The Valour and the Horror
- Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 27, Number 4, Winter 1992-1993
- pp. 197-198
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Point-Counterpoint: Ethics in the Media Point-Counterpoint addresses in this issue the topic ofethics and truth in popular and scholarly media. A strong position paper about public debate surrounding the CBC documentary The Valour and the Horror rubs shoulders with a reportage of the Ethics in Publishing Conference, recently held in Toronto, and meant to address unprofessional and misogynist attitudes. We would welcome further responses within this or any other topical issue of interest to our readers. The Valour and the Horror The resentment over the premiere broadcast of The Valour and the Horror has something disturbingly in common with the resentment over the events depicted in the television series itself. It is the resentment of those who realize for the first time that in war, there can be no glory. Not only can there be no glory, there can be no dignity and little honour. What there will be is terror, bravery, revulsion and agony. And death. In other words, precisely what the title ofBrian and Terrence McKenna's brilliant television series tells us: there will be valour and there will be horror. What is most surprising about the reactionary opposition of those who want to silence what the McKenna brothers have achieved is that so many expressing opposition are battlefield veterans themselves and, consequently, men who should be most aware that glory is a lie. They appear, however, to be telling us otherwise. It is now a commonplace that, in war, the first casualty is truth. As an example of this - and one outside the McKenna series - bring to mind the well-known Canadian war correspondent who, on his return to England after the disaster at Dieppe in August of 1942, reported that he had entered the town of Dieppe that morning in the company of Canadian troops and, while there, was witness to a completely successful operation. This was a lie. The truth is, he sat offshore on a command ship and knew before the raid began exactly just what he would broadcast. Only a handful of Canadians made it into the town; many more died on the beach or were taken prisoner there. Journal ofCanadian Studies Vol. 27, No. 4 (Hiver 1992-93 Winter) Such lies may be well meant, but in denying the scope of the horror, they also deny the scope of the valour. In light of the events of World War II, it is astonishing that anyone could imagine the behaviour of the Allied High Command was impeccably civilized. Does no one remember the ending of what began at Hamburg and Dresden - to say nothing of Berlin, where I personally witnessed the results of what can only be called Allied barbarism. This onslaught on civilians ended with the dropping of one atom bomb on Hiroshima - and of a second atom bomb on Nagasaki. Not one; two. Not once; twice. Who, with an ounce of sanity, could claim that two bombs were necessary? On the other hand, would either bomb have fallen if the massive raids on Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin had not taken place? This is not to say that the Allied High Command was by any means alone in perpetrating horrors. These words tell us otherwise: Hong Kong - Leningrad holocaust . War, being war, calls up the worst in all of us. And perhaps the best. Horror and valour. Valour and horror. As a writer, it is my job to seek and to confront the truth. As film-makers, Brian and Terrence McKenna have shown the same approach. In researching the incidents presented in The Valour and the Horror, they interviewed hundreds of soldiers. While it was being filmed, the series was given the full support of the Chief of the Defence Staff. It is an entirely responsible, fully documented and laudable piece of journalism - a landmark for which the majority of Canadians are grateful. If it were not controversial, it would be worthless; it would be mere 197 propaganda. Propaganda, however, is what its opponents would have it be. Not to put too fine a point on it, they would prefer that it had lied. They object to its truths. This is fine - or it would be, if the McKennas' crities...