Gallipoli and the Armenian genocide (Part 2): Bread and circuses

By | | comments |

Though Anzac Day has come to represent a memorial service for the casualties of Australian involvement in all wars, Gallipoli is at its centre, having been "revved up" in the last decade, writes Dr Evan Jones.

[Read Part One: The battle for history and understanding]

Bread and circuses

THE PHRASE was coined by Juvenal two millennia ago, but it remains relevant to our age.

In the late 19th Century, two developments occurred that put the wind up the (newly) developed bourgeois social order. One was the fight over the working day, symbolised by the eight-hour movement and feted on May Day. The other was the inevitable ascendancy of the adult franchise (if long delayed for women).

First, the bread. 

Spearheaded by the artisanal labour aristocracy, the eight-hour movement sought quality of life, time to think, time to acquire knowledge and a modicum of culture, time to think for oneself. Business and non-business elites were appalled. If the working classes had time to think and for themselves, they might question not just their subordination in the workplace, but the character of the entire economic and social order. Some of their members were doing just that.

The elites fought back (such as in Haymarket, Chicago, 1886). After several decades of bloody class warfare, step forward that "visionary" Henry Ford. Pay them more, said Ford and, in combination with generalised mass production, the lower orders will gain access to a basket of consumer goodies (not least Ford’s Model T). Buy them off. But the workplace – and the system itself – will remain in the bosses and the elites’ hands. Tie them to the machine, the counter or the desk in the interests of hoped-for material security and advancement.

Apart from a hiatus during the 1930s Depression, thus was born what the academics have cutely called "Fordism" and what the sociologists specifically have sub-titled "the culture of work and spend". Gary Cross’ 1993 Time and Money neatly outlines the period, the conflicts, the propaganda and the outcome. Latterly, the iPhone 6 as a "must have".

It is true that shorter working hours, even paid holidays, were acquired through pressure from below over a long period of time. But the culture of consumerism still clogs the mind somewhat when it comes to grasping bigger picture concerns. Don’t bother me, I’m too busy signing up for Netflix.

Second, the circuses.

The adult franchise was a fearsome prospect to elites. The newly or soon to be enfranchised had to be readily tutored as to their best interests. The bourgeoisie had themselves weakened the foundations of hierarchical social cohesion of the old order — God and Crown.

Thus, in the first instance, compulsory primary education, for ideological as well as instrumental purposes.

But whence a new glue of social cohesion on hierarchical terms? The title of a 1993 collection edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition, captures the mood. There were of course national variations on a common theme.

The institutions and symbols of the ancien régime were to be refurbished as much as was possible for the new age ("democratise" the monarchy). In general, cohesion, or rather allegiance, was essentially to be cemented in the manufactured collectivity of nation. Moreover, nation with an imperial thrust to which even the lower orders could be attached. And not merely the home country lower orders but the colonials, especially white settler colonials.

Disraeli’s proclaiming of Victoria as Empress of India in 1877 and its celebration, an extravaganza of epic proportions, set the scene. Thence to Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, transcending the Queen’s then public unpopularity.

From Hobsbawm & Ranger:

'Pageantry such as this generation never saw … The grandest state ceremony of this generation.'

And to Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (the Queen herself):

'No one, ever, I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me passing through these six miles of streets … The crowds were quite indescribable, and their enthusiasm truly marvellous and deeply touching.'

There were 21 distinct choral settings of the British national anthem composed between 1891 and 1910. The trajectory could be encapsulated in the prominence of Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, which the composer came to despise because it had been appropriated by officialdom to carry along the masses in the embellishment of Britain’s national grandeur, continuing after the catastrophe of World War.

In this process, tradition has come to be invented. Public monuments were erected everywhere. A pattern of ceremonies were established and ritualised.

Harold Nicolson (diplomat, politician, author) described the role of the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1935:

'... a guarantee of stability, security, continuity – the preservation of traditional values.'

A billion commemorative stamps to celebrate the same occasion were bought by the public.

Let them eat cake!


It is true that Anzac Day has come to represent a memorial service for the casualties of Australian involvement in all wars. But Gallipoli is at its centre, having been "revved up" in the last decade.

Gallipoli was a tragedy of significant proportions. But the Western Front more so — 46,000 Australians lost their lives on the Western Front. That dominant dimension of the World War I tragedy is suitably memorialised in more sober forms. Why not Gallipoli in the same vein? The simple suburban or country town war memorial has more dignity.

Gallipoli was not merely a tragedy but a ghastly absurdity. Leaving aside the bigger question of whether the War itself should ever have broken out due to the callousness, hubris and ineptitude of "statesmen", the assault on the Dardanelles should never have happened.

Churchill broods that the Gallipoli campaign is already effectively lost, while ANZAC troops valiantly soldier on. ('The Gamble' by Norman Lindsay, from 'The Bulletin', 1915. Reproduced from Jonathan King, The Other Side of the Coin, 1976.)

Worse, nothing has been learned from Gallipoli. Australia did not "come of age" at Gallipoli. What was Australia doing sending troops to Vietnam? 500 Australian soldiers died for nothing, courtesy of an American folly.

What was Australia doing sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, American-led crimes? Over 40 Australian soldiers died for nothing in Afghanistan, with their families permanently bereft. They certainly didn’t die for Afghani women’s rights. The hold of the reactionary Taliban forces in Afghanistan we owe to the pathological Russophobe Zbigniew Brzezinski and the later complementary support of Pakistan, a Western ally.

