Honest History E-newsletter No. 41, 7 February 2017

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

New at honesthistory.net.au

Alternative facts? The Australian War Memorial still has trouble counting its visitors, real and virtual. We analyse the figures in its 2015-16 Annual Report.

In their footsteps? Martin Crotty runs a tape over the Anzac Runs and the consumption of the past.

‘They would say that, wouldn’t they?’ Opposition Leader Evatt checks the espionage facts with the Russians, 1955.

One Woman’s War and Peace: Pamela Burton reviews RAAF nurse Sharon Bown’s autobiography.

Centre of Sydney Town: Grahame Crocket reviews a book about the history of Martin Place, Sydney.

Recently on Honest History.

Centenary Watch

Moving right along; running for Anzac; alternative facts at the Australian War Memorial?


Ready for anything. ‘However, we cannot rest on the laurels of the past. The Council of the Australian War Memorial will continue to work with the government to ensure that the Australian War Memorial has the facilities available to tell not only the stories of conflicts long past, but recent conflicts and, with a somewhat heavy heart, those that might occur in the future.’ (Kerry Stokes, Chair of Australian War Memorial Council, AWM Annual Report 2015-16)

Ebbs and flows of democracy. ‘The election of 2016 showed us that Americans are increasingly choosing to live in a cloud of like-minded spin, surrounded by the partisan political hackery and fake news that poisons their Facebook feeds. Nature, not to mention Donald Trump, abhors a vacuum.’ (Susan B. Glasser, ‘Covering politics in a “post-truth” America’, Brookings Institution, December 2016)

Down for the count. ‘When we assigned a team of reporters at Politico during the primary season to listen to every single word of Trump’s speeches, we found that he offered a lie, half-truth, or outright exaggeration approximately once every five minute – for an entire week. And it didn’t hinder him in the least from winning the Republican presidential nomination. Not only that, when we repeated the exercise this fall, in the midst of the general election campaign, Trump had progressed to fibs of various magnitudes just about once every three minutes!’ (Susan B. Glasser, ‘Covering politics in a “post-truth” America’, Brookings Institution, December 2016)

Fair go, mates. ‘The “fair go” and “egalitarianism” are overworked myths – ask any woman, aboriginal person, or prospective Asian immigrant how they experienced Australia in the postwar years and if they benefited from a “fair go”. But by most measures Australia has become a much harder and more unfair society in the last 35 years, and, as in the US, the people most sensitive to this change are those who in the US would be classified as “white men”.’ (Ian McAuley, ‘Brexit, Trump and the Lucky Country 1’, Pearls and Irritations blog, January 2017)

Clinging to Mother. ‘One “solution” is a retreat to an imagined past when everything was better. When aboriginal people knew their place, when immigrants were “white” and earned their place by taking the most unattractive jobs, when homosexuals lay low and hid their shame … Similarly there are retreats to conservative symbols … [I]t is notable that some of the most strident anti-multicultural groups wrap themselves in the Australian flag, to distinguish themselves from those who find it a relic of a colonial past. Seemingly “permanent” symbols give succour to those who are fearful of change.’ (Ian McAuley, Brexit, Trump and the Lucky Country 2, Pearls and Irritations blog, January 2017)

Learned skills. ‘It may … be that school education alone doesn’t adequately equip people with the skills to assess arguments – to detect lies, sophistry, untestable assertions, bullshit and casuistry. Again, drawing on my own experience as a university teacher, I have been surprised to find how few students, who have obviously completed high school, are familiar with the basic disciplines of syllogistic reasoning, for example. These are essential skills, not only for democratic participation, but also for living in a world where one has to make day-to-day decisions in markets.’ (Ian McAuley, Brexit, Trump and the Lucky Country 4, Pearls and Irritations blog, January 2017)

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