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Anglos and French Responsible for WWI, the Death-Blow to Western Civilization

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On August 1, 1914, as dreadful war was breaking out in Europe, the German ambassador Prince Lichnowsky paid a visit to Britain’s Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey. Dr Rudolf Steiner commented as follows upon this meeting – in a 1916 lecture which he gave in Switzerland:

‘A single sentence and the war in the West would not have taken place.’

At that meeting, he averred that, with just one sentence, ‘this war could have been averted.’[1]

To examine that outrageous-sounding claim, we delve into what is a bit of a mystery, that of the first conflict between Germany and Britain for a thousand years: two nations bound by the same royal family, with every statesman in Europe loudly proclaiming that peace is desired, that war must at all costs be avoided; and then the bloodbath takes place, terminating the great hopes for European civilization and extinguishing its bright optimism, as what were set up as defensive alliances mysteriously flipped over and became offensive war-plans.

The ghastly ‘Schlieffen plan’ became activated, as the master-plan of Germany’s self-defense, which as it were contained the need for the dreadful speed with which catastrophe was precipitated. France and Russia had formed a mutual defense agreement (everyone claimed their military alliances were defensive). While Bismarck the wise statesman who founded Germany had lived, this was avoided, such an alliance being his darkest nightmare. But Kaiser Wilhelm did not manage to avoid this, and so Germany’s neighbors to East and West formed a mutual military alliance. The Schlieffen plan was based on the premise that Germany could not fight a war on two fronts but might be able to beat France quickly; so in the event of war looming against Russia in the East, its troops had to move westwards, crashing though Belgium as a route into France. It all had to happen quickly because Germany’s army was smaller than that of Russia.

The timing over those crucial days shows its awful speed: Russia mobilized its army on July 29th, in response to hostilities breaking out between Austro-Hungary and Serbia; two desperate cables were sent by the Kaiser to the Tsar on the 29th and 31st, imploring him not to proceed with full mobilisation of his army because that meant war; the French government ‘irreversibly decided’ to support Russia in the war on the evening of 31st, cabling this decision to the Russian foreign minister at 1 am on August 1st[2]; then, on the afternoon of that same day Germany proceeded to mobilise and declared war on Russia, and two days later went into Belgium. Britain’s House of Commons voted unanimously for war on 5th August, viewing Germany as the belligerent warmonger.

Kaiser Wilhelm’s Nemesis

The Kaiser had enjoyed the reputation of a peacemaker:

Now … he is acclaimed everywhere as the greatest factor for peace that our time can show. It was he, we hear, who again and again threw the weight of his dominating personality, backed by the greatest military organisation in the world – an organisation built up by himself – into the balance for peace wherever war clouds gathered over Europe. ‘(‘William II, King of Prussia and German Emperor, Kaiser 25 years a ruler, hailed as chief peacemaker,’ New York Times, 8 June, 1913.[3])

A former US President, William Howard Taft, said of him: ‘The truth of history requires the verdict that, considering the critically important part which has been his among the nations, he has been, for the last quarter of a century, the single greatest force in the practical maintenance of peace in the world.’ ([4],[5]). That is some tribute! In 1960 a BBC centenary tribute to the Kaiser was permitted to say: ‘Emphasis was placed on his love of England and his deep attachment to Queen Victoria,’ his grandmother.

A lover of peace …. skilled diplomat … deep attachment to Queen Victoria .. so remind me what the Great War was for, that took nine million lives?

Might the war have been averted if the Kaiser had, perhaps, focussed a bit more on the art of war – how to refrain from marching into Belgium? There was no ‘plan B’! In later days the Kaiser used to say, he had been swept away by the military timetable. Who wantedthe war which locked Europe into such dreadful conflict? Did a mere sequence of interlocking treaties bring it on?

On the night of 30-31st of July, feeling entrapped by a seemingly inevitable march of events, Kaiser Wilhelm mused to himself doomily:

Frivolity and weakness are going to plunge the world into the most frightful war of which the ultimate object is the overthrow of Germany. For I no longer have any doubt that England, Russia and France have agreed among themselves – knowing that our treaty obligations compel us to support Austria – to use the Austro-Serb conflict as a pretext for waging a war of annihilation against us… In this way the stupidity and clumsiness of our ally [Austria] is turned into a noose. So the celebrated encirclement of Germany has finally become an accepted fact… The net has suddenly been closed over our heads, and the purely anti-German policy which England has been scornfully pursuing all over the world has won the most spectacular victory which we have proved ourselves powerless to prevent while they, having got us despite our struggles all alone into the net through our loyalty to Austria, proceed to throttle our political and economic existence. A magnificent achievement, which even those for whom it means disaster are bound to admire.’[6]

‘Those dreadful fields of senseless carnage’

Did hundreds of thousands of young men, the flower of England, want to go out to muddy fields, to fight and die? Shells, bayonets, gas, machine guns – what was the point? In no way were they defending their country or its Empire – for no-one was threatening it. No European nation benefitted: it spelt ruin for all of them. Do we need to fear the imbecility of the poet’s words:

If I should die, think only this of me
There is some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England’? (Rupert Brooke)

