SBS sports reporter writes a few factual – yet jarring – tweets about war. Extreme rightwing News Corp columnists go into feeding frenzy. Coalition communications minister complains. SBS sacks reporter. Free speech dies. Dr Martin Hirst comments.
So this ANZAC weekend, what did you do?
Did you go down to your local war memorial and fondly remember great-grandfathers, grandmothers and other relatives who died in a senseless slaughter 100 years ago?
Did you march proudly, wearing the medals of your ancestors, because these brave men and women are the only reason we are free today?
Did you, like I did, try to shield yourself from the nationalistic pomp and the idiotic rantings of our prime minister?
Did you cringe at the jingoism, the unthinking patriotism and crass commercialism that now defines ANZAC day?
Or did you, like the free speech fundamentalists and Abbott apologists, take time from your orgy of bloody celebration of war, to call for a young journalist to be sacked for daring to question the ANZAC myth?
Left squeals in defence of disgusting comments. Cites freedom of speech issues when no-one’s freedom has been hindered. Silly and sad.
— Chris Kenny (@chriskkenny) April 26, 2015
But what exactly was McIntyre’s offence?
He was actually telling an unvarnished version of the truth and it was this impertinence on Australia’s “sacred” day which so upset the wanna-be Colonel Blimps of the world and their ill-educated follower-trolls on Twitter.
However, unpacking the ANZAC myth and understanding the history of Australia’s involvement in global wars is important. Too important to be left in the hands of the blowhard numpties who bellow in your face on Twitter and then threaten to 'rape your face with a hammer' and call you 'faggot'.
The whole point of the Gallipoli myth and the celebration of what our Prime Minister calls a “glorious defeat” (is there any other kind for the losing side?) is to pretend that war is somehow noble and that sending young men to certain death was (and remains) a matter of principle and morality, not an inglorious naked scramble for global political and economic power.
You know, like the idea that invading Iraq in 2003 was somehow going to make the world safer and that Iraqi oil reserves had nothing to do with it.
But it is a myth. This means that is there is very little, if any, foundational truth in the story.
The official Australian Government website about ANZAC is a good place to find the myths and what elements of truth there are in it are heavily sugar-coated.
Take for example, McIntyre’s claim about Australian soldiers committing rape while on active duty.
I have no doubt that this occurred and historians of war will confirm it.
Women and girls are always victims of sexual brutality during war and we know the history of sexual abuse in the Australian military. It is a rite of passage and a privilege of male soldiers to treat women as objects of gratification.
But this is what the official ANZAC legend has to say about it:
Professor Manning Clark in his opus A History of Australia, suggests a contrasting image to that of the bronzed and noble ANZAC. From a range of sources he provides evidence of the ANZAC’s bad behaviour. As recruits, before being shipped to war, some indulged in sex orgies with an 18-year-old girl at the Broadmeadows camp, others confronted police in violent scuffles on the streets of Melbourne. Their behaviour in Egypt was no better – they burned the belongings of local people, brawled, got drunk and rioted, and spent sufficient time in the local brothels for many of them to suffer from venereal disease.
Although perhaps less than heroic, this behaviour too – brawling, drinking, fighting – is part of the Australian construction of masculinity, part of the larrikin element exemplified in the characters C. J. Dennis created during the war years – characters like Ginger Mick and Digger Smith. Dennis’s The Sentimental Bloke was published in 1915 and Digger Smith in 1918. The Sentimental Bloke sold more than 60,000 copies in less than 2 years.
Like it or not, hero and larrikin, ratbag and rebel, the ANZACs, in all their complex iconography, are an inextricable part of the Australian tradition of masculinity.
~ ANZAC Day (official Australian Government website)
Yes, like it or not, the official version is that, well, fuck it, “boys will be boys”.
Seriously? That’s it?
Yep, drunken, brawling, syphilitic, racist rapists are excused as an
'... inextricable part of the Australian tradition of masculinity.'
No it’s not, it’s a cultural artifact and a sediment of history, just like genital mutilation, or the niqab that the very same free speech fundos rail against all the time. (Yes Rita, I’m looking right at you.)
And just like any sedimentary layer, it can be disturbed, disrupted and destroyed by an upheaval from below. This is what we have to do to the ANZAC myth — destroy it and create a new, honest history of war.
