Ansell and Doutré – Part II

Really, John Ansell is the curmudgeonly, bigoted gift that keeps on giving. Despite admitting that he hasn’t actually read Martin Doutré’s book, “Celtic New Zealand” he’s willing to stand by his man.

I am not qualified to judge Martin’s efforts regarding pre-Maori inhabitants, especially when he gets into the technicalities of surveying.

On the topic of Martin Doutré’s support for the work of David Irving, He goes on to say:

I have heard about Martin’s so-called support for David Irving. I have also heard from Martin how his words are routinely twisted by people who regard him as a threat.

These people, I seem to recall, include Scott Hamilton and you.

I assume the words ‘his support for David Irving’ are intended to imply that Martin does not accept that there was a Nazi holocaust against the Jews.

My first instinct is to doubt very much that Martin believe this.

Now, I’ll give Ansell some credit here. Given that Doutré claimed the criticisms against Irving were part of a Zionist conspiracy, it is fair to say that whilst it’s not entailed that Doutré’s support of Irving means he also denies the reality of the Holocaust (he might, after all, just be saying “There is no one document which details it”), Doutré has claimed that the criticisms levelled against Irving are part of a Zionist conspiracy. It certainly sounds like he is some kind of fellow traveller with Irving and his supporters.

It’s also not fair to say that I, or people like Scott or Gio, have twisted Doutré’s words. We’ve simply quoted what he wrote over in the Scoop Review of Books thread. Ansell has admitted to not having read that thread but so he could, quite easily, go and check to see if we really are twisting Doutré’s words or reporting them faithfully.

It would only take one click: we’ve already provided him with the necessary link several times.

Ansell goes on:

My first instinct is to doubt very much that Martin believe this.

This instinct is heightened because the implication comes from someone who (correct me if I’m wrong) supports the Waitangi Tribunal/Tariana Turia/Kerry Opae view that there was a British holocaust in Taranaki against Maori.

Now, my view on what happened in the Taranaki is irrelevant here. I could believe or have no belief in a holocaust in the Taranaki and that would have no effect on my ability to parse English sentences and understand that when Doutré writes:

As for David Irving, it was generally accepted worldwide that he was the most astute, prolific, all-round scholar and historian on the subject of WWII, at least up until May, 1988, when he made a very bad career choice. At that time he was called upon to give expert testimony, under oath, in a court case and stated that he could find no documented evidence of “Hitler’s Final Solution”. For this unforgivable admission, he fell foul of the Zionists who, thereafter, focused their hatred on him and have been unrelenting in trying to destroy his credibility ever since.

what he is implying is that he thinks Irving’s research is top-notch and that the Zionists are out to get him.

I don’t know whether Ansell thought he was being clever to suggest that my views on Doutré’s support of Irving is somehow clouded by whatever unexpressed views I have about what happened in the Taranaki, or Ansell is just being malacious and trying to smear my view (in the eyes of his supporters) by saying something like “We can ignore Matthew’s criticism of Doutré’s support of Irving because Matthew (I assume) supports the notion of a holocaust in the Taranaki, and that’s just wack, don’t you think?”

I’m leaning towards the malicious interpretation, meself.

Whatever the case, it’s irrelevant, and Ansell is just trying to distract people from the fact he doesn’t really want to look into Doutré’s support of the work of a noted Holocaust denier.

Later still Ansell revealed his sympathy for the 9/11 Truth movement:

I read in Scott Hamilton’s character assassination of Martin Doutre that he is a 911 sceptic too. Again, odd for a right-winger, don’t you think?

(But entirely typical of an honest seeker of truth.)

Being curious about all things, I decided on Saturday to visit an exhibition in the bowels of the Tug Boat in Oriental Bay created by a group called NZers for 911 Truth.

I did not expect to be persuaded by their evidence. But I was prepared to look at it with an open mind.

(To me, that’s what you do, rather than engage the scoff reflex.)

I have to say the evidence was superbly presented. If it was fraudulent – and I couldn’t say for sure until I’d seen the other side’s rebuttal – then it was an extremely plausible fraud.

I spent a good half-hour grilling the designer of the exhibition, Peter Woods. He, too, could not be faulted for his ability to supply plausible answers to my every question.

But here’s my point…

For revealing this information to you now, what’s the betting that I will now be reported by Matthew Dentith and Scott Hamilton as being a ’911 conspiracy theorist like Doutre’?

Now, it’s clear from this that Ansell (as he states later on) hasn’t subscribed totally to the thesis of 9/11 Truth but it does show something of the intellectual character of the person behind “Treatygate.” So, no, I won’t be calling him a 9/11 Truther just yet. He is, rather, just intellectually shallow and incredibly naive.

John Ansell is the kind of person who is easily persuaded by the presentation of an idea, rather than the evidence for it. He is also the kind of person who thinks that if an idea is expressed with sincerity and conviction, then it should be believed. He doesn’t understand where the burden of proof lies when it comers to extraordinary claims. He also seems to favour contrarian thinking: these all make for a dangerous combination which, despite his claims to the contrary, blinkers Ansell to reason and argument.

