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November 22, 2012

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Tom

It's notable that both Boris Johnson (Murdoch's anointed next PM) and Policy Exchange (Murdoch's anointed way of getting his hands on education policy and much else) have form for pro-Union/anti-nationalist bullcrap that would seem out of date in 1979 let alone now. Here's Boris's contribution:

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/uk/boris-johnson-sorry-about-st-patricks-day-lefty-sinn-fein-crap-remark-16130292.html

There's a sense in which being beastly to the Irish is like being beastly to the poor or reflexively anti-Europe or women or Muslims - a way of publicly signing in with the crowd as one of them.

bert

She sued, and won, against the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday World (owned by O'Reilly of the Independent). I think the Murdoch version was a Monday morning followup. Not that there's anything right with that.

What caught my eye was George Mitchell's decision to staff his Resolution of Centuries of Hatred office with someone called Pope. And seems I'm not the only one to notice. The top result on Google:

CALLER
The code word is 'Martha Pope'.

OPERATOR
Say again.

CALLER
Martha Pope. This is Oglaigh Nah Eirann.

Two other warnings came in quick succession. In all three the caller signed off with the words 'Martha Pope' which was then the authentic codeword for the Real IRA.

They do enjoy winding each other up, that lot.

ajay

Historical context: the main reason for the widespread Australian belief, at the time and now, that idiot British generals used Diggers as cannon fodder at Gallipoli (in fact, far more British than Australian troops landed - and died - in the Dardanelles) was the biased reporting on the landings from pioneering young war correspondent and professional shit-stirrer Keith Murdoch. Father of, etc.

johnf

Ah, but didn't he do it because he was put up to it by Northcliffe who wanted to kick out Asquith and put in Lloyd George and therefore was running a campaign to show how dozy and squiffy Asquith was and how the war effort was slipping so if he was able to prove that British Generals were crap and incompetent - viz, Gallipoli - then he could oust Squffy for not running a tight enough shop - so to speak.

Little Keith learnt a lot from this. Mainly that scandals were not so much things to let your readers know about but to use to put pressure on politicians to grant you your wishes. Mainly - rights to an even bigger monopoly.

Tom

You know, from some angles the entire Rupe operation seems aimed at destabilising the British state - corrupt the police, expose the Royals, buy the politicians. It's what you do if you hate the UK (or if you're a guerrilla or organised criminal, not that there's much difference).

ajay

Tom: very true indeed. And don't forget his long-standing animus against the BBC, the NHS, etc...

Richard J

The thing about Rupert Murdoch is that he's transparently the awkward, crap at sports, unpleasant but extremely bright boy everybody hated at school, and by God, he's going to get his revenge on the popular sporty set.

ajay

That's a lot nicer than the analogy I had in mind, which had the BBC as the Prussian Great General Staff and Murdoch as, well, someone else.

Richard J

The Kaiser? Bismarck? Clemenceau? Rosa Luxembourg?

dsquared

You know, from some angles the entire Rupe operation seems aimed at destabilising the British state - corrupt the police, expose the Royals, buy the politicians.

Protocols of the Elders of Melbourne?

ajay

The Kaiser? Bismarck? Clemenceau? Rosa Luxemburg?

Fritz Haber? Edith Cavell? Lloyd George? Wilfred Owen? Someone like that, anyway. Some embittered provincial type who gets brought up on a myth of how the noble soldiers were stabbed in the back by the decadent ruling class and devotes the rest of his life to bringing down the old order and establishing a New Order governed by aggressive, ultra-nationalist mob-focussed propaganda.

john b

Anyone know how widely believed the Gallipoli myth was before Murdoch (Rupert) made the Mel Gibson propaganda movie?

Phil

Pretty widely, I think. Eric "Not Even Australian" Bogle wrote "And the band played Waltzing Matilda" in 1971.

