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Nov 13 2012

WTF, UK, WTF?

A fellow ‘celebrated’ Remembrance Day (aka Armistice Day aka as the end of WWI) by burning a poppy, the symbol of the day, and posting a photo to facebook. This seems to be a free speech issue to me; aren’t we supposed to be allowed to harmlessly criticize practices and ideas? And being allowed to destroy a symbol that you own seems an entirely reasonable freedom. The UK police don’t think that way: the man has been arrested for making a “malicious communication”, whatever that is.

You know what this means? We’re all going to have to post that trivial photo of a burning poppy everywhere.

That’s at the very least. If you’ve got a box full of fake paper flowers and a flamethrower, you know what to do.

As long as you aren’t harming anyone, committing harassment, or otherwise forcing people to pay attention to your sacrilegious activities, you should be free to speak out and demonstrate against anything you object to. Dropping by the VFW and setting fire to their stock of poppies? No, arrest people who do that. Buying a poppy from the VFW, taking it home, and destroying it? You should have every right to do that.

I’m just curious — aren’t the British police going to be really busy this week, checking out everyone’s trash cans and arresting all the people who threw out the poppies they bought to celebrate Remembrance Day? Apparently, you’re supposed to preserve those things forever, and with great reverence.

163 comments

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  1. 1
    markr1957

    I am stealing your photo to post on my Facebook page – so friends and family in the UK will see it and hopefully pass it around.

  2. 2
    otranreg

    Is it just me, or this half-burnt poppy looks like an arse with a butt-plug inside?

  3. 3
    Synfandel

    I have a nit to pick.

    In the last few days, I’ve heard a lot about celebrating Remembrance Day, and yet I don’t know anyone who celebrated it. We observed it, solemnly and somberly, but I saw no celebration.

  4. 4
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Coming from the states to CanadiaLand, I’ve been impressed with quite a number of things. One thing that has me constantly concerned, however, is the clearly different standards of free expression in the commonwealth countries.

    Don’t get me wrong: there are many and severe limits on speech in the US. There are conspiracy laws which criminalize being in the room when a crime is being planned, there are defamation laws which empower private lawsuits, and there are pretextual time-place-manner restrictions that amount to (and were designed as) a curb on free expression.

    Nonetheless, there is simply a greater appreciation for the value of free expression in the US, and the (IMNSHO) fairly obvious conclusion that the solution to bad speech is more and better speech.

  5. 5
    grumpyoldfart

    I knew very few WWI veterans, but I did know many who fought in WWII and the way they talked, it sounded to me as if they were fighting for exactly that sort of freedom. The freedom to do your own thing without having the authorities jump on you when you did.

  6. 6
    george3

    According to the guardian, Kent police are using the 1988 Malicious Communications Act – designed for use against poison pen letters. Here in the UK we are still using pre internet laws to deal with social media. Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch appears to be on the case, so I don’t think the cops will get away with this one. G.

  7. 7
    Synfandel

    Playing devil’s advocate for the moment, I would note that the US is unique in its absolute and unequivocal commitment to freedom of expression, no matter how malicious or heinous. When an asshole is being an asshole in the US, they tell him that they will defend to the death his right to be continue being an asshole. In the rest of the world, we tell him to shut the f**k up. That’s why people like Terry Jones and Fred Phelps continue to piss in the pool in the US.

  8. 8
    campbellmcaulay

    “It’s only a poppy” (TM)

  9. 9
    wanstronian

    I was gobsmacked when I heard about this. It makes me ashamed of my nation’s ridiculous laws.

    I don’t know where I’d rather live – the UK which is practically a secular country, but with an official religion of Christianity built into the constitution and idiot nanny-state laws like this; or the US where the constitution is clear-cut but where everyone who can think for themselves has to fight against the self-righteous fuck-wittery of a majority of mentally ill religious fruitcakes.

    Fuck it – I’m off to Sweden.

  10. 10
    Inaji

    synfandel:

    In the rest of the world, we tell him to shut the f**k up.

    Arrest and prosecution are a far cry from a ‘shut the fuck up’. Why should someone burning a paper poppy matter? Most people would have been completely unaware of this person and their paper poppy, but you can be sure that the “asshole” in question will get plenty of attention now. That makes for a pretty ineffective ‘shut the fuck up’.

  11. 11
    Draken

    There are conspiracy laws which criminalize being in the room when a crime is being planned

    That pretty much excludes your presence in the Pentagon.

  12. 12
    alanbagain

    #Story PZM

    “Apparently, you’re supposed to preserve those things forever, and with great reverence.”

    Can you give a source?

    I am an Englishman, aged 67, and I’ve never heard this.
    I somewhat doubt it because the annual Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal relies on making poppies and distributing them for a donation left up to the recipient. They are aiming to raise £42M this year which will go towards their work supporting veterans (and their families). They wouldn’t want the same old poppy to be fished out every year!

    They become available generally around mid October and are worn up to mid November – the eleventh day of the eleventh month being the climax. After that they are disposed of but I know of no tradition of reverence to them. Wreathes of poppies are commonly laid at War Memorials and these are left longer.

    I cannot answer for the police action but Remembrance and Remembrance Day are taken seriously and anyone who publically defaces a War Memorial or wreathes of poppies lain at them could well be performing an action that could lead to a breach of the peace.

    In England and Wales, constables (or citizens) are permitted to arrest a person to “prevent a further breach of the peace” which allows for the police or the public to arrest a person before a breach of the peace has occurred. This is permitted when it is reasonable to believe should the person remain, that they would continue with their course of conduct and that a Breach of the Peace would occur.

    Wiki with a reference

    Whether or not social networking sites come into this is unclear (at least to me). I suspect he will get no more than some strong words from a Magistrate. (IANAL)

  13. 13
    dianne

    I would note that the US is unique in its absolute and unequivocal commitment to freedom of expression, no matter how malicious or heinous.

    Except, of course, when it’s not. There are restrictions on free expression in the US. Randomish example.

  14. 14
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought
    Apparently, you’re supposed to preserve those things forever, and with great reverence.

    Can you give a source?

    I believe that was sarcasm, alanbagain.

  15. 15
    Akira MacKenzie

    “Can you give a source?”

    I think PZ was being sarcastic, alanbagin.

  16. 16
    Inaji

    alanbagain:

    Can you give a source?

    You might want to check your sarcasm detector, it seems to be malfunctioning.

  17. 17
    thunderballs

    This is part of a worrying trend in the UK. What you post on social media is quite likely to get you in trouble. we have had a kid arrested for threatening Obama – apparently on the behest of the FBI via a website report – people locked up for inciting riots and offending the bereaved with tasteless pictures of polar bears to name a few.

    this week we have seen the BBC’s Newsnight program coming under more fire because they didn’t name a politician in connection with allegations of child abuse but viewers speculated and did name someone primarily via Twitter.

    There is a real movement to stop cyber bullying and only last night we were treated to another tale of a poor schoolgirl that was bullied for her looks and weight via her Facebook page (and in school)

    Whilst there are wide ranging issues in the mix here it is certainly the case that it feels like people are not being asked to take responsibility for how they process things and instead seemingly requiring the state to investigate and prosecute.

    In all likelihood this will all work itself out in the UK and we will hopefully see more about the prevailing view which is undoubtedly on the side of freedom of speech and people taking personal responsibility for what happens when they post or defend their lives on the Internet.

  18. 18
    donny5

    What hell are they protesting, that there is a day to honour veterns and sacrifice they made? The person who did this is ass but they also have every right to do it without the law getting involved and I also have the right to call them an ass.

    Rememberance Day is important to me here in Canada because I had family in the armer forces, in both wars. Maybe this person could have picked something else to better spend their time on.

    And no PZ, we don’t keep the poppies, we throw them out and buy a new one next year and the money goes to supporting the veterns. You don’t have to buy a poppy if you don’t want to, you don’t have to participate in activities to remember the vets, so if you don’t like it, bug off.

