With this commentary, we have now reached the milestone of 100 Posts, close to 58,000 visits, and 1342 Comments, as good a place as any to reflect what the Blog has achieved in its 18 month existence, on what I have learned, and to contemplate the future of Kelly mythology.
Survival has been the first achievement! My first two attempts to create an alternative Kelly space on the internet – two ProBoards forums – were sabotaged in a matter of weeks by Pro Kelly internet bullies who vowed they would do the same to this one. Happily, they have failed, though numerous attempts to wreck this Blog were made in the early days last year. The worst they’ve managed to do was to have one post removed from the Australian version of this Blog, but it can still be read by changing the Blog address from .com.au to .co.nz and look for the post in June 2014 “Site Guide Part one: The NKF”.
In fact, the Blog has not merely “survived” – it has thrived and grown steadily to become by far the most lively “Ned Kelly” place on the Internet, as evidenced by the growing numbers of daily reads, and by the amazing number of thoughtful contributions by readers. When I reviewed the numbers at the end of 2014 there was an average of 1225 visits and 22 comments per month. This year the monthly averages are 4745 visits and 116 comments, a gratifying increase in activity and interest in the demythologizing of the Kelly story. At the same time that this Blog has been expanding, the other Internet Kelly places have all been shrinking, a decline that I would like to think has something to do with this Blog. However I cant take credit for that because as I showed in my February 2015 analysis of activity on the Iron Outlaw site, as a proxy for interest in Kelly mythology generally, the decline has been continuous since 2009:
|The Chart of Iron Outlaws decline is a Proxy for Interest in Kelly Mythology
This year Brad Webb’s much vaunted Iron Outlaw web site, inspite of a lackluster makeover, is continuing its decline into irrelevance and is on track to record its lowest ever number of reader letters, about 20; there has been NO activity on the Ned Kelly Forum for over six weeks; the anti Kelly Gang Unmasked Book Facebook Page has had NO activity for four MONTHS and we have now been waiting for his “Lonigan Part Two” for almost 150 days. The NKF and IO Facebook Pages are only kept going by reposting of news items with vague connections to Ned Kelly, but nothing original takes place on them, and the 13 year run of Ned Kelly Weekends has come to an end with bitter infighting between factions of Kelly sympathisers. It would seem that among others the NKF Key Master has been shown the door by the BHRG who have once again restated their intention to focus on their original aim of performing historical re-enactments and move on from Kelly worship.
Alongside all these “own goals” by Kelly sympathisers intent on wrecking their Brand, the demythologizing of Ned Kelly has been continuing apace this year, not just on this Blog but in the world of Publishing, with Morrisseys book “Ned Kelly : A lawless Life”, and Trudy Toohills “The reporting of Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang.” (to be reviewed by me soon) Even the Arts have been looking a bit more critically at Ned with the Imagining Ned exhibition and Morrissey book launch linked at Bendigo. I noticed quite recently that my review of the Morrissey Book Launch has been reposted on a Blog related to an Arts course centered on the Imagining Ned Exhibition!
A site Ive often enjoyed visiting but have barely mentioned that is also engaged in the demythologizing of Ned and seems to be thriving is the Facebook Page of The Ned Kelly Vault. It prominently declares itself to be a history museum and “NOT a SHRINE” making a determined point that its not about Kelly mythology but about Kelly history, I would imagine in part to distance itself from the Kelly sympathizer thugs on other sites; a very wise move! Kelly history is endlessly fascinating, and the Museum itself seems to be very popular but I think its clear people are sick and tired of having the Kelly religion rammed down their throats by intolerant know-alls. I plan to visit it sometime soon.
But what of this Blog?
Essentially, Death of the Legend Blog is the record of my own explorations, experiences and discoveries within the Kelly world. Ive been surprised at how all the prominent Kelly Sympathisers, Blog and Facebook spokespeople for Ned Kelly and self proclaimed “ Neducators” have been unwilling – with a few notable exceptions – or more likely unable – to defend their Mythology. In fact they made a point of excusing themselves from the debate with pathetic excuses about being offended by the grammar and the use of American spelling, or the tone of the Blog, and the like. I continue to receive vulgar abuse from Anonymous commenters who “ Dare” me too publish their obscene garbage – as if! But if they don’t want to take the opportunity offered here to defend their hero and critique my Posts, its the Kelly Sympathisers loss, not mine.
So far in 2015 I’ve read and reviewed the following :
I am Ned Kelly by John Molony,
Ned Kelly Our Historic Outlaw You Tube Video by John Molony
Glenrowan by Ian Shaw,
TheTrue Story of Ned Kellys Last Stand by Paul Terry,
Ned Kelly, and Horse and Cattle Stealing by Doug Morrissey
Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life by Doug Morrissey,
Ned Kelly Man and Myth edited by Colin Cave, and
The Kelly Outbreak by John McQuilton.
