Mel Gibson’s drunken verbal abuse of Jews has been rightly condemned. As is so often the case, however, the commentariat have seized on a relative triviality and overlooked more substantial matters.
Gibson has been involved in a series of pseudo-historical films which may be much more important in terms of actual political effect and whose content deserves scrutiny.
Let us consider first the film Gallipoli, an Australian film made in 1981. The screenplay of Gallipoli was not written by Gibson but by a leftist Australian intellectual, David Williamson. Gibson was, however, the major star.
The film deals with the Gallipoli campaign of 1915, when French and British Empire troops failed in a long and costly battle to advance from the Turkish coast to Constantinople. Winston Churchill was blamed, perhaps unfairly, and his political career almost destroyed. It was the first great campaign for Australian and New Zealand troops, the casualties were shocking. The anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, April 25, ANZAC Day, is kept in Australia as the equivalent of U.S. Veterans’ Day and is the greatest national commemoration day of the year. Associated with it are many semi-religious ceremonies and rituals in which millions of Australians — not only veterans — participate, and the number involved is growing every year.
The film Gallipoli does not show much fighting for most of its length. However, its climax is a re-creation of the disastrous Australian attack on a Turkish position called The Nek.
The troops, mainly dismounted West Australian light horsemen, innocent boys from the bush whose life in Australia is indicated at the beginning of the film, attack in three waves in uphill charges against entrenched Turkish machine-guns. The first wave is wiped out and the attack is shown to be clearly hopeless and suicidal. However, an English officer, Colonel Robinson, safe in a dug-out far from the fighting, orders the attacks to proceed.
The second wave attacks and is also annihilated. The senior West Australian officer, Major Barton, wants to halt the attacks. Robinson refuses. Major Barton orders a soldier, Frank Dunne, a champion runner, played by Gibson, to run to the Australian General’s headquarters and have Robinson’s suicidal orders overridden and countermanded.
The wise Australian general gives orders to halt the attack, but as Frank sprints back with these orders, he is killed and the message is never delivered. The third wave, led by Major Barton after he has made a moving speech to the men, goes over the top and is also destroyed.
So much for the film. Like other “historical” films Gibson has made, it could easily be taken as fact by people who are not well-informed historians. However, the reality is that there was no such person as the bumbling and murderous British Colonel Robinson. The fatal orders to persist with the attacks were actually given by another Australian, Colonel J. M. Antill.
Further, the fatal attacks were not delivered to support British troops — who in the film are said to be “drinking tea on the beach” as the Aussies die for them — but to support a New Zealand attack that had also bogged down. In fact a British regiment incurred heavy casualties trying to support the Australians once it was realized they were in trouble.
The film is a piece of anti-British propaganda and its plot is based on a falsehood. There was no discernible reason to create the fictional character of Robinson except to encourage anti-British sentiment in Australia — which was certainly on the left political agenda in the 1980s under the code-name “The New Nationalism.” The bizarre anti-British and anti-Semitic crank historian (and Lenin Jubilee Medalist) the late Manning Clark was highly honored in certain Labor Party and other leftist circles about that time for promoting anti-British mythology.
The Gallipoli battlefields are visited by many Australian tourists and this poisonous film is apparently shown every night in a number of tourist hotels and hostels there.
BRAVEHEART, ALLEGEDLY THE STORY of Scotland’s struggle against English genocide, was made in 1995 and directed by Gibson. It is an anti-English diatribe from its opening, in which Robert the Bruce is shown saying, “I shall tell of William Wallace. Historians from England will say I am a liar, but history is written by those who have hanged heroes.” The first scene shows the child Wallace encountering the hanged bodies of Scots noblemen and boys treacherously murdered after a meeting with representatives of the English king.
In the film the English king intends to destroy the population of Scotland by war or breeding. He invokes the doctrine of primae noctis, which allegedly allows the English lords the right to sexual intercourse with any common woman on her wedding night.
Historians question whether primae noctis ever actually existed in this form in Europe at all. It did not exist in either England or Scotland. Further, this suggests conceptions of race and genetics quite foreign to the medieval mind.
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