| WWI + 2014: The Year of Remembrance!

2014: The Year of Remembrance ~ Matt Carr’s Infernal Machine.

Few people will need reminding that 2014 is the centenary of World War I, or what posterity has called the  ‘Great War’, and our government is already preparing to mark the occasion in its own inimitable manner.  In a speech at the Imperial War Museum last October, David Cameron promised to commit more than £50 million to the centenary commemorations as part of a rolling series of events throughout the year, declaring:

‘Our ambition is a truly national commemoration, worth of this historic centenary.   I want a commemoration that captures our national spirit, in every corner of the country, from our schools to our workplaces, to our town halls and local communities.  A commemoration that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrated this year, says something about who we are as a people.’.

Lord Snooty stressed the educational importance of the centenary, and hoped that ‘ new generations will be inspired by the incredible stories of courage, toil and sacrifice that have brought so many of us here over the past century.’  

Quoting a twenty year old soldier who wrote just a week before he died,  ‘But for this war I and all the others would have passed into oblivion like the countless myriads before us . . . but we shall live for ever in the results of our efforts’,  Cameron insisted that:

‘Our duty with these commemorations is clear: to honour those who served; to remember those who died; and to ensure that the lessons learnt live with us for ever. And that is exactly what we will do.’

What ‘lessons’ will the nation’s youth be expected to draw from the Tory festival of remembrance, apart from stirring tales of ‘ courage, toil and sacrifice’?

World War I inaugurated a new age of mass industrialised slaughter that pitted human flesh and muscle against modern artillery and the terrible destructive power of the recently-invented machine gun.   ‘ They went down in their hundreds.  You didn’t have to aim, we just fired into them,’ recalled  a German machine gunner of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, when 57,000 men died in a single day.

In his excellent  The Social History of the Machine Gun, John Ellis quotes a  Lt. Col G.S. Hutchinson, who describes how he took possession of  a machine gun post after much of his company had been destroyed during the same battle:

‘I seized the rear leg of the tripod and dragged the gun some yards to where a little cover enabled me to load the belt through the feed-block.  To the south of the wood Germans could be seen, silhouetted against the sky-line, moving forward.  I fired at them and watched them fall, chuckling with joy at the technical efficiency of the machine.’

Shortly afterwards, Hutchinson used his weapon against a German artillery battery whose shells were falling amongst the British wounded:

‘Anger, and the intensity of the fire, consumed my spirit, and not caring for the consequences, I rose and turned my machine gun upon the battery, laughing loudly as I saw the loaders fall.’

Approximately ten million soldiers died in such encounters, in addition to some seven million civilians.  In Germany tens of thousands of civilians starved as a result of the economic blockade directed against the Central Powers, whose aim, according to Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty in 1914, was to ‘starve the whole population — men, women, and children, old and young, wounded and sound — into submission.’

This unprecedented slaughter acted as a catalyst for the barbarism of twentieth century politics and the even greater levels of slaughter during World War II.   In their determination to avoid a repetition of  the strategic stalemate of static World War I battlefields, the great powers developed new strategies and tactics which shifted the focus of military destruction onto civilian populations as well as uniformed armies.

The result was Guernica, the strategic bombing campaigns of World War II, and the invention of the atomic bomb.   Today western governments – ours amongst them – have attempted to seduce the public into a fantasy of perfect bloodless and ‘humanitarian’ wars, waged by remote-controlled machines in the world’s ‘wild places.’

Faced with a public that has become increasingly skeptical about the British elite’s predilection for war as first choice instrument of policy, the Coalition government, like its Labour predecessors, has been keen to re-militarize British society and present the armed forces as the embodiment of national virtue.

In these circumstances 2014 is likely to generate a great deal of stirring talk about the sacrifice, freedom, patriotism and heroism of those who died, but not so much about how they died and how they killed, or how so many men were lured into a fantasy of virtuous war that was as false then as it is today.

We can expect pagaentry, heritage; lofty talk of Queen and country; lost generations and Rupert Brooke; pretty displays of  red poppies; quasi-religious war worship’ a Niall Ferguson documentary; gung ho battlefield tours of the Dan and Peter Snow variety; suited politicians with bowed heads remembering a sanctified and sanitized version of the war.

We will hear celebratory speeches and read op eds that attempt to present World War I as part of an unbroken tradition of noble British warfare that reaches from Flanders to Iraq and Helmand Province; paeans to Britishness and Britain’s ancestral role in fighting for freedom – from the leaders of a country that remains one of the most prolific sellers of weapons to repressive regimes in the world today.

Of course there will be more than this, and there needs to be.  Because World War I is a momentous and terrible event that is worthy of remembrance and debate, from which a variety of lessons can indeed be drawn.

But we should be wary of those who plan to turn the coming year into a launchpad for new forms of militarism, and present the centenary as a cause for celebration, rather than a the horrific and disgusting tragedy which it was.