Ned Kellys Trial the 60 Minutes re-enactment
The Last Outlaw the Ian Jones produced TV Miniseries from 1980
Ive reviewed in detail in a series of Posts Ned Kelly’s entire criminal record, (starting here) the tragedy of the Police murders at Stringybark Creek, the details of Lonigans murder, the murder of Sergeant Kennedy, the murder of fellow selector Aaron Sherritt and the debacle at Glenrowan. (Part 2 and Part 3)
Ive exposed the pathetic behaviour of modern Kelly sympathisers in various ways this year. I posted a review of the Iron Outlaw site on the occasion of its 20th birthday, challenged the NKF member who claimed to have solved the riddle of Lonigans injuries,critiqued The Beechworth Ned KellyWeekend, and a magazine article about a TV programme on Ned Kelly that was supposed to be historical. I also discussed Capital punishment at the time of the execution of two Australians in Indonesia, and the over-reaction by Sympathisers to the discovery of a letter written by a Banker in 1879.
I wrote about my two visits to Bendigo, firstly to the Imagining Ned exhibition, and later to the launch of Doug Morrisseys book, Ned Kelly : A Lawless Life. Meeting Leo Kennedy, a direct descendant of a central figure in the Outbreak, at that same book launch was quite special.
We’ve examined the origin of Kelly myths in general and the particular mythology of Ned Kellys supposed devotion to his mother, the myth of his so-called “straight”years, the myth of his claim that everything originated from Police Persecution, the whereabouts of Ned Kellys skull, and the biggest myth of them all, The Republic of NorthEast Victoria. Lastly Ive been discussing the profound implications of the letters (and here) Ned Kelly wrote in Melbourne Gaol before being hanged, letters which
demonstrate finally and unequivocally the mans unredeemed villainy.
For me it has been a fascinating year of non-stop learning and discovery, not just of the life and times of Ned Kelly but of the world of the modern Kelly sympathizer. Something that has amazed me almost more than anything, was discovering the way in which the Kelly scene has been so completely dominated by Ian Jones and his version of Kelly history for most of the last 50 years. So pervading and powerful has been his influence that only two years ago Peter Fitzsimons declared that when writing his huge pro-Kelly biography he refused to read or reference “The Kelly Gang Unmasked” because Ian Jones “hated it”. A truly professional Journalist would have seen Jones “hate” as an alert to issues that warranted investigation, and would have made that book required reading. Instead the supine Fitzsimons dedicated his book to Ian Jones saying “He, more than anyone has kept the Kelly story alive in modern Australia” In that, Fitzsimons is correct but he missed an opportunity to discover that the version Jones has been keeping alive is a wildly romantic and gross misrepresentation of the truth about Ned Kelly.
Jones’ domination over the decades was undoubtedly greatly assisted by the TV miniseries he produced in 1980, The Last Outlaw which was beamed into the living room of every Australian home. It was a masterstroke by Mr Jones that I suspect made Ned Kelly a household name and cemented in peoples minds the unhistoric Jones vision of an heroic Ned Kelly that many still believe is the truth about him today. I have been surprised as I have done my own reading and thinking, at how very easy it is to see through the Jones mythology of Ned Kelly, to spot the mistakes, the distortions, the almost complete lack of evidence for much of it, the misrepresentations and the fallacious reasoning that props it all up. My findings are the content of my Posts and the point of the Blog, what I called “truth telling” about Ned Kelly.
This has led me to wonder why it was that until the publication of The Kelly Gang Unmasked in 2012 nobody seriously challenged Mr Jones. I have come across a few names of people who appeared from time to time to challenge him – Christopher Bantick and Alex McDermott for example – but they have more or less disappeared without trace and the Jones Kelly Myth has continued on.
I have wondered if perhaps the Kelly sympathiser tactic of claiming that it is impossible to be sure if Kelly was a villain or a hero had discouraged us from even trying, thinking that it would be a close run thing and difficult to decide.
But its not! When you look as I have in this Blog at what Kelly actually planned for Glenrowan, when you look at how, in the Jerilderie letter he displayed as an adult no insight into his foolish larrikin behaviour as a youth, when you see how often he told outrageous lies, how he allowed Aaron Sherritt to be murdered, when you read his boasting about being a horse thief and being able to beat people up with his fists and how threatening he was with a gun in his hand and how even at the end of his life he wrote long rambling untruthful letters that mentioned none of the things he was supposed to have stood for – such as family, such as a Republic, such as the poor and the oppressed – the hero disappears and you are left with a villain.
And when you properly check out as I have done, the claims that are made for him, such as that he was Australias Robin Hood, that he wanted to establish a Republic of North East Victoria, that he was driven to criminality by Police persecution, and that he was honest – again, because the evidence supporting these claims is so pathetically weak, the hero disappears and you are left with a villain.
He was of course unique, colourful, larger than life, passionate and with a clever turn of phrase, physical prowess and charisma, but a villain never-the-less. The misfortunes in his life, such as losing a father at age 11, or being poor were not exceptional or extreme and in no way excuse the course he chose for himself. And neither is he less of a villain because he was charming to women hostages, was a clever horse rider, wore unique home-made armour and confronted overwhelming odds at Glenrowan. None of this compensates for the terror he inflicted on hostages, the economic losses he inflicted by his thieving, and as a direct result of his choices the deaths of three Police, a former friend, two innocent hostages, two fellow Gang members and his own brother. No, a proper accounting of the truth about Ned Kelly identifies him as a villain. No doubt about it.
Finally I want to thank all the people who have contributed to the success of this Blog by reading and especially by posting all sorts of helpful interesting and learned comments, as well as many gentle corrections of my own mistakes. Its all greatly appreciated. I haven’t finished yet, but somehow don’t see another hundred Posts in me but I still have a few ideas left …so stay tuned!
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