Indeed, I said something to that extent in the thread:

I think, John, the problem here is that you don’t actually appreciate how arguments work and the relationship between evidence and theory. I’m not going to call you an 9/11 Truther because, as you said, you want to hear the other side. I am going to call you incredibly naive, for your position in this matter (and if you really think there is no good evidence of a plane hitting the Pentagon, then I have a bridge to sell you). Issues like the explanation of the events of 9/11, whether anthropogenic climate change is occurring, et cetera, are not debates between two sides which deserve equal treatment. Both “Climate Change Skepticism” (I put that in quotes, because the proponents of that view present what is really a mockery of skepticism) and 9/11 Truth are radical views which go against the best theories of our day and thus shoulder a heavy burden of proof: proponents of those views need to provide extraordinary evidence to support their theories before we should entertain those theories as being plausible.

Just because you, a common man on the street, find the arguments of the proponents of these views persuasive doesn’t mean their arguments are any good: it just means you are a bit credulous when it comes to valuing the presentation of arguments over their content. You keep talking about how you value people who hold their views with conviction and the value of contrarian thinking, but these have nothing to do with claims about which theory or explanation of an event is the best. Martin Doutré may well hold his views with conviction and sincerity, but that doesn’t mean his views are supported by the evidence: indeed, the lack of support by members of his peer community (historians, et cetera) indicate that whilst he is convinced by his own arguments, others are not.

This should say something to you about his views, but it does not, because you value conviction over rigour and you seem to think that if someone can answer your questions, then they have it right and the burden of proof is on those who would oppose it. What is so perverse about this is that you seem to think your intuitions are, somehow, a mark of when a view is right or wrong and yet I really don’t know why you would think that. Your support of Doutré revisionist history of Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu and your credulous views on the events of 9/11 speak to your judgement about the so-called “Treatygate” scandal: if you see fictitious conspiracies in these arenas, then it seems reasonable to think your claims of conspiracy and malfeasance in the “Treaty industry” are similarly wrongheaded.

As if that wasn’t enough to go on Martin Doutré also dropped by to lay down the law. Rather than addressing our criticism of his support of Irving, he decided the best way to deal with the issue was to imply that Gio and meself were part of some conspiracy to shut work like his down.

Here in New Zealand, as elsewhere, there are droves of politically-aligned individuals that I delicately refer to as “rent-a-pricks” (the hallway-monitors) who are pressed into service by their handlers to hijack significant blogs like this one, get plenty of red-herrings strewn around to lead everyone off the scent or pour cold water over anything politically-inconvenient.

Their purpose and function is to generally “bugger” the otherwise serious discussion.

I really would love to know who my handler is and why they haven’t given me my luxury yacht yet. Frankly, if I’m part of the conspiracy (and let’s face it, I’d make a great specimen: I’ve spent time with senior members of the US Department of State and was personally invited to attend a workshop run by the US Air Force on the control of fringe groups), then they aren’t really looking after me.

Where is my tenure? Where is my rocket pack?

Why haven’t they recommissioned “Farscape” (sorry, “Firefly” fans: “Farscape” comes first)?

Doutré went on to say:

I once presented Matthew Dentith with an “off-the-top-of-my-head” list of 29 major anomalies that exist within New Zealand and Pacific archaeology.

The only requirement was for Dentith to acknowledge or discount the anomalies.

All I got from Matthew Dentith was a pathetic “fob-off” and no explanations of any substance whatsoever, although he now “boasts” that he answered all of my points and put me in my place.

He didn’t even remotely address anything.

This, once again, is the thread in question. You can go and look at both my answers and… His lack of acknowledge I had worked through the list and given plausible explanations of his “anomalies.” It’s almost as if he had no adequate response to it.

Now, maybe he didn’t see them, although he did see Scott and Edward’s responses. Maybe he thought my answers were so ridiculous that he didn’t need to say anything against them, but, once again, he did seem to think Scott and Edward’s replies, silly as he thought they were, needed to be addressed.

So, I’m stuck thinking that maybe Doutré, with his reliance on out-dated anthropological theories and his double-standard approach to historical research (he treats similar claims as either literal or figurative depending on how well they suit his theory at a given time), couldn’t come up with a response to my criticisms.

You might wonder why I keep going back to Ansell’s blog. Well, this is my rationale: should Ansell’s Treatygate campaign actually get off the ground (which I doubt, but miracles, even evil ones, still happen), there needs to be some other resource, other than Ansell’s blog, for people to refer to (for example, if I were Ansell I’d be deleting large chunks of the comments thus far, because it’s going to be politically embarrassing for him in the long term; aside from the lack of intellectual rigour, a lot of his comments about Māori show that he really believes them to be an inferior people to Pākehā) which covers just how intellectually unsound Ansell’s arguments are and who his fellow travellers are.

So, yes, I’m doing this for the sake of the future.

Even though in the present, this is giving me a hernia.

Not really joking.

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.