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.