A leading British pacifist, E.D. Morel, was widely vilified for the views expressed in his book Truth and the War (1916), and had his health wrecked (as Bertrand Russell described) by being put into Pentonville jail. In haunting words of insight, his book described how: ‘Those dreadful fields of senseless carnage’ had been brought about by ‘futile and wicked Statecraft’ – by ‘an autocratic and secret foreign policy’ carried out by those ‘who by secret plots and counter-plots … hound the peoples to mutual destruction.’ Of the war’s outbreak, Morel wrote: ‘It came therefore to this. While negative assurances had been given to the House of Commons, positive acts diametrically opposed to these assurances had been concerted by the War Office and the Admiralty with the authority of the Foreign Office. All the obligations of an alliance had been incurred, but incurred by the most dangerous and subtle methods; incurred in such a way as to leave the Cabinet free to deny the existence of any formal parchment recording them, and free to represent its policy at home and abroad as one of contractual detachment from the rival Continental groups.’[7] A total analogy exists here with Blair taking Britain into the Iraq war, making a deal with Bush while continually denying back home that any such deal existed. Two Cabinet members resigned in August 1914, once the central importance of this concealed contract became evident: Viscount Morley and John Burns.

A more orthodox, deterministic view was given by Winston Churchill: ‘the invasion of Belgium brought the British Empire united to the field. Nothing in human power could break the fatal chain, once it had begun to unroll. A situation had been created where hundreds of officials had only to do their prescribed duty to their respective countries to wreck the world. They did their duty’.[8] That necessary chain leading to ruin began only after the crucial discussion alluded to by Dr Steiner, we observe.

Considering that Germany went into Belgium on the 3rd of August, whereas Churchill and Mountbatten, the First and Second Sea Lords, had ordered the mobilising of the British fleet over July 26 -30th, so that by days before the 3rd much of the world’s biggest navy was up north of Scotland all ready to pounce on Germany – his words may appear as some kind of extreme limit of hypocrisy. The mobilising of the British fleet was a massive event which greatly pre-empted political discussion, a week before Britain declared war.[9],[10]

A Secret Alliance

Britain was obliged by no necessity to enter a European war, having no alliance with France that the people of Britain or its parliament knew about, and having a long indeed normal policy of avoiding embroilment in European conflicts. However, ministers especially Grey the Foreign Minister had covertly made a deal with France. To quote from Bertrand Russell’s autobiography: ‘I had noticed during previous years how carefully Sir Edward Grey lied in order to prevent the public from knowing the methods by which he was committing us to the support of France in the event of war.’[11] Would Britain be dragged into a European war on the coat-tails of France – for centuries, its traditional enemy – given that France had signed a treaty obligation to enter war in consequence of a German-Russian conflict? France was keen to avenge past grievances over the French-German border, aware of the superiority of troops which it and Russia combined had against Germany – and convinced that it could drag Britain into the fray.

On 24 March 1913, the Prime Minister had been asked about the circumstances under which British troops might land on the Continent. He replied, ‘As has been repeatedly stated, this country is not under any obligation not public and known to parliament which compels it to take part in any war’ – a double negative which concealed a hidden but then-existing accord!

Last Hope of Peace

We turn now to the question put, on August 1st by Germany’s ambassador to Britain’s Foreign Secretary, normally omitted from history books on the subject. If war and peace did indeed hinge upon it – as Dr Steiner averred – it may be worth quoting a few judgements about it. Here is Grey’s own letter, written that day:

Grey’s letter to the British ambassador in Berlin: 1 August, concerning his meeting with Prince Lichnowsky:

‘He asked me whether, if Germany gave a promise not to violate Belgian neutrality we would engage to remain neutral. I replied that I could not say that: our hands were still free, and we were considering what our attitude should be….I did not think that we could give a promise on that condition alone. The ambassador pressed me as to whether I could formulate conditions on which we would remain neutral. He even suggested that the integrity of France and her colonies might be guaranteed. I said that I felt obliged to refuse definitely any promise to remain neutral on similar terms, and I could only say that we must keep our hands free.’[12],[13]

Swiss author George Brandes summarised this meeting:

‘Now Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London, asked whether England would agree to remain neutral if Germany refrained from violating Belgium’s neutrality. Sir Edward Grey refused. Britain wanted to retain ‘a free hand’ (‘I did not think we could give a promise of neutrality on that condition alone’). Would he agree if Germany were to guarantee the integrity of both France and her colonies? No.’[14]

The US historian Harry Elmer Barnes: ‘The only way whereby Grey could have prevented war, if at all, in 1914 would have been by declaring that England would remain neutral if Germany did not invade Belgium…,’ but Grey ‘refused to do’ this: ‘After Grey had refused to promise the German Ambassador that England would remain neutral in the event of Germany’s agreeing not to invade Belgium, the German ambassador asked Grey to formulate the conditions according to which England would remain neutral, but Grey refused point-blank to do so, though he afterwards falsely informed the Commons that he had stated these conditions’.[15] Barnes commended the editorial of the Manchester Guardian July 30th – opposing the pro-war jingoism of The Times – which declared: ‘not only are we neutral now, but we are and ought to remain neutral throughout the whole course of the war.’