  19. 19
    Blondin

    Apparently, you’re supposed to preserve those things forever, and with great reverence.

    Well, they sure give me dirty looks when I tell them I don’t need to buy a poppy ’cause I’ve still got the one I bought 6 years ago.

  20. 20
    jamessweet

    It’s a cliche, but an apt one: Which is worse, torching a symbol that represents people fighting and dying for our freedoms? Or just torching the freedoms directly?

  21. 21
    george3

    I have heard it said by some conspiracy mongers that the police will sometimes use an out of date law such as this to put pressure on the DPP to hand out some realistic guidelines, or to hurry on pending leglislation. G.

  22. 22
    chrismorrow

    donny5:

    And no PZ, we don’t keep the poppies, we throw them out and buy a new one next year and the money goes to supporting the veterns.

    PZ’s point is: If it’s (apparently) illegal to burn the poppy, doesn’t that imply that the poppy is sacred enough to not be thrown out? Throwing it out is okay, burning it is not okay, something doesn’t add up. Or maybe there’s some sort of ritual way of throwing it out, equivalent to the ritual means of putting a communion wafer into the toilet?

    You don’t have to buy a poppy if you don’t want to, you don’t have to participate in activities to remember the vets, so if you don’t like it, bug off.

    Whether or not Remembrance Day is a good thing is largely beside the point, especially since any argument about this incident inciting violence is (I hope) very thin on evidence. If Glenn Beck were arrested for one of his stupid chalkboard presentations, we’d come to his defense about it but — get this — without thinking Glenn Beck has anything worthwhile to say.

  23. 23
    Dunc

    I’m just curious — aren’t the British police going to be really busy this week, checking out everyone’s trash cans and arresting all the people who threw out the poppies they bought to celebrate Remembrance Day? Apparently, you’re supposed to preserve those things forever, and with great reverence.

    No, and this just further highlights the absurdity of the situation – notice that he’s been arrested for “malicious communication“. It’s not the act of burning a poppy he’s been arrested for, it’s the act of posting a picture of it on the internet.

  24. 24
    chrismorrow

    Sarcasm alert.

    If burning poppies were legal, no one would bother, right? Therefore, only if it is illegal will it happen at all. Therefore, speaking practically rather than theoretically, it must remain illegal in order for people to maintain their free-speech right to burn poppies.

    (By extension, anything that would be dumb or pointless to do ought to be illegal.)

  25. 25
    gshelley

    Yeah, it’s malicious communication
    So, it is ok to throw the poppy in the trash, just not to post a video of yourself doing so, or a picture of it in the trash.
    Apparently,, though that might require more consistency than the police are going to show.

  26. 26
    dianne

    What hell are they protesting

    I’m not the one who did it, so I don’t know, but here are some guesses…

    1. They’re protesting the reverence of a senseless and destructive war.

    2. They’re protesting the fact that those who objected to the war were vilified and arrested.

    3. They’re protesting the elevation of the poppy, source of opium and addiction, to a symbol of national pride.

    4. They’re protesting the lack of free speech in Britain, as symbolized by the fact that you can’t burn a simple paper flower without everyone going apeshit.

    5. They’re protesting the continued tendency of the British government to get into stupid, aggressive wars.

    6. They’re protesting the misnomer of WWI as “the war to end all wars” when in fact it led directly to WWII (well, at least the extremely poor decisions made at Armistice did).

    7. They’re mourning the death of the last WWI veteran, symbolically sending the flower to Valhala to be with him. (Yes, that’s a theologically and probably politically confused statement. What do you want-I’m making these up in real time.)

    So, I came up with seven ideas for why one might want to burn a poppy besides sheer malice. Doesn’t that suggest that the arrest was a bit foolish?

  27. 27
    Gregory Greenwood

    There you go, America – proof positive that you haven’t cornered the market on foolish, reactionary laws and idiots in high office. We Brits also do a fine line in testerical fetishisation of such things as symbolic paper flowers.

    This is one of those (all too frequent) days when it is embarrassing to be a Limey.

  28. 28
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    proof positive that you haven’t cornered the market on foolish, reactionary laws and idiots in high office.

    Hooray?

  29. 29
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    anyone who publically defaces a War Memorial or wreathes of poppies lain at them could well be performing an action that could lead to a breach of the peace.

    Uh, yeah. That would be vandalism. How does this affect what you do with your own property?

  30. 30
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    What hell are they protesting, that there is a day to honour veterns and sacrifice they made?

    War, perhaps?

    (This has been today’s episode of Simple Answers to Simple Questions. Tune in tomorrow when we answer “where does babby come from?”.)

  31. 31
    Gregory Greenwood

    Naked Bunny with a Whip @ 28;

    Hooray?

    I thought the preferred expression of triumph in the US was a fratboy-esque repeating chant of “USA! USA! USA!”…

    At least we Brits have no real equivalent of that.

  32. 32
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    dianne

    Protesting something, given the caption the image was posted with. It was intended to offend.

  33. 33
    dianne

    Rhetorical question: If people can be incited to violence by simple, even banal actions such as not eating a communion wafer or burning one’s own poppy, is the problem with the people who performed the simple actions or with those who can be incited to violence on such flimsy grounds?

    When I lived in NYC, every 9/11 I saw people from probably well meaning idiots to Phelpsies standing around the WTC talking about the need to “restore Christianity” or “repent” or even just to pray in a Christian manner for the lost. On 9/11/04 and 9/11/08, politicians also came around and babbled on about tragedy and national unity with the intent to score political points. I didn’t like it-considered it tacky exploitation of a tragedy and a deep ignorance of who the people in the WTC were (a few were Christians, but others were atheists, Jews, Muslims, Shinto, etc.) Not to mention an insult to the religious beliefs of the survivors and surviving relatives of the dead. But if I’d actually attacked any of them, I think it would be me getting arrested for an act of violence, not them for “inciting violence.”

    TLDR version: The problem is people who can be incited to violence by disrespect to symbols, not those disrespecting symbols.

  34. 34
    Gregory Greenwood

    donny5 @ 18;

    What hell are they protesting…

    I know that several other commenters have already answered you, but I thought that I would couch my answer in the form of song for your greater illumination on the subject.

    Enjoy.

  35. 35
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    @Gregory Greenwood #31: Don’t tell me what I should do. We saved your butts in World War II, y’know.

    (How’s that?)

  36. 36
    dianne

    @32: The person involved sounds like a typical teenager trying to provoke a reaction from the “grownups”. He certainly succeeded.

  37. 37
    dianne

    We saved your butts in World War II, y’know.

    Don’t you mean, “We bought your butts in WWII”?

  38. 38
    Gregory Greenwood

    Naked Bunny with a Whip @ 35;

    Don’t tell me what I should do. We saved your butts in World War II, y’know.

    (How’s that?)

    Excellent, but you get even more bonus points if you mention the War of Independence and the evils of the Redcoats.

    Of course, you get all the bonus points if your sole source of information on the topic is the entirely historically accurate Mel Gibson film The Patriot

    ;-P

  39. 39
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Don’t you mean, “We bought your butts in WWII”?

    I’d only say that if I were flirting with Gregory.

  40. 40
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    We bought your butts in World War II, Gregory.

  41. 41
    notsont

    And this is where it leads. How far from this is it before saying or doing anything the majority doesn’t like is a a crime? The UK seems to be setting some pretty fucking awful precedents with their anti free speech laws.

  42. 42
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Speaking as a person from the country that gave you WWI AND WWII:
    What’s the sense in arresting somebody over that as long as he wasn’t lightening that poppy over a pile of highly inflamable stuff inside of a building with the intention to throw it down?
    Completely not even talking about the sense of charging somebody for that, it’s just fucked up to arrest somebody for a completely not violent crime.

