Each year we remember those who have died in conflict. We remember and pay our respects to the contribution and sacrifices that servicemen and women have made, particularly over the past century. It is a time to remember that whilst war might be a solution in extreme cases, it is a decision not to be taken lightly, which can result in terrible consequences that last long after the original reasons for war have been forgotten. It is not a time for politicians and the media to be political point-scoring.
It is always a humbling occasion when I go to a remembrance service, and this year was no exception. Representatives of all faiths and none, public service organisations, youth movements and members of the government all reverentially paid their respects, and went about their business after the Sunday service had finished.
But upon my return home and the days followed, the British public were subject to a barrage of smears. Not only were these smears often untruths, they were incredibly disrespectful, especially when they were carried out by people claiming to be upholding servicemen’s dignity and honour.
Alongside many other newspapers, The Sun decided the next day was a fitting date to not only score a cheap political points against Jeremy Corbyn for not bowing low enough, but also to post this smear attack alongside a semi-naked young woman frolicking about in her underwear. For The Sun, a supposedly socially Conservative newspaper to plaster this image after Remembrance Sunday, right alongside an attack on Corbyn for being disrespectful, strikes me as hypocritical. This hypocrisy is consistent with the fact that Corbyn staying behind to applaud the horse guard parade by WW2 veterans was ignored. His decision to stay and to talk to veterans of old and recent conflicts, whilst many other politicians went to a VIP reception for a free lunch, was clearly deemed irrelevant. Naively, I thought the VIP’s were the veterans.
What’s more, The Sun‘s sister paper The News of the World has previously hacked dead soldiers phones, to which the Royal British Legion’s response was to suspend all ties. If that wasn’t bad enough, let’s just remember that The Sun reliably backs a party that has cut the Armed Forces’ effectiveness by a third through cuts, has decided that the best thing for low morale is to cut pay rises to Armed Forces personnel in this parliament, and has responsibility for 9,000 homeless veterans on the streets. The hypocrisy of The Sun was so bad that the outspoken Richard Dawkins waded in to both criticise the publication publicly, and question the intellectual capabilities of anyone who bought the paper.
The next faux outrage came from the Twittersphere. As anyone who attends a remembrance service knows, the service ends at about 11:30 am, with a two-minute silence held at 11:00am. This year however, as soon as Corbyn did his bow to the cenotaph and placed his wreath, Twitter was alight with claims that he did not bow low enough or even didn’t do it at all. The irony here is that these accusations of shame and lack of patriotism were coming from people who themselves didn’t bother to attend a remembrance service, and were sat on their computers at home during the two-minute silence watching the whole thing on telly. Those that did report from the scene of the crime clearly didn’t understand the significant amount of disrespect it shows to be at a Remembrance Service, supposedly in thoughtful silence, but instead tweeting rambling accusations about a man not bowing enough towards the cenotaph. You do have to ask yourself who is showing the greatest amount of dignity in this situation.
One such outspoken defender of veterans, a man who’s given himself the task of smiting down the unpatriotic, is Sir Gerald Howarth MP. He claimed that Corbyn was “an embarrassment to his party” and an “embarrassment to our country.” This is a man who has previously defended a stag do in France, organised by Tory MP Aidan Burley, with a dress code of Nazi and SS officers. Our self-appointed moral abettor is an individual to whom it didn’t seem to matter that this is categorically illegal in France. It was “just a bit of fun” and the criticism was “a very nasty witch hunt by some sections of the press”.
Howarth is also concerned about the welfare of servicemen and women, especially on the issue of homosexuality. This is because he has served in the RAF reserves for a grand total of one year (1968 – 69) and therefore is thoroughly committed to driving up standards. In 2000, he called the abolishment of the ban on homosexuals in the Armed Forces “appalling” and said that the “decision will be greeted with dismay, particularly by ordinary soldiers in Her Majesty’s forces.” Of course, this is nonsense, and soldiers have been largely indifferent to the fact that some of their number are gay, supporting their mates coming out, given that one day they may save their lives.
The last bastion of faux outrage and ignorance that decided to bombard the British public with their bile is the far-right group Britain First. As I am sure most readers of this already realise, Britain First are a bit of a joke, which is why they will only get a brief mention.
These hardcore patriots who supposedly love our servicemen and women, decided to post on their Facebook page a meme about Fish and Chips during the two minutes’ silence. Britain First also ignored pleas by Lee Rigby’s family, the soldier who was brutally murdered in London, not to exploit his name for political propaganda, and posted his photograph five times during the weekend with the caption “lest we forget.”
Lastly, Britain First activists exploited children poppy sellers with their “protect the poppy” campaign from “leftwing anarchists and Islamists.” This protection was in the form of two overweight, middle aged, unarmed men, tasked with single-handedly stopping an attack by hardcore terrorists in the suburbs of Nottingham. They of course forgot to pose for photos wearing their own poppies, or if they did have them, forgot to wear them correctly on their left breast.
As ever the vast majority of us managed to observe Remembrance Sunday with respect and regard for others. However, again as ever, the minute minority successfully harnessed the day in a tirade of hate. As benign as it sounds, perhaps laughing at them is the only way around them. Anger won’t stop them, censoring hasn’t worked, so why not just deprive them of the satisfaction, and provide them instead with the ridicule they deserve.
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