The British judge and lawyer Robert Reid was the Earl of Loreburn as well as the Lord Chancellor of England from 1905 to 1912, so he should know what was going on. His book ‘How the War Came’ described how it was the secret deal with France which wrecked everything:

The final mistake was that when, on the actual crisis arising, a decision one way or the other might and, so far as can be judged, would have averted the Continental war altogether … The mischief is that Sir Edward Grey slipped into a new policy, but without either Army, or treaty, or warrant of Parliamentary approval … This country has a right to know its own obligations and prepare to meet them and to decide its own destinies. When the most momentous decision of our whole history had to be taken we were not free to decide. We entered a war to which we had been committed beforehand in the dark, and Parliament found itself at two hours’ notice unable, had it desired, to extricate us from this fearful predicament… If the government thought that either our honour or our safety did require us to intervene on behalf of France, then they ought to have said so unequivocally before the angry Powers on the Continent committed themselves to irrevocable steps in the belief that we should remain neutral. Instead of saying either, they kept on saying in the despatches that their hands were perfectly free, and told the Commons the same thing. The documents show conclusively that till after Germany declared war our Ministers had not made up their minds on either of the two questions, whether or not they would fight for France, and whether or not they would fight for Belgium. Of course Belgium was merely a corridor into France, and unless France was attacked Belgium was in no danger.[16]

After it was over, US President Woodrow Wilson in March of 1919 summed up its avoidability: ‘We know for a certainty that if Germany had thought for a moment that Great Britain would go in with France and Russia, she would never have undertaken the enterprise.’ (p.18, Lorenburn). That was the sense in which Britain precipitated the dreadful conflict. Clear words of truth could have avoided it – had that been desired.

We remind ourselves of Dr Steiner’s comparison: that the British Empire then covered one-quarter of the Earth’s land-surface; Russia one-seventh; France and her colonies one-thirteenth; and Germany, one thirty-third. (Karma, p.11)

Upon receiving a telegram from Prince Lichnowsky earlier in the day of August 1, the Kaiser ordered a bottle of champagne to celebrate, as if there might be hope of reaching a deal with Britain. Even though he was just that afternoon signing the order for mobilisation of the German army, he could in some degree have recalled it … but, it was a false hope, and a telegram from King Edward later that day explained to him that there had been a ‘misunderstanding’ between Britain’s Foreign Secretary and the German ambassador.[17]

Gray’s Duplicity

On the 26th or 27th, Grey told the Cabinet that he would have to resign, if it did not support his initiative to take Britain into war in support of ‘our ally,’ France. He would not be able to go along with British neutrality. Over these days up until the 1st, or 2nd, when the war was just starting, all the Cabinet of Britain’s Liberal Party government except for Churchill and Grey favoured British neutrality. It was those two who dragged Britain into war. Grey did not yet know whether the Belgian government would say ‘no’ to the German request to be allowed to pass through. To get his war, Grey had to swing it on the ‘poor little Belgium’ angle. Once Belgium had said ‘No’ and yet Germany still went in – as its only way to enter France – a cabinet majority would then became assured.

On August 2nd, Grey gave to the French ambassador what amounted to British assurance of war-support. On August 3rd, Grey gave the Commons an impassioned plea in favour of British intervention on behalf of France – making no mention of the German peace-offer. The MP Phillip Morrell spoke afterwards in the sole anti-war speech that day, and pointed out that a guarantee by Germany not to invade France had been offered, on condition of British neutrality, and spurned. As to why Grey did not mention the German offer, the view was later contrived that the German ambassador had merely been speaking in a private capacity![18]

The supposed neutrality of Belgium was a sham, as ministers of that country had secretly drawn up detailed anti-German war-plans with Britain and France. No wonder the Kaiser had a sense of being ‘encircled’ by enemies, because ‘“neutral” Belgium had in reality become an active member of the coalition concluded against Germany’[19] – i.e. it had plotted against a friendly nation. Quoting the commendably insightful George Bernard Shaw, ‘The violation of Belgian neutrality by the Germans was the mainstay of our righteousness; and we played it off on America for much more than it was worth. I guessed that when the German account of our dealings with Belgium reached the United states, backed with an array of facsimiles of secret diplomatic documents discovered by them in Brussels, it would be found that our own treatment of Belgium was as little compatible with neutrality as the German invasion.’[20]

Steiner’s View

Rudolf Steiner’s judgement in his December 1916 lecture (during which Britain was declining a peace offer from Germany) was:

‘Let me merely remark, that certain things happened from which the only sensible conclusion to be drawn later turned out to be the correct one, namely that behind those who were in a way the puppets there stood in England a powerful and influential group of people who pushed matters doggedly towards a war with Germany and through whom the way was paved for the world war that had always been prophesied. For of course the way can be paved for what it is intended should happen. ..it is impossible to avoid realising how powerful was the group who like an outpost of mighty impulses, stood behind the puppets in the foreground. These latter are of course, perfectly honest people, yet they are puppets, and now they will vanish into obscurity ….[21]

Grey and Churchill were the two consistently pro-war cabinet ministers. The Conservative Party was solidly pro-war, and Churchill was ready to offer them a deal if perchance too many of the Liberal-party cabinet were going to resign rather than go to war. Steiner here remarked:

