960 film Spartacus. Who can ever forget the scene where Kirk is about to stand up and announce himself to save the others and one of them beats him to it..then another..then another. I AM SPARTACUS!

  8. Anonymous says: Reply

    I have asked myself a million times why don't people just try to debate/discuss the facts in a calm polite manner, why must they ALWAYS name call and degrade, denigrate, aggravate, put down, harass, threaten, and totally victimize a fellow human being?

    Totally agree with this Sharon.

  9. Dr. McQuilton's usage of the lands records seems to have been general. He used them to discuss the causes and effects of the Victorian land acts. Dr. Morrissey used them particularly to identify neighbours of the Kelliys, and their connections and influences. McQuilton gives a gripping account of the surveillance of the Kelly and Byrne homes by police. But I think his book is marred by the technical discussion of the lands acts and the Hobsbawn theory of social banditry.

    Dr Morrissey's thesis is 28 years old and was unpublished. In those circumstances was there any necessity from him to pop up his head?

    The stupid criticisms of Sharon, Brian, the Denhelds and Dee is baffling. I can only echo your annoyance and disgust with it.

  10. I'm detecting Sharon ain't a big fan of Doug Morrissey!

    She asks "Or is he truly oblivious to all he has started? Or, hopefully, he has not passed away".

    My understanding is that he was a mature age student back then, but Sharon may be able to disprove this. For one thing, his thesis should have a date of birth on it somewhere. Otherwise, the university would be able to provide details.

    I'm a very big fan of Doug's exemplary work and well-deserved PhD. I've gotta keep a couple of aces up my sleeve because I just can't tell which way all this is heading.

  11. Morrissey has done a fine job of describing the people and times that shaped the Kellys and others in their social strata. I commend him on a job well done. Look, trying to convey thoughts and emotions on the internet is difficult and many get the wrong idea. I only wish that the gentleman could be communicated with and could discuss some of his conclusions with us. While I absolutely love and gush over certain researchers and writers (like Cookson for example), it does not mean that I dislike or am not a fan of certain others (ok, well, maybe I am not much of a fan of Ashmead!)

  12. I am not someone who places himself anywhere along a "pro-Ned" or "anti-Ned" spectrum. To me, history is always far more complex than that.

    Thought I'd clarify this before posting, as so much of the discussion here seems to be along those lines.

    I did notice in Cameron Forbes' Australia on Horseback, there is mention of an upcoming Doug Morrissey book, Ned Kelly, A Lawless Life. I'm not particularly looking forward to another scathing assessment of Kelly, but at least hope that it presents a more coherent argument than McFarlane's, which I found very unconvincing.

  13. Also, I am assuming that Alex McDermott and Clare Wright will have their "Nedwood" book published some time soon. From memory, it was at one stage listed for publication in 2014.

  14. I had completely forgotten about the proposed Nedwood book that was mentioned many moons ago, but had not heard about A Lawless Life. Thank you for alerting us to this. I will be on the lookout. And I do agree about the complexity of history!

    Dee, here is a thought that might help get more folks to know to check the comments sections of the blog postings. You can go to your blogspot dashboard template and do some togglling to have the latest comments listed/linked on the side of your homepage. That way things that others might be interested in commenting on or reading might not get buried as the blog pushes the older posts off the main page. Some of the older postings might be able to be revived too by new comments and discussion.

  15. As you can see I took your advice Sharon, so thanks heaps for the tip. Actually I tried to do this a few weeks ago and got all confused and couldn’t make it work so decided maybe it wasn’t possible after all but with your comment decided to try again and this time…Yay! As usual it was just a simple error on my part. So thanks again Sharon

    To Chris H thanks for that info about possible upcoming books – I am sure we are all desperate to see them published. I also agree history is complicated, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for doing it badly or mean junk history shouldn’t be called out. In relation to your disappointment with the MacFarlane book, it would be helpful to the debate of you could elaborate on that. Have you read Brians multipart review on Sharons Blogspot?

  16. Dee, I am so glad that you got the latest comments gadget working. Things can glitch up at times, that is for sure. I would have completely missed the comments by Mark Perry (hi, Mark, hope you are doing well!) otherwise. Too bad that the comment section only holds a handful! Would hate to miss any of them.

  17. I just found a link for the Doug Morrissey Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life book. It is coming out in Feb 2015.

    I just posted about it at my own blog, but I did make sure to give credit to this blog for the Morrissey discussions and to Chris H. for alerting us to the fact that the book was coming up.

  18. Sharon thats great news about Doug Morrisseys new and way overdue book "Ned Kelly A Lawless Life" I cant wait to get my hands on it next month, and I will certainly be reviewing it right here. The quote in the Link you’ve provided makes it look like one that the fanatics will want to ignore and hang on the dunny door next to The Kelly Gang Unmasked.I expect if I like it, they’ll stop accusing me of being Ian and say I must be Doug! February is going to be fun!

