No Armistice for the Courier Mail

On the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month most of the civilized world commemorates the sacrifice of millions of men world-wide and hundreds of thousands of Australians who gave their all, were wounded or served in wars. Except in Brisbane. The local newspaper, the Courier Mail, clearly moved by the solemnity of the day, decided to run a negative Army piece provided by Luke McIlveen. Luke’s tone is bad enough but what was the Editor thinking when he decided to run with the story on 11 November? Did he forget what the day was all about. Did he not have a father or grand father that served and if not is he not aware that most of his readers do? The front page Armistice Day article Army racism shame by Luke McIlveen plumbs new depths in Army bashing and is clearly intrended to bring the Army, the Corps and the Battalion into public disrepute. It happened four years ago, was investigated and any action considered necessary would have been taken. The photo is damning but Luke, by his words, lumps a hundred thousand past and present infantrymen under the racist tag and does it on a day that should honour us. The emotive language underlines Luke’s bias and detracts from the point
The first inquiry in early 2003 was a whitewash that found members of the 1RAR Delta Company were not racist and only engaged in occasional “jovial banter
The inquiry is likely to be run out of Canberra, making it more difficult for middle-ranking officers to protect their mates
Whitewash…middle-ranking officers protecting their mates..heavy stuff Luke. Fairly libellous statements. The great thing is of course you are not required to prove anything. You can say what you like and trust that the less than discernering readership that your bylines attract will read the article and accept it as gospel. The photographer takes up the story. He says the image was simply a joke.
“It really and truly is nothing but a storm in a tea cup,” Mr Fraley said. “I have been with the Army taking their photos since Vietnam. I have never, ever, seen any racism.” Mr Fraley said the soldiers had been competing for who could take the best “fun photo”. “That’s all it was, there was no ceremonies, and the whole thing took two to three minutes.
Stupid, yes, ill advised yes – but I’m not sure the blatant racism is proven. Arch (and I know him) may be trying not to rock the boat but I do know he wouldn’t cop blatant racism. In an old piece titled “How I became a journalist: Luke McIlveen explains why he doesn’t concern himself with hard facts.
I’m biased though. Owing to my inability to count and distrust of anything you can’t prove in less than a minute, a career as an actuary or physicist was never really going to be an option.
Maybe some wise old hack should have told him he needed to look longer ‘than a minute’ before publishing anti-army beat ups’. Luke goes on about being a copy boy.
It was good fun though – we drank together, wrote anything to get a byline and berated conservative columnists under nom de plumes in the letters pages. At the same time I completed my unfinished Arts degree by correspondence.
Nom de plumes…wrote anything to get a byline – wow, I am impressed. Very undergrad – must have made for some great giggling over drinkies. Always the truth…always balanced…always signing your own name to letters to the editor. Honourable Luke and oh so liberal – Not like the soldiers at all. The one unguarded moment of those soldiers lives would have been well and truly balanced by months in East Timor where they risked life and limb to help the East Timorese. Tell me Luke do you have any positive articles about how these same troops, or their mates, helped the natives of Afghanistan, Iraq and a dozen other foreign countries. Have you ever submitted a positive article about the military? You have traded more than a hundred years of honour and service for 5 minutes of unguided, unwise activity. Oh, by the way, correct terminology is Delta Company, 1RAR and it’s not a regiment, it is a battalion of a regiment. I take the care to research correct nomenclature only to find professional journalists don’t. Luke, it’s like saying Mail News Courier Paper – ask someone or can’t you even bring yourself to talk to a soldier. Update: Similarly moved friend and fellow ex 1RAR officer Kel puts pen to paper to the editor and includes it in comments. Update II: The Road to Surfdom has an article covering this same point. Of course, Tim’s perspective is different from mine but the comment thread has some good thoughts.


  • Kev,

    I have included a letter I wrote to the editor of the Courier Mail. I doubt if it will be published

    The Editor
    The Courier Mail

    Dear Sir

    The Courier Mail is to be condemned for its campaign to sully the good name of the Royal Australian Regiment and in particular that of the soldiers of the First Battalion of that Regiment. To publish the inflammatory photograph of a platoon of that battalion on Remembrance Day was a provocation in the extreme and an attack on the very heart of what 11 November is all about. To acknowledge that the photograph was taken four years ago and has been held, somewhere further dams your newspaper.

    One is left to wonder as to the significance of the timing of the publication of the photograph.

    To suggest that the Australian Army is racist and that it has a culture of racism is an indictment not on the men of the Royal Australian Regiment but on the members of the media who lack an understanding of infantry soldiers and of soldiering. Hindsight would, no doubt has, told all who took part in the photo that is was not a clever thing to do. This particularly so for the leaders who were present and involved, they have no doubt learnt one of life?s valuable lessons.

