It was a case of the ignorant railing at the (alleged) poorly read. This week Scott McIntyre was dismissed by SBS for breaching the public broadcaster’s code of conduct and social media policy.
SBS managing director Michael Ebeid could not accept the emotive rants contained in the sports journalist’s tweets, which went out at about 5.30pm on Anzac Day restating the extreme Left’s view of Australia’s military commitments during the past century.
There was nothing new in McIntyre’s claim that members of the First Australian Imperial Force were murderers, rapists and thieves. This has been stated by left-wing types for many a decade. Indeed, at the start of World War II, when the Hitler-Stalin Pact was in place, members of the Communist Party of Australia and their leftist fellow travellers called the Second AIF “five bob a day killers”.
It’s understandable that the powers-that-be at so diverse a broadcaster as SBS do not want to become involved in the after-lunch ramblings of a junior journalist. However, to some, what was most offensive about McIntyre’s Anzac Day tweets turned on his intellectual snobbery, especially in view of his historical ignorance.
McIntyre’s second tweet read: “Wonder if the poorly read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers pause today to consider the horror that all mankind suffered.” In fact, the crowds at the various Anzac Day commemorations last Saturday were not replete with drinkers or gamblers or nationalists, nor were they even largely white.
Rather, they seemed sober types who were patriotic rather than nationalistic. Also, many marches contained a number of Vietnamese Australians who fought with, or are related to, members of the South Vietnamese army, which was defeated by the North Vietnamese army in 1975. There were also those of Indian and South Korean backgrounds.
In any event, what’s wrong with a drink of alcohol or an occasional gamble or even a bit of flag-waving? McIntyre did not say. And how does the journalist know that those whose views he obviously holds in contempt are poorly read?
McIntyre is an appalling intellectual snob who looks down on those he does not regard as informed. Unlike himself. “Poorly read” is a somewhat dated code for wilfully ignorant or unintelligent. Yet some of the finest minds in Australia do not agree with McIntyre’s simplistic tweets about World War I.
Ignorance is evident in McIntyre’s first tweet, in which he states: “The cultification of an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with is against all ideals of modern society.” This is hopelessly wrong. In August 1914, Britain and its dominions declared war on imperial Germany following the latter’s occupation of neutral Belgium and invasion of France.
Those who hold the view that Britain should not have supported France in 1914 essentially believe that the kaiser should have been allowed to conquer much of continental Europe — from France in the west to Russia in the east.
As its name implies, World War I was not just a European battle. Germany had possessions in the Pacific and a German victory in 1914 or later would have affected the security of Australia and New Zealand. All this is well explained in The German Empire and Britain’s Pacific Dominions: 1871-1919, which is edited by John A. Moses and Christopher Pugsley.
Initially, the Ottoman Empire elected for neutrality. However, as Jeffrey Grey documents in his book The War With the Ottoman Empire (OUP, 2015), in late October 1914 the Ottoman Empire went to war with Russia, the ally of Britain and France. By early November 1914, Britain and the Ottoman Empire were at war. Australia and New Zealand were dominions of Britain.
Since the Ottoman Empire and Australia were at war in April 1915, it is ahistorical for McIntyre to describe the Dardanelles campaign as “an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with”.
The Gallipoli landing was a strategic and tactical mistake. However, it was in accordance with international law.
Australia was attempting to conquer Istanbul to attack Germany (the Ottoman Empire’s ally) from the rear. The aim was to take pressure off the Allied armies on the Western Front and to relieve pressure on Russia.
McIntyre ridiculed those who hold a different view as “poorly read”. Yet his own understanding of World War I is riddled with abysmal ignorance.
Likewise with McIntyre’s supporters. On Wednesday, Fairfax Media ran a piece by expatriate journalist John Pilger. Pilger’s left-wing testament A Secret Country is replete with errors. So it comes as no surprise that Pilger also believes that in 1915 there was a “British imperial invasion of Turkey”. If the Ottoman Empire had remained neutral, there would have been no such “invasion”. It didn’t.
Similar confusion occurred on Anzac Day when The Age published an article by Gina McColl titled “Brothers in arms?” She drew comparisons between the First AIF and those contemporary Islamist Australians who enlist with the so-called Islamic State or ISIS. McColl drew “compelling” parallels between these two sets of “young men, many from migrant families who came to Australia seeking a better life, going to the Middle East to fight in a war that shows their fellowship with an international brotherhood …”
McColl overlooked two essential facts. When the First AIF departed Australia in late 1914, it was anticipating fighting Germany on the Western Front — not the Ottomans in the Dardanelles.
Moreover, most of the young Islamists currently attempting to enter Syria and Iraq are Sunni Muslims intent on killing Shia Muslims. Consequently, there is no valid comparison between the events of 1915 and those of 2015 — in this instance at least.
The Left’s interpretation of World War I — as depicted by McIntyre, Pilger, McColl and more besides — is consistent with a wish that the kaiser’s imperial Germany should have won World War I. This is not a view that the overwhelming majority of Australians believed at the time or since. Well read and poorly read alike.