And regardless of  Lord Snooty’s remarkably fatuous comparison, we ought to bear in mind that World War I was not like the Diamond Jubilee.  It really wasn’t.





| Dezionizing history: The Silencing of Dorothy Thompson!

The Silencing of Dorothy Thompson ~ Alternate Focus.

She spoke out against Hitler. For that, they made her a hero.

She spoke up for Palestine. For that, they silenced her.

An icon of her time

For three decades, amid the sweeping events of the first half of the twentieth century, no journalist was more controversial, more iconoclastic, or more quoted than Dorothy Thompson. At the pinnacle of her career, Thompson’s syndicated news column, “On the Record”—one of the longest-running columns ever—reached millions of people around the globe. She was heard by millions more in her regular NBC radio broadcasts, and her stories appeared in The New York Tribune, Ladies Home Journal, and The Saturday Evening Post. Her persona was honored by Katharine Hepburn in the 1942 movie Woman of the Year, and in 1939, in a Time magazine cover story, was named the most influential woman in America next to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Erased from history

A few years later, newspaper columns were being cancelled and speaking engagements began disappearing. Dorothy Thompson was being silenced—all for the crime of saying what she believed. Today, only a handful of people even know her name.   Right now, you have the opportunity to change that.

An International Journalist

By 1926, Thompson was the first woman to head a foreign news bureau, with the post-war chaos of Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Greece as her beat. She studied German language and culture, becoming an expert in both, and was known for her intellectual curiosity, the endless lengths she’d go to get a story and the quality of her writing.

She was the first Western journalist to interview Hitler and also the first to be expelled from Nazi Germany – on the personal order of Adolf Hitler.  Dorothy was a powerful force in the antifascist movement; and the trusted adviser of presidents and prime ministers. “She has shown what one valiant woman can do with the power of the pen,” said Winston Churchill. “Freedom and humanity are her grateful debtors.”

Dorothy Thompson appeared in the film "Sands of Sorrow," one of the earliest films to tell the world about the plight of the Palestinian refugees
Dorothy Thompson appeared in the film “Sands of Sorrow,” one of the earliest films to tell the world about the plight of the Palestinian refugees


In 1944, she lost her job at the Herald Tribune for the sin of endorsing Roosevelt for president instead of her editor’s choice, Wendell Wilkie.  But her career truly took a fall when she began to speak out for the rights of the Arabs living in Palestine.  For years, Dorothy had been an ardent supporter of a Jewish state in Palestine, but in 1945 she decided to visit Jerusalem to see what it like on the ground.  Instead of finding a land without a people for a people without a land, she found that Palestine was a nation of over a million.  She began to speak out for the rights of the native population.

“I was in Palestine… and I assure you… that the situation there is not the way it has been presented by many of the Zionists. It is one of the most complicated and difficult problems on earth today.”

Dorothy Thompson

For the Zionists, the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 was the culmination of a decades-long dream. But at the same time, over 700,000 Palestinians – more than half of all of the Arabs who lived in what became Israel – were forced out of their homes and have never been allowed to return.

Dorothy became one of the first American journalists to speak up for the rights of Palestinian refugees.  As a result, newspapers across the country dropped her columns, speaking engagements disappeared, and she eventually disappeared into history.

This is your opportunity to tell the world about Dorothy

The story of the silencing of Dorothy Thompson has never been told. The “why” of her demise deserves a hearing, and Alternate Focus, with a legacy of over 240 half hour productions, has now turned its focus to producing it’s first full-length in depth documentary—The Silencing of Dorothy Thompson. Founded by a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim, Alternate Focus is a 501C-3 nonprofit corporation working for peace and justice by offering the American public media which shows another side of Middle Eastern issues.

The Crew

John Odam, Project Manager/Producer

A graduate of Leicester College of Art, U.K, John Odam began a thirty year career in media, first as a cover designer and ultimately as Director of a design studio producing educational books. From articles for design publications, he later wrote four books on digital design. During the 1990s he produced animations and in 2001 won the Grand Jury Prize in the New York Independent Film Festival. In 2009, he edited the feature Mozlym, winning recognition at the Cairo international Film Festival. From 2002 to 2012 he has edited and produced over 100 documentaries for Alternate Focus, a non-profit media group producing film and video on Middle East subjects and broadcasting in 25 cities on cable, the Deep Dish Network nationwide and European satellite.

Andy Trimlett, Script Writer

Andy Trimlett received his M.A. in Middle East Studies from the University of Washington and his B.A. in International Security and Conflict Resolution from San DiegoStateUniversity. Andy has worked as a producer for KPBS, the PBS station in San Diego, for six years. He has produced national television programs about the Middle East and related issues for the non-profit organization Alternate Focus since 2004. Andy has worked as producer, camera operator, editor, writer, and/or narrator for dozens of programs for Alternate Focus, KPBS, and PBS. He recently received a regional Emmy for a documentary he helped produce for KPBS.

