I, [Inspector] No. 108, am honored to award you this medal for your intelligent and assiduous contributions to the quality management inspection process. I appreciate your assistance in improving the "Stable Version" of the Byzantine Empire entry. Always know that you have this humble inspector's gratitude and respect. No. 108 (talk) 04:57, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
Anglo-American bias against the Italian war effort
I'm having a hard time with these wiki people who keep perpetuating the myth that the Italians were ineffective fighters. Many of them appear to be Brits or Australians who have read nonsense about the Italians and are perpetuating their myths on Wikipedia. Do you have any advice for me on how to deal with such obvious bias and misinformation? AnnalesSchool (talk) 22:15, 13 September 2014 (UTC)
Some people will never change their views. It’s a simple as that – it won’t matter what evidence is presented. All you can do is present the facts “objectively and academically" and make sure they are backed by multiple sources (I was always at pains to ensure at least one citation for almost every sentence contributed). That’s pretty much it - and be sure to demonstrate good faith and follow the correct Wiki policies.
How that is responded to will elucidate the characters you are dealing with. (Eventually, if you are doing the right thing, good faith contributors may provide support.)
There is an oddity in the tendency of some ‘contributors’ to plainly delete cited content due to it not agreeing with their ‘expert opinion’ – if they provide an explanation at all. Or, a classic, change the sentence/content (without reading the cited material) so that the correlation is lost or manipulated. And then there is also a trend to consensus agreement on loosely cited content while heavily cited content is heavily opposed. All ‘bad faith’ behaviour – which I believe would be a breach of some wiki policy or another – but proving such things will often take up more energy than its worth. But those following policies and procedures correctly may eventually address it - and the majority of contributors are very well intentioned.
There are also cases where a group of like minded individuals get together and agree that a professionally published (and peer reviewed) researcher does not mean what author wrote but the opposite instead (or that the author is not credible for ‘such and such reason’ and ‘my expert "original" research based opinion'...). There seams to be a propensity to want to contribute to articles based on nationalist tendencies in some cases. The Byzantine articles are an example – apparently they were never Roman, doesn't matter what they called themselves, what their neighbours labelled them, or what scholars constantly inform us of. Just about everything Roman gets a 'Greek' label, even in the classical Roman period. But, no matter how out of kilter with scholarship or even true consensus thought, a small active group can always push their view if they stick with it and Game the System – the rest simply have better things to do.
The views around axis-Italian WWII efforts are odd one given that the weight of WWII propaganda (allied and German alike) is still very heavy in the perceptions of some. However, there is a growing trend to reassess these more objectively (in academia at least). After all – the Italian disasters (disasters they were – all due to poor planning and supplies, especially Greece) were no worse than those of other nations. And it’s not just the Italians that suffer from the propaganda, the efforts of (the brilliant) O’Connor and even Auchelink have also been diminished as a result. It will simply take time for more objective assessments to prevail – and take further time for it to filter to the mainstream readers that form the majority of contributors on Wikipedia (most of whom probably have never had a front-line war experience).
That being said, the majority of scholarship, old and new, has very rarely regarded the Italian soldier as cowardly. The distinction has been made in literature between the actions of the soldiers and the pitiful strategic, logistical and tactical situations they were thrown into at the war’s onset. (Perhaps you can approach it from this perspective?) If mainstream people are taking from literature that the Italians were cowards, then they are most likely misinterpreting what the bulk of the literature is saying. Multiple authors have pointed out that the Italian troops faced greater everyday hardship on the ground compared to both their foes and allies (in North Africa and Greece). Even the Australian War correspondent, Chestor Wilmott, was at pains to, point out the fight put up during O’Connor’s campaign was fierce. Yet it is simplest dismiss Italian contributions as irrelevant as it fits more easily into a simpler narrative – means less perceived effort in studying the nuances (nuances that, for me, are enjoyable to learn) – such as the difficulty of standing and fighting in the dessert without water (as well as effective supplies and armament). It is, after all, a convoluted topic, and much more did happen in the war.
