|The Author and his landmark challenge to Kelly mythology
I have repeatedly written that my intention in this blog is not to change the minds of the die-hard Kelly sympathisers, but to provide corrections to the errors, and balance to the arguments made by such people about the Kelly story, so that interested and open-minded readers will be better informed. Hopefully then the people who venerate the horse thief turned Police-killer, Bank Robber and wannabe mass murderer will be reduced to a minimum and the age of the Kelly Icon consigned to history. Kelly himself, and the Kelly Outbreak will of course never be forgotten, such was its startling impact on the Nation at such an early stage in its history, but what will be remembered will be accurate history and not mythology.
The futility of trying to educate and change the minds of Kelly sympathizers is nowhere better illustrated than in their responses to the 2012 publication, ‘the kelly gang unmasked’ by Ian MacFarlane. This book provides a massive body-blow to Kelly mythology and the Kelly sympathisers are justifiably afraid of it. Its publication provoked an acrimonious discussion on the Ned Kelly Forum, – a place that declares itself to be ‘the home of the TRUE Kelly gang sympathisers’ – between a tiny minority of open minded Kelly sympathisers who wanted people to read it, and the majority who condemned it out of hand, who proudly announced they would never read it and who attacked anyone who may have defended it, or even its right to have a point of view. In the end various NKF members were expelled and the entire discussion excised from the Forum and further discussion about it banned! No one is allowed to discuss me or this Blog on that site either!
Absurdly, one of the NKF members then set up a Facebook page devoted to ‘unmasking’ this book that he refused to read. He was completely out of his depth and quite quickly gave up on his attempt to ‘unmask’ the book, and instead preoccupied himself with attacking me. He now insists that I am the author of that book – but earlier insisted I was the ex-wife of the author – and therefore attacking me is the same thing as debunking the book. He also maintains that I write all the Comments on this blog, because according to him they all have the same grammar and spelling mistakes! The wait for his promised explanation of Lonigans gunshot wounds has now exceeded eight months. He also announced in June 2014 “I have been busy working on other projects, one of which will blow the whole Fitzpatrick Affair out of the water and prove that it was all concocted” Need-less to say nothing ever came of that claim either.
Another NKF member, Lisa, wrote a “Review” of the Kelly gang unmasked for the Iron Outlaw website, where it remains among other book reviews, such as the one describing J J Kenneallys book as ‘the first true account of what happened in Kelly country ’ (see my review of The Inner History of the Kelly Gang HERE). In contrast to all the other published reviews that I have seen which give it high praise, Lisa describes the Kelly gang unmasked book as ignorant, extremely one-sided and ‘THE most biased/pro police book I have read yet.’ Theres an air of outrage and indignation thoughout the ‘review’ that Ian MacFarlane could DARE to suggest that Kelly mythology could be wrong! For example she writes “He even questions the fact that Ned and his mother were close?!?” implying its an outrage to even ask the question about that relationship! But as readers of this Blog would know, there are indeed good reasons to question that claim, and a reviewer ought to be able to consider the reasonableness of challenging it, and not simply overreact to a challenge to her cherished beliefs. This ‘review’ fails, like the ‘unmasking’ Facebook page fails because they are not attempts to critically evaluate the book but are hysterical over-reactions to the challenges the book contains, and both completely miss the point.
The entire point of the book is to challenge and analyse the narrative about the Kelly Gang that has been relentlessly advanced in book after book after book for decades, and to provide and make the case for an alternative view. It was long overdue and is a groundbreaking publication because this kind of analysis had never been attempted before.
The allegation that TKGU is ‘biased’ and ‘pro-Police’ is the one most frequently leveled at it. Captain Jack is critical of the books ‘selective use of facts and its aversion to printing anything that may contradict its hypothesis’ a criticism that could just as easily be leveled at the pro-Kelly works. However, in its defense I would say there was no need for it to rehash all the ‘pro-Kelly’ and ‘anti-police’ narratives – they’ve been told and retold in just about every Kelly publication for 130 years, and ought to be familiar to anyone with an interest in the story. Reduced to its simplest, the sympathisers Kelly story is about the bad Police and the good Kellys. Inevitably, to counter that succesfully, at its most simple MacFarlane’s book would have to show the Kelly’s weren’t so good, or the Police so bad. And that’s exactly what he does.
Importantly though, MacFarlanes writing is heavily referenced, and almost nothing is asserted without original references to back it up. It is packed with factual information and logical argument to make its case.
The best review of this book is found on Sharon and Brians Blog at 11 Mile Creek . It’s the best available because, unlike all of the others it was written by someone with a detailed knowledge of the Kelly stories, Brian Stevenson. He levels a number of criticisms at the book, for example MacFarlanes failure to mention Constable Halls brutal bashing and attempted shooting of Ned when he was 15, but his overall assessment of the book was very positive. Everyone should read all three parts of his brilliant review.
Finally, it goes without saying that this book should be read by everyone who has an interest in the Kelly story. It really does show up the gaping holes in Kelly mythology, and its blatant distortions and misrepresentations. And if you discern in it that the author developed a dislike of Ned Kelly, you’ll realize it was for very good reasons : Ned Kelly and his extended family were not admirable downtrodden and persecuted country folk – as portrayed in the mythology – they were a criminal rabble.
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