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Tony Parsons Column: Danger in Mel's deceit.

I JUST can't wait for the new Mel Gibson film, The Sheep Farmer.

Gibson plays Carlos Maradona, a hunky, peace-loving Argentinian sheep farmer whose Eden-like island, Los Malvinas, is invaded by cruel British soldiers who molest his sheep and murder his wife. Or is it the other way round? I can't remember.

Which just goes to show that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. And those who are so thick that they never knew any history in the first place are condemned to watch Mel Gibson films.

Truly, what a docile bunch we British must be to allow Hollywood to spoon-feed us a piece of glossy garbage like Mel Gibson's The Patriot.

Heaven knows, we are accustomed to seeing Tinseltown portray the Brits as a bunch of sadists, rapists, bullies, braggarts and mincing woofters.

Where would films as diverse as Titanic, Last Of The Mohicans, Rob Roy, Michael Collins and Braveheart be without their cruel, cowardly British bad guys? The British are the new Germans and a British accent - or rather an English accent - is now convenient shorthand for the evil that men do.

But The Patriot goes considerably further than the rest.

THIS is a film that depicts the British as Nazis. Not cinematic bad guys. Not naughty men. But real child-burning, ethnic-cleansing, mass-murdering fascists.

And you have to wonder why we take it.

Released on July 4 in the US, The Patriot is a big, dumb epic about the American War Of Independence. Mel Gibson was paid $25 million to play a man of peace who takes up arms against the dastardly British. How's that for a fat cat? And, gee Mom, are those Brits dastardly. They shoot children in the back. They execute prisoners. Worst of all, they cram scores of women and children into a church and then burn them alive. Except it never happened. According to one American historian, the only time British soldiers burned a town in the War Of Independence, the houses were all empty.

In the words of Richard Snow, the editor of American Heritage magazine, "Of course it never happened - if it had, do you think Americans would have forgotten it? It could have kept us out of the First World War."

The church-burning atrocity in The Patriot is not pure fiction. This terrible war crime did happen, but it was committed by the Waffen SS in the French village of Oradour on June 10, 1944 when 642 people were forced into a church and burned alive. Of these, 205 were children. This is the reality behind The Patriot, a film that insults not only the people of this country but all the victims of the Nazis.

There is the real human misery behind Mel Gibson's laughable heroics, and the chippy, sawn-off little shortarse should be deeply ashamed of himself.

You could argue that The Patriot is just a piece of big-budget trash from the Hollywood dream machine and its uncertain grasp on history doesn't matter a damn.

Sure, little Melvin Cheeseburger III will see The Patriot at his local multiplex in Idaho and believe that the British really did commit those war crimes. But who cares what the popcorn-munching morons of America choose to believe?

WELL, we should care. Because Hollywood's depiction of the British has gone way beyond showing us as pantomime bad guys.

Mel Gibson and friends are telling lies about history, lies that are malicious and dangerous.

If a generation grows up believing that the crimes of Nazi Germany were nothing special - that the British did exactly the same thing in their numerous wars - then we are allowing our own history to be thrown on a bonfire.

The Irish would not keep quiet if someone made a film saying they brought the potato famine on themselves. The Jewish community would not remain silent if someone made a film saying that the Holocaust never happened.

So will the British boycott The Patriot? Will we deface those giant billboards where Mel smoulders and pouts? Fat chance.

The British will meekly queue up to see hunky old Mel showing them to be indistinguishable from Nazis. Which is bitterly ironic as in 1940 and 1941, one nation stood absolutely alone against the might of Nazi Germany. And guess what, Mel? It wasn't America.

Although it probably will be in your next film.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Parsons, Tony
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 17, 2000
Words:724
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