  43. 43
    Dunc

    Giliel @42 – the “great” thing about arresting people for non-violent offences is that it allows the police to arbitrarily punish people for things that will never actually stand up in court. Although I wouldn’t want to place any bets on this not standing up in court, given some of the other absurdities that have…

  44. 44
    left0ver1under

    I’m not trying to claim prescience after the fact, but such an overreaction of anti-free speech fascism does not surprise. My parents were ex-li…uh, British expatriates, and when I was growing up any refusal to wear plastic “poppies” was met with slaps and other assaults upon myself and siblings. Speaking only from my experience, I’ve endured a lot of closed minded imbeciles (parents, teachers, neighbors, et al) who viewed any non-conformity around 11/11 as reason for “punishment” (read: abuse).

    An item appeared elsewhere on this topic in Canada:

    http://alturl.com/hm337

    Opting out of Remembrance Day a matter of ‘religious freedom’ says premier Greg Selinger

    Allowing students to opt out of Remembrance Day services is a matter of religious freedom, says Premier Greg Selinger.

    The premier said he believes an overwhelming majority of students and families wish to participate in ceremonies that honour and remember Canada’s war veterans every year. But he isn’t interested in forcing anyone who doesn’t want to be there to attend.

    “We have religious freedom in Canada and if there’s a very specific reason why people, for religious purposes, don’t want their children (to attend), that is an option that they have,” Selinger said, noting the province has mandated all schools hold Remembrance Day services on or before Nov. 11. “The overwhelming majority of our students will participate now that we require Remembrance Day services to be part of school activities.”

    One would hope that “religious freedom” applies to atheists not just “pacifist religions” (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

    I have never understood the fawning worship of militarism. Organized militaries have destroyed more personal freedoms than they have ever created. Soldiers are sometimes necessary, but not often, and they don’t deserve blind allegiance or adoration.

  45. 45
    chrispollard

    PZ – I find your comments offensive. Buying poppies is a way of raising money for veterans in the UK. There are no special protections for them. They do NO HARM to anybody. I’d suggest you butt out of other countries harmless traditions. Religion is not involved. Are you next going to complain about their lifeboat pins?

    Sometimes you get too far out there criticising peoples harmless activities.

  46. 46
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    chrispollard
    Nobody has anything against poppies and the selling thereoff.
    People here are opposed to locking folks up for burning one of the damn things.
    If they have no special protection, why punish a guy for burning it?

  47. 47
    Synfandel

    I have never understood the fawning worship of militarism.

    Remebrance Day is not about the worship of militarism, fawning or otherwise. It is a day that reminds us that a lot of people risked and lost everything they had and everything they would ever have so that we could be free of tyranny and oppression.

  48. 48
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Love the first comment at the article:

    Now you know where political correctness ends up.

    Right, because “PC” forces have long been known for their calls for the brutal suppression of challenges to the military and militarism.

    ***

    I recommend observing Armistice Day by reading To End All Wars.

  49. 49
    Emrysmyrddin

    Fucking hell. Fetishisation of the poppy is growing in this country at a rate of knots – possibly because people subconsciously/secretly feel that an army is meant primarily for defence, and ours are all off doing FSM-knows-what in FSM-knows-where for reasons most of us are not-too-sure-of and not-quite-comfortable-about?

    I refuse to wear one anyway – I’ll put money in the pot for all the old veterans, and the injured servicepeople coming back from engagements – that’s just compassion – but I won’t Proudly Display one. I’m not ‘proud’ of having an army – having an army is a necessary evil. I’m not ‘proud’ of the engagements in the Middle East. I’m not ‘proud’ that my government is sending people off to die. I will respect peoples’ choices to enter the military, but that doesn’t mean that I have to support the military complex.

    The poppy is a ‘harmless’ symbol only until it stops being harmless and starts being a fetish. This criminalisation of poppy-destruction is a result of fetishisation.

  50. 50
    Matt Penfold

    Giliel @42 – the “great” thing about arresting people for non-violent offences is that it allows the police to arbitrarily punish people for things that will never actually stand up in court. Although I wouldn’t want to place any bets on this not standing up in court, given some of the other absurdities that have…

    It also allows the police to question people with regards offences that will stand it up court.

  51. 51
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Matt

    It also allows the police to question people with regards offences that will stand it up court.

    You don’t need to arrest people for that. you kindly invite people to the police station and arrest them if they don’t show up.
    It’s absolutely not necessary to arrest them unless there’s a danger of them disappearing or causing harm

  52. 52
    dianne

    Speaking as a person from the country that gave you WWI AND WWII

    One thing I’ve always liked about Germany is a collective willingness to take responsibility for past national crimes, but I think you’re taking it a bit far to say that Germany was the country that brought us WWI. As far as I can tell (with only a US high school background in history), a lot of factors went into the creation of WWI and Germany only had a hand in some of them.

  53. 53
    left0ver1under

    donny5 (#18)

    You don’t have to buy a poppy if you don’t want to, you don’t have to participate in activities to remember the vets, so if you don’t like it, bug off.

    Many christians go around saying, “Nobody’s forcing you to participate in religion!” while at the same time harassing, intimidating, threatening and in some cases assaulting those who refused to participate.

    You sound just like the fervently religious, glad to get your way because you’re in the majority. The minority DO have a right to disagree, whether you like it or not. In claiming that Myers was “being offensive” you’re pretending to see something that wasn’t there.

  54. 54
    Matt Penfold

    You don’t need to arrest people for that. you kindly invite people to the police station and arrest them if they don’t show up.
    It’s absolutely not necessary to arrest them unless there’s a danger of them disappearing or causing harm

    That still counts an arrest. If an offence is not an arrestable one, you cannot be compelled to attend a police station for interview. In fact, the police in the UK are not allowed to interview a suspect without first arresting them.

    Arresting someone puts in place all kinds of legal safeguards that the police ignore at their peril.

  55. 55
    Gregory Greenwood

    @ Naked Bunny with a Whip;

    I’d only say that if I were flirting with Gregory…

    … We bought your butts in World War II, Gregory.

    *Blushes* Well I do declare… flattery will get you everywhere nowhere.

    I think I ought to inform you that my ‘butt’ is not for sale. It can, however, be wined and dined (well, not ‘wined’ per se – my butt, like the rest of me, is a teetotaler).

    Honestly, you colonials; such awful teases…

    ;-P

  56. 56
    Cynickal

    I’m amused by people who believe that WW1 was about FREEDOMZ!!!
    Also, Chris @45,reading comprehension Fail.

  57. 57
    dianne

    I refuse to wear one anyway

    I’ll wear poppies, periwinkles, mayapples, and yew needles in honor of plants that help us fight a real, largely unavoidable threat, not in remembrance of a threat that existed only because we, collectively, did not care to avoid it.

  58. 58
    Inaji

    chrispollard:

    PZ – I find your comments offensive. Buying poppies is a way of raising money for veterans in the UK. There are no special protections for them. They do NO HARM to anybody. I’d suggest you butt out of other countries harmless traditions.

    Goodness. You must specialize in missing the point, given how good at it you happen to be.

  59. 59
    imkindaokay

    My least favourite thing about this whole ordeal is that ‘you’d be in a fascist state if it weren’t for those soldiers!’ and ‘they died for your freedoms!’

    Well, no. It was a stupid pointless war based on nationalistic prides that didn’t really need to happen. Plus it was like 50 countries (including all the big ones) against 5. It didn’t need to happen. It was at a time where people were all still like woo yeah dulce et decorum est pro patria mori but then they realised that wasn’t really it.

    I don’t buy poppies, I don’t think I’ve ever bought one. Everyone always gets a bit haughty about it, but then their pseudo-emotion disappears and it’s fine. By buying a poppy before setting aflame to it, this man has done more for whatever charity it is than I’ve ever done.

  60. 60
    dianne

    My least favourite thing about this whole ordeal is that ‘you’d be in a fascist state if it weren’t for those soldiers!’ and ‘they died for your freedoms!’