Chris williams

I cannot hear the words 'forgotten war' in that song without heckling it. Or was it briefly forgotten in the late 1960s?

leinad

There were always receptive ears among the Bulletin radical nationalist crowd, but from my hazy undergrad recollection Gallipoli wasn't a plank of the anti-conscriptionist platform in 1916-17 and I'd finger the the '60s as the turning point in the the shift from deep Empire loyalty* to 'youse Poms are all bastards'.


*we are talking about a country where an estimated seven of nine million people caught a glimpse of Liz II on her inaugural tour.

john b

The Bogle song is a MASH-style actually-about-Vietnam thing, surely?

Thanks Leinad, that roughly fits with what I've picked up from being here and reading about history, although obviously popular history is always harder to guage (and the views of the monarchist crowd tend to be overrepresented in it...).

So the Murdoch film (1981) cements a myth that has become particularly well established over the preceding 15-20 years, and bungs it straight into another generation's cultural understanding.

leinad

It's complicated.

Australia is a lot more monarchist than the radical nationalists like to acknowledge but our forms of alleigance are more self-serving (hence the conscription debate) and peculiar ('Anglo-Celtic heritage' anyone?) than the monarchist strain is comfortable with.

The Gallipoli myths serve both tendencies well, by denying Australian agency thereby obscuring sucessive Australian governments pursuit of national agendas through international 'imperial' conflict.

dsquared

the Bogle song is pretty scathing about the totality of the Gallipoli experience (it didn't get good reviews from anyone else either tbh), but it doesn't introduce the signature point of the Gibson propaganda film that the ANZACs were in some way intentionally used as sacrificial cannon fodder because snobbish Brits regarded them as a lower form of life.

bert

Mel Gibson went on to mine a profitable seam of similar stuff. (The Patriot a particular lowpoint; Braveheart got him an Oscar.) We now know what was actually bugging him all along. To what extent is there an 'Anglo-Celtic' suspicion of sinister manipulative cosmopolitan forces? At the extreme end do those Protocols actually come into it somewhere?

Phil

The Bogle song is a MASH-style actually-about-Vietnam thing, surely?

That's been suggested, but I'm really not sure. Bogle emigrated to Aus in 1969, and a lot of that song gives the impression of a deliberate wallow in sentimental Australiana - From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback I waltzed my Matilda all over and so on. I picture him trying to be the Poet of Australia's Great National Shame in a similarly bright-eyed sort of way - although that wouldn't preclude writing about Vietnam, of course. On the other hand, the song only really hit the British folk scene when June Tabor picked it up in 1975 - which was already getting a bit late for Nam songs - and it's still being sung now. I think the last verse is what keeps it going - and that's pure "as we that are left grow old" Flanders fields stuff.

it doesn't introduce the signature point of the Gibson propaganda film

Good point. Maybe Keith Sr's shit-stirring had dropped out of popular consciousness until the film brought it back to life.

belle le triste

Yes, I always took the Bogle song to be anti war as a whole (esp WW1), from an Australian perspective: Gallipoli as the specific calamity relevant to them, where "we" (ie Brits) would more likely remember Flanders. The version I know is on a June Tabor LP, which also had a Bogle song -- of similar tone and etc -- called "The Fair Fields of France".

john b

Haha, I knew Bogle was a Pom but not literally one who was only 18 months off the boat. Wow; I have no excuse for not writing a sentimental Australiana anthem right away, then. Anyone got any pointers/tips?

leinad

Cultural cringe prevents me from suggesting anything (which might explain Bogle).

ajay

You'll be hard put to beat the Orstrilian Notional Anthem.

http://home.pacific.net.au/~bangsund/anthem.htm

Orstrilia! Orstrilia!
Ya know we'll never filia!
We'll fight fer ya and die fer ya
Whene'er yer foes assilia!
Our sunburnt land is green in spots;
There's gold in sand -- and we've got lots.
We're big on Truth and Liberty:
Orstrilia is the place for we!

dsquared

This here is the wattle
The emblem of our land
You can stick it in a bottle
Or you can hold it in your hand.

Richard J

Australia! Australia!

Founded by some captives

Australia! Australia!

We've decided we like our natives!

Australia! Australia!

We promise not to call you wogs

Australia! Australia!

