He was a painter, quite artistic
He had that suave panache.
A tasteful brown shirt,
A cute toothbrush moustache.
He loved his German Shepherd
And walking by the babbling brook.
And watching blond haired, blue eyed children
Setting fire to their books.
Yet they say he was a monster,
the leader of the Reich...
But Adolf Hitler,
He was my friend.
And he loved to go out dancing,
Really dug the Human League.
And that song by Alice Cooper
"Only Women Bleed".
He was my friend!
We can all be friends!
If we just let this little hurt
Between us mend!
So sang Paul McDermott in his London Dead and Alive tour of 1990. The gag is of course a dark twist on all those 'human love' chart toppers of the late 1980s, so utterly confident that humanity can instanly embrace itself and forgive and forget anything. As clever Paul noted, for humanity to put aside it's differences, there can be no exceptions. If you want everyone to be friends, you have to accept everyone includes people that you wouldn't want to be friends with.
But my main reason for quoting it is that, bar the bit about Paul McDermott being good friends with fuhrer, it was true. Adolf Hitler was considered a friendly, popular and likeable person before the more memorable aspects of his military career. He certainly didn't SEEM totally insane, was a warm, family man with a love of trying to capture roses on canvas. That Big Train skit where the Nuremberg Rallys are shown to be just like the Rolling Stones on tour are closer to the truth than we'd like to admit.
Of course, this doesn't excuse a single damn thing he did - but the fact is, simply, he wasn't ALL bad. Because no one is. No one at all. The bad might outweigh the good and visa versa, but if you ignore the fact that Hitler was an incredibly popular and loved man (even before the fascism), you might as well be rewriting history.
This leads logically to Andrew Hansen's latest song. Since he didn't use a stupid voice this weak, I have no hesitation in defending him - though it did bug me that Hansen's great grandfather most likely DIDN'T die recently, and wasn't an excuse to write the song. Chris Taylor did that, and since everyone hates Chris, what sort of reaction were we expecting?
Hansen's song is a parallel to Paul McDermott's. Just as Hitler, Dennis Nielson, Polpott, Pinochet, Charles Manson and even Margaret Thatcher are shown to had have good sides to them and worthy for forgiveness, Hansen reminds us all that Stan Zemenak, Don Bradman and even Princess Diana were not perfect. OK, he's rude about it but no ruder than pretty much anyone else the Chaser has targeted. The clue of the show is in the title - it's a war on Everything.
John Howard's sneer today ("You guys are funnier mocking people who are still alive") would carry some weight if he'd said something similar sooner. Quite simply, if the people in the song were still alive, no one would have batted an eyebrow at the lampooning. Media Watch was slagging off Zemanak to a degree that would have got them banned from OG, but as Andrew notes, the moment you die, rose-tinted specs are applied. Why?
Scientist say that as you grow older, you forget the more unpleasant aspects of life as your brain defrags itself. Is that why no one speaks ill of the dead, in order to allow an idealized version to come to the fore? Is saying that Don Bradmun was a "grump" really that offensive? Are we supposed to believe he was a perfect saintly being? In my brief, brief sojourn at university, I did a media course, the core of which was that Stan Zemanek was a complete and utter arsehole - fact. Does that mean if I handed in that thesis again, I'd get blanked? We all hated the bastard! If we can't admit that after he's dead, isn't that rude? As for Princess Diana - she's been dead for over seven years. And we were sick of her at the time. If she hadn't crashed the car, she'd be getting slagged off to the degree that Hansen's song would be a love ballad.
Is it human nature to decieve ourselves at the nature of those who have passed on? Much as I love my late grandmother and grandfather, the former despised my mother for not being a total Catholic and the latter considered me a smart arse he'd rather not spend time with. They were also incredibly loving, supportive and wonderful people. As my miniture army of aunts and uncles noted, my grandfather "couldn't stand the Dutch - only because people would complain if he couldn't stand the Blacks".
People have good sides and bad sides, and the fact the leader of this entire FUCKING COUNTRY cannot wrap his brain around that idea worries me. No respect for the dead? Ladies and Gentlemen, THEY ARE DEAD! THEY DON'T CARE ANY MORE! Are we really supposed to believe that the ghost of Diana is weeping ectoplasmic tears because one line of one song on an Australian comedy show spoke ill of her? Doesn't this implied pettiness insult her more than the blunt truth she was shagging foreigners?
Look at William Hartnell. There is the wonderful story of him taking time to comfort a coloured tea lady and assure her that she was valued by the ragged and exhausted gang making The Dalek's Master Plan. However, the reason the tea lady was so upset in the first place was when Hartnell coldly blanked her in the first place.
Speaking ill of the dead is only when you're lying about them.
And lying ALSO means saying they were good, when they weren't. Doesn't it?