    I think they’re conflating the two world wars. Certainly fascism wasn’t the governmental form in Germany or Austria during WWI. Monarchy and arguable dictatorship yes, fascism no. As a USian always hoping for the best from other countries, it’s sad to find out that there is such poor teaching of history in Britain too. Of course, the US is an ex-British colony so I suppose some cultural similarities are to be expected…

  61. 61
    Q.E.D

    UK politicians appear to have a deep seated concern for the feelings of people exposed to speech they feel is abusive or insulting.

    The Public Order Act (1986) makes it an offence to

    (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.’
    —Section 5, Public Order Act 1986

    It is stupid, overreaching, overbroad legislation with a callous disregard for free speech. Over teh summer, cops used it to tell a pensioner that he would have to take a sign down from the window of his own house that read “Religions are fairy tale for grownups” if anyone complained. The offence includes imprisonment up to 6 months.

    Article here but skip the first 2 paragraphs which are useless

  62. 62
    dianne

    displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.’

    That statement causes me alarm and distress. Judging by the post, it also causes PZ Myers alarm and distress. It also clearly causes a number of people commenting here, including some from the UK, alarm and distress. The authors of the Public Order Act are in violation of their own law. I look forward to hearing of their arrest.

  63. 63
    Matt Penfold

    PZ – I find your comments offensive. Buying poppies is a way of raising money for veterans in the UK. There are no special protections for them. They do NO HARM to anybody. I’d suggest you butt out of other countries harmless traditions. Religion is not involved. Are you next going to complain about their lifeboat pins?

    Sometimes you get too far out there criticising peoples harmless activities.

    Did an adult help you make such an idiot of yourself, or did you manage all on your own ?

  64. 64
    Gregory Greenwood

    chrispollard @ 45;

    PZ – I find your comments offensive.

    As is your right. Though we also have the right not to care about whether you are offended or not.

    Buying poppies is a way of raising money for veterans in the UK.

    I don’t recall PZ ever suggesting that poppies should not be sold for this purpose.

    There are no special protections for them.

    Odd then that the man in question was arrested for burning the poppy and posting an image of the act on line. Why, it is almost as if our government attaches a disproportionate level of importance to this particular type of paper flower. It could even be argued that it is somewhat akin to a ‘special protection’ not extended to paper petunias, daisys or roses…

    They do NO HARM to anybody.

    The poppies may not do direct harm (the arguments about the possible glorification of war to one side), but arresting someone for the notional ‘crime’ of burning a paper flower that they themselves own most certainly is harmful to the freedoms enjoyed by British citizens.

    I’d suggest you butt out of other countries harmless traditions.

    And I would suggest that it is not for you to tell PZ what he is entitled to comment upon.

    Religion is not involved.

    This blog is about broader issues than just religion. It also deals with social justicer issues, scientific research, and a deep and abiding love of cephalopods.

    Are you next going to complain about their lifeboat pins?

    Do you know what a non sequitur is? Because this is practically a textbook example of one…

    Sometimes you get too far out there criticising peoples harmless activities.

    Because the arrest of a person for the non-crime of burning a paper flower they own is completely harmless. Well, unless you take all this personal freedom and freedom of expression stuff seriously, that is…

  65. 65
    ajbjasus

    Police action is over the top, but this wasn’t a thoughtful protest against military action, as the picture was accompanied by the caption:

    “How about that you squadey ****s.”

    I can therefore understand why people who have lost relatives in action might be a touch upset.

    Has anybody heard about the white popy movement, by the way : coomemeorates armistaice day but also pleads for peace ?

  66. 66
    ajbjasus

    Whoops poppy and commemorates. Sorry

  67. 67
    michaelwarren

    As far as I can tell this was the work of a drunken idiot rather than someone intent on making any sort of political protest. The English Defence League ( a nasty bunch of right-wing thugs) are claiming credit for the arrest because their members complained to the police. The UK authorities have got this badly wrong and concerns for our freedom of speech are justified.

  68. 68
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I think I ought to inform you that my ‘butt’ is not for sale.

    Of course not, Gregory! That was simply my flirtatious opening salvo*, to demonstrate interest.

    *(As an American, everything I do must be described in terms of ordnance.)

  69. 69
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I’d suggest you butt out of other countries harmless traditions.

    You mean the harmless tradition of arresting people for posting pictures of themselves burning their own tiny paper flowers, I assume.

  70. 70
    Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    QED @ 61 has it right to one extent – public order legislation has been used on other protests and it is rather too vaguely worded – but the actual law used in this case is this one.

    To steal a tweet from @DavidAllenGreen (lawyer, defends free speech issues) “Dear idiots at @kent_police, burning a poppy may be obnoxious, but it is not a criminal offence. I hope http://bit.ly/TAlJHW is incorrect.”

  71. 71
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    The English Defence League ( a nasty bunch of right-wing thugs) are claiming credit for the arrest because their members complained to the police.

    Ah, yes – the PC police in action.

  72. 72
    Gregory Greenwood

    Naked Bunny with a Whip @ 68;

    Of course not, Gregory! That was simply my flirtatious opening salvo*, to demonstrate interest.

    *(As an American, everything I do must be described in terms of ordnance.)

    You charmer, with all your military metaphors. Doesn’t every guy/girl dream of having a potential relationship described in terms of heavy firepower intended to inflict mass, indiscriminate casualties…?

    Naturally my response, being a Brit, is to play up to the prudish ‘no sex please, we’re British’ stereotype (I know how you Americans just love that), while angling all the while for a nice meal at an expensive restaurant (French or Italian most likely – as a Brit I know how ropey British cuisine can be).

    What do you say to that, my little heavy artillery piece?

  73. 73
    franko

    WTF is the right question. I can’t believe the hypocrisy here. We British think of muslims who get upset about koran burnings and who applaud fatwahs against authors of anti-islamic books as lacking in some sort of intellectual quality. Then we arrest someone for posting a picture of a poppy burning?! What new level of intolerant insanity have we reached in this country?
    It’s fine to remember the colossal number of people who’ve given their lives fighting stupid wars over the years. It’s fine to raise money for charity by selling poppy emblems each year. And it’s equally fine for someone who disapproves of the UK’s current war efforts to burn poppies in protest, and to post pictures of themselves doing so.
    Just watch the BBC around this time of year to see poppy fanaticism gone to extremes. It seems no-one is allowed to appear unless they’re wearing one. Last Saturday’s edition of the widely popular celebrity ballroom dancing show even had girls wearing thin-strapped dresses with a bloody poppy attached to the straps.
    The poppy burning is the equivalent of PZ’s famous communion cracker eating. It harms no-one except those with sensibilities raised to islamic extremist proportions.

  74. 74
    Muz

    I heard a radio report just yesterday about how poppy wearing has become a nationalistic thing over there. They were interviewing a TV guy who doesn’t wear one, since it’s nobody’s business but his own which charities he supports etc, and he gets hate mail for it etc.
    The BBC apparently has a basket full of them in makeup so no one there forgets to wear one.

    Strange times.

  75. 75
    michaelwarren

    Jon Snow is the TV presenter who has spoken out against ‘poppy fascism’.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2010/nov/05/michael-white-poppy-white-feather

  76. 76
    Q.E.D

    When I moved to the UK 12 years ago I purchased and wore a poppy because it seemed like a local tradition and I want veterans and their families supported. And, as a new immigrant, wanted to fit in/be a good member of society.

    I stopped wearing one a few years ago. I still donate money but it just started feeling that the whole “poppy season” was getting oppressive. People wear them earlier and earlier, 2-3 weeks before remembrance day. As pointed out above every single TV personality wears one, like a uniform.

    I hate conformity for conformity’s sake and I get the feeling that this has a Nationalistic angle I don’t agree with. I certainly don’t want to be seen as supporting unnecessary wars.

  77. 77
    Genius Loci

    I have to say, having visited the Western Front and wandered through battlefields and cemeteries full of graves marked “A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR — KNOWN UNTO GOD,” some of which hold the remains of multiple bodies (they didn’t have DNA analysis back then, so they couldn’t sort out whatever body parts and bits of flesh they recovered after a particularly bad shell blast), I keep the paper poppy I got there in my jewelry box and bring it out every November 11. Not to celebrate militarism, but to remember the dead boys who thought they’d be home by Christmas 1914 after having had their chance to be in the “show” but wound up drowning in mud or choking on lungfuls of chlorine gas or dying of dysentery or gangrene in a field hospital or strewn all over no man’s land and buried in a foreign country in an anonymous grave. And so I winced when I saw that picture.

