ANZAC Day Redux

By Legal Eagle

It seems to be de riguer for a certain type of journalist to write stuff on ANZAC Day saying that it’s a jingoistic load of crap celebrated by right-wing lunatics. Now, there’s certainly an element of society which seems to see ANZAC Day as a “glorious tradition”, and that tries to harness it to an unpleasant kind of nationalism. I really resent that. But that doesn’t mean that all people who find importance in ANZAC Day are racist thugs. I resent that implication too.  I wrote a post in 2007 in response to an article by Tracee Hutchinson which describes the way I continue to feel now:

ANZAC day is about remembrance. It is about remembering those who died fighting under the Australian flag, and those who were wounded. It is also about honouring those who came back safely, and saying that we appreciate their sacrifice. While we may be able to see with hindsight that a particular war was not a good idea, or was motivated by improper political motives, this does not mean we should dishonour the people who fought and died in them. Part of the message of ANZAC day is that war is a terrible thing. Certainly, my forebears seemed to have been indelibly scarred by it.

ANZAC day tells us that we wish for peace in all areas of the world where war rages. …

Anyway, this ANZAC Day, my ire has been raised by Catherine Deveny and her inane twitters on the subject. To wit:

I came across Deveny’s twitter via Pavlov Cat’s piece at Still Life With Cat. Black Dog also has a great response to Deveny. Go read both posts, they are very well written. They say it better than I can. But I will say a little bit.

Of course some people enlisted because they wanted adventure, or because they wanted to be a hero. That’s the kind of thing which is attractive to idealistic young lads and lasses, and that’s part of the tragedy of it – they wanted adventure; many got death, injury and horror instead.

I understand on one level where Deveny is coming from. She’s having a knee-jerk reaction against the popular media coverage which portrays the ANZACs as unalloyed heroes. So instead, she reacts against this by saying the opposite: that the ANZACs are racist, homophobic and misogynist, as well as rapists and bullies. It’s trite and ill thought out. Like much of Deveny’s writing, it attempts to be iconoclastic and witty, but it fails miserably and ends up being offensive.

Just because the ANZACs fought in a war doesn’t mean that they were bad people. Not every ANZAC was a hero, but not every ANZAC was a monster either. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of them were just ordinary people, with normal foibles and flaws. That is precisely one of the sorrows of war – decent ordinary people go and kill other decent ordinary people.

On a day like this, we should not glorify war. We should stop and think about the horror that war wreaks. It doesn’t just result in physical injury and death, but it leaves mental scars which continue on for a long time afterwards, in individual and collective psyches. Ordinary, decent people die because of war, they are injured or suffer for long afterwards. It’s something we want to avoid, if we can. But nor should we just forget war, or insult those who fought, died, or were injured in wars.


  1. Posted April 26, 2010 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    At this point, the David Cameron first law of twitter applies: ‘too many tweets make a twat’.

  2. Posted April 26, 2010 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Can I just say I hated Deveny before it was cool? 😀

    Seriously, she’s a latte-belt version of Andrew Bolt. The same appealing to prejudice, just aimed at different people.

    I loathe the cloying, self-righteous demands that we all suspend critical thinking around ANZAC and Remembrance Days and think of all Australian soldiers as “our heroes”. The stifling of real debate around these days is a big problem. But Deveny isn’t solving that at all.

    In fact, as you can see by Bolt’s latest piece, Deveny has given Bolt a free kick, allowing him to throw in genuine scholarly questioning of ANZAC myths with her rubbish. Bolt of course demands nothing less than total subservience to his version of ANZAC, and Deveny’s foolish outburst helps him to do that.

  3. Posted April 26, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Catherine Deveny is insane.

  4. Oliver Townshend
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I was going to say that I didn’t know anyone who disparaged ANZAC day anymore, but I’d forgotten about CD. She was on Q&A when I sat in the audience, and her desperate attempts at relevance and comedy made me wonder why on earth she was selected. Most of her twitter output is so offensive, I never know whether to reply and get into an argument or not.

  5. Posted April 26, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    DJ Some of that “genuine scholarly questioning” is clearly not very good, as the reviews Bolt links to are able to show. Geoffrey Blainey (normally a polite and restrained reviewer) was particularly brutal about the Reynolds/Lake effort in his ALR review.

  6. Posted April 27, 2010 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Apparently the threatening Andrew Bolt twitters Deveny has been taking seriously are fake, generated by people who don’t like Bolt. I must admit I had my suspicions when I saw the ‘Bolt’ twitterer start advocating violence.

    This is getting really toxic.

  7. Peter Patton
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Surely The Age is committing a form of child abuse by keeping her on.