And behind the Western fostering of the Taliban, we have the nurturing by British "Intelligence" Services of radical Islamic groups over decades as a means of undermining secular Arab regimes. The latter process has been well documented by English author Mark Curtis, notably in his 2010 Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood is nurtured and its strength cemented by the West’s long collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

As Curtis notes:

'This fusion of local clerics [of whom a young Osama Bin Laden was a pupil] trained in the Saudi Wahhabite tradition with the international activism of the exiled Muslim Brothers [exiled from Nasser’s Egypt] helped provide the intellectual and ideological basis for the later development of al-Qaida.'

And yet Australian political forces formally interpret radical Islam as an alien force which has to be combated with the blood of Australian youth.

Australia is still immersed in the colonial cringe that saw thousands of Australians join (and 500 die) in British imperial adventurism in South Africa in the late 19th Century.

If an understanding of Australian involvement in Afghanistan lacks context, so does the recent hyper-celebration of Australan involvement at Gallipoli.

The Australian celebration is now a circus. Although the crowd is brought into the experience and suffering of the ANZAC troops, the "feel-good" quotient increases to the detriment of contextualisation.

The Armenian genocide is integral to Gallipoli. But it is absent from the Australian narrative. More, that Australian officials should be celebrating the 100 year anniversary on Turkey’s terms, as Boyajian notes, is an obscenity. The Armenian genocide is not merely invisible; in effect, on Turkey’s terms it never took place.

Babkenian articulates the point succinctly:

'It seems that our nation’s collective memory of Gallipoli and the government’s position on the Armenian genocide are influenced more by current economic and political relations than a true reflection of the past. If, as some historians have suggested, that telling the honest truth about Australia’s First World War experience is the best way to honour our war dead, than it’s time for a more truthful representation of the ‘other side’ of Gallipoli.'

… and propaganda

It transpires that bread and circuses were not enough to quell the "trouble at t’ mill". It was necessary to develop an apparatus to engage in what has been variously called by its proponents "the manufacture of consent" (public intellectual Walter Lippman) or "the engineering of consent" (propaganda specialist Harold Lasswell). The 20th Century became the age of propaganda.

Alex Carey, renegade Australian social psychology academic, became obsessed with this Machiavellian agenda, at which the Americans were the past masters. His essays are conveniently collected in a 1997 collection, Taking the risk out of democracy. From Carey’s digging, we are apprised of prescient statements of the creed from its most ardent proponents.


'Popular elections … may work fairly well as long as those questions are not raised which cause the holders of wealth and power [to make full use of their resources]. … there is so much skill to be bought, and the art of using skill for the production of emotion and opinion has so advanced that the whole conditions of political contests would be changed for the future.' (Abbott Lawrence Powell, 1909, long-time president of Harvard University)


'The manufacture of consent … was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy … But it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique. … Under the impact of propaganda it is no longer possible … to believe in the original dogma of democracy.' (Walter Lippman, 1922)

And also:

'[When World War I ended, business] realized that the great public could now be harnessed to their cause as it had been harnessed during the war to the national cause, and the same methods would do the job.' (Edward Bernays, 1952, staffer in Woodrow Willson’s war-time Committee of Public Information)

And an inkling of its character in the domain of business:

'The National Association of Manufacturers has blanketed the country with a propaganda which in technique has relied upon indirection of meaning, and in presentation on secrecy and deception. Radio speeches, public meetings, news, cartoons, editorials, advertising, motion pictures and many other artifices of propaganda have not, in most instances, disclosed to the public their origin within the Association.' (The La Follette Committee, U.S. Senate, 1939)

If the U.S. propaganda machine was extensive by the 1930s, it grew rapidly to celestial heights after World War II. Not merely has it not abated but it has been exported world-wide. The then reasons for the frontal assault were internal and external.

Internally, the 1930s Depression had again discredited big business (as had the age of the robber barons, pilloried by the muckrakers). Roosevelt’s Administration produced the New Deal, a patchwork collection of measures of public infrastructure for economic recovery and long term development, economic regulation and social welfare. The Administration also legalised in 1935 (belatedly by Western standards) the formation of labour unions. Post-1945, newly buoyed by war-time profits, the corporate sector mounted a massive propaganda attack on both developments.

Externally, the Russkies, wartime allies, became the new enemy. The Cold War was a competition of escalating armaments, of repressing some populations (including on the home front) and buying off others. But it was particularly a propaganda war on an immense scale. It was an era in which the good guys / bad guys bipolarity, forged in wartime, became a permanent part of the cultural landscape.

Those living in the Soviet Union itself or (especially) in its satellites were force-fed the propaganda but knew a divergent reality, consciously living parallel lives.

A current Chinese dissident, Li Chengpeng, has recently summed up the running charade in China:

'The ultimate truth, it is that we know that they lie. They know also that we know that they lie. We know also that they know that we know that they lie. They know also that we are content to pretend to believe that they don’t lie …'

Our side, the good guys, recoils in disgust and revels in the hypocrisy. Yet on our side of the great ideological divide we are less cognisant of the propaganda-constructed devices that channel our own perceptions and ‘understanding’. We may even be oblivious.

Coming soon: Part Three 'The Ongoing War'.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

Monthly Donation


Single Donation


For more in-depth articles and essays like this, subscribe to IA for just $5.

Recent articles by Evan Jones
Lockdown fee scam yet another Liberal lurk

This is Part two of a story by Dr Evan Jones, which lays bare Liberal lurks, like ...  
Liberal Party's shady operating dogs NSW Election

Ahead of the upcoming NSW Election, voters would do well to remember past Liberal ...  
Commonwealth Bank is a disgrace to the public interest

The Commonwealth Bank, while publicly claiming to be an ethical bank, privately ...  
Join the conversation
comments powered by Disqus

Support IAIndependent Australia

Subscribe to IA and investigate Australia today.

Close Subscribe Donate