    Yeah, sure, freedom of speech. Mutilating a Star of David on Holocaust Remembrance Day and posting it all over Facebook (or reposting it everywhere just to make a juvenile point) is freedom of speech, too. Sure, it should be legal, but that doesn’t make it any less fucking rude.

  78. 78
    Emrysmyrddin

    Of course it’s rude. The point is that it shouldn’t be criminal.

  79. 79
    jackjesberger

    UK. Stop ruining the free speech progress in libel reform with fuck ups like this. You were doing so well.

  80. 80
    sonofrojblake

    I thought the preferred expression of triumph in the US was a fratboy-esque repeating chant of “USA! USA! USA!”…

    At least we Brits have no real equivalent of that.

    You’ve never heard football fans moving en masse through a city centre chanting “In-ger-land! In-ger-land!”? You’re lucky.

    The truly egregious comparison here is with events exactly two years ago. All this teenage moron did was post a photo and an abusive caption on Facebook, a stupid but probably not terribly thoughtful action.

    He didn’t gather three dozen supporters, go to Hyde Park on Armistice Day and, at the most critical moment of the most solemn secular ceremony in the British calendar, publicly burn the most potent symbol of remembrance of the dead of the two world wars while holding up signs mocking the memory of those who were killed. To do something like that, you need to be a particular kind of anti-social scum.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/07/muslim-extremist-fined-for-poppy-burning

    Protest against war by all means – two million of us marched in London to protest Bush’s war in Iraq, for all the good it did. But there’s a time and a place.

  81. 81
    Emrysmyrddin

    But there’s a time and a place.

    I’m really not sure that’s right. Someone’s always going to be offended somewhere, no matter what the cause and when. By that logic, every rights movement in history would have been shuffled off with a ‘not now, not yet’. Every cause, opinion and speech has a detractor somewhere.

  82. 82
    jnorris

    The police need to argue that the malicious communication is not against Remembrance Day. It is anti-responsible environmental action that is being communicated. Burning, not recycling or composting, the paper poppy adds carbon to the atmosphere and is malicious.

  83. 83
    Gregory Greenwood

    sonofrojblake @ 80;

    You’ve never heard football fans moving en masse through a city centre chanting “In-ger-land! In-ger-land!”? You’re lucky.

    I neither live in a city nor follow football, but I do see your point.

    ——————————————————————

    Emrysmyrddin @ 81

    I’m really not sure that’s right. Someone’s always going to be offended somewhere, no matter what the cause and when. By that logic, every rights movement in history would have been shuffled off with a ‘not now, not yet’. Every cause, opinion and speech has a detractor somewhere.

    QFT. There were any number of white people telling the organisers of the Civil Rights movement that the ‘time was not right’ and that they should just be patient and wait until society was ready for their message. Much the same was said to the Gay Rights and Gender Equality (not to mention Suffragette) movements as well.

    If such people had been listened to, then those movements would have acheived nothing whatsoever, and what social justice advances have been made over the course of the last century would have remained no more than idle fantasies.

  84. 84
    markr1957

    # 65 ajbjasus –

    “How about that you squadey ****s.”

    In the 11 years I served in the British Army I heard this kind of shit pretty much every day, usually from some drunk-ass civilian who hated the way his flabby ass stopped him from getting laid. I treated it like the sad and pathetic comment it was, worthy of nothing but contempt, but certainly not worth getting worked up about, and definitely not worth arresting anyone over.

    I re-posted the burning poppy photo to my Facebook page to make a point about free speech – maybe the Kent police will ask the FBI to have me arrested (since I live in the US now)….

  85. 85
    georgemartin

    Sunday at the Popehat blog,Ken made a sarcastic comment about this using the poem In Flanders Fields as his muse.

    http://www.popehat.com/2012/11/11/upon-hearing-of-the-arrest-of-a-kent-man-for-burning-a-poppy/

    Upon Hearing Of The Arrest Of A Kent Man For Burning A Poppy

    In Churchill’s realm the weaklings grow
    They report mean words, blow by blow
    to the police; and in the sky
    The cameras, for their safety, spy
    Scarce cared of by the men below.

    Go to the link above for the rest.

    George

  86. 86
    sonofrojblake

    Every cause, opinion and speech has a detractor somewhere

    It’s my opinion there’s a fire in this crowded theatre. Do I get to shout it without consequence?

  87. 87
    madscientist

    Eric Blair’s “Big Brother” was likely equally inspired by Joseph Stalin as it was by the British government. There’s nothing new here … unfortunately. Now to go burn some paper flowers …

  88. 88
    Nick Gotts

    Remebrance Day is not about the worship of militarism, fawning or otherwise. – synfandel

    Oh yes it is. I stopped buying the poppy in 1982, when Remembrance Day was turned into a celebration of the Falklands War.

    PZ – I find your comments offensive. – Chris Pollard

    Chris Pollard, I find your comments offensive.

    The Malicious Communications Act, which predates the internet, was supposed to be about “poison pen letters”. It would be reasonable to use it against internet harassment, but this is a gross abuse. I hope, and think, this case will be thrown out if it comes to court, but it’s already a ludicrous and alarming misuse of police power.

  89. 89
    Nick Gotts

    Eric Blair’s “Big Brother” was likely equally inspired by Joseph Stalin as it was by the British government. – madscientist

    I believe George Orwell (use the name he chose to use FFS, calling him “Eric Blair” is just pretentious) is reported to have said it was partly inspired by his time working for the BBc [sic] during WWII.

    I’m thinking I might have to get a blog or a Facebook page just to repost the image.

  90. 90
    Nick Gotts

    “How about that you squadey ****s.” – ajbjasus

    Were the asterisks in the original, do you know?

  91. 91
    Rutee Katreya

    To do something like that, you need to be a particular kind of anti-social scum.

    Yeah, the anti-social asshole is the one protesting stupid wars, not the people blithely allowing it.

    For fuck’s sake.

    Remebrance Day is not about the worship of militarism, fawning or otherwise. – synfandel

    If you brits pulled that off, more power to you, but I’m leery given Veterans DAy here.

    . It is a day that reminds us that a lot of people risked and lost everything they had and everything they would ever have so that we could be free of tyranny and oppression.

    Apparently my skepticism is correct.

  92. 92
    chrismorrow

    At least in the USA, remembrance of veterans very quickly turns into “Yay war!” And when it’s done properly, ie, with a message of “This was a fucking tragedy”, then people go nuts, as they did about the Vietnam Memorial’s lack of triumphalism. At some level, it’s almost like the logic is: “We salute and respect veterans. Veterans = good, worthy people. Therefore, we’d better keep making more of them.”

  93. 93
    Richard Smith

    Regarding WTF moments with poppies, about ten years ago the Royal Canadian Legion marketed a white plush puppy with poppies printed all over it. A lot of people were upset about it being “disrespectful.” I just couldn’t get over the idea that nobody else seemed to notice that all those poppies looked like bullet holes, making the puppy look like a victim of machine-gun fire. Certainly a graphic reminder of the realities of war, but probably not their intended message.

  94. 94
    Emrysmyrddin

    It’s my opinion there’s a fire in this crowded theatre. Do I get to shout it without consequence?

    Shouting fire in a theatre means that other people hurt themselves accidentally. Burning a poppy would – what? Cause angry people to hurt other people on purpose? Can you not see the difference? Because I’m honestly confused by your analogy.

  95. 95
    Emrysmyrddin

    chrismorrow, @92: I worry that this mindset is slowly encroaching in the UK, too. It makes me very bloody nervous, actually.

