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Daily View: Poppy debate

Clare Spencer | 10:06 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010



Commentators ask why the remembrance poppy appears to create controversy every year.

This year the storm centres around Jon Snow, the Channel 4 News presenter, who has hit out at "poppy fascism" and "intolerance" after he was criticised for not wearing the emblem on TV. In his Channel 4 news Snowblog he told a commenter to get that "Hitler lost the war".

Roy Hattersley poses the question in the Daily Mail: does Jon Snow know how offensive he is being:

"My complaint is that, by turning on his critics like an angry schoolboy chastised for neglecting his homework, [Jon Snow] has, no doubt unwittingly, encouraged the belief that wearing a poppy is a sign of dull conformity. Really, it is a badge of pride. Of course, he is entitled to say that in a free country he has a right to choose whether or not he wears this emblem of gratitude."

The Guardian's Media Monkey shrugs off the controversy, saying Jon Snow is just taking the hit for a yearly debacle:

"You can tell the passing seasons just by reading the regular TV fixtures that pop up in the Daily Mail news calendar. There's the 'too many Christmas repeats' story, the 'not enough religion on the telly at Easter' tale, and that perennial favourite, 'outrage at presenters who don't wear poppies'."

The debate recalls a 2006 article from the Guardian in which Dan Bell reports on accusations of "poppy fascism" on a a blog post by Jon Snow.

Historian Guy Walters tries to get to the crux of the issue in the Telegraph:

"Not wearing a poppy on air is not equivalent to not remembering those who died for our freedoms, although I suspect Snow over-eggs it a bit when he says that soldiers died so that we might choose. I'm somewhat wary of defending small, specific liberties by invoking wartime sacrifice, but I'm extremely wary of a culture that insists on forcing us, as individuals, to publicise our remembrance and our grief."

Mr Walters goes on to suggest the debate may have a positive result for the Royal British Legion:

"Snow's blanket ban on wearing symbols is a positive reaction against competitive public grief. His refusal makes us think again what the poppies are really about, and ironically, his blank lapel does more to remind us of sacrifice and remembrance than a poppy worn mindlessly or out of compulsion."

In the New Yorker Lauren Collins attempts to explain the poppy to an American audience:

"The poppies recall Marimekko in their graphic punch, and 'Sex and the City'-era brooches in their ubiquity, but they are political, not fashion, accessories - the American-flag pins of British public life. David Cameron would no less be seen without one than he would be seen without a shirt."

Prompted by Tony Blair wearing a poppy on US news in 2004, Slate magazine's Dan Kois also explains the emblem to Americans, saying the poppy permeates British culture:

"Explainer found that roughly one out of every four tube passengers sported the vibrant red flowers; Explainer even dropped a pound in a Royal British Legion collection box and wore a poppy in his lapel for the duration of his stay - it was the easiest way to be mistaken for a Brit."

Links in full

Jon Snow | Channel 4 News | Bonkers to be missing a money saving trickRoy Hattersley | Daily Mail | Does he know how offensive he’s being?Media Monkey | Guardian | Snow in the firing line over Poppy DayDan Bell | Guardian | Snow accuses Remembrance Day critics of 'poppy fascism'Jon Snow | Channel 4 Newsroom blog | Why I don't wear a poppy on airGuy Walters | Telegraph | Jon Snow is right – poppy fascism is getting out of hand Lauren Collins | New Yorker | View from Abroad: The Poppy IndexDan Kois | Slate | What's That Flower on Blair's Lapel?

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