Sunday, May 03, 2015

Scott McIntyre's Tweets

It is difficult to make nuanced arguments in a tweet. In 140 characters one can certainly display a witty epigram, and aspire to a greeting-card platitude level of wisdom, but it is impossible to carry on a proper discussion. Klaus Rohde, by getting in first, has prompted me to do what I have been meaning to do since the story broke - and not just to be even-handed after writing a defence of Andrew Bolt - which was to write something about Scott McIntyre's treatment. If I were tweeting, I would just say: It is appalling that someone can be sacked for expressing perfectly reasonable opinions and stating facts that are true.

I am not unfavourably disposed towards imperialism, especially of the British variety. So I do not consider 'imperialist invasion' to be a slur. It is a statement of fact. We only participated in the landings at the Dardanelles because we were part of the imperialist system. We had no quarrel with Turkey. A few generations before, as part of the imperialist system, we had fought with Turkey against Russia, leading to place names in country Australia like Balaklava and Inkerman. I think Scott McIntyre's opinion here is perfectly justifiable and reasonable, if contested; the commemoration was over the top, and (though maybe it is just my perception) ANZAC day has grown more nationalistic and less reflective in tone since I first arrived here in the 1980s. If someone can be sacked for disrupting a ceremony, that ceremony certainly has a cultic character. And the opinion that this cultification is against all ideals of modern society is not an opinion that should be beyond the pale. I would quarrel with it only on the basis that 'modern society' has so many conflicting ideals that it can hardly be against all of them. But the ideals expressed in the charter of the United Nations, in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, in the speeches of Barry Goldwater or Barack Obama - such a cultification is certainly against those ideals.

 This is just a question. And it is a question that is valid to ask. It is not saying that all people participating in commemorative activities are poorly-read, white, nationalist, drinkers, or gamblers. But it really could apply to all of us. When we remember the tens of thousands of Australian dead, do we remember Russia, where almost three million died? Do we remember East Africa, where a hundred thousand conscripted Africans died? Do we think about the manifold horrors that were unleashed by the World War - the Armenian Genocide that almost certainly would not have happened without it, the Russian Revolution that almost certainly would not have happened without it, the destruction of civilisational trust and confidence that the West is still reeling from? Did the drinkers and gamblers - who are mostly poorly-read, white, and nationalist - pause to consider those things? It is a fair question to ask, I think.

Yes, summary executions, widespread rape and theft in Egypt and Palestine. And elsewhere. We should remember these things. This is not to say that the ANZACs were unusually bad: human beings are human beings, and this is what will always happen when you take a bunch of young men and place them under extreme stress without also placing them under extreme discipline.

As far as I am concerned, this is a simple unvarnished statement of historical truth. We were part of a coalition that carried out these attacks. I define 'terrorism' as 'the deliberate use of lethal force against civilians for political ends'. There were larger acts of terrorism - Stalin's deliberate famines, for instance, but for a single-day terrorist attack, the only rival to the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was also carried out by our coalition, and also against the civilians of Japan: the Operation Meetinghouse bombing of Tokyo. These terrorist attacks may have been justified to end the war sooner, or to avoid Communist occupation of a larger fraction of the Japanese Empire; I would almost certainly have supported them at that time, for those reasons.  There is no easy answer. But this does not mean the bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tokyo were not terrorist attacks. And we should not forget.


Klaus Rohde said...

Thanks for posting this. I agree totally. For those of your readers who are interested, a link to my post on the subject:

Unknown said...

I agree too, though where I depart from McIntyre is his bringing Nagasaki and Hiroshima into his argument. Not inaccurate, and a valid point to make, but I think he weakened his position by straying too far from the cultishly-venerated historical events in question.

Yoy are certainly correct, Clam, that the rhetoric around Anzac Day has become less sombre and more jingoistic in the past fifteen or twenty years. I am inclined to believe the argument that the cultishness has increased in inverse proportion to the number of World War veterans remaining alive to call bullshit on such attitudes. Now that all the Gallipoli Anzacs are gone, nationalistic arseholes are free to appropriate the mythology for whatever purposes they choose, without fear of contradiction from firsthand witnesses.

Unknown said...

(That was me, BTW)

Lexifab Dave