  96. 96
    zmidponk

    I’m no lawyer, but examining the Malicious Communications Act, it says that this covers anything that a person sends to another person. Posting something on Twitter is not sending it to another person. Therefore, this act, from what I can see, has not been violated. So I have no idea what the fuck the police are doing arresting this guy.

  97. 97
    davem

    I stopped wearing one a few years ago. I still donate money but it just started feeling that the whole “poppy season” was getting oppressive.

    Hear, hear! I’ve stopped wearing one too. Everyone on the BBC has been wearing the damned things for a month now. Back in the day, you wore it on the week preceding Nov 11th. The BBC obviously have a supply of poppies to hand out to anyone they interview. During the US elections, they even had US politicians interviewed inside the USA wearing them.

    It IS political correctness, not remembrance. If you want remembrance, go to the cemeteries that plaster the killing fields of Flanders. Read the names, and especially the ages of the poor bastards listed on the hundreds of thousands of gravestones. All of whom who were pointlessly killed to satisfy some pompous politician, or some even more pompous Royal arsehole. As the saying goes, ‘Lions led by donkeys’.

    If you can do that without shedding tears, and without being intensely angry, you are seriously lacking something. I say, rather than arrest the arsehole who posted the picture, send him to the battlefields of the Somme.

  98. 98
    Rob

    In New Zealand and Australia Armistice Day tends to go by without too much comment, although I’m sure there is some sort of official ceremony somewhere. Our main day of remembrance is ANZAC Day (25th April). For those who don’t know ANZAC is Australia New Zealand Army Corp. It’s a pretty solemn day as we are essentially remembering getting our buts well and truly kicked in Gallipoli. There have been lots of histories written about Gallipoli from many different perspectives. Suffice to say it was carnage and slaughter of the highest order for months. Every year the Turks still go out and collect bones exposed by the winter rain.

    If you can track down a copy I highly recommend Maurice Shadbolt’s ‘Voices of Gallipoli’ (http://www.amazon.com/Voices-Gallipoli-Maurice-Shadbolt/dp/0340431369/). A library is your best bet. It is a mix of interviews with surviving veterans, many within weeks of their deaths, many never having spoken to anyone about this before; and excerpts from Diaries.

    I read this annually as my personal act of remembrance and as a reminder of the reality of war. I do not attend public ceremonies any more because in recent years as they have experienced a resurgence they have become increasingly religious and about the ‘glory of war’. The religion is bad enough (and rare here) but the mealy mouthed bullshit about war made me both furious and physically sick.

    Personally I have no problem with flag burning – it’s a piece of coloured cloth and represents nothing about how I feel about my Country. Burn it or worship it I find both acts meaningless.

    Burning poppies? Well to burn one he had to buy one, so he supported the RSA in just as practical a manner as anyone else. I suspect he could have been somewhat more nuanced about the meaning of his protest and that would have avoided a lot of unnecessary offence. That said a healthy society can stand some robust and at times unpleasant debate.

  99. 99
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    dianne @26:
    You’re totes awesome for that!

  100. 100
    Koshka

    Rob,

    In New Zealand and Australia Armistice Day tends to go by without too much comment, although I’m sure there is some sort of official ceremony somewhere.

    There was certainly ceremony here in Australia. And in my opinion a lot of glorification of war. Media kept referring to “9 new names added to the honour board” and I found the way they reported it to be offensive. What they meant was that 9 Australians have been killed in wars in the past year leaving people without fathers, sons etc. Yet as a country we continue to generally not give a shit about our veterans who come home and struggle to live.

    I also find the Australian obsession with ANZAC day and Gallipoli to be glorification of war. I learnt in school about how 9,000 Australians died at Gallipoli and how much of a sacrifice they made for their country. It was only later that I learnt that somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 turks died there. Didn’t teach that in Australian schools in the 1970s. And according to my daughter still don’t teach that. Also don’t teach that we were actually trying to invade their country. Only some nonsense about how ‘we’ were fighting for freedom.

  101. 101
    DLC

    When they came for my poppy, there was no one left but me. . .

    (next up, my own rendition of the Dumbass on a rooftop during a flood joke)

  102. 102
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    chirspollard @45:

    PZ – I find your comments offensive. Buying poppies is a way of raising money for veterans in the UK. There are no special protections for them. They do NO HARM to anybody. I’d suggest you butt out of other countries harmless traditions. Religion is not involved. Are you next going to complain about their lifeboat pins?

    Sometimes you get too far out there criticising peoples harmless activities.

    Did you read what PZ wrote?
    Did you read the linked article?

    He’s criticizing the arrest of someone for posting an image of a poppy being burned. It’s absurd to arrest someone for such a non criminal act. Is it offensive to some? Perhaps. Is that enough to justify calling it a crime and arresting someone when they’ve done no demonstrable harm to another individual?
    No. It’s not.

  103. 103
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Gregory Greenwood @64:

    It also deals with social justicer issues, scientific research, and a deep and abiding love of cephalopods.

    [my emphasis]
    Yeah, I know.
    The one thing keeping this blog from being perfect.
    Ah well.

  104. 104
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Gregory Greenwood:

    What do you say to that, my little heavy artillery piece?

    Here in the States, we manly men name our penii heavy artillery pieces

  105. 105
    Marc Abian

    Synfandel

    It is a day that reminds us that a lot of people risked and lost everything they had and everything they would ever have so that we could be free of tyranny and oppression.

    In WWI Britain fought against tyranny and oppression? How exactly?

    geniusloci

    I keep the paper poppy I got there in my jewelry box and bring it out every November 11. Not to celebrate militarism, but to remember the dead boys who thought they’d be home by Christmas 1914 after having had their chance to be in the “show” but wound up drowning in mud or choking on lungfuls of chlorine gas or dying of dysentery or gangrene in a field hospital or strewn all over no man’s land and buried in a foreign country in an anonymous grave. And so I winced when I saw that picture.

    What do you mean remember them? DO you just take some time out to be sad about it? What good is remembering them?

    zmidponk

    Posting something on Twitter is not sending it to another person. Therefore, this act, from what I can see, has not been violated.

    I think posting on twitter is sending it to another person. It was a question which arose in the Twitter joke trial IIRC, though IANAL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter_Joke_Trial

    Markr1957

    In the 11 years I served in the British Army I heard this kind of shit pretty much every day, usually from some drunk-ass civilian who hated the way his flabby ass stopped him from getting laid.

    Yeah lol, and then he couldn’t get all the high fives from the bros for getting mad pussy yo’.

  106. 106
    Matt Penfold

    In WWI Britain fought against tyranny and oppression? How exactly?

    Are you being serious ?

  107. 107
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Matt
    Ahh, different legal systems again.
    Actually, in Germany arrests are rare unless we’re talking about yeah, caught in the act for something relatively serious or when there’s a danger that you might disappear or something like that.
    That’s why I’m always flabberghasted to hear about people being arrested over shit like that.

  108. 108
    Rutee Katreya

    My memory isn’t the greatest, but at the peace table, what I remember best of the Brits was transferring colony ownership, aside from dismantling Germany. They did free Poland, so there’s that at least.

  109. 109
    Marc Abian

    Matt Penfold

    Are you being serious?

    Afraid so.

  110. 110
    Matt Penfold

    Afraid so.

    How odd.

    Is there some reason your knowledge of Europe pre the First World War is so lacking ?

    Do you want some book recommendations ?

  111. 111
    Rob

    Koshka @100

    I also find the Australian obsession with ANZAC day and Gallipoli to be glorification of war. I learnt in school about how 9,000 Australians died at Gallipoli and how much of a sacrifice they made for their country. It was only later that I learnt that somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 turks died there. Didn’t teach that in Australian schools in the 1970s. And according to my daughter still don’t teach that. Also don’t teach that we were actually trying to invade their country. Only some nonsense about how ‘we’ were fighting for freedom.

    I’ve never attended such ceremonies in Australia, but in general I tend to find modern Australia much closer to an American mindset than an English one. As a result I’m not surprised by your comment about glorification of war. As I said in recent years that has also become more pronounced here.

