Remembering the dead – or “poppy fascism”?
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.