|A Crusader – and what interesting headgear !
Lets look at the first sentence of the Blurb, Bradley Webbs clever piece of Kelly Propaganda :
Washed deep with the convict stain Ned Kelly’s destiny was cast in a defiant mold, the story of his short life was one that saw Ned, his brother Dan and their two mates Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, take on corrupt Police greedy land Barons and an ill-informed government in a crusade to change their world for the better
Using the term “crusade” is a rhetorical device designed to immediately cast the story as being between good and bad, and to liken the Gang to bold Knights of yore on their horses fighting for the Christian way of truth and freedom. It’s a clever sentence that creates the image of four young lads, “Crusaders”, bravely pitting themselves against the massive forces of the establishment, in the form of “corrupt Police, greedy land Barons and an ill-informed government” Who could fail to be attracted to such a colorful brave and noble image? It’s the age old St George and the Dragon, David and Goliath, Goodies vs Baddies motif that has an immediate appeal to our deeper sense of wanting the world to be a better place, of wanting justice and Righteousness to prevail, of bad people to get their just deserts and for the poor and the downtrodden, the people ‘washed (unjustly) with the convict stain” to triumph. Make no mistake, this is the emotive language of rhetoric, persuasion and propaganda and it is powerful and seductive, and demonstrates the power of language and of the truth that the Pen is Mightier than the Sword. Read that sentence again and you can feel it drawing at your heart strings, and youre already wanting it to be true, and to believe in it, youre wanting to join the host of people who already believe and have sided with Justice and the crusading zeal, to stand with the downtrodden and with the gang of innocents in their quest for justice.
Ok, its propaganda but it could still be true couldn’t it?
The answer is yes, but first you have to recognise that the appeal of the sentence is emotional, not intellectual. There are no facts but plenty of sweeping generalisations and loaded emotional terminology designed to appeal to our hearts rather than out heads. The aim of propaganda is to make us feel we know its true – but an emotional feeling that something is true is a far cry from knowing it.
Even so it could still be true. There are many true stories of bravery and heroism and “David and Goliath” style battles and reading about them can be an emotional and empowering experience. Think of Alexandr Solzhenitsyin, or Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and even Jesus Christ. So is the story of Ned Kelly and the Gang perhaps another of them?
To find out we have to look deeper, beyond the propaganda and the emotion, beyond the yearning , beyond our childhood dreams of romantic bush ranging and story telling, to what is actually known, to the facts and the substance and the historical truths of the Kelly story, an adventure that has drama and excitement and controversy and passion all of its own.
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