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Wallace’s wife has her throat slit in public by the English, one of numberless Anglic atrocities. At one point Wallace is seen rallying the Scots with the speech: “I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?…They may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom!”
This is historical codswallop. The wars of Edward of England and the Scots under Bruce were wars between Norman-descended feudal nobles. The very idea of freedom for the peasants would have been beyond the conception of any of them (these were the days when two dogs were said to have been hanged for attacking a lion in a Royal menagerie — since the lion was the King of Beasts, the dogs were guilty of treason).
It is claimed by some that Braveheart contributed to a significant increase in Scottish Nationalist sentiment before the general election of 1997 when the Scottish Nationalist Party doubled its representation in Westminster and a Scottish Parliament was set up. The results of this have been generally negative and divisive, and anti-English rhetoric, attitudes and even physical attacks on English people in Scotland have led to a growing anti-Scots backlash in England, to the point where serious commentators believe the English will not again accept a Scots-born Prime Minister. I have commented previously on this completely unnecessary souring of relations between the two countries.
In 1997 in an act of almost unbelievable crassness and bad taste, a statue of Gibson as William Wallace was placed outside the Wallace Monument near Stirling, Scotland, with the word “Braveheart” on Wallace’s shield, thus trivializing and kitschifying the memory of Wallace. (I was fortunate enough to be taken by my Scottish brother-in-law to see the monument before this happened. It was simple and majestic.) One local resident stated it was desecrating the main memorial to Wallace with a “lump of crap.” In 1998 the Gibson statue was attacked with a hammer, and now, with the word “Freedom” in its plinth, it is protected by a cage at night.
Braveheart has vanishingly little discernible relationship to history. This is true even of the details that the Scots are depicted wearing kilts and playing Highland bagpipes, neither of which in fact appeared until several hundred years later. Though the story is set in the early 14th Century, Gibson is shown carrying a 16th-Century claymore. In the film it is suggested Edward III of England was Wallace’s son. In fact he was born seven years after Wallace’s death. Irish soldiers on the English side are shown changing sides and joining the Scots at the Battle of Falkirk. They didn’t. There is no evidence for the mass hanging of Scottish nobles which Wallace is meant to have witnessed as a boy. Most of the dynastic “history” presented is complete fantasy. While it is claimed in the film that England had oppressed and attacked Scotland for the previous hundred years, relations between the two kingdoms had actually been comparatively peaceful. And so on, and so on. It would take too long to detail all the historical falsehoods here, but there is a Wikipedia entry which gives many of them.
GIBSON’S NEXT EXERCISE IN ANTI-ENGLISH propaganda masquerading as historical fact was The Patriot, made in 2000 and set in the American Revolution. Again, historians savaged its inaccuracies, particularly its exaggeration or invention of British atrocities. These included a scene in which the British burn a town’s inhabitants alive in a church, actually probably inspired by a Nazi atrocity in World War II. In fact, history is not merely falsified but inverted: American-owned slaves are shown being freed to serve in the Revolutionary Army and it is implied the American forces intended to free all slaves, when in fact it was the British who first offered slaves who joined them freedom with the Dunmore Proclamation.
I have not seen Gibson’s 2004 Magnum Opus, which he directed, produced and co-scripted, The Passion of the Christ, and to which he personally committed many millions of dollars of his own money. I have read the book and know how the story ends, and prolonged flogging and torture scenes (apparently Christ’s rib-cage is shown eventually becoming bared by the whipping) fail to appeal to me. People whose judgment and ethics I respect have praised it and claimed it is an aid to Christian faith, though they have also said the violence and torture is excessive. Whether the many accusations that the film is anti-Semitic are true or not, I do not know, but at a time when Israel is fighting for its life against enemies sworn to its annihilation, it would seem to be both the responsible and Christian thing to make such a film in a way that these accusations would not be possible, for example by making the point that Christ was crucified as a result of the machinations of a small “political” group rather than by the Jews as a whole. As we have seen in rather too much detail recently, anti-Semitism often does not need much to ignite it.
Gibson’s drunken ravings about Jews were truly disgusting. But it is also true that they are not very important in themselves and it is wrong to scapegoat him for them. If we were all to be held to account for words of drunken stupidity few would escape whipping, I think. He has confessed to a long-standing problem with alcohol and one should wish him well in overcoming it.
The more serious matter is that he has taken part in a series of probably highly influential films that tend to portray falsehood as fact, and which, at a time when it seems “Anglosphere” cultural and political unity is of some importance, even setting aside the possible anti-Semitism of The Passion of the Christ, seem aimed at setting Australians against British, Scots against English and Americans against British.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?