‘Anyone [in England] voicing the real reasons [for war] would have been swept away by public opinion. Something quite different was needed – a reason which the English people could accept, and that was the violation of Belgian neutrality. But this first had to be brought about. It is really true that Sir Edward Grey could have prevented it with a single sentence. History will one day show that the neutrality of Belgium would never have been violated if Sir Edward Grey had made the declaration which it would have been quite easy for him to make, if he had been in a position to follow his own inclination. But since he was unable to follow his own inclination but had to obey an impulse which came from another side, he had to make the declaration which made it necessary for the neutrality of Belgium to be violated. Georg Brandes pointed to this. By this act England was presented with a plausible reason. That had been the whole point of the exercise: to present England with a plausible reason! To the people who mattered, nothing would have been more uncomfortable than the non-violation of Belgian territory!’[22]

Could powers behind Grey have wanted war, and steered events towards that end? Steiner argued against the widespread view of an inevitable slide into war: ‘You have no idea how excessively irresponsible it is to seek a simple continuity in these events, thus believing that without more ado the Great World War came about, or had to come about, as a result of Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia. (p.82)

We are here reminded of Morel’s account, of how secret plotting had paralysed debate:

‘The nemesis of their own secret acts gripped our ministers by the throat. It paralysed their sincere and desperate efforts to maintain peace. It cast dissention amongst them…They could not afford to be honest neither to the British people nor to the world. They could not hold in check the elements making for war in Germany by a timely declaration of solidarity with France and Russia, although morally committed to France.. In vain the Russians and the French implored them to make a pronouncement of British policy while there was still time.’[23]

On August 4th, Britain declared war, and that same night cut through the transatlantic undersea telephone cables coming out of Germany,[24] enabling British atrocity propaganda to work largely unchallenged. Quoting a recent work on the subject, ‘The hallmark of Britain’s successful propaganda efforts were alleged German atrocities of gigantic proportions that strongly influenced naive Americans yearning for a chivalrous war from afar’.[25]
 Such consistent, intentional mendacity was fairly innovative, which was why it worked so well: ‘In that war, hatred propaganda was for the first time given something like organised attention’.[26] Thus, a nemesis of what Morel described as ‘futile and wicked statecraft’ here appeared, in that British soldiers were motivated to fight, by a nonstop torrent of lies – from their own government.[27]

In conclusion, can we agree with Dr Steiner? Quoting Barnes, ‘It is thus apparent that the responsibility for the fatal Russian mobilisation which produced the war must be shared jointly, and probably about equally, by France and Russia.’ This was because of the French cabinet’s general encouragement, then its final decision to embark upon war on the 29th July, of which Barnes remarked: ‘The secret conference of Poincaré, Viviani and Messimy, in consultation with Izvolski, on the night of 29th of July, marks the moment when the horrors of war were specifically unchained in Europe.’ (pp.328, 242) This had to be the time, it was the only opportunity, because these war-plotters would have known of the mobilisation of the world’s biggest navy, that of Great Britain, over these fateful days, all ready for war. The Russian generals browbeat the Tzar into signing the documents giving his assent – for a war he didn’t want[28]. On the 31st one more desperate telegram arrived from the Kaiser about how ‘The peace of Europe may still be maintained’ if only Russia would stop its mobilisation, but the Tzar no longer had that ability. Germany placed itself at a military disadvantage by refraining from declaring war or taking steps to mobilise until the afternoon of August 1st, much later than any of the other great powers involved. Had a deal been reached in London on that afternoon, a conflict in Eastern Europe would presumably still have taken place, but it would have been limited and diplomats could have dealt with it: yes, a world war could have been averted.


Essential texts
  • Alexander Fuehr, The Neutrality of Belgium, NY 1915
  • E.D. Morel, Truth and the War, 1916
  • The Earl Lorenburn, How the War Came, 1919
  • Harry Elmer Barnes, The Genesis of the World War an Introduction to the Problem of War Guilt, 1926
  • British documents on the origins of the war 1898-1914, Vol XI, HMSO 1926.
  • Memorandum on Resignation by John Viscount, Morley, 1928, 39pp.
  • Alfred von Wegerer, A Refutation of the Versailles War Guilt Thesis, 1930
  • Winston Churchill, The Great War Vol. 1, 1933
  • Captain Russell Grenfell, Unconditional Hatred, German War Guilt and the Future of Europe(mainly about WW2) NY, 1954
  • M. Balfour, The Kaiser and His Times, 1964
  • Stewart Halsey Ross, Propaganda for War, How the United States Was Conditioned to Fight the Great War of 1914-18, 2009.

Notes

[1] Rudolf Steiner, The Karma of Untruthfulness Vol. 1 (13 lectures at Dornach, Switzerland, 4-31st December 1916), 1988, p.19. NB it’s available online as a Google-book, with the same pagination as here used. The new 2005 edition (subtitled Secret Societies, the Media, and Preparations for the Great War) has a fine Introduction by Terry Boardman.

[2] Barnes 1926, pp.284-8.

[3] Balfour, 1964, p.351.

[4] Ross, 2009, p.9. For a letter by US diplomat and presidential advisor Colonel E.House, concerning the pacific philosophy of the Kaiser, after a visit he paid in July 1914, see Barnes, p.523. For the ex-Kaiser’s view on ‘proof of Germany’s peaceful intentions’ i.e. how Germany had not prepared for war or expected it, see: My Memoirs, 1878-1918 by Ex-Kaiser William II, 1992, Ch.10 ‘The Outbreak of War.’

