Helen Dale is a columnist and commentator who also writes novels. Her first novel, The Hand That Signed the Paper, won the Miles Franklin award in Australia and also exposed Helen to cancel culture in 1995, long before it became what it is today. She and Bridget discuss the impossibility of proving you didn’t do something, the fact that all press is no longer good press, how most lobbyists are morally feral, and why most valuable thing about free speech is not what people say, it’s the fact that people can speak. They cover how to react when the mob comes for you, the importance of the secret ballot, the fact that stereotypes don’t exist in a void, and how part of being a grown up is accepting that people will laugh at you.

Full transcript available here: WiW61-HelenDale-Transcript

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  1. Tedley Member

    Wow, Helen’s story about experiencing cancel culture back in the ’90s was eye opening, it seems we’re a bit behind them. I’m going to try to read the Blackford book during the spring break. I think her use of the term “lobby” in reference to activist groups is appropos, and ripe for use in arguments. 

    Speaking of arguments, should I ever have to face a wokester, I hope I remember her retort “in your dreams.” Recently I had begun to think that directly confronting an aggressive progressive with “you’re very progressive, using Alinsky-ite tactics like that” might catch them offguard, and then finish them off with “I think most people would consider it rude and immature to call someone _____, especially when you don’t know that person.” Depending upon how emotionally balanced they are, you might be able to follow this up with “I’d like to know why you think that way, would you like to discuss it over coffee?”

    • #1
    • January 1, 2020, at 7:39 AM PST
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  2. ibn Abu Member
    ibn Abu Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A very strange interview, this. I love Bridget’s interviews generally and highly recommend them. But I think she and Helen moved a little too quickly on from the issue that I was most eager to get some clarity on – the controversy surrounding “The Hand That Signed the Paper.”

    To recap, because if your only exposure to Helen Dale is from this interview, you would have no idea what the controversy was:

    In 1995, Helen wrote a book under a pseudonym (Helen Demidenko). She claimed this was a novel based entirely on her interviews with Ukrainian family, including an uncle on whom the main character was based. The novel followed a Ukrainian family in the years leading up to World War II, and during the war. One of the characters, who is portrayed very sympathetically, joins the Ukrainian auxiliaries of the SS and participates in massacres of Jews. There are several Jewish characters, all of whom are portrayed unfavorably (such as a doctor who refuses to treat a member of the Ukrainian family).

    It became known, and as far as I know this is incontrovertible, that the whole thing was fiction from beginning to end. Helen Dale was not Demidenko, there were no Demidenkos, the entire thing was her own invention.

    I have not known what to make of any of this for some time and I was really hoping to get some insight from this interview. But neither the curious fact that the book was presented as being based on the testimony of people later revealed to having never existed, nor the central criticisms levied by Robert Manne’s “The Culture of Forgetting: Helen Demidenko and the Holocaust,” appear to be addressed in a meaningful way. I have no doubt that Helen was treated very shabbily by some people, and subjected to a primordial form of cancel culture in some respects. But she appears to lump all criticism of her work together as part of a character assassination orchestrated (and this was jarring to the ear) “what is called in Britain ‘the Jewish lobby’” and various “Zionist writers”. Presumably this includes Manne, who is definitely no leftist and whose critiques appear to me, at least on surface, to be worthy of some response.

    • #2
    • January 6, 2020, at 9:28 AM PST
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