Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Poppy fascism?

Mike Ion has written a piece on LabourList today where he takes Jon Snow to task for his comments about "poppy fascism". Snow said:

I am begged to wear an Aids ribbon, a breast cancer ribbon, a Marie Curie flower...You name it, from the Red Cross to the RNIB, they send me stuff to wear to raise awareness, and I don't. And in those terms, and those terms alone, I do not and will not wear a poppy. Additionally there is a rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there - 'he damned well must wear a poppy!' Well I do, in my private life, but I am not going to wear it or any other symbol on air.

Mike says he is a big fan of Jon's but thinks he is wrong on this:

What is wrong with wearing a "symbol" on air? Why not make an exception? Jon's logic appears to be: "I can't publicly promote all of the causes that I am asked to support so I will not support any of them." This is a bit like arguing that because I can't give to all of the charities that ask for my help I won't give to any charity.

The poppy is the symbol of remembrance. We do not diminish anyone by wearing it, least of all the veterans. Diminishing the debt we owe our predecessors would be accomplished by resigning ourselves to the notion that we cannot comprehend what happened. We undermine the notion of Remembrance Day by lack of reflection, not flippantly wearing, or not wearing, a poppy.

I am afraid that I do not agree with the final line of the above paragraph. We do not undermine the notion of Remembrance Day by not wearing a poppy. The wearing or not wearing of one is individual choice and there may be many reasons why people choose not to. It doesn't mean they are not respectful of the sacrifice our soldiers have made. As it happens, me and my wife always buy poppies around this time of year and wear them. We will also be attending a Remembrance Day service on Sunday. However I fully respect other people's right to decide for themselves what they want to wear and I do not judge them if they choose not to.

The problem is that what ends up happening is that people are then criticised for not wearing a poppy and pressure is put on them to do so. I saw a little snapshot of this happen during PMQs last week. I was live tweeting it and started to notice a few tweets saying things like "Harriet Harman is not wearing a poppy" and "Where is Jack Straw's poppy?". This annoyed me and I did a couple of tweets questioning this sort of "poppy tyranny" as I described it. Harman and Straw may well have had reasons for not wearing one. It was still a couple of weeks before Remembrance Day for example. Perhaps they had just forgotten. Perhaps it was on their other jacket. I don't know and frankly it is none of my business.

Everybody should be left to make their own decisions about this.


Constantly Furious said...

Have commented 'over there', but just in case (ha!) it gets moderated away, I'll repeat:


"So I will be wearing my poppy this November".

Fine. Wear it. You are, of course, free to.

But don't presume to tell Jon Snow, or me, or anyone else, what they should and shouldn't have on their lapel.

Is it a coincidence that this kind of post appears on a website that openly supports the most authoritarian government this country has ever seen?

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

The two worst aspects of the Remembrance poppy phenomenon are: -

1. Military personnel should never have to rely upon charity to receive the support they need to cope with the effects of war. Commendable though the Royal British legion's efforts are, it is a disgrace that these are needed to supplement government efforts.

2. Many people suppose they have "done their bit" through buying a poppy - and recall the average amount contributed is a modern "widow's mite" of less than £1 - and nothing further is needed until a repeat performance twelve months hence.

The weakened and weakening military covenant is not reinforced, the government continues to pursue unsupported wars, and military personnel remain badly treated by the state. Rather than a once a year act of buying and displaying a poppy, I would much prefer people to display some outrage.

Oranjepan said...

I've just written something similar, albeit from a slightly different angle.

My conclusion was that wearing a poppy doesn't give the wearer immunity from forgetting. In other words it is the remembering, not the wearing that is more important.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe any politician or celebrity who wears a poppy. They are told or expected to and know it will put brownie points in their book. I feel "hypocrite."

Especially such staged PR theatrics when Brown stood at the despatch box and read out the names of the soldier who had died during their holidays. That was a set up to look good and gain favour on their first day back from looking bad all summer. Avoid the questions. Look sincere and sympathetic and as if you are thinking of someone else.

May be he should have been arrested and charged and dragged through court and had injunctions set against you for reading out the names to the war dead. Such as was done to the Peace Protestor who quietly read out the names of the deceased into front of the cenotaph.

Hypocrite. If I was a mother who had lost her son/daughter in war due to their incompetence and lies I would have banned the man from meantioning my son on his own foul lips of deceit and shame.

It was a sham. and so is wearing a Poppy for most. Integrity is not something you wear on your sleeve. Good man John Snow. Those who know understand. I will not stand here like a hypocrite as the others.

Alex said...

I think Mike proved Jon Snow's point:

"Additionally there is a rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there - 'he damned well must wear a poppy!'"

troymolloy said...

Just to re-tread that final sentence you thought you disagreed with:
"We undermine the notion of Remembrance Day by lack of reflection, not flippantly wearing, or not wearing, a poppy."

This is exactly what you were saying. To put it more legibly:
"We undermine the notion of Remembrance Day by lack of reflection - not by flippantly wearing, or not wearing, a poppy." Though to be honest that seems not to fit with what Mike wrote immediately before it.