The WWI painting that shocked British authorities


Also the title of Kubrick’s WWI movie, taken from Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”


WW-I was an insane war and additionally was used to introduce many insults to civil rights we still suffer from. Shouting fire in a crowded theater theory was invented by SCOTUS to outlaw protesting the draft.

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Great movie, and unsurprisingly it was banned in France, Germany, and Spain for a period.

Telling the truth about war has long been something that governments try their hardest to censor.

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I have to wonder if the Great War was any more insane than any others, or if it just isn’t packaged as well. The US involvement in Iraq doesn’t strike me as any more sensible than Viet Nam. Things we’ve done since WW2 give lie to the reasons we supposedly fought that one.

I think war is a product that is packaged and sold to citizens based on the best marketing of the time. The Great War is and was no different- just that it’s no longer being promoted. WW2 and Viet Nam are still being packaged and promoted, to try to maintain the patterns they established.

I used to be very impressed with the focus, the discipline, the emotional economy of organized fighting. Now I’m mostly impressed with the wastefulness ans childishness of it all.


Your statement reminds me of an excerpt from The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes (also the greatest layman’s introduction to the history of nuclear physics you will ever find):

Whatever its ostensible purpose, the end result of the complex organization that was the efficient software of the Great War was the manufacture of corpses. This essentially industrial operation was fantasized by the generals as a “strategy of attrition.” The British tried to kill Germans, the Germans tried to kill British and French and so on, a “strategy” so familiar by now that it almost sounds normal. It was not normal in Europe before 1914 and no one in authority expected it to evolve, despite the pioneering lessons of the American Civil War. Once the trenches were in place, the long grave already dug (John Masefield’s bitterly ironic phrase), then the war stalemated and death-making
overwhelmed any rational response. “The war machine,” concludes [Gil] Elliot, “rooted in law, organization, production, movement, science, technical ingenuity, with its product of six thousand deaths a day over a period of 1,500 days, was the permanent and realistic factor, impervious to fantasy, only slightly altered by human variation.”

No human institution, Elliot stresses, was sufficiently strong to resist the death machine. A new mechanism, the tank, ended the stalemate. An old mechanism, the blockade, choked off the German supply of food and matériel. The increasing rebelliousness of the foot soldiers threatened the security of the bureaucrats. Or the death machine worked too well, as against France, and began to run out of raw material. The Yanks came over with their sleeves rolled up, an untrenched continent behind them where the trees were not hung with entrails. The war putrified to a close.

But the death machine had only sampled a vast new source of raw material: the civilians behind the lines. It had not yet evolved equipment efficient to process them, only big guns and clumsy biplane bombers. It had not yet evolved the necessary rationale that old people and women and children are combatants equally with armed and uniformed young men. That is why, despite its sickening squalor and brutality, the Great War looks so innocent to modern eyes.


In a week, it will be 100 years since the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife were murdered. (they seem like pretty interesting characters, BTW)

Is anyone going to be posting a day by day, “100 years ago this date” chronicle of the Great War? I’d like to spend part of the next 4 years tracking this stuff.


I just checked those claims and it looks as if it was a little more complicated than that. I can find no source (No dear Wikipedia, IMDB is not a source.) for it being banned in Germany. At least not in the way the wording implies.

Apparently it had been banned in the French occupied sector of Berlin because it portray French soldiers in a bad light. This ban lasted three months.

Other countries that banned the movie or censored parts of it were Switzerland,
and Israel and the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

Packaging is a good part of it but the U.S. government also learned to invoke the draft much more sparingly since the war in Vietnam. For better or for worse, the young men and women who came back from Iraq in flag-draped coffins had volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way.

On the plus side this meant the people fighting the war had some say in the matter. On the minus side this made it more difficult to muster the collective moral outrage to end the war.

That’s a useful distinction. Before WW1, civilians were mostly considered off limits, part of war’s spoils,not tools to be exploited in the fighting of the war. And once altered, that rule of engagement is now a permanent fixture. Even today civilians are being killed by drones at weddings and funerals, for being publicly present near statistically plausible targets.

I have to wonder what the countermeasure might look like. If civilians everywhere could shed the illusion that we are safe, mightn’t we be motivated to build the alternative? I’m not really thinking about protesting the war machine as an end in itself, that bores me silly. More like incorporating Non-violent Communication into our politics.

I agree… I think the big difference in the modern era, is that you really have to deal with public opinion in some way, even in states that aren’t necessarily democracies - though in non-democratic places you don’t have to get any sort of vote, except for the party or some inner circle, depending on the type of system. Germans before they began to invade their “territory” had a fair amount of propaganda aimed at “Aryan” germans in order to justify their actions. Likewise, look at the difference between how the Tzarist state went to war vs. the soviet state. Part of the reason that the Tzarist state pulled out was over popular unrest in part mobilized by Russian involvement in the war. Once the Soviets were pulled into WW2, they had a pretty heavy propaganda campaign, though I think the war was popular enough that they didn’t need it that much, because Germany was dumb enough to invade in (what was it, like August or was it July? But what were they thinking). Plus, we had a fair amount of pro-Soviet propaganda during the war as well, interestingly enough.

