An irony of the sacking of SBS sports journalist Scott McIntyre for a series of tweets he made on Anzac Day is that the hysterical reaction from politicians and the media, and the consequences he has faced, has only served to prove his initial point. Anzac Day is not about remembering history. To remember what actually happened at Gallipoli 100 years ago, and in Australia’s involvement in wars more generally, is not permissible. Whatever the Anzacs fought and died for, it was not free speech.
Lines of grey muttering faces, masked with fear, They leave their trenches, going over the top, While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists, And hope, with furtive eyes and grasping fists, Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop! — Siegfried Sassoon. Implausible as it might seem, it was the violent protest of a group of Bosnian high school students that sparked World War I.
The Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign (GCPC) was formed in mid-February at a meeting of the Marrickville Peace Group, Marrickville Residents for Reconciliation (now part of ANTaR Inner West), Pax Christi and the Marrickville Greens. Since then a number of local individuals have also participated in the coalition’s meetings and events.
The Tony Abbott government has recently been at pains to emphasise that it is “protecting” the community from Australian-born “jihadists” returning from participation in conflicts in the Middle East. Having learned the tools of the terrorist trade in zones of sectarian strife, they argue, these “extremists” might well embark on a campaign of politically-motivated civil slaughter in this country. Citing this as a motivating factor, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has recently cancelled several Australian passports.
With political advantage from a national celebration of the centenary of World War I in mind, the Julia Gillard government last year allocated an initial $83.5 million towards the “Anzac Centenary”. Through a local grants program, up to $125,000 is available for each federal MP to fund suitable projects in their electorates. But unfortunately for Labor, the project is now headed by Tony Abbott, who has appointed himself head of the Centenary. Stand by for a broadside of jingoism and a celebration of empire.