Saturday, 25 May 2013

Thoughts on the Danger History as History as Propaganda.

Novelist AK Kennedy has written in relation to government plans to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War that she does not believe it will be free from being used to bolster current government policies,
One of the world's major arms exporters would find it tricky, for example, to really discuss the implications of basing one's economy on equipment that requires war. Meanwhile,the dead become Glorious, the Cenotaph a clean and noble monument. This happens with any war: initially those who can remember may not wish to, witnesses slowly die, politicians love to appropriate the bravery of others. I also know our political classes now take pride in being faith – and not reality-based. In the absence of those who served, they can appropriate a historical event during which (among many other things) under-educated public schoolboys led the suitably enthused masses into harm's way and rebrand it, at public expense, into a degrading force multiplier for armed forces still used as political and economic pawns.
....I have no reason to believe that my current leaders will not do the same next year. It's too late to give the veterans the £10m and they didn't get their land fit for heroes – something approaching that was finally won by the generation who came through the second world war. The last of that inheritance is being sold at bargain rates and citizens are increasingly being offered simplistic spectacle in the place of good governance and public service.
This is what disturbs those who fear this commemoration will become a way of creating some seamless continuity between World War One and Afghanistan with subliminal propaganda messages ( the heroism, dedication of "our boys", etc ) in the very year Britain stages a faked "withdrawal" from Afghanistan.

The fact is that in 2014, Britain is not withdrawing from Afghanistan. The new Orwellian cant term is "drawdown" used by Defence Minister Hammond and others 'on message'. The fact that this is going to be a government sponsored cultural event is also slightly sinister.

"Liberal interventionists" have a history of calling some wars , as World War Two 'the Good War' and comparing that to the Afghanistan War after 2001, at least before such voices advocating it suddenly fell peculiarly silent as the war has dragged on.

In so far as World War Two finished off Hitler it had to be good. Yet history-as-propaganda in an age of continued Blair-like spin and mendacity is something that all British citizens will need to be aware of as Cameron's regime is essentially the same as Blair's and Brown's regime.

The phrase the 'Good War' for World War Two came from A J P Taylor who distinguished it in that sense from the futility of the what was until the Second World War, termed , quite obviously, The Great War. This war could be repackaged to suggest that Afghanistan is in a great tradition of wars we won.

The Conservative columnist Peter Hitchens has already, correctly in my view spoken of the 'religion of World War Two' in British history as it is continually invoked by politicians who know that calling Saddam Hussein a "new Hitler" will resonate with those as a heroic battle of 'us' , that is the always Good, versus the forces of Evil.

Britain is taking from the USA all those aspects of it's imperial history that have been strongly spun into simplistic narratives ( this is one of the few parts of Noam Chomsky's thought that does have credence in regards to the USA and "noble causes", like Vietnam, and it is an important one that should be heeded ).

The rise of public relations and oily spin has now polluted every aspect of Britain's public life. Where once there were real debates over foreign policy in Parliament, Britain has three political parties with virtually no dissent on foreign policy within it's ranks.

A J P Taylor wrote of The Troublemakers who dissented on Britain's foreign policy. The British political system has virtually no dissent now either in Parliament, apart from those who cannot be taken that seriously such as George Galloway who trades on the fact he is not like them and so hardly bothers going in to Parliament.

Groups outside Parliament ( such as the so-called 'Stop The War Coalition' ) who dissent are often dominated by apologists for totalitarian systems and Jihadi Islamism. This means that many in the British public , especially the young, are getting not history lessons-or training in the ability to think independently-but propaganda.

It is a thouroughly depressing situation when events that we are not allowed to talk about this week may have something to do with the fact so many, including politicians in the New Establishment do not care for history or think that it's valuable in schools, are merely pumping out propaganda instead of objective information on wars past and present.

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