You can also compare what happened in the Civil War (where you have not too few draft riots in the north from democrats who didn’t support the war) and the first world war, where you had a concerted effort to “inform” and persuade the population into a war that Wilson had campaigned against. They created a committee, the Committee on Public Information to create support for the war:

I doubt that when, say the Ottoman Empire in the 16th or 17th century really felt the need to have a propaganda campaign amongst the peasantry in the Balkans or anatolia to support a war effort… or say the Russian Empire or even the French and English prior to the French revolution. Though I guess you could argue that the various religious wars (100 years war and the 30 years war could be classified as using “propaganda” since it was aimed at people of the “wrong” religion but they didn’t need consent is my point) They didn’t need consent, they could do largely as they pleased in that regards.

It’s interesting how things have changed in that regard.

“America is not at war.
America is at the mall.
The Marine Corps is at war.”

You don’t have to be in the marines to agree with this statement and have a problem with the reality behind it.

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I’m not sure about that, but my alma mater is sponsoring a digital history reenactment on Twitter, with different people on different @ accounts playing a variety of historical characters involved in the assassination and the march to war. I’m not sure what it will be like (part of the backing and organization is coming from the National WWI Museum, so it could be more “guns and glory!” than reasonable, depending on how that museum is managed) but some of the same people did a Twitter reenactment of the pre-Civil War raiding of a Kansas free city by pro-slavery guerrillas from Missouri and that was really interesting to follow.

I’m not sure how that’s related to what I said, though it’s undoubtledly true - I’m not disagreeing with who is fighting a war and who pays the heaviest costs. My dad was in the military, as were both of my grandfathers, plus I’ve had friends in the military. I understand that.

However, the point is that you can’t really have a “proper war” without popular support, at least through the 20th century and most especially in a democracy. The game changed post-Vietnam, maybe with most Americans being pissed about the high costs paid by vets and by the nation as a whole, though the brevity and low casualty rate of the first gulf war might have initially changed it again. I’d say part of the reason the current president got elected, because he promised to get us out of a couple of unpopular wars. Now, whether he did or not is another matter. But that’s part of what got him elected. Same with Nixon in the 60s - he campaigned on a “secret plan” to get us out of Vietnam.

Look, even in Vietnam, when things started to go south, these drafted soldiers needed some propaganda to not do things like frag their commanders because of how insane the whole thing was… hence the US military actually had a policy of looking the other way on some soft drugs and were supportive of having rock bands come in and play some music for the troops to boost morale:

It arguably cuts both ways: on the one hand, having a situation where we just shrug and leave our war to our hired war professionals, same as any other specialist in our specialized little lives, leaves a downright dangerous amount of room to have a swing at every unbelievably stupid potential war that comes along, at relatively minimal war-weariness cost.

On the other hand, (maybe this is just my biased sample set, or me being jumpy), the people I’ve heard/seen using that quote, correct as it is, commonly seem to be driving at the notion that if America were at war, in some united-by-national-purpose-and/or-mass-mobilization kind of way, this would be an improvement.

It’s that implication that makes me a bit nervous. Would it actually be better in some way if enough of America were directly involved in war activities that ‘America’ could be said to be at war? Or if levels of unanimity (real or perceived, the state usually engages in…active…cultivation of apparent consensus if a war’s popularity is having trouble) were high enough to spark a feeling of unifying purpose, rather than the deep skepticism that the situation arguably deserved? That would be a massive amount of blood and treasure, being dumped down the same rat hole.

Comparing it to more recent wars, I don’t know. Compared to all previous wars, I think that the use of mustard gas made it insanely worse.


One of the things that drives me nuts is that the “Support our troops!!!” crowd tends to be the first to bitch about how much they’re paying in taxes.

Like, what the fuck do you people think supports the troops the most, dipshits? Slacktivist happy dippy flag-waving back home, posting patriotic pictures to Facebook, or equipment and medical care that your tax dollars are paying for?


But I think this goes back to the point I was trying to make to @anansi133 earlier, that the 20th century saw war waged in a new way. Total war WAS the whole country going to war.That’s a very unique thing, historically speaking. I’m not sure that’s how we wage war anymore, in part because the state has very little monopoly anymore on the major lines of communications (although, arguable in the US at least, they never really did). But also because there is always going to be a part of society that opposes war, especially for unclear or questionable goals.

I never realized the Kaiser’s army was known for gorilla warfare.


Wocka, wocka, wocka!!!