    Yes we were invading another country, albeit at the behest of the mother empire. Hardly our finest hour it has to be said. Given the slaughter I think the Turkish people have been remarkably big about the whole thing. They have historically recognised that there was great grief on both sides. You may be familiar with the words of Kemal Attaturk:

    Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now living in the soil of a friendly country therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

    That quote appears on memorials in ANZAC Cove (Turkey), Canberra and Wellington. The best thing to come out of Gallipoli is that countries can be united by the grief and horror of war. We should reflect on that, rather than glory and splendour before contemplating the next war and ask ourselves if war is really our only option.

  112. 112
    Marc Abian

    I’d happily take a short summary, and some links to a wikipedia article, or even a few terms to google.

  113. 113
    John Morales

    [meta]

    Marc, how hard is it for you to take a look for yourself?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_World_War_I

  114. 114
    Matt Penfold

    I’d happily take a short summary, and some links to a wikipedia article, or even a few terms to google.

    It is a very complex issue. You need to go back to 1871. You also need to look at the political situations in the Central Powers compared to the Entente Powers, because they were not similar.

  115. 115
    Matt Penfold

    If you want to know more, try Huw Stachan’s The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms. He makes a very good case that the First World War was a war of ideologies, essentially between liberal democracies, and authoritarian semi-democracies.

  116. 116
    alektorophile

    @104
    My Latin is a bit rusty, but shouldn’t that be “penes”?

    @106 etc.
    I must admit I see Marc’s point, I think. Not sure that Kaiser Bill’s Germany was the worst as far as European states were concerned, and Britain was like everybody else in it to preserve and extend influence, power, and colonial possessions.

  117. 117
    Matt Penfold

    I must admit I see Marc’s point, I think. Not sure that Kaiser Bill’s Germany was the worst as far as European states were concerned, and Britain was like everybody else in it to preserve and extend influence, power, and colonial possessions.

    Why has everyone forgotten the Austro-Hungarian Empire ?

    And to be honest, it was a question born of ignorance.

  118. 118
    katansi

    I really don’t personally care about this but defining “harming anyone” is quite hard. It’s like taking a piss on a yellow “support the troops” ribbon. Sure, physically nothing done but possible psychological harm. I wouldn’t put it on the level of racial or homophobic slurs but the harm aspect can be argued from a mental standpoint. Though I’m not sure if there’s even any veterans of WWI alive to complain in Britain.

  119. 119
    Sili

    7. They’re mourning the death of the last WWI veteran, symbolically sending the flower to Valhala to be with him. (Yes, that’s a theologically and probably politically confused statement. What do you want-I’m making these up in real time.)

    her

  120. 120
    Rutee Katreya

    Why has everyone forgotten the Austro-Hungarian Empire ?

    Because they were the junior partner, more or less? I mean, not to the level of the Ottomans, but…

    And to be honest, it was a question born of ignorance.

    I dunno. Where was Britain’s fighting to end tyranny when Ho Chi Minh wanted freedom for his people, for instance?

    They clearly did more than nothing, but I’d be deeply surprised if even still, the brits don’t oversell how wonderful they were in the past. Granted, my perspective is as a Meriken, where we haven’t stopped that at all.

  121. 121
    Marc Abian

    Morales

    Marc, how hard is it for you to take a look for yourself?

    Very hard apparently, as I find nothing even in that article you linked to support the claim made.

    Matt

    If you want to know more, try Huw Stachan’s The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms. He makes a very good case that the First World War was a war of ideologies, essentially between liberal democracies, and authoritarian semi-democracies.

    The narrative that Britain was in WW1 to fight against tyranny and oppression is rather at odds with my impression (e.g. the first use of the concentration camp was by Britain during the Boer war just a few years before WW1, it is pretty well accepted that Britain agreed a pact with France because it felt threatened by the prospect of Germany controlling the Channel), but thanks for that recommend, I will read it.

  122. 122
    Gregory Greenwood

    @ Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze–;

    Yeah, I know.
    The one thing keeping this blog from being perfect.
    Ah well.

    Thems be fightin’ words…

    Here in the States, we manly men name our penii heavy artillery pieces…

    Now, why doesn’t that surprise me? Not that we blokes are obsessed with our penes, no siree…

    One more to add to the list of funny nick-names us man-types give to our little fellas.

  123. 123
    alektorophile

    I am also a bit sceptical whenever I hear simplistic claims of past wars as fights against oppression and tyranny. Let us not forget that at that same time Britain was also fighting FOR the oppression of its colonies, including Ireland next door. And weren’t most of the notorious Black and Tans some of those same celebrated British WWI veterans?

  124. 124
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    dianne

    The person involved sounds like a typical teenager trying to provoke a reaction from the “grownups”. He certainly succeeded.

    Indeed.

    left0ver1under

    …when I was growing up any refusal to wear plastic “poppies” was met with slaps and other assaults upon myself and siblings. Speaking only from my experience, I’ve endured a lot of closed minded imbeciles (parents, teachers, neighbors, et al) who viewed any non-conformity around 11/11 as reason for “punishment” (read: abuse).

    This is what happens when those observing Remembrance Day make it about them, and not about the sacrifices of soldiers or the end of the war, which have simply become pretexts for the sort who get oh so offended. You’re violating their group tradition and being all Other. This happens with all sorts of things.

    dianne

    As far as I can tell (with only a US high school background in history), a lot of factors went into the creation of WWI and Germany only had a hand in some of them.

    Not the least of which was everyone just spoiling for a fight. A good old-fashioned European war, which turned out to be not so old-fashioned after all.

    ajbjasus

    I can therefore understand why people who have lost relatives in action might be a touch upset.

    Of course we can understand people being upset. This is hardly in question.

    Also:

    this wasn’t a thoughtful protest

    and
    michaelwarren

    As far as I can tell this was the work of a drunken idiot rather than someone intent on making any sort of political protest.

    Irrelevant.

    geniusloci

    Sure, it should be legal, but that doesn’t make it any less fucking rude.

    So? Who said it wasn’t rude? Being rude in return or shaming are also perfectly legal.

    Nick Gotts (formerly KG)

    Were the asterisks in the original, do you know?

    No, they weren’t.

  125. 125
    d.f.manno

    @ george3 (#6):

    … so I don’t think the cops will get away with this one.

    They already have:

    Muslim extremist fined £50 for burning poppies on Remembrance Day

  126. 126
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    I also find the Australian obsession with ANZAC day and Gallipoli to be glorification of war. I learnt in school about how 9,000 Australians died at Gallipoli and how much of a sacrifice they made for their country. It was only later that I learnt that somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 turks died there. Didn’t teach that in Australian schools in the 1970s. And according to my daughter still don’t teach that. Also don’t teach that we were actually trying to invade their country. Only some nonsense about how ‘we’ were fighting for freedom.

    This should be the anthem of 11/11. And not just in Australia.

  127. 127
    Ingdigo Jump

    Remebrance Day is not about the worship of militarism, fawning or otherwise. It is a day that reminds us that a lot of people risked and lost everything they had and everything they would ever have so that we could be free of tyranny and oppression.

    ….Wow….just…WOW

  128. 128
    Jafafa Hots

    I was gonna suggest that maybe burning it is illegal because it’s made from hemp paper, but then I remembered it’s supposed to be a POPPY and some kind of recursive meta-ness displosion wiped my memory.

    I wonder what happens if you burn a picture of Mohammed smoking a joint and waving a US flag?

  129. 129
    Jafafa Hots

    It was only later that I learnt that somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 turks died there. Didn’t teach that in Australian schools in the 1970s. And according to my daughter still don’t teach that.

    We were taught in school that Vietnam was the first war the US ever lost, and that the war of 1812 was all about the US defending itself successfully from a Britain that wanted to retake the US.

    No mention of the US politicians who pushed for the invasion of Canada, or how we got our asses handed to us for trying that.