[5] Morel, p.122: Germany had ‘for forty and four years kept the peace when war broke out in August … No other Great Power can boast such a record.’ (Morel’s book may be viewed online)

[6] Balfour, 1964, p.354

[7] Morel, 1916, pp.6, 8, 13 and 42.

[8] Churchill, 1933, Vol. 1, p.107.

[9] Churchill, ibid., has the British fleet secretly mobilised over the night of 29-30th July. Hugh Martin, in Battle, the Life-story of the Rt Hon. Winston Churchill, 1937: ‘Churchill, upon his own responsibility and against the express decision of the Cabinet, ordered the mobilisation of the Naval Reserve’ On the 27th, ‘the fleet [was] sent North to prevent the possibility of it being bottled up,’ p.105. A ‘Test Mobilisation’ of the entire Royal Navy paraded before the King on July 26th, at Spitalhead, after which the Navy was held full battle-readiness (The Life and Times of Lord Mountbatten, John Terrence 1968, p11-14); then, ‘On July 29th Churchill secretly ordered the core of the fleet to move north to its protected wartime base .. riding at top speed and with its lights out, it tore through the night up the North sea.’ (To End All Wars, How WW1 Divided Britain, 2011, Adam Hochschild, p.85).

[10] The first indication for the Kaiser of war-imminence, was when he learned that the English fleet ‘had not dispersed after the review at Spitalhead but had remained concentrated.’ (My Memoirs, p.241).

[11] Bertrand Russell, Autobiography, Vol. 1, 1967, p.239. H.G. Wells judged that: ‘I think he (Gray) wanted the war and I think he wanted it to come when it did … The charge is, that he did not definitely warn Germany, that we should certainly come into the war, that he was sufficiently ambiguous to let her take a risk and attack, and that he did this deliberately. I think that this charge is sound.’ (Experiment in an Autobiography, II, 1934, p.770)

[12] Edward Grey letter Aug 1st: Britain’s ‘Blue Book,’ HMSO, 1926, p.261. See also Morley 1928, p.38-9.

[13] The noncommittal attitude expressed by Grey on August 1st to the German ambassador had been endorsed by the Cabinet and Prime Minister: Roy Jenkins, Asquith 1964, p.363.

[14] Steiner, Karma, p.18: Georg Brandes, Farbenblinde Neutralität, Zurich 1916 (Brandes was Danish). Steiner quotes extensively from it, Karma, pp. 14-23.

[15] Barnes, 1926, p.497.

[16] Loreburn, 1919, pp.15-19.

[17] Annika Mombauer, Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War2001 CUP p.219-223: Lichinowsky’s telegram misunderstood (NB I’m not endorsing her thesis of German war-guilt).

[18] Grey told cabinet about talk with Lichinowsky on 3rd, with a claim that the latter’s views were ‘merely personal and unauthorised.’ (Morley, pp.13-14) If so, why was the conversation recorded and published in Britain’s ‘White Book’ of key wartime documents? How could a German Ambassador make a merely personal proposal? Other such ‘White Book’ documents were recorded as personal, but not this one. As Morel pointed out (pp.26-7), the UK’s ‘Blue Book’ published its account of this interview with no hint that the Ambassador was merely acting privately – and Lichinowsky’s telegram to his Government dated 8.30 pm, August 1, indicated that he had been acting on ‘instructions.’ His offer was generally concordant with telegrams then being sent by the Kaiser and German Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Morel, p.26)

[19] Fuehr, 1915, pp.90, 117. (For comments on Fuehr see Ross 2009, pp.116-7: Fuehr’s account was ‘certainly biased’ but ‘well-documented.’) For the incriminating documents, see Ross p.300, note 55. The Kaiser recalled how piles of British army-coats and maps of Belgium were found concealed around the Belgian border, in anticipation of the war: My Memoirs, p.251-2.

[20] Ross, 2009, p.42.

[21] Steiner, Karma, pp.84-5.

[22] Ibid, p.86.

[23] Morel 1916, p.297.

[24] Ross, 2009, pp.15, 27.

[25] Ibid, p.3.

[26] Grenfell, 1954, p.125.

[27] Likewise from the French government: Barnes, …For a general comment see Georges Thiel, Heresy: ‘One grows dizzy at the listing of all those lies [against Germany] which, afterwards, were demolished one after the other.’ Historical Review Press, 2006, p.31.

[28] For the Ex-Kaiser’s account of how, as he later learned, his telegrams considerably affected Tzar Nicholas in those crucial days, see: My Memoirs, Ch.10.

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History: El Argar, the great society that mysteriously vanished | Culture

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3D recreation of La Bastida, near present-day Totana (Murcia), one of the main settlements of the Argaric culture.
3D recreation of La Bastida, near present-day Totana (Murcia), one of the main settlements of the Argaric culture.Dani Méndez-REVIVES

El Argar, an early Bronze Age culture that was based within modern Spain, is one of the great enigmas of Spanish and world archaeology. After emerging in 2200 BC, it disappeared 650 years later. Experts debate that it collapsed in 1550 BC either because of the depletion of the natural resource that sustained it – which resulted in the population fleeing or dying of starvation — or because of a massive popular revolt against the ruling class.

