In an article on Real Clear Politics, Thomas Sowell wrote: ‘No one in his right mind would say that the Bush administration was flawless. But many of their worst political mistakes were the kinds of mistakes that decent people often make when dealing with indecent people, both domestically and internationally.’

The same could be said of Keith Windschuttle and the recent hoax of Quadrant magazine. Quadrant is an Australian magazine of politics, literature, history, art, etc – virtually anything that might be of interest to people who think. It has minimal staff resources. It is not a specialist journal.

The Jan/Feb edition of Quadrant contains an article by one ‘Sharon Gould’ entitled Scare Campaigns and Science Reporting. It is well written. It contains some rather odd views about the potential use of human DNA in genetically engineered crops, but one of the things that makes Quadrant a great magazine is that it has never been run as the editor’s personal newsletter. Views that diverge from the mainstream can get a hearing if they are well written, and carefully, interestingly and logically argued.

So when someone writes such an article, and then jumps up triumphantly and says ‘ Ha ha, I didn’t really mean it. And Sharon Gould is not my real name. And what’s more, I faked some of the footnotes,’  it is hard to respond in any other way than to say ‘So?’ or perhaps, ‘OK, you are a liar who writes well. How disappointing for your friends.’

As Keith Windschuttle has pointed out, in the case of a non-specialist, non peer reviewed magazine, there is a point beyond which editors have to trust their writers. Accepting the article was a mistake. It was the kind of mistake easily made by a decent person used to dealing with decent people.