Guilt and hagiography: Bongiorno and Stanley quoted on Brendan Nelson and Ben Roberts-Smith

Michael Bachelard, Fairfax investigative reporter, has a piece today quoting, among others, Honest History president, Frank Bongiorno, and past-president, Peter Stanley, on the inappropriateness of recent comments by War Memorial Director, Brendan Nelson, regarding the investigation into Ben Roberts-Smith VC. (Our collection of sources.)

‘As a nation’, says Professor Stanley, ‘our commitment to honesty and accountability should impel us to acknowledge our defenders’ actions in war – whatever they may be – and to decide on consequences with compassion for both victims and perpetrators’. ‘The idea’, says Professor Bongiorno, ‘there are no-go areas or areas that belong to the sacred, that journalists, historians and other academics shouldn’t encroach on is dangerous for a democracy’. Bongiorno went on that, under Dr Nelson, ‘the War Memorial had veered too far towards its role as “a secular temple as distinct from a centre of historical research or reasoned public education”‘.

Also quoted is Australian academic at Cambridge, Edward Cavanagh, who says, ‘Right now’, people wanting to ask questions about how war is conducted cannot do so, ‘ashamed, as they are, into a sense of guilt by hagiographers like Brendan Nelson … who is thrown a microphone now and then to invoke the “heroism” of some “digger” ’.

The article also includes extensive quotes from Dr Nelson who says, among other things, that forensic examination of wartime incidents does not necessarily include a role for journalists.

David Stephens

18 August 2018