Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster. He is the author of ten books, his most recent being Crimes Against Nature: Capitalism and Global Heating, published by Scribe in 2021.
From Russia with love
In 1914, Roderick Jones, the general manager of the Reuters wire service, had approached the imperial authorities to place his company ‘at the disposal of the government for the fullest dissemination all over the world of British and Allied intelligence’. The British government accepted his patriotic offer, thereafter using Reuters’ cables as a conduit for articles selected, and in some cases entirely fabricated, by the Department of Information. That meant, for instance, that the infamous (and totally bogus) account of a German ‘corpse factory’ rendering cadavers into soap made its way down the wires to the Ballarat Courier (‘Boiling down the dead, Huns crowning infamy’), the Sydney Sun (‘Fat from the dead: Horrible German method’) and the Melbourne Herald (‘The German Beast: A nation dehumanised’). The local press was not, however, entirely innocent of manipulation by the imperium. In Australia, as elsewhere, the Great War brought tremendous political polarisation, a genuine social crisis now obscured by the twenty-first-century perception of Gallipoli as a locus of national unity.