Alison Weir, Script Consultant

Journalist Alison Weir is president of the Council for the National Interest, founded by former Congressmen and ambassadors, and executive director of “If Americans Knew,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing Americans with information on topics of importance that are misreported or under-reported in the American media. 
Weir speaks widely throughout the country, including two briefings on Capitol Hill, presentations at the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine (one of which was broadcast nationally on C-Span) and at such universities and colleges as HarvardLawSchool, Columbia, Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Vassar,the Naval Postgraduate Institute, and others. If Americans Knew has completed seven in-depth statistical studies of US media coverage of Israel-Palestine, releasing reports on the New York Times, the Associated Press, the major primetime news broadcasts, and various other news media, research that is increasingly cited by analysts on Israel-Palestine. Weir has received awards from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and in 2004 was inducted into honorary membership of Phi Alpha Literary Society, founded in 1845 at IllinoisCollege. The award cited her as a: “Courageous journalist-lecturer on behalf of human rights. The first woman to receive an honorary membership in Phi Alpha history.”

Mark Day, Associate Producer

Mark is an award winning journalist and filmmaker. He holds master’s degrees in journalism and professional writing from the University of Southern California. He is the author of the book, Forty Acres: Cesar Chavez and the Farm workers. Day has worked as a journalist in the U.S. and in Latin America. He won two Emmy’s for his films on sex trafficking and he has written, produced and directed several documentaries. He has also worked as a labor organizer. He and his wife, Fredi, live in Vista, Calif.

Sidney Wildesmith, Associate Producer

Sidney Wildesmith is a professional creative facilitator, “he helps people make things happen”. His creative focus over the past 45 years has been directed at making a positive difference. Trained as a scientist and educator, he has added a significant arena of artistic and expressive talents that together, forge a unique matrix that are applied to the projects he undertakes. Currently he is the founder and CEO of “CleantekTV” an InterNetwork showcase promoting clean technology. He was the Host and Producer of “The Wild Side News”, that produced over 250 in-depth hour-long shows featuring interviews with the world’s leading voices about and for nature and the environment. Over the past 3 years he has taken a creative role in producing over 200 video features for clients from a diverse spectrum. He provides a full array of production talents from concept, scripting, shooting and editing video, voice over, sound and music, and posting to social media. He is as well, an accomplished artist and designer, and has served as the US National Park Services Artist-In-Residence in 7 National Parks, and continues his work the summer of 2013 in Yosemite. His focus is generally and specifically, to help American Culture develop a natural sustainability through a celebration of our diversity, empowered by tolerance and with a wholistic balance with the living systems of which they are allied. Visit his website at www.wildesmith.com to learn more.

Chris Belcher, Director of Photography

Chris is a videographer based in Washington, DC. In addition to freelance work, he has held staff positions as a news photographer/editor at the Washington bureau of Venezuelan TeleSUR TV, and the BBC Arabic World Service. In 2005/6, he documented the Palestinian presidential and legislative elections in Gaza and the West Bank with a delegation from the Council for the National Interest Foundation. He is currently a volunteer tech administrator for the DC Independent Media Center, and a stringer for Democracy Now.

Jennifer Church, Research co-coordinator

Jennifer works as an administrator at UC San Diego, where she has been in charge of grant writing, budgeting and financial tracking, creating publicity and event planning in a variety of positions in the last twelve years. She has a Masters in Literature, with a specialty in 20th-century American fiction and popular culture, and has studied film history and theory. She will help with organization, grant applications, research and writing for the film.

Marwan Khaireddin, Fundraising consultant

Marwan was born 1950 in Jordan to Palestinian parents from Jaffa/ Palestine, who lived in a refugee camp after 1948 Al-nakba. He was educated in Amman /Jordan and then joined the faculty of Engineering at CairoUniversity 1966, and graduated from DamascusUniversity in Syria as civil Engineer 1973. He practiced Engineering in Jordan for 15 years building and managing several projects. Marwan moved to California 1989 where he owns and manages a small business in the field of sales and financing cars. Marwan has been a community activist, participating in organizations like; ADC the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee, Palestine Children Relief Fund. House of Palestine, and Alternate Focus. Thanks to Kicstarter and your generous support this amazing story so relevant to our time, will be told. We offer some intriguing rewards and look forard to a successful launch.

Tell your friends, visit “The Silencing” website and we’ll see you at the movies!


Risks and challenges

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

This film will require our team to come together on every level. We are looking forward to working in collaboration with our interviewees further, and with you, our community, as we continue to craft this vital story. Thanks for making this a reality!


Sands of Sorrow (1950) Palestinian Arab Refugee Camps Video