For an antidote to the rubbish spouted by the armchair patriots, you should listen to what a real historian with some brains has to say about the bloody legend of ANZAC.
War crimes — that’s what they are
Let’s be real, both sides commit atrocities during war. Every act of war leads to a corresponding atrocity. But when “our” side is doing the raping, the pillaging, the killing of civilians and murdering unarmed combatants who’ve surrendered, we’d prefer not to hear about it.
Do you remember the My Lai massacre in Vietnam? It occurred in 1968, but the American news media refused to cover it for two years. Why, because knowledge of such a war crime would have weakened the American Government’s ability to hoodwink its own population into continued support for what everyone – except the rightwing numpties – knows was an unjust, imperialist war.
The man who exposed My Lai also brought Americans the bad news about Abu Ghraib as well, but Seymour Hersh would never get a job working for NewsCorpse. Panahi and Kenny would condemn his lack of patriotism.
And what about calling the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima acts of terrorism?
Again, history judges the winners and losers differently. The allies won the war and so we got the Nuremberg Trials in which Nazis were put on trial for war crimes.
Had Germany and Japan won the war, no doubt a whole cabal of American and British generals and scientists would have been put on trial for the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and, perhaps, even for the fire-bombing of the German city of Dresden.
'I still can’t quite understand how defenders of the US decision to nuke those two Japanese cities can argue, in good conscience, that it wasn’t a war crime. To use atomic bombs to literally incinerate hundreds of thousands of men, women and children? If that’s not a war crime, then what is? And even if we were to accept that the nuclear strikes were somehow unavoidable, and the only way to end that horrific war and prevent further (largely American) casualties, would that then make them morally correct and permissible? Since when do the ends justify the means?'
~ Mehdi Hasan in New Statesman
But to talk about it in those terms means we have to question the myths of war.
The myth is that both world wars were fought to protect “our” freedoms and that without them “we” would not enjoy the lifestyle we have today.
That is utter tosh and ahistorical nonsense and it also conveniently lets the warmongers off the hook.
War is never about principles and morals, it is about money.
War, they say, is politics (and/or economics) by another means.
'War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means.'
War benefits the capitalists who stay behind. Companies like Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, Krupps, General Electric and many more are the beneficiaries of arms spending and the “creative” destruction that war brings.
It’s the imperialisms, stupid!
McIntyre is right here, too.
War and imperialism are ghastly twins. Economic competition between nations leads to war. War is essential to capitalism and the role of the ANZAC myth is to delude people into supporting slaughter on a mass scale, the destruction of cities and the displacement of entire populations.
It is a sad day for freedom of speech when telling the unpalatable truth to a nation that collectively sticks its fingers in its ears and sings the national anthem to drown out critical voices causes someone to lose their job.
And the free speech warriors in the NewsCorpse camp and fellow-travellers like Tim “Freedom Boy” Wilson, our so-called “Human Rights Commissioner” and L-NP stooge are now trying to claim that mcIntyre’s freedom of speech has not been compromised.
I saw a tweet from Tim Wilson yesterday, which now appears to have disappeared from his timeline, but this is what it said:
(Thanks @GeorgeNewhouse for the screen grab)
Yep, a taxpayer funded Bolt cheer squad. He should resign.
Like Wilson, the free speech fundos argue that Scott McIntyre is merely paying the price for his “despicable” (in the words of our Minister for Communication and alleged human face of the government, Malcolm Turnbull) tweets.
For a Government that has a stranglehold on the truly despicable, that is a sick, sick joke.
You want despicable, here’s the start of a list:
- the imprisonment, sexual assault, murder, torture and dehumanisation of asylum-seekers;
- giving $4 million to a conservative denialist while gutting the national science budget;
- having Tony Abbott as minister for women;
- forcibly closing down remote Aboriginal communities;
- removing support for women’s refuges and doing nothing while domestic violence rates soar;
- attacking health care, pensions, education and public broadcasting after promising not to.
Feel free to add your own items.
What I’m most upset about is that the very people who should be holding power to account are prepared to abandon any journalistic principles they might once have held in order to push a vicious political agenda in the service of that very power.
Panahi and Kenny – among others – should be ashamed of themselves.
I’m just grateful that there are some who retain their principles, like Hugh Riminton.