The Argaric culture was “the first society divided into classes in the Iberian Peninsula” – as defined by the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) – and the creator of the world’s first Parliament. Following its demise, the civilization vanished from memory… until an archaeologist named Rogelio de Inchaurrandieta came across Argaric artefacts in 1869 and began to ask questions.

Inchaurrandieta exhibited his discovery at the International Archeology Congress in Copenhagen (1866-1912). He spoke of an unknown civilization from the Bronze Age that he had found on a steep hill in the municipality of Totana, in Spain’s Region of Murcia. He displayed gold and silver objects and spoke of a large, fortified city that lacked any type of connection with known historical societies. Nobody believed him.

But in 1877, the Belgian brothers Luis and Enrique Siret arrived in Murcia in search of mining prospects. They ended up confirming the existence of the unknown society, including what had been its large urban center, which extended 35,000 square kilometres through the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula. This site was methodically excavated: agricultural tools, precious metals and even the remains of princesses were preserved.

The study El Argar: The Formation of a Class Society, by archaeologists Vicente Lull, Rafael Micó, Roberto Risch and Cristina Rihuete Herrada from UAB, points out that El Argar “is one of the emblematic cultures of the early Bronze Age in Europe. The large settlements on its hills, the abundance of well-preserved [tombs] in the subsoil of the towns, as well as the quantity, variety and uniqueness of the artefacts, have since attracted the attention of numerous researchers.”

Vicente Lull, professor of Prehistory at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and one of the world’s most recognized experts on this society, admits that the Argaric “is in fashion.” “Specialists come from all over the world to take an interest in this unique civilization… it is unparalleled, with first-rate technological development, which left nothing in its wake, but advanced everything. It’s like searching for the lost civilization.”

Experts agree that the discovery of El Argar marked a break with respect to the preceding Copper Age, regarding technological development, economic relations, urban and territorial organization patterns and funerary rites.

The Sirets, at the end of the 19th century, excavated ten Argaric sites and opened more than a thousand tombs, resulting in the destruction of the human remains. However, they carefully drew everything they found.

“The culture of El Argar is the first [class-based] society in the Iberian Peninsula. The central settlements accumulated an important part of the production surpluses and the work force. The effects of said control are manifested in the normalization of ceramic and metallurgical products and in the restricted circulation and use, above all, of metallic products,” assert the experts from UAB.

But not all the inhabitants of these cities accumulated wealth to the same extent, as evidenced by the exhumed goods of the ruling class. In 1984, Vicente Lull and Jordi Estévez distinguished three social groups. The most powerful class – made up of 10 percent of the population – enjoyed “all the privileges and the richest trappings, including weapons such as halberds and swords.” 50 percent of individuals, meanwhile, were of modest means and had recognized social-political rights, while 40 percent of residents were condemned to servitude or slavery.

“One of the characteristics of this society is that it was closed in on itself. Its defenses not only served as protection, but also created a cloistered society dominated by an oppressive ruling class,” Lull notes. Such aristocratic oppression likely could have triggered the end of the civilization.

The end of El Argar gave way to the late-Bronze Age. The causes of the collapse of Argaric society seem to have been various socio-economic and ecological factors. Possibly, the overexploitation of the environment led to ecological degradation that made economic and social reproduction unfeasible. The end of El Argar is characterized by the depletion of natural resources, work tools and the workforce, the latter in the form of high infant mortality and more diseases. Perhaps this situation led to an unprecedented social explosion and complete disappearance of this civilization, as evidenced by the fact that many of the unearthed buildings show signs of having been burned on all four sides.

Following the destruction, there was complete silence, only broken by the permanence in Alicante and Granada of some small Argaric groups – populated by the fleeing ruling classes – that survived another century.

Of the hundreds of Argaric tombs studied, one stands out that archaeologists call the Princess of La Almoloya, a young woman who died in the year 1635 BC. She was buried at the head of a unique building with her linens, ceramics and thirty valuable objects made of gold, silver, amber and copper. Beneath her grave, the body of a man who had died years before was found.

About 100 kilometres from Pliego, in Antas – the economic and political center of El Argar – a building was found that included a large room, with benches and a podium. It could accommodate 50 people. The researchers assume that it was a kind of parliament, perhaps the first in the world.

“We will never know what was discussed there,” says Lull, “because the Argarics, despite their development, did not master writing. It’s a mystery about a mystery.”

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Olivia Newton-John, the ‘Grease’ star who became a global icon | Culture

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She always felt more comfortable as a singer than as an actress, but it was her role as Sandy in the musical Grease (1978) that made her a global icon. Olivia Newton-John died Monday at the age of 73 from breast cancer at her ranch in California. The news was confirmed by her husband.

In a statement posted on social media, her widower John Easterling said: “Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends. We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.”

“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer. Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.”

Olivia Newton-John was the granddaughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Born, a Jew exiled to the United Kingdom from Nazi Germany. She was born in Cambridge, England, in 1948, and when she was only five years old, her family moved to Melbourne in Australia, where her father worked as a German teacher. She started out very young in the world of music, performing first with a group of schoolmates and then as a solo singer. At the age of 17, she won a talent contest on Australian television, which saw her move to the United Kingdom, where at 18 she recorded her first single.