    One wonders if the hanging judges out there baying for blood [and heads] have ever learnt some of life?s hard lessons and then been allowed to move on with their lives? That surely is what life is all about. Young men learn lesson daily that is what makes them older and wiser in the future and in time better leaders.

    Mateship is alive and well in the Royal Australian Regiment and the men who soldier on our behalf deserve our support, not shrill condemnation as they learn lessons along the way. I remain proud of my service in the First Battalion and thankful that there are fine young men who continue to soldier on the nations behalf.

    Take care,

    President 5 RAR Association [QLD Branch]

    For Information
    I have served in three battalions of the RAR and four years in the SAS. I also served with 51 Far North Queensland Regiment in Cairns, Cape York and the Torres Strait. Half the unit was and still is Islanders and Aboriginals.

  • Smart arsed little shit.

  • Well said KD.

    The alleged “victims” are all laughing, confirming the photographer’s point that it was a joke photograph. (Not politically savvy, but not racist.)
    Still, don’t let a good byline go to waste because of a few facts. It would seem that the “journalist” is still sticking to his original ethics from his copy boy days.

    All in all, not a day to remember the Courier Mail either.

  • Kev and others,
    I don’t know why you are surprised…..fuck’n jounalists never let the truth get in the way of a story, no matter how beat up, old or just plain incorrect. They can get away with things that “normal” people would be sanctioned for, because they can hide under the pissant guise of journalistc “licence”. As for the choice of dates to publish this crap, words fail me. This knob job needs a good dose of attitude adjustment…..with a pick handle. Fuck ’em all and the horses they rode in on.

  • Kev

    Well where do I start? The front page article of the Courier Mail on the 11/11/04, yet again reinforces the reasons why I do not waste my $ on buying such a crass newspaper. What was the editor thinking when he decided to run such a story, on a day when we pay homage to the countless men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice!

    I suppose we will never know why the Courier Mail decided to run such a story. If it was to create discussion about alleged racism in the Defence Services, I think it may very well have back fired! The only discussion that has been achieved, is the insensitivity of the Courier Mail for publishing such a story on Remembrance Day!

    However I still have this niggling feeling at the back of my mind, telling me that perhaps the motivating factor for running such a story was to sell newspapers!!! Had a story about an Aussie serving at the front in WWI been on the front page, then I may very well have bought a copy!!!

    What a shame journalism has yet again stopped to such a low. I wonder what story the Courier Mail will run on the 25 April 2005.

  • “That’s all it was, there was no ceremonies, and the whole thing took two to three minutes.”
    Stupid, yes, ill advised yes – but I’m not sure the blatant racism is proven.”

    And, soldiers have a crusty, earthy sense of humour, it was only mixed with the `ill-advised’,yes, prank, and they were all in on a joke.That’s all there is to it but, trust the medja to turn nothing into Mt. bloody Everest.

  • There is an opinion piece by Luke McIlveen in the Sydney Daily Telegraph today – “Killed by cowards” (unfortunately not online).

    It concerns the murder of Margaret Hassan, and believe it or not, he is very supportive of the soldier who shot the terrorist in Falluga.

    Quote: A man travels there (Iraq) as a soldier and -confronted by unimaginable horrors – makes a decision that will haunt him the rest of his days.

    Quote: They are terrorists who hide behind black hoods while they hack the heads off Westerners whose only crime was to was to take a job rebuilding the country.

    Quote: What about that blonde woman? Why doesnt The Herald run her picture on the front page? Because its easier to condemn a soldier faced with with life or death choices as a one-man Mai Lai massacre.

    Perhaps Luke has had a rethink?

  • Dee,

    OK, I’ll reserve my opinion on Luke. If he can be positive then maybe it’s not all bad.

    I still question the editors timing

  • C’mon, Kev.
    You know this creep is going after a soft target.
    The military may not comment.
    If he had pulled the same story about a local footy team, they would have been around to bash his teeth down his throat.

    Gutless prick.

  • Hello All

    Many thanks for the comments. A sad but not surprising aspect of this is the absence of comments and words of suport for the Army and the Regiment/soldiers from the ex-service organisations particularly the RSL.

    Many are afraid to voice words of support for fear of being seen as part of ‘it’, whatever it is.

    I am sending a note of support to 1 RAR! Any other takers?


  • Kel,
    Go for it!

    Suggest you print off Kev’s article and all these comments too.

    Yes, a pity that you cannot include any mention of support from the RSL, but is that surprising?