Perhaps the perception of some mainstream readers around the Italians exacerbated by the view that the fortunes were turned only with German intervention. German intervention absolutely made a difference, but it occurred as the Italian command was getting its act together. The divisions supporting Rommel were mostly much better equipped and the Italian navy was never an issue. It stuck to (and met) its strategic objectives and demonstrated tenacity, despite its clear technological disadvantages and set backs. Moreover, the fact that Rommel’s fortunes ebbed and flowed in parallel with those of the Italian navy in getting supplies through is almost ignored – a mini example of what really won the war in the end: better strategic and logistical planning, supported by industrial capacity. Rommel’s two divisions would have gotten nowhere without the logistics that backed them.
I would like to have contributed more, but life gets in the way. I honestly don’t know where people are finding the time.
With the people you are discussing ‘cowardice’ with you could try elucidating that the British, French, Russians and Chinese all suffered similar setback as the Italians did at the beginning of the war. The circumstances, supplies, strategic position, relative hardship etc are all similar in one respect or another. Then ask: why are the Italians the only lot in this group that are cowards? The correct answer would be: None of them were.
Good luck with it all. Romaioi (talk) 10:35, 5 October 2014 (UTC)
Thanks Romaioi. Yes you are right that people rarely change their minds and have such rigid views. But at least in academia, historians are beginning to revise and reappraise the Italian involvement in the war. The problem with Wikipedia is that it is actually prolonging the myths and misinformation and is heavily partisan and bias in approach, so it has become a conservative rather than a progressive force. Also, unfortunately, many people get their information from Wiki these days, because they do not have the time or inclination to research more thoroughly.
It's a long slow process but I am confident that things are actually changing even at Wikipedia. The use of older authors is declining hopefully, those arrogant arm-chair historians, for a younger set who are less inclined to receive their information second or third hand.AnnalesSchool (talk) 11:20, 5 October 2014 (UTC)
One other thing I find strange Ramaioi about some Wiki editors, is their lack of common sense when quoting and paraphrasing material. A good example is the Italian attack into France in June 1940. The attack started on the 21st June and by the 24th is was over. Now that left only 3 days of actual fighting. In other words, by the time the Italians got their guns into position, started shelling the French fortifications, is was pretty much over. And yet the Italians are berated for having advanced only 10 kms in some places, and 50 in others. And then the inevitable comparison with the spectacular German blitzkrieg in the north of France. When I try to point out the obvious that the Germans had 3 weeks of fighting on very different terrain, with much more space for mobility, etc. certain Wiki authors reply: Well, what are your sources?? In other words, they will only believe something if it can be quoted and cannot actually synthesize the information before them. In other words, they are like people in the Middle Ages who believed the world was flat because "the sources" told them so, rather than use a bit of common sense and the old grey matter. So many of the Wiki military articles are a ramshackle collection of quotes and paraphrases without actual analysis. A PhD student submitting a thesis will be failed by his professor if he produced a thesis without his own careful analysis of the material, followed by synthesis. It isn't enough to just throw in quote after quote and think you've done a good job.AnnalesSchool (talk) 11:52, 5 October 2014 (UTC)
Wow, those were quick responses.
Being intended as an encyclopaedia, Wikipedia is therefore intended as a literature review, not a place to present ‘original’ research based on your own analysis. What you are saying about the French campaign is logical, but you need to cite someone from literature as having put forward that analysis….or wait until relevant historiographical research is published (otherwise you shouldn’t attempt to include it). If there are a group of historians that paint the picture of “Italians being ineffective” and another group that paint the picture you described, for example, then its best to present both and highlight the inconsistency in the historiography. The final “article” needs to be neutral and summarise existing literature – regardless of your view.
