'Celtic' boulders and unbalanced journalism: an Open Letter to the Herald's Wayne Thompson
I am writing to you about your article titled 'Call to Save Hilltop Boulders', which appeared on page seven of the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday the sixth of May.
In this article you describe the opposition by Martin Doutre and Russell Ireland to the proposed destruction of a couple of boulders at Silverdale by a building team. You give extensive space to Doutre's and Ireland's view that the boulders are remnants of a massive structure built by an ancient white civilisation that existed in this country before the coming of the ancestors of the Maori.
I think that your article seriously misrepresents the nature of Doutre's and Ireland's views, and the status of their views amongst scholars of New Zealand history and prehistory. You give the impression that Doutre and Ireland are credible researchers into New Zealand's past, when in fact they are politically-motivated conspiracy theorists with no credibility in New Zealand's scholarly community.
The misrepresentations begin with the caption that is attached to the photograph of the boulders above your article. The caption says 'ENIGMA: Russell Ireland says the stones served a fair-skinned pre-Maori society as a calendar'. The word 'ENIGMA' gives the impression that the placement of the boulders is some sort of mystery which scholars are struggling to explain, when in fact their explanation presents no problem to any geologist.
You go on to describe the views of Martin Doutre and Russell Ireland at some length. You cite Doutre's book Ancient Celtic New Zealand, and paraphrase its claims that an advanced white civilisation constructed a vast system of open-air observatories not only in New Zealand but also in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Bosnia. You repeat Doutre's claim that the boulders at Silverdale are part of a set of ancient structures arranged across the Auckland region according to complex mathematical guidelines. You also echo Doutre's claim that Maori legends of a race of fairy folk, or patu paiareihe, are a record of ancient white residents of New Zealand.
You neglect to mention that Doutre has no qualifications in any of the many academic fields in which he claims expertise, that he has never presented a paper at an academic conference, that he has never published an article in a refereed journal, and that he had to pay for the publication of Ancient Celtic New Zealand, a book which received withering reviews by a series of serious scholars in refereed journals.
You do not mention that Doutre's belief that a massive, highly advanced civilisation existed thousands of years ago in New Zealand is unsupported by the archaeological record, which does not find vast cities or the burial grounds of ancient Celts deep beneath our soil. You fail to acknowledge that Doutre's claim that the piles of stones that lie around Auckland are connected by mathematical equations rests on his use of an infinitely variable measurement called the 'geomancer's mile' - a measurement which he himself invented. Nor do you notice that Doutre has failed to find any Maori support for his view that legends of the patu paiarehe are actually memories of Celts.
You are also silent about the obvious political agenda which lies behind the research of Doutre and other exponents of the 'Celtic New Zealand' thesis. Doutre is an outspoken member of the One New Zealand Foundation, a group which opposes the Treaty of Waitangi and all forms of biculturalism on the curious grounds that whites and not Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Doutre's own website includes many articles which rail against a conspiracy by Maori and 'PC academics' to destroy New Zealand. Doutre consistenly presents critics of his arguments about New Zealand prehistory as tools of this sinister conspiracy.
Like many of his colleagues on the far right, Doutre is anti-semitic, as well as anti-Maori: he has written articles for neo-Nazi websites claiming that the 9/11 attacks were an 'inside job' involving Mossad, and he is an outspoken admirer of the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, whom he believes to be the victim of a Jewish conspiracy.
Your article does not allow a single historian, archaeologist, or expert on Maori oral tradition to reply to the absurd claims of Doutre and Ireland. At the very end of your piece you briefly refer to the opinion of Bruce Hayward, who is one of New Zealand's most distinguished geologists. Hayward has no doubt that the boulders at Silverdale were created seventy million years ago on the sea floor, and reached their present location by natural means rather than through human intervention. You give fourteen sentences to the views of Doutre and Ireland, but only two to those of Hayward.
It is not as though it would have been hard for you to find information on the nature and status of the viewpoint which Doutre and Ireland advance. A quick google search ought to have pointed you in the direction of a number of refutations of Doutre's work, as well as to the man's own website, which is so filled with absurd claims and racist rhetoric that it is almost self-parodying.
A quick google would also have brought you to a long and revealing debate between Doutre and his critics at the Scoop Review of Books last year. During this debate, which saw Doutre confronted by archaeologists, a philosopher who specialises in conspiracy theory, a sociologist of knowledge, and an expert on Maori oral history, Doutre revealed the full extent of his anti-Maori and anti-Jewish prejudice. After insisting that the ancestors of Maori lacked the skill to make sea voyages, claiming that Maori taonga like hei tiki and wharenui were actually created by ancient whites, and repreatedly denying the Holocaust, Doutre lost all credibility with the many readers following the debate at the Scoop Review of Books.
Your unbalanced and misleading article is an insult to genuine scholars of New Zealand's past and to the real indigenous people of these islands.