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False Lies: Was John Howard truly Hitleresque?

4 July 2011

Recently a climate change skeptic outraged all right thinking people by suggesting that the Australian Government's climate change advisor was making fascist suggestions. Worse, the skeptic had in a public talk pictured Ross Garnaut next to the Nazi flag. This was very widely reported, not least by Australia's own national broadcaster, the ABC.

The ABC has other responsibilities as well, such as helping to support the arts, including in their new media sense. One product of this support, produced in 2004, was a beautifully animated short film.

Called 'False Lies', with music by the band 'Exhausted', this was a virtuoso computer-animation. The subjects were of a style that was vaguely reminiscent of Lego characters. It concerned a happy character, perpetually sporting a large smiley face, responding to an 'Uncle Sam Needs You' style advertisement on television, signing up to join the army. (Contrary to the maker's own claim that the character was 'drafted'.)

He instantly segues, while retaining his smiley face, into a soldier in parade. A massive parade.

As the computerised virtual camera pulls back and swings around, we see thousands of soldiers in formation, marching with the goose step, and swinging their left arms in the distinctive style of the soldiers of the former Soviet Union. They are accompanied by tanks and huge truck-mounted ballistic missiles.

The symbol of the regime appears to be a white-bordered blue 'X' on a red circle, at times emblazoned on a stylised eagle. Indeed, this eagle is both at the front and behind the podium upon which stands the official party, before which the parade is proceeding.

This whole scene evokes, as intended by its makers, Leni Riefenstahl's 'Triumph of the Will'. On the website, the makers talk of also using scenes from 'Gallipoli', 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'All Quiet on the Western Front'

The camera continues swinging, the angle changes to a broader shot of the hordes of soldiers, then changes to a position on the podium, angling down the side of a man standing there, right hand thrust aloft, his grey/white hair and squarish spectacles looking somehow familiar. We are not left to wait. Within a second the 'camera' zooms in from the front and shows us John Howard, smiley face plastered on, but thanks to the signature eyebrows, seeming somehow knowing and manipulative, while his right arm is held in a Nazi salute.

On his left lapel he wears a button showing the 'X' party symbol, and on his right is five-pointed yellow star, saying 'Deputy'. I can only assume that this is a reference to Howard's alleged role as George W Bush's deputy in the region.

The film advances, with highly effective war scenes and shows our original smiley-faced character realising that he should not be killing. He is arrested and placed in jail, and suffers the condemnation of all around him, including a now furious John Howard.

I suppose that it is now, in 2011, too late to call on the film-makers and their backers to apologise for this equally unfair equation of John Howard with a fascist regime.

Or doesn't it count if produced by the ABC? For this was part of its '4 Minute Wonders' short film series. This short film was funded, at least in part, by the government of John Howard, via the ABC, along with the (the ALP) government of the State of Victoria, via Film Victoria.

Perhaps it is acceptable to suggest that someone is an Adolph Hitler wannabe ... if that person is a conservative Prime Minister of Australia.

(The entire video can be viewed at the ABC-hosted website here.)

© 2011 - Stephen Dawson