I’ve since skim-read some of your comments on the French Campaign discussion page. Based on my cursory view, other editors are correct to ask you to provide your sources – if you have them, there is nothing wrong with putting them forward in the article. If the sources are appropriate, then it would be bad form for other contributors to dismiss them out of hand etc. Some of what you said, regarding Mussolini’s political objectives, sounds fine but you need to cite appropriately – but I thought it was already famously covered in literature and therefore likely to be on the article page (if not, include it and cite the sources). I notice you mentioned Sadkovich in one of your discussions on this topic. If it’s the piece I think it is, Sadkovich’s work there pertained to the North African campaign, not the French – so there is no point in presenting his work as evidence. These are just my suggestions. Again, good luck with it all. Its near-impossible to please everyone. Romaioi (talk) 12:59, 6 October 2014 (UTC)
Just thought of another angle that might help with perspective on this. If you have poor ‘doctrine’, or even, as in the Italy WWII case, sound doctrine but inadequate inventory (etc) to back it up, then the chances of the assault being effective is minimal. If you, with this doctrine / inventory mismatch, initiate an assault up mountain ranges, in the wrong season, with logistics that allow you to attack only with a force half the size of those opposing (who also know you are coming), then no matter how effective your soldiers/units individually, there is ‘buckleys’ chance of anything going right / being ‘effective'. This was the case in Greece (and maybe to some extent in France?) – in North Africa, it was a case of sending the troops on a desert stroll in isolated units and expecting them to just work it out and come out trumps. That was the result of Mussolini’s opportunism with the expectation that everyone was ready to fall over and call umpire at the first shot. I think most texts have purveyed this, without stressing that the often untrained/under-equipped troops did what they could and did it tough – and pretty much had no chance from the onset. This is the perspective which most main-streamers who claim cowardice miss, which is their prerogative.
So in terms of your discussions Italian’s in the initial campaigns (East Africa excepted – and France where the terrain was as per Greece?) the initial Italian overall assaults can be summarised as ineffective, per the above perspective. Did they become more effective? Yes - unfortunately coinciding with German assistance. Does this mean Italian soldiers/units were ineffective and cowardly considering the standard of their equipment? No. Its subtle, but an ineffective overall assault does not mean soldiers and their units are ineffective (there are too many examples that that prove otherwise). The Italian early WWII situation is simply an example of how detrimental poor/hasty leadership and planning can be.Romaioi (talk) 11:03, 7 October 2014 (UTC)
I don't think that cowardice is even an issue these days Romaioi. The Italian soldier was no more a coward than the British, German or Frenchman. However, soldiers can display cowardly moments from time to time, but there wasn't anything particularly cowardly with the Italians. Those early defeats where the news-reels show thousands of Italian soldiers surrendering with their hands up can be easily equated with the French or Germans or the Russians surrendering en masse. Once an army is out flanked and out maneuvered, there is little left to do but surrender.
No, the problem is that for too long, Anglo-American writers, many of them popular history writers (but even academics who should know better) have made so many superficial comparisons backed by shoddy/lazy research, that their information was compromised,inadequate, partial, incomplete or obtained from the over-critical Germans who were always ready to pass the blame to the Italians when things went wrong, cultural bias and a visceral dislike of southern Europeans, passing off statements as if they were fact, and blatant lies and misinformation (yes, the English do in fact, tell fibs - horror of horrors!!) that the whole sub-genre of the Italian involvement in the war, really needs a new start. We need to gather all those dusty history books written by people like Shearer and Thackerh, Cruickshank,Levine, Liddell Hart, Mack Smith, and a whole plethora of others, collect them all, and in Trafalgar Square light a huge bonfire and burn them. Then, start all over again on a clean and crystal clear slate. Unfortunately Wikipedia is a cess-pool of such writers, their last refuge in a mosquito-infested swamp! Dark, murky and insalubrious.
Well, I have said enough. I think my views are pretty clear by now. Yes, the Italian army was under-equipped and lacked the mobility and fire-power muscle of the Germans. It's punches were light and there was not enough follow through. However, it did what it could do well enough. The US supplied Britain and Russia with a mountain of armaments, trucks and material. Unfortunately, the Germans were either reluctant or could not supply the Italians with the same level of material resources. The Italians often did not want German soldiers - they wanted German weapons! They were quite capable of doing the fighting without the Germans - they just needed the materials to do the job properly.AnnalesSchool (talk) 18:04, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
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