  19. Was not sure where to put this comment, but decided to do it in the comment section where Morrissey's Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life was first mentioned and linked. I just got my copy of it today and have done a posting at my blog listing the table of contents for it, which might help others decide if they want to get it or not. Surely, sheer curiosity will make this book a must-have! So, have others gotten their copies yet?

  20. Thanks for that news Sharon. I haven’t got my copy yet so I am a bit annoyed that Amazon got yours to you faster than the Publisher itself has got mine to me, even though I am in the Country! I will ring them later today and find out whats going on.
    Those Chapter headings are provocative aren’t they? I was looking forward to something academic and meaty rather than polemic, of which there is already more than enough. The answer to extremism in one direction isn’t extremism in the opposite one – However one mustn’t jump to conclusions so I am still looking forward to getting my copy and reading it.

  21. Oddly, the Amazon page has it as being published January 15, 2015. Also if I were to buy direct through Amazon it says that it would take 1 to 3 weeks to ship. Am thinking this is a "print on demand" type thing. I bought from one of the marketplace sellers who sell through the site who shipped it the next day, so they probably already had a printed copy on hand ordered and printed early on (says printed in the USA on last page of book). So, maybe that is the delay with the Australian publisher as they are printing on demand for now? How long has it been since you ordered? Wonder if this will be in shops, too? But why would the USA get it published in January and Australia say to be published in February? Hope you get yours soon!

  22. Hi Dee. I have just called Connor court publishing. Guy I spoke to said Morrisseys book is close but not quite ready. Apparently, "still at printers". He expected it to arrive yesterday and is chasing today. When I mentioned Sharon already received hers, he said the Americans are "much better at these things than we are". I reckon we have another week or so to wait. .

  23. Sorry I accidentally deleted a whole lots of Posts. Luckily every Post is saved by gmail so here they are again:

    I have finished reading everything except the Jerilderie Letter with its annotations. Will get to that section when I am fresher. I basically already knew all of the Kelly facts presented in this, nothing was really new to me, especially since I had previously read Morrissey's 1987 thesis and a couple of his articles and have been studying the Kellys on a regular ongoing basis for many years. For those wondering, there are no notes at the end of the book like we find in Ian Jones's books, which is unfortunate because I really enjoy perusing those. There are no footnotes either. There is a bit in there covering a couple of pages that gives explanation and insight into Thomas Patrick Lloyd and those rumored exercise books on the Republic we have been discussing in some thread on this blog. Interesting in the extreme, but I won't spoil it for anyone. Will let each of you have the pleasure of discovering it for yourself before it is perhaps discussed here in length at some point.

    I did find this bit that Morrissey wrote to be somewhat disturbing, yet highly intriguing:

    "If Fitzpatrick had taken his prisoner into custody and immediately proceeded to Greta as was normal police procedure, the Fitzpatrick Affair would never have occurred and the Kelly outbreak would have taken shape in a different fashion but always with murder or attempted murder somewhere in the mix."

    I won't give away any more of the book for now, eventually nearly everyone will have it and then the full on discussions can begin.

    Well its going to be at least a week Sharon – thanks for doing that Mark!
    I just wish more people were interested enough to join the discussions – which reminds me Sharon – your site says you can only comment if you’re a member, so how does that happen?

    But what you’ve posted already about this book disappoints me somewhat – to have no notes and references is a huge deficiency.
    As for the comment about Fitzpatrick – Ive always wished he hadn’t been so accommodating of Dans request to go back to the house for food. He was too kind. And I think Mrs Kellys role as a major provocateur once they did get back was central to the fracas that took place and is mostly overlooked in all the sentimentality about her eventual sentence, with everyone desperate to mention the “babe at her breast” and make it seem all that more cruel. Breastfeeding isn’t a defence in a criminal case. Cruel would have been to say "you can’t take that baby with you to Prison, find a wet nurse” Allowing her to keep the baby was a kindness to the mother and the baby.

    Yes, I agree, it is a disappointment not to have copious notes at the back. I sometimes learn just as much from those as I do the text of the book.

    Re Mrs Kelly and her baby, at least once the baby did not need mother's milk and could eat solid food it was probably best for the child's development that she was returned to the Kelly home to be cared for by her sisters.

    I used to have the comments section where people could freely make comments but I had it set to where I could first review it and then post it for them, that way I kept all the crazy spam off. But it got to the point of people with certain agendas trying to push it there and I decided I was not going to be a part of that and just did not need the aggro. I have on occasion added feedback for people like Brian McDonald who have asked me in email to do so for them. I suppose that I have missed out on some good comments and input from people, but it was a case of the few ruining things for the many. I myself have made some great friends through forums and comments sections in the past, so it makes me wonder who am I not meeting?

    Forgot to add that the Jerilderie Letter Annotated section is the only one with the notes to it, hence it being "annotated." Still have not started reading that part yet.

  24. Mark I rang them too, and they gave me the same story.

  25. I am wondering if you accidentally deleted the posts while deleting some who were aptly proving my point of why I don't accept comments at my blog? 😉

  26. My copy of Morrissey arrived this morning. It's quite critical of Jones and McQuilton unfortunately. But looking forward to reading.

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