While living in England, the singer was briefly performed with Pat Carroll. After separating (he had to return to Australia when his visa expired), she released her first album in 1971, If Not for You. The title paid tribute to a Bob Dylan song that had also been recorded by George Harrison.

Olivia Newton-John, during a concert in Hong Kong, in August 2000.
Olivia Newton-John, during a concert in Hong Kong, in August 2000.Reuters Photographer (REUTERS)

Newton-John represented the United Kingdom at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, with the song Long Live Love, chosen by popular vote among six options. She came fourth, while ABBA won the contest with the song Waterloo.

The British-Australian actress is known worldwide for starring in the 1978 musical Grease, alongside John Travolta. Her role as Sandy catapulted her to fame with songs such as You’re the One that I Want, Summer Nights and Hopelessly Devoted to You. Newton-John was initially reluctant to accept the role that would make her career. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be an actress and also felt that, at 28 years of age, she wasn’t the best fit for a high school student.

Finally, after several screen tests and at the insistence of Travolta, who was 23 at the time, but already a star thanks to the movie Saturday Night Fever, she accepted. “I couldn’t have done the film if I hadn’t met John, because I wasn’t sure about doing it. He convinced me,” confessed Newton-John in an interview conducted in early 2019. The film script was changed slightly to account for the singer’s Australian accent.

The actress maintained a lifelong friendship with Travolta, who posted a message mourning her death on social media on Monday: “My dearest Olivia, you made our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!” The two appeared in public for the last time in December 2019, dressed as their characters from Grease.

Grease was the highest-grossing film of the year of its release and its soundtrack, which is also the soundtrack of an entire generation, remained at the top of the charts for weeks. The actress was nominated for a Golden Globe and appeared at the Oscars ceremony the following year singing Hopelessly Devoted to You, which was nominated for Best Song.

Before Grease shot her to worldwide fame, Newton-John released the song Let Me Be There, which won her a Grammy for best female country vocal performance.

The album cover for ‘Physical.’
The album cover for ‘Physical.’

After Grease, she starred in films such as Xanadu and topped the charts with songs such as Physical, from 1981. The same-named album was the first to have a music video for each song. As a singer, she won four Grammy Awards, although she was never very popular with critics.

From 1984 to 1995, Newton-John was married to actor Matt Lattanzi, with whom she had a daughter, Chloe Rose. Her next partner, camera operator Patrick McDermott, who disappeared at sea in 2005. In 2008, she married tycoon John Easterling, the founder of Amazon Herb Company.

In 2019, Newton-John was diagnosed again with stage four breast cancer with metastases in the back. The actress, who had battled the disease in 1992 and in 2013, told the television show 60 Minutes Australia that she did not know how long she had left to live. “For me, psychologically, it’s better not to have any idea of what they expect or what the last person that has what you have lived, so I don’t, I don’t tune in,” she said.

Newton-John called on Australia to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal and palliative use, in line with California, where she lived. Her daughter has a cannabis farm in Oregon.

Her loved ones also recognize her fundraising work for cancer research. In one of her most famous campaigns, the singer auctioned off some of her personal clothes, including outfits she wore on Grease.

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Justified: Generation Z doesn’t like Justin Timberlake anymore: the ‘new king of pop’ apologized too late | Culture

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Twenty years ago, Rolling Stone magazine crowned Justin Timberlake (Memphis, Tennessee, 41 years old) “the new king of pop.” This summer, a video of the singer dancing at Washington’s Something in the Water festival accumulated millions of views on social networks, but not for the reasons he would like. Commenters called the star “creepy,” “hilarious” and “embarrassing.”. “Justin Timberlake still thinking he has any swag left while wearing those Old Navy khakis on stage,” jeered one Twitter user. “This is the height of gentrification,” wrote another. When did Justin Timberlake, once the biggest star on the planet, the world’s best pop dancer and the coolest man in the entertainment industry, become a pop culture piñata? Timberlake has been irritating public opinion for 20 years. Now, all the backlash is hitting him at once.

Timberlake released his first solo album, Justified, in 2002 at the age of 21. The promotional campaign coincided with his breakup with Britney Spears. He used the “Cry Me A River” music video, which featured a lookalike of the pop singer, to make it clear that she had cheated on him. Timberlake revealed on two different radio shows that he had had sexual relations with Spears, despite the fact that during their courtship both had proclaimed their intention to be virgins at marriage.

Timberlake continued talking about Spears over the years. In 2013, he referred to her in a Saturday Night Live sketch about his ancestors’ wishes for their descendents: “He’ll date a popular female singer. Publicly they’ll claim to be virgins, but privately, he’ll hit it.” At a 2007 concert, while Spears was in a rehabilitation center for her mental problems and addictions, he alluded to her more indirectly: he ended “Cry Me A River” singing the chorus of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”

In 2004, Timberlake participated in the Super Bowl halftime show alongside Janet Jackson. At the end of the performance he uncovered her breast for 9/16 of a second before an audience of 143 million viewers. More than 200,000 viewers complained to CBS. In the midst of the Iraq war, the so-called Nipplegate incident occupied ample space in the conservative media, which fueled the controversy to the point of sinking Jackson’s career. Radio and television channels stopped broadcasting her, ABC canceled a movie about Lena Horne that she was going to star in and Disney World removed a statue of Mickey Mouse dressed as Jackson.

