– Having failed to find a video clip, here’s an audio version of the scene in Blackadder Goes Forth, in which Captain Blackadder explains to Private Baldrick how World War I began. Michael Gove questions its accuracy but it seems correct, according to the history I learned at school.
If anybody doubted it before, now we can be certain: Michael Gove does not want schools to teach facts – he wants your children to learn jingoistic propaganda. By rote.
We can deduce this from his extraordinary attack on one of Britain’s most revered TV comedies, Blackadder Goes Forth.
He said the show (which, as we all know, mixed some of the best verbal humour of the 1980s with searing social commentary and arguably the most moving ending of any TV comedy at all) peddled left-wing “myths” about the First World War, “designed to belittle Britain and its leaders”.
According to politics.co.uk, Gove said the popular series had sought to denigrate British patriotism and had been used by “left wing academics” to portray the British war effort as a “shambles” led by an out-of-touch elite (so in that way, one assumes, the war was run much as the entire UK is today).
“Our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage,” the article quoted from his article in the Daily Mail.
He’s wrong, of course. Putting patriotism to the side (it is arguable whether that is a virtue), honour and courage are celebrated by Blackadder; there is no lack of it in the lead characters. Blackadder is perfectly willing to help the war effort by foiling a spy in one episode, for example. Lieutenant George is full to the brim with ideas about honour, courage, fair play and Britishness. Even Baldrick does his bit (although he probably doesn’t understand why). The point of the show is simply that the title character is not willing to lead the men for whom he is responsible into certain death.
“The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite,” Gove continued.
“Even to this day there are Left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”
In fact, there are academics of all kinds happy to feed these notions because they are based on facts, rather than the ramblings of Mr Gove’s deluded mind.
It is, frankly, terrifying that a man with such ludicrous and – in context – dangerous views may hold the position of Secretary of State for Education.
Gove went on to claim that the war was a “noble cause” and a “just” conflict against the “social Darwinism” of the Germans.
Social Darwinism, for those who don’t know, is the attempt to apply the concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest to politics; it argues that the strong should see their wealth and power increase while the weak should see it decrease.
It is strange that Gove should attract attention to this theory, as its strongest supporter in today’s Britain is his cabinet colleague, Iain Duncan Smith. Coalition policies on social security are clearly based on this principle yet Gove has never raised a whisper of protest against them.
Gove went on to say the war “was seen by participants as a noble cause”. Of course it was – they were fed a constant stream of propaganda by their commanders, in order to ensure their co-operation and keep their spirits up. This did not mean soldiers could not use their own eyes and ears to work out what was going on, and repressive behaviour by authorities at the army camp in Etaples led to the mutiny of September 1917, dramatised in the novel (and BBC TV series) The Monocled Mutineer, which attracted considerable criticism at the time of transmission (1986) for alleged left-wing bias.
It is worth noting that questions in Parliament after the novel was published led to the revelation that all records of the Etaples Board of Enquiry, where the mutineers were tried, had been destroyed long before.
And Gove ridiculously claimed that the Battle of the Somme – which the politics.co.uk article claimed has become a byword for futile and indiscriminate slaughter, was a vital “precursor” to victory. In fact it was nothing of the sort. The Germans gave up because the failure of one offensive after another had left their troops severely disillusioned and their country in danger of revolution – which in fact took place shortly before Armistice Day.
You have much to fear from an administration willing to have a man like Michael Gove running its schools.
He would rather tell your children lies than let them learn the truth; it might give them political ideas that disagree with his own.
His comments are yet more proof that we have a government built on lies.
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