Just don't try to bring your dogs

john b

s/"not to call you"/"to call you all".

Phil

Green Fields of France, and it must be a different album (unless it's a compilation) as Bogle wrote that one in 1976. I found it lasted better than TBPWM - I'd heard it all the way through at least twice before it started grating.

I recommend Crawford Howard's Not Willie McBride and especially Ron Baxter's Who'll go to Morecambe?.

belle le triste

Yes, you're right, Phil. I think I was killing music by home-taping two Tabor LPs on either side of a cassette, so now I can never remember what's on Airs and Graces and what's on Ashes and Diamonds. Also I see the song is listed as No Man's Land? (The LPs themselves are currently shelved behind some heavy boxes at the moment.)

Barry Freed

Canada has come in for a bit of good-natured joking on this blog from me and some other regulars but it's interesting to compare Vimy Ridge against Gallipoli in the foundation of their respective national identities.

Also, Canadians highly underrated and tough as nails soldiery, then and now.

dominic

Kiwis too. Michael Carver, when commanding an armoured brigade at the end of WW2, said he'd rather have NZ infantry to support him than any other. I was going to suggest that all the white dominions were well-known for their warrior might, but then I reflected that the south africans do not seem to have any reputation as soldiers at all.

Jakob

I dunno - I've seen a certain strain of fanboy slavering over the 70s/80s SA forces in their various nasty bush wars, which often seems to be accompanied by more or less toxic political views.* Though I suppose these were probably more special forces ops than straight infantry.

* Also applicable to the Rhodesian armed forces.

john b

I think Dominic is being a bit unfair. There would seem to be an occasion half a generation before WWI when white South Africa did quite a lot of very hardcore and really quite brave fighting.

(there was never conscription in WWI in the Dominions, but there was a hefty volunteer contingent, drawn from the Anglo-descended, king-loving majority of white Dominion-dwellers of the time. I would suspect that even Anglo-Saffers were a bit meh about volunteering for the British Army, and that Boers took roughly the same attitude as Catholic Northern Irelanders in WWII)

Chris Williams

There were a continual series of occasions stretching over about four and a half generations before WW1 when white South Afria did quite a lot of very hardcore and sometimes quite brave fighting. The same was also true of black southern Africa, of course, save the need to substitute 'usually' for 'sometimes'. When you've got a series of wars with the word 'seventh' in them, stuff tends to stay hardcore.

ObHero here is probably Moshoeshoe I: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshoeshoe_I

[By the way, what was Sergeant Nightingale doing in _Syria_]?

Ken MacLeod

probably more special forces ops than straight infantry

Well, many of them were conscripts, some of whom reminisce in this book. I once flicked through it in a charity shop, didn't buy it: readable, though regrettably lightweight seems about right.

john b

The implication in "white South Africa did fighting" was that it was solely white South Africa doing fighting, rather than white folks against black folks in the "might as well fight some blokes who don't have guns" wars of Blackadder fame.

That has reminded me that I know fuck all about black Africans' role in the Boer War, which I suspect was significant esp in the British Army despite having gone approximately nowhere in folk mythology.

Admittedly, folk mythology here consists of the British getting rid of their stupid jackets, inventing concentration camps, and beating the pesky Boers through some combination of the above.

Chris Williams

Compared to all the others, the 1899-1902 was remarkably white-on-white, but not completely. My _Colonial Wars Sourcebook_ notes the defence of Ookiep against Smuts which was largely carried out by the Namaqualand Border Scouts, a non-white ('coloured') unit.

More generally (hey, another thing Ben Elton got wrong, whoodathoughtit) in late-nineteenth century southern Africa, hefty opposition was not just a white thing. If we're going to measure 'how hard were the enemy' by the harshness of the treaty that the British ended up signing, I think that the Basuto and the Boers end up tied in first place.

ajay

The Rand Corporation put out quite a lot of papers on the Bush Wars. Some of them are pretty interesting reading; they had some really innovative ideas thanks to being on a shoestring with no overseas allies at all.

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