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Poppies and The Sun’s contempt for accuracy

October 14, 2011

With Remembrance Day approaching, The Sun knows a few poppy stories will get them some extra hits on their site, possibly shift a few paper copies too.  That would seem to be the reason for this headline (with accompanying emotive picture of poppy in flames):

It seems clear, judging by the headline, that government ministers are looking at legalising “the burning of poppies” and “the abuse of soldiers”.  I don’t know if either of these acts are specifically illegal at the moment, but obviously The Sun thinks they are.  If you dare to venture below the line, you’ll see comments such as:

I have just contacted the Conservative Party to show my discust and how Anit-English they are. I suggest everyone else to contact them too. Let them know that you are offended and discusted you all are.


What is wrong with the idiot’s who run this Country . What a Mockery they made out of the Wars All those People who died for our Freedom .we have no Freedom Britains Second Class in their Own Country . if we did anything to those who burnt the poppy’s and our flag we would have been jailed , in their Country would hav e been shot or mutilated . God forgive the Powers that be for sullying the names of all those Brave men and Women who died for us . Amen .


So what would happen if we burned anything to do with their religion?* I bet there would be a public outcry from their community to say we have slandered them and they must have justice.

Justice in this country is one sided, and it certainly isn’t on every true blue born and bred English person side. If they want to live here then they should respect us and everything that is British.

We respect their religious views and their cultures they should do the same.

*Editor’s note:  I’m not sure when a poppy became anything to do with religion.

As you might expect, however, the Sun piece is rather misleading.  What Graeme Wilson (who has the byline on this one) has reported on is a Home Office conference on gangs.  The BBC report on the same conference says:

Launching the consultation on greater police powers, the Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said: “We must ensure officers on the ground have all the necessary legal measures available to them to protect our streets and keep the public safe.

“But we must also make sure any new powers do not trample upon traditional British freedoms – that is why we are seeking public views on the powers the police really need to keep our communities safe.”

The consultation will consider whether the use of insulting words should remain an offence amid concerns that the law is being used by activist groups and over-zealous police officers to undermine free speech.

Oh, so it’s not a proposal to legalise the abuse of troops or the burning of poppies.  It’s a consultation on ‘greater police powers’ and whether using insulting words should remain a criminal offence.  In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of troops or poppies at all.  The example given by the BBC is the case of an Oxford University student who was arrested after asking a mounted police officer if he realised his horse was gay.  It’s almost as if the piece in The Sun, whilst containing elements of truth, has been created to fit a certain editorial stance, and possibly to generate a bit of foam ready for Remembrance Day itself.  One way to test this theory is to have a quick look at the EDL Facebook page to see what reaction the story provoked (with thanks to @everythingedl and the good people of EDL News).

It’s like reading an extreme version of The Sun comments.  Of course, it’s not the first time The Sun has incited such a strong reaction from EDL members regarding poppies, but I had hoped the Leveson Inquiry and the possible beefing up of the PCC might have at least caused a pause for thought before publishing such a misleading and sensationalist version of this story.  Unfortunately, it seems not, and you can be sure that, if there is any violence related to this reporting, The Sun won’t accept any responsibility.

Further reading: Dishonest journalism has dangerous consequences from Angry Mob (@uponnothing)

UPDATE:  More poppies, this time with The Daily Mail

FURTHER UPDATE: The British Patriots Society, who are, apparently, “taking back our flag” from wherever it’s been, have plagiarised The Sun’s story and credited it to their own writer.  The only thing they changed is the headline:  Legal to burn Poppies!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2011 1:32 pm

    Another consequence of these stories is that its becoming hard not to associate poppies with the edl and the yearly scare stories. I wont be wearing one this year because they’re just too politically charged.

  2. Philip Lawton permalink
    October 14, 2011 2:26 pm

    Another great article. It’s a shame there’s such a long gap between posts!

  3. Daf permalink
    October 14, 2011 2:47 pm

    In response to ‘a’ above (or below – not sure how it works on this site). I’ll be wearing a poppy as I don’t want the EDL or their ilk to be able to claim it in any way. The more normal, reasonable people wear them the less likely for poppies to be associated with any type of extreme views.

  4. jon permalink
    October 14, 2011 6:10 pm

    *bows down in unworthiness*

  5. Ed Woods permalink
    October 14, 2011 6:12 pm

    Daf’s right: if no-one wears poppies the EDL will claim them as their symbol. The far-Right have already done this with national flags, making the flying of them associated with racists, football hooligans and fascists. Are we to allow the commemoration of the nation’s war dead to become the preserve of the very sort of people that hundreds of thousands of them died fighting? They don’t care about the soldiers, because they sell the poppies and keep the profits, without passing the money onto the RBL and the the maimed ex-soldiers who make the poppies. The poppy is neither a religious nor a national symbol: it is an international symbol commemorating the war dead of many different countries and faiths. However if the EDL had their way it would be used as an object of religious reverence, a symbol of the nationalistic and militaristic cult that they have created, the very sort of thing that has led to the deaths of countless millions in wars.

  6. October 14, 2011 7:48 pm

    With respect Ed, though I agree with your sentiment, the poppy, along with everything else associated with Remembrance, has always been quite strongly associated with religious reverance (through blessings in Church etc), British nationalism (see the Festival of Remembrance, as prime example) and, to a degree, military pageant (again Festival of Remembrance and pretty much any Remembrance Day parade/event).

    The poppy was never conceived as a truly international symbol. Created by the Royal British Legion, it was, at best, representative of the former British Commonwealth. It is, therefore, more easy to misappropriate for nationalistic aims.

    Usually worth remembering that many of the most powerful myths are based on half truths…

  7. rickey permalink
    November 12, 2012 2:05 pm

    The poppy was created by an american not the legion.

    • November 12, 2012 5:30 pm

      I know. I don’t think I claimed otherwise, but try telling that to the EDL and other so-called nationalist groups.

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