  8. Patrick
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I’ll just add to the consensus that CD is an absolute fuckwit.

  9. Posted April 27, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    “Latte-belt version of Andrew Bolt.” Yep that certainly hits the spot. She’s certainly a lot dimmer than AB

  10. Peter Patton
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Just quietly, I’d say Mr. Bolt would be quite often caught among the latte belt himself. 😉

  11. Posted April 28, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m a double espresso person of a morning, myself. Heartstarters are always a good thing 🙂

  12. munroe
    Posted April 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Hey, it’s not just about reminding ourselves of the horror of war, or that those who fought aren’t necessarily “bad people.”

    War, unfortunately, is necessary, and it is necessary more often than we would like. For example, World War II was fought against an implacable foe that, by any definition, was utterly evil. It wasn’t merely a “just” war, it was necessary. And not just because of the holocaust; the Axis literally had plans to genocide or enslave the nations they were fighting against.

    So please, let’s not turn ANZAC day into a memorial of grief as if war is some kind of natural disaster that selectively picks off young men; it’s more multifaceted than that.

  13. Cossomby
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    A few comments on the comments…Catherine Deveny uses a form of over-the-top kite-flying to get people talking. I think she probably overdoes it, but I’m pretty sure it’s deliberate. Andrew Bolt does the same thing; I’ve emailed him challenging some rubbish he wrote and he replied – a polite and sensible response, quite at odds with the style of his blogs. There is so much noise around – twitter, blogs etc – sometimes people think they have to scream/be extreme to be heard. Then, others up the ante and the whole thing gets out of hand – toxic as someone above noted.

    We would all agree WW2 was a just war against ‘an implacable foe’ – but it was the direct result of WW1 – a really stupid war. War breeds war. As someone born during WW2 and growing up under the nuclear threat of the 50s, I stop sometimes in sheer amazement that I, and the world, are still here.

    My generation are the ones who were dubious about ANZAC Day and about the Vietnam War, though I was appalled at the way people treated the soldiers then, (one of the benefits of WW2 was the end of colonialism, and the Vietnam War seemed to be trying to perpetuate that, under the guise of fighting the Communist Menace) – and not only us war babies (we predate the boomers, but you never hear that term these days): my father, who served in WW2, has NEVER marched on ANZAC Day.

    What I really hate about the recent ANZAC commemoration is the way politicians and others use it, and the repeated statements that Gallipoli made Australia a nation. Not for me it didn’t. Not for my father. Not for most women?

    I am moved by the old men who have survived, and I’m happy for the recognition they are getting in their old age (although my father still doesn’t participate). But I don’t like the manipulation of emotions. An example: my grand-daughter, then aged 7, went with her parents to the state funeral procession of one of the last WW1 soldiers, Alec Campbell, in Hobart a few years ago. Photos of her wrapped in the Australian flag appeared in several newspapers, looking sad, with soppy captions. In fact she wrapped herself in the flag, and was looking unhappy because it was freezing cold and she was bored. It will be interesting to see if this photo is reprinted in the future as an example of the younger generation’s sadness about the old diggers.

  14. L Plate Lawyer
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    The Age has given Deveney the sack.

  15. Tatyana
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I’m not Deveny’s fan, but I think sacking her was short-sighted.

    I agree the Bindi remark was offensive, because she was talking about an under-age child. But, although I was startled when I first read it, I thought she was onto something—having a go at the image she projects, and the media’s responses to it. I think she was having a go at that aspect of the Bindi phenomenon, although she clearly went too far this time.

    Ironic it was the (awful) Logies that did it.

  16. L Plate Lawyer
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    LE – I also feel a little sorry for her. Personally, I think she should have been lined up for a good talking to/sacking for her ANZAC comments.

    CD defends herself by saying that her comments were taken out of context. How much context is possible when someone twitters? I’m not particularly technologically savvy – but I understand there is a character limit?

  17. Patrick
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    No pity. Sure someone should have sacked her years ago, or never hired her. But surely her own feeble little mind could have told her that she was acting like a complete twat?

  18. Peter Patton
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    She publicly advocated the statutory rape of an 11 year old; she’s uneducated, dumb, can’t write, and is a bogan. What a pity we no longer have ‘transportation.’

  19. Peter Patton
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Fortunately, we have Medicare. So let us hope/pray for her healing and Redemption.

3 Trackbacks

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    […] is intended to shock and horrify, and to appeal to certain prejudices. On the ANZAC day thread, David Jackmanson said, “Seriously, she’s a latte-belt version of Andrew Bolt. The same appealing to prejudice, […]

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