under-informed

Some time ago (has it been weeks or months? I’m not entirely sure. Timelines have become something of a blur, and perhaps not always relevant), my department was granted access to a new lunch room at work. We have been segregated from the main pharmacy since April (?) so we cannot use the kitchen space there. This new lunch room has the added perk of having a TV, so in my lunch breaks I sometimes watch TV.

Sometimes I watch the news, or a random cooking show, or some snippet of a random movie (SBS shows “world movies” during the day). If I can’t be bothered watching anything, I just put on the radio (ABC Classic, of course). Initially I browsed a lot, and I discovered that ABC have a channel dedicated to educational shows for primary and secondary school students, covering a broad variety of topics from physics and chemistry to history and social sciences. Often I watch this channel because I find it is more informative, interesting and useful than the news.

The other day, the program that happened to be on while I was having lunch was Lest we forget what? — a short show about the WWI Gallipoli campaign. I almost didn’t watch it because it is something that I was taught a lot about throughout school …or so I thought.

The story of the Anzacs in WWI is something of a legend that I assume all Australian school kids get taught about. School was kind of a long time ago for me, but what I remember being told was that the Gallipoli campaign was a failed manoeuvre by the Anzacs, and that many, many people died there. It was somewhat surprising (but also not surprising in a way) to learn that I didn’t know all that much about what really happened.

At the very start of the program, the host is already prompting viewers to think about what they know, and question the validity of everything. I think it was this more than anything that got my attention and stopped me from changing the channel. Critical thinking and source evaluation are important skills for everyone to have — now more than ever, with the overabundance of information wherever you look — and I was glad to know this was being taught, even if it was TV.

One of the first misrepresentations that the show dispels is perhaps one that is not actively taught incorrectly, but is more of an act of omission. Apparently history lessons focus so much on the Australian and New Zealand troops who died at Gallipoli, people rarely mention the other troops involved. And yet, there were more British, Irish and French soldiers who were involved, and who also died on those shores.

Immediately I was searching my memory, wondering if I’d ever been told this. But to be fair, there’s a lot of history to cover, and I suppose one cannot reasonably expect to be taught everything about everything. If the textbooks glossed over this, surely one cannot create too much of an uproar.

But then the presenter continued with her questioning. She was standing on the very same beach where the battle was fought, and she mused over the uncertainty about whether coming to that particular part of the coast was a mistake, or if it was actually part of the plan. I think the version I was taught was that they had intended to come to shore further up or down the coast, but, for one reason or another, sailed into the spot that they did.

At this point in the show, the camera panned across the beach and the cliffs, and the presenter posited that any point they could have chosen was inevitably going to be a bad choice. It is interesting to think that historians argue about this though — presumably with different sources and different viewpoints. It makes me wonder if one or the other was intentionally created because it was thought the public would better accept that story over the other.

It actually kind of ties in with something I read in Hidden Figures this week. (Hidden Figures is a fascinating book by Margot Lee Shetterly.) I’m up to the part where Shetterley is recounting the lead up to America’s first manned space flight, and there is a mention that a (then) secret military document proposed blaming the Cubans if the space mission failed. Of course, the implication is that the Cubans could have had nothing to do with any failure or otherwise, and the whole blame-game plan sounds very childish.

Still, it’s interesting to see how long information has been manipulated, or planned to be manipulated (and hence how long people have been manipulated). It is startling and concerning and paranoia-inducing, and makes me wonder what else I’ve been misinformed or under-informed about.

4 thoughts on “under-informed

  1. It’s really interesting isn’t it how various events in history are often viewed differently over time, especially when more recent information on those events comes to light, or indeed political views change, as we have seen in recent months in the USA in particular with the toppling of statues to Confederate war heroes, or in the Uk with famous figures who made their fortune from slavery.
    Gallipoli was a truly tragic affair, an ill planned attempt to sail into the Dardanelles to keep the straits clear of Turkish forces, only to find the Turks had enough cannon to cause significant damage to the fleet. That resulted in the landings to try and take the artillery out, but as we know, it was a real mess from the start with everything going wrong.
    I guess we assume it was mostly ANZAC troops there, because both Australia and New Zealand commemorate ANZAC Day, whereas here in the UK it’s an event that the government would prefer to forget about.
    There used to be a military hospital close to where we live (Southampton on the south coast), where many of the wounded from wars from the Crimean War, the Boer War and both World Wars were brought. Now it’s a Country Park, but about half a mile from the location of the hospital is a cemetery with graves of many of those who succumber to their wounds. As you walk through the cemetery you see graves of those who were killed in the early days of the First World War, then you come across many graves of Australian and New Zealand soldiers who ended their days there. The cemetery also has French, Belgian and German graves, it’s very moving to walk through.

    • That is a good point about ANZAC Day. Perhaps if the Gallipoli landing was commemorated in other countries, we’d know the day as something else, and know more about the other countries involved. Such a difference a seemingly small detail can make! It’s interesting too that the UK government wanted to forget about it, but Australians thought it should be remembered forever.

      The military hospital and cemetery is certainly not something that was mentioned at school, but sounds as worthy of a visit as the Gallipoli peninsula itself.

      Thank-you for your comment

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