Justin Timberlake at Something In The Water festival, in Washington, last june.
Justin Timberlake at Something In The Water festival, in Washington, last june.2021SHANNONFINNEY (WireImage)

Timberlake, by contrast, suffered no consequences. The Grammys canceled Jackson’s planned appearance, but Timberlake did perform, winning two awards and using his speech to apologize. He didn’t mention his stage partner. At no time did Timberlake publicly defend, support or apologize to her. What he did do was criticize the singer’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Jackson claimed to have felt betrayed by Timberlake. Many fans believe he insulted her on the song “Give It To Me:” “Could you speak up and stop the mumbling? I don’t think you’re getting clear. Sitting on the top it’s hard to hear you from way up here. I saw you trying to act cute on TV. Just let me clear the air. We missed you on the charts last week. Damn that’s right, you wasn’t there.” “Give It To Me” reached number one on the United States’ charts.

Timberlake’s album Future Sex/Love Sounds was the third best-selling album of 2006. Three of its songs went on to reach number one: “Sexyback,” “My Love” and “What Goes Around Comes Around,” which also attacks Spears.

His wedding to actress Jessica Biel in 2012 generated controversy. A video, orchestrated by one of his friends to be projected during the reception, was leaked in which several homeless people from Los Angeles congratulated Timberlake and expressed their regret at not being able to attend the event, which was held in Puglia (Italy) and cost six million euros. The friend in question paid €30 to each homeless person for their participation. That month, Shriners Children’s Hospital announced the end of its relationship with Timberlake.

The current of public opinion definitively turned against him until 2016. Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams gave a speech at the BET gala about the need to rebel against cultural appropriation: “we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment.” Timberlake reacted by tweeting “#inspired,” to which journalist Ernest Owens replied, “Does this mean you are going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet.” “Oh, you sweet soul,” replied the singer. “The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.” Given the controversy, Timberlake deleted the tweet but insisted that “we are all one…one human race.”

Justin Timberlake y Britney Spears.
Justin Timberlake y Britney Spears.James Devaney (WireImage)

That exchange sparked a media conversation about cultural appropriation and the well-intentioned passivity of white celebrities. Timberlake has built his career drawing on black aesthetics, musicians and culture. His sound has oscillated between R&B, hip hop, funk and soul, but for him, as Candance McDuffy wrote in Glamour, “black culture is a lucrative disguise that he can remove as soon as it ceases to benefit him.” Or as Luria Freeman summed it up in Vibe, “Justin owes his voice to the black community, but he remains silent.”

In early 2018, Timberlake released his fourth album, Man Of The Woods. He traded his image as a neo-Sinatra heartthrob for flannel, jeans, and fur coats, finding himself in the wilderness of the Wild West (the singer has a ranch in Montana). Criticism raged against the project. “Justin Timberlake relaunches his brand, now as a white man,” The Outline headlined. “Montanans laughed at the notion that a multimillion-dollar home at a private ski resort, filled with other non-Montanans, would evoke ‘the Wild West’; others suggested that he’d watched The Revenant or listened to Bon Iver once and co-opted the signifiers,” observed Anne Helen Petersen on Buzzfeed.

Critics saw Justin Timberlake’s reinvention as another disguise. “Justin Timberlake hasn’t suddenly reclaimed his white masculinity for the first time with Man of the Woods. It’s been with him all along. It’s just that now it’s become impossible to ignore,” wrote Constance Grady for Vox.

The night Justin Timberlake performed at the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show, becoming the first person to take that stage three times, #JusticeForJanet was a trending topic on Twitter. While Jackson’s career remained in shambles 14 years after Nipplegate, Timberlake returned to the scene in style. In addition, many fans considered Prince’s appearance in a giant hologram yet another jab by Timberlake at black culture and an act of disrespect towards Prince, who had stipulated that he did not wish to appear in holograms because he considered them demonic. The press considered it one of the least memorable intermissions of the Super Bowl.

At the beginning of last year, the documentary series The New York Times Presents devoted an episode to Britney Spears’ career and another to the collapse of Janet Jackson’s career after the Super Bowl. In both, perhaps the two most emblematic episodes of misogyny in 2000s pop culture, Timberlake played an antagonistic role. And in both he went unpunished. “Timberlake’s shine has worn off, leaving behind an uncomfortable tale of a man who enjoyed continued success at the expense of other people’s losses,” wrote journalist Chelsea McLaughlin.

Last month, Rolling Stone, the same magazine that two decades ago proclaimed him the new king of pop, analyzed Timberlake’s viral dance in Washington. It blamed Generation Z for the singer’s new status. “Zoomers, particularly those on TikTok, are really good at making previously lauded white men seem remarkably uncool. This is a curse that has now befallen Justin Timberlake, the once pop prince.” But singer’s decline in popularity goes beyond social media run-ins. “The new reckoning around him feels like a cultural exorcism, a chance to use the boy band vessel to purge ourselves of the evils he now represents to many,” writes Maria Sherman at Slate.com. “Timberlake has become the perfect emblem of a bygone era that rewarded guys exactly like him—until it didn’t.”



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