Remembering the dead – or “poppy fascism”?

November 6, 2009

poppyThis week, hundreds of thousands of people will join the annual act of remembrance to commemorate those who have died in war, proudly wearing a poppy to honour the fallen.

However the simple flower emblem, which has been used since shortly after the end of World War One as it was the only thing to grow on the devastated battlefields of Belgium and northern France, has once again become an issue in itself.

Is the decision to not wear one an act of disrespect?

The Daily Mail newspaper is running a campaign, demanding that Premier League football teams have a poppy embroidered onto the shirts they wear this weekend. Twelve clubs initially said they would do so, but as the Mail turned its ire on those that didn’t, all bar two — Manchester United and Liverpool — have now agreed to make the gesture.

The Mail said football teams wearing the poppy sent out a “powerful message of solidarity” to Britain’s armed forces.

“All too often footballers – on and off the pitch – set a dreadful example to their young supporters,” the paper said in its editorial. “It would be to their eternal shame if Manchester United and Liverpool snub the opportunity to demonstrate that their sport can be a force for good.”

Footballers are by no means the first to be criticised for failing to wear a poppy. BBC, ITV and Sky News presenters and reporters all wear a poppy when they appear on our screens following complaints in the past, and even producers on “Strictly Come Dancing” have come in for criticism this year for suggesting contestants should not wear the emblem because of health and safety fears. They have since backed down.

A few years ago, Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow described such insistence as “poppy fascism”. He said he wore a poppy off air but would not wear one or any symbol — such as an AIDS ribbon — while broadcasting.

Guardian columnist Marina Hyde described the outrage of the Mail and other media commentators as “phoney poppy apoplexy”.

“The point so often ignored is that the second world war, in particular, was fought to allow people the choice in this and many other matters,” she wrote. “Victory meant freedom from fascism, which makes Jon Snow’s choice of words for this annual hounding of any public figure pictured without one – “poppy fascism” – particularly significant.”

The Royal British Legion which runs the Poppy Appeal itself says that wearing a poppy was a voluntary gesture. But with British troops fighting, and signficant numbers dying or being wounded in Afghanistan, many argue that it is more important than ever to show the soldiers have the support of the public — and the best way is by wearing a poppy.


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I et alot of greif for wearing a White poppy becuase im a quaker and i dont wear a red onr surley its down to freedom of choice allthough the “red poppy bregade” are become a bit over zelous

Posted by shakes | Report as abusive

Of course the majority of people with any knowledge of the country’s history and a sense of respect for the scrifices that have been made to preserve it’s freedom will want to wear a poppy. But there should be no hint of compulsion to wear it.

Neither should there be any pressure NOT to wear it. I refer of course to the current British government which until it embarked upon its military adventures actually instructed its officials and public sector employees that they should not wear a poppy it might “give offence”.

The sight of these same people now with their ostentatious flaunting of their poppies and fawning pretence of patriotism is nauseating.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

Stuff the poppy you would be better contributing to holidays for heroes.

Posted by god | Report as abusive

In general, people are too ready to take offence right left and centre in Britain today.

The other day there was a commentator on one of the TV channels who had a poppy pinned to his shirt. That really was absurd. As absurd, in fact, as if he had not pinned the poppy to his shirt but the interviewer had said, “Before we start this interview, in case anybody’s wondering, Mr so-and-so’s poppy is pinned to his jacket which is on the back of his chair at his desk. Isn’t that right, Mr so-and-so?”

As for the Daily Mail campaign, it’s not fascism, it’s just a pity the clubs didn’t think of the idea themselves. Having been “shamed” into it, they surely don’t deserve any brownie points, although it can’t do any harm either.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Orwell said it all on the Daily Mails strident and nationalistic poppy campaign:

Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

Posted by B A Jones | Report as abusive

Sorry: Daily Mail’s

Posted by B A Jones | Report as abusive

I no longer wear a poppy except when attending remembrance events, because of the assumptions, touted by the popular press, that I am either 100% in support of the current war if I wear one, or unpatriotic if I do not.

Similar prejudices used to apply to the red AIDS ribbon – namely that any man wearing one was sure to have HIV and/or be gay. These misapprehensions have been largely removed due to the efforts of HIV support charities.

The Royal British Legion need to pull their heads out of the sand and stop the poppy being used as a political football.

BTW I notice the Reuters UK website logo is missing a poppy. You’re at risk of getting an email from the Daily Mail.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

The compulsion to wear a poppy has reached new heights and it is thoroughly unhealthy. Some British soldiers died for noble causes but not all. WWI, where the poppy symbol originates, was a slaughter from which neither side emerged with any credit, nor entered it with altruistic intentions. Try remembering that this Sunday.

Posted by John Ritchie | Report as abusive

As schoolkids, we were annually forced to wear those atrocious fake flowers which one also saw festooning many shop windows and churches. At an early age, it struck me the remembrance process was being co-opted and primitively exploited by rather shady characters, the same people who were harrumphingly marginalizing pacifist viewpoints into oblivion.

As an adult, I am more certain than ever that these would never be the priorities of an evolved society.

Posted by The Bell | Report as abusive