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Imagine being told to review Stephen Spielberg’s Holocaust film Schindler’s Ark without using ‘Nazi’, ‘SS’, ‘Gestapo’, or ‘Third Reich’  -  you’d wonder whether this is a trick question, or what: how the hell could you do justice to that film without at least referring to its specific historical setting and background?


Yet two Fairfax reviews, Philippa Hawker’s “On squalid ground” in the Saturday Age’s ‘Life & Style’ [26 Feb 2011] and Tom Ryan’s “Spotlight” in the Sunday Age’s ‘M’ [27 Feb] have managed the exact equivalent: each reviewed Peter Weir’s escape-from-the-gulag film The Way Back minus terms such as ‘Soviet / Union’, ‘USSR’, ‘communist / marxist’ or ‘KGB’ ^.


You’d reckon that it’d be absolutely necessary to refer to the type of regime which established these gulags in the frozen wastes of Siberia, if the review were to be true to the task.


Not so Fairfax’s Hawker and Ryan, it seems (although there is the very improbable off-chance that later sub-editing may have removed all such references -  Why? you’d surely want to know).


There was one reference to “Russian” though, a usually deceitfully squeamish synonym for ‘Soviet’ which occurs far too often in dicussions and ‘discourse’ about the Soviet era   -  particularly dishonest is its use in the expression ‘the Russian invasion / occupation’ of Afghanistan 1979-89.*


What sort of mental process could manage to expunge ‘Soviet / Union’, ‘USSR’, ‘communist / marxist’ or ‘KGB’ from a review of a film like The Way Back? Or what kind of ideological perversion would want to?


^ yes, the KGB was more usually called the NKVD at that time, but ‘KGB’ rings many of our bells.


* another and similar example: the media sometimes refers to Nazi concentration / extermination camps in German-occupied Poland as ‘Polish concentration / extermination camps’. This cruel insensitivity and appalling ignorance is almost beyond understanding;  such cruel misrepresentations must tear at the hearts of Polish survivors from that era, and of their descendants.