McKnight, David 1951–
McKnight, David 1951–
Born 1951. Education: University of Sydney, B.A., Ph.D.
University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, associate professor; University of Technology, Sydney, associate professor of journalism.
Moving Left: The Future of Socialism in Australia, Pluto Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1986.
(With Pat Fiske) Doc: A Portrait of Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt (television movie), Australian Broadcasting Corp., 1995.
Australia's Spies and Their Secrets, Allen & Unwin (St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia), 1994.
Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War: The Conspiratorial Heritage, Frank Cass (London, England), 2002.
Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture Wars, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2005.
Contributor to journals, including Australian Crime, Intelligence & National Security, Media International Australia, and Australian Journalism Review.
Journalist and academic David McKnight was educated at the University of Sydney in Australia, where he earned both his undergraduate degree and his doctorate. He serves on the faculty of the University of Technology in Sydney, where he is an associate professor in the department of journalism and in the arts faculty at the University of New South Wales, also in Sydney. McKnight is an expert on political history, and his particular academic and research interests include Australian politics and history—especially those pertaining to the twentieth century, the Cold War, and Leftist politics—the rise of the new right, the apparent demise of traditional Left versus Right politics, issues of security and national intelligence, the rise of the tabloids as a form of mainstream journalism, and journalism as literature and its relationship to literary nonfiction. He is a regular contributor to various journals and periodicals, including Australian Crime, Intelligence & National Security, Media International Australia, and Australian Journalism Review, and served as the cowriter for the 1995 Australian Broadcasting Corp. television documentary, Doc: A Portrait of Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt. Over the course of his career, McKnight has written several books, including Moving Left: The Future of Socialism in Australia, Australia's Spies and Their Secrets, Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War: The Conspiratorial Heritage, and Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture Wars.
In Australia's Spies and Their Secrets, McKnight offers readers an in-depth, inside look at the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO). Over the course of his research, he interviewed more than thirty individuals who were once intelligence officers with the organization, and delved into the ASIO archives, including documents that were only recently released for public access. He reveals how the ASIO has operated over its history, including their associations with both the Liberal and County political parties, and their attitude toward the labor movement and the employers involved with it. McKnight addresses how the ASIO planned to handle dissidents during various times of war, including ideas for imprisoning those who were considered to be threats either then or during any time of national or regional emergency. He also reveals how the organization operated against the peace movement when it felt that was in the best interests of the nation. Although the ASIO worked hand in hand with the Australian government for many years, McKnight explains how this relationship shifted starting in the 1960s, and how the election of Gough Whitlam in 1972 severed the close ties between the government and the ASIO due to party allegiances. Frank Noakes, writing for the Green Left Web site, called McKnight's effort an "important book," and while he found some faults with it overall, he concluded: "It can certainly be argued that McKnight is overoptimistic about ASIO's teeth having been pulled. But he documents that ‘other dimension’ well."
Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War takes a look at the origins of the Cold War and addresses the propaganda of the day which, while often dismissed as hyperbole by modern historians, must be credited with some truth, according to McKnight, who pointed out that espionage did indeed take place during this point in history, setting the stage for a long tradition of spying between Western nations and those behind the Iron Curtain. McKnight also focuses on how the Cold War affected Australia, and how espionage took place there as well as in Europe and the United States. He provides a detailed history of the incidents in order to offer readers proper context for the situation, including information on the Communist Party of Australia and its role in infiltrating the Labor Party of the day. Andrew Moore, in a review for the Labour History Web site, noted that the book offers fresh perspectives based on newly acquired information, and that "McKnight is at pains to point out that such new post Cold War history should not been seen as ‘old anticommunist scholarship in new guise.’" Moore labeled McKnight's work as "an important work and a major contribution to scholarship about the origins of the Cold War," as well as "a fine book, a courageous work in the non-Humphrey Appleby sense."
Beyond Right and Left, released in 2005, offers readers McKnight's argument for a new social outlook that he believes combines the conservative nature that has been expressed by Australians in recent years, with a more traditional socialist outlook. McKnight considers this approach to be a "new humanism," or at least to signify a way to achieve such an outlook, which is neither socialism nor capitalism but a hybrid of the two. While socialism in general has been shunned, particularly in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, McKnight (who himself was once a member of Australia's Communist Party) indicates that this attitude robs people of the value inherent in many of the socialist concepts, and while he is willing to discount socialism as a whole, he maintains that some aspects of the system may be carried over into a workable social structure. In part, he links this to the ongoing disputes between capital and labor, which, while traditionally linked to situations involving communist or socialist ideas, remain an issue even as these belief systems have faded away. McKnight indicates that this positioning makes the political system ripe for major change, regardless of the labels applied to the different sides of the argument. Tristan Ewins, reviewing McKnight's book for Arena Magazine, remarked: "McKnight is correct to take conservatism seriously—and he is correct to see ‘compassionate conservatives’ and the tradition of social liberalism as having a potential affinity with the Left in attempts to foster social cohesion through labour market regulation, the welfare state and social wage provision. There is no need, however … to liquidate Left traditions or socialist politics into a new philosophy." Mark Davis, in a contribution for the API Review of Books Web site, felt that "this book is better read as a set of explorations and as an incitement. It correctly identifies the sources of the present malaise and makes some telling points about the failures of both the left and the right."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Arena Magazine, October 1, 2006, "Tristan Ewins on Building a ‘New’ Left Tradition," p. 52.
Australian Historical Studies, October, 2005, Kerry Taylor, review of Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War: The Conspiratorial Heritage, p. 385.
Australian Journal of Political Science, March, 2007, "51st State?," p. 165.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July 1, 2003, R.D. Law, review of Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War, p. 1966.
Reference & Research Book News, February, 2003, review of Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War, p. 242.
Times Literary Supplement, December 30, 1994, David Lowe, review of Australia's Spies and Their Secrets, p. 9.
API Review of Books,http://www.api-network.com/ (March 18, 2008), Mark Davis, review of Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture Wars.
Beyond Right and Left Home Page,http://beyondrightandleft.com.au (March 18, 2008).
Green Left,http://www.greenleft.org.au/ (July 27, 1994), Frank Noakes, review of Australia's Spies and Their Secrets; author interview.
Labor Tribune,http://www.labortribune.net/ (March 18, 2008), Marcus Strom, "A Farewell to Class."
Labour History Web site,http://www.historycooperative.org/ (March 18, 2008), Andrew Moore, review of Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War.
University of Technology, Sydney Web site,http://uts.edu/ (March 18, 2008), faculty profile.