How History is Made: Further Reflections on a Certain Mini-Series

Edgar Ross

Members of the Society were probably among those who watched the much publicised television series ‘The True Believers’. It grossly distorted the events of the post-war period and caricatured the prominent figures portrayed in them.

Of course, it was presented as drama based upon the events only. However, one of the script writers Bob Ellis, was so incensed at the “liberty” taken with the truth that he disowned it and contributed an article on it to The Australian Listener headed ‘The Faking of History’. .

And who can doubt that it will be accepted by many as historically authentic? But those who watched the re-run of the series will have a problem, for it made quite a few significant changes from the original! For instance, the initial version portrayed me as a crazy pub-crawling anarchist calling for an early revolution in Australia. There was widespread criticism of the caricature by those who knew me, almost a tea-totaller and not given to such utterances. These scenes were omitted from the re-run.

Also, the first broadcast made much of the well known political differences between my brother, Lloyd, and myself. Carried away by the potential for “drama” the producers literally invented five domestic scenes featuring us both and my wife and two children (deliberately reducing the ages of the latter to emphasise the “thesis” of the series and incidentally, took liberties even with gender!)

Aggravating their offence, the producers portrayed my wife lining up with my brother against me. Was this just “artistic license?”

These scenes, too, were widely criticised by people who knew that my brother and I had no contact in the period covered. In the re-run quite a different version was given, including my wife being shown in her correct position supporting the stand I had taken.

There were also other changes from the original script. Is this not a revealing commentary on the integrity of the media and a warning against accepting without question how it portrays events even if they are camouflaged as “drama” for the purpose of “entertainment?”