    And no mention when we were taught about “manifest destiny” that when the phrase was first coined it was meant to also (if not primarily) include taking Canada. Nope, we were taught it just meant getting the rest of what is now the US.

    No mention of the Mexican-American war at all. None. We did learn about the Alamo, where for some strange reason Mexico decided to invade the US but we beat them back. And then we founded some new states west of Texas because they were empty and nobody wanted them until the Mormons decided they liked the climate.

    Indians sometimes killed innocent women and children for no reason, apparently because some damned fool gave them some liquor or tried to get them to wear clothes or something.

  130. 130
    chigau (違う)

    ANZAC Day also serves to remind Colonials™ to NOT have upperclass britishtwits as Generals.
    We can home-grow them, thankyouverymuch.

  131. 131
    Jafafa Hots

    During the US elections, they even had US politicians interviewed inside the USA wearing them. It IS political correctness, not remembrance.

    This week’s QI or HIGNFY or whatever had everyone wearing them as usual, including Harry Shearer.

    I watched the whole show wondering just what would happen to an American (or anyone else for that matter) who just plain refused. Would that person be disinvited from appearing on the show? If not, would there be a furor in the press or anything?

    (My guess is they simply would either not get on the show, or never again be invited to be on a UK show, at least not during Dismemberment month.)

  132. 132
    Jafafa Hots

    Protest against war by all means… But there’s a time and a place.

    Yeah.
    Every time and every place.

    Do NOT hold your protests in any place where someone who disagrees with your protest might notice it!

  133. 133
    Rob

    chigau (棒や石)

    ANZAC Day also serves to remind Colonials™ to NOT have upperclass britishtwits as Generals.
    We can home-grow them, thankyouverymuch.

    Indeed, but I wasn’t going to (re)open a war on that front, er so to speak. Some of the English at least get terribly snippy about it. Best to just try and chalk up a few more lessons from the whole mess and move on.

    This is of course one of the reasons that some claim Gallipoli was a seminal moment in the birth of a New Zealand identity. Realizing for the first time that the Mother Country was not infallible and did not necessarily have ‘our’ best interests at heart, or indeed even treat our soldiers lives with respect. No reason why they would treat our soldiers lives with respect of course. They didn’t treat their own soldiers lives with respect.

  134. 134
    sonofrojblake

    @Jafafa Hots:

    Do NOT hold your protests in any place where someone who disagrees with your protest might notice it!

    Didn’t mean that. And you know it.

    You’re taking the Westboro Baptist approach to protest – choose the absolutely most egregious and offensive place and time to protest, and do so in the most upsetting and disrespectful way possible so as to cause maximum pain and suffering to the living grieving relatives of people who are dead.

    Bravo your commitment to free speech without limit.

    How about you have to watch while I evacuate my bowels onto the recently filled grave of someone you loved, in “protest” about something they did at some point before their death? Most people I know would think I should probably be restrained from doing something like that, but if you think that’s something I should be permitted to do, I find I simply can’t agree with you.

  135. 135
    billyeager

    @131 Jafafa

    what would happen to an American (or anyone else for that matter) who just plain refused.

    This:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6134906.stm
    Friday, 10 November 2006
    Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow has sparked controversy by refusing to wear a Remembrance Day poppy on air in protest at “poppy fascism”.

  136. 136
    jonmilne

    There’s an excellent article in the Guardian with regards to how he quite simply cannot support Remembrance Sunday. Speaking as someone who does support raising money for war veterans, I do nonetheless pretty much agree with everything the guy has to say:

    At the age of 16, I joined the Royal Artillery and served for five years. When asked what my religion was I replied that I didn’t really have one and the recruiting sergeant said “OK, C of E then.” There didn’t seem to be any other choice on the form. I was stationed in Germany for three of those five years (which is why I am a German lecturer now) and the only time I saw action was from the comfort of my barrack room when the IRA came on one of their away fixtures to Dortmund and bombed us out of our beds at four in the morning. The only damage was to the officers’ mess and their Mercedes and BMWs parked outside and the simmering class war between soldiers and officers, which characterises the British Army, came quickly to the fore as we smirked silently to ourselves and looked down at our boots.

    These were also the years in which I became politicised and in which that casual English absence of real religious faith hardened into an atheism fuelled by compulsory padre’s hours in which we were lectured to by a man standing behind a lectern with the cross of Christ superimposed over an image of one of the three nuclear-capable self-propelled howitzers which stood outside our block and which someone – probably the padre, who by then had started to call me “The Commissar” – had thought would be a great idea to call Faith, Hope and Charity.

    But despite having served in the army I can’t bring myself to support Remembrance Sunday because behind the facade of concern and mourning for the hundreds of thousands of dead, there is actually a militarisation and sanctification by church, state and monarchy which allows us to actually forget that war is a highly political act carried out for highly political aims not usually in the interests of those who suffer most from its consequences.

    Lest We Forget actually means precisely that we should forget about the causes of conflict – which are always apparently far too complex for mere mortals to fathom – and about the inter-imperialist rivalry which saw those lads taken from the countryside and towns across Europe and used as expendable cannon fodder against each other; about the fact that we still send those same working-class lads from unemployment black spots off to fight in unwinnable and even illegal wars in the interests of the rich and powerful. The parade of warmongering politicians in their Sunday best bowing their heads in prayer and wearing their poppies with pride this weekend should be enough to politicise anyone, I would have thought.

    However, the question of what an atheist is to make of Remembrance Sunday and the state-church-monarchy phalanx behind which it is celebrated is one which can only be answered in the usual way: it depends on what sort of atheist one is. If anything, Remembrance Sunday is proof of the statement that there is no such thing as a single identifiable group called atheists.

    For most of us – apart from the obsessives – our atheism is a secondary quality. If you are an atheist who is also an anti-imperialist or a pacifist or a Guardian liberal then you will probably not only not have much time for the commemorations, but will be actively against it or will wear your white poppy (do they even exist any more?) instead of the ubiquitous and increasingly compulsory red one. If you are a Marxist atheist you will see the whole thing as a way of occluding the old adage from the first world war that a bayonet is simply a weapon with a worker at each end. If, on the other hand, you are a patriot who happens not to believe in God you will probably join in the parades or watch on with pride.

    The British Humanist Association wishes to associate itself with the commemoration and that is fine if it is really what all of its members want. Personally, my humanism makes me want to protect humanity from war rather than revel in it in the name of solemn remembrance, but then, I am not that sort of atheist and I don’t represent anyone.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/nov/11/remembrance-sunday-atheist

  137. 137
    im

    What was he even tyring to say by burning the poppy?

  138. 138
    Emrysmyrddin

    Thanks for that, jonmilne, great article.

  139. 139
    Nick Gotts

    If you want to know more, try Huw Stachan’s The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms. He makes a very good case that the First World War was a war of ideologies, essentially between liberal democracies, and authoritarian semi-democracies. – Matt Penfold

    I haven’t read that, but I can’t see it would be an easy case to make:
    1) None of the states involved were full democracies: for a start, in none of them did women have the right to vote, and all (except Russia and Austria-Hungary I think) had colonial empires whose inhabitants had no right to vote.
    2) All of the main participants had some sort of parliamentary assembly, but the Russian Empire was perhaps the most autocratic. It is true that these assemblies had most power in the other main Allies: USA, Britain, France, Italy, Belgium; but I’d say it was more like a war between partial democracies, with both the most and least democratic on the Allied side, at least until 1917.
    3) Among the Allies France, Britain, Italy, Russia, Japan, Serbia, Romania, Belgium – i.e. just about all of them except the USA* – had expansionist war aims, which were partially realized. So if it was about ideologies, it was also about territory, on both sides.

    A net effect of the war was certainly to advance liberal democracy, at least temporarily, but this was in part due to the fact that Russia was among the defeated as well as the Central Powers. That was how Poland and the Baltic states gained independence – which was not an Allied war aim. It is worth asking, as Orwell did in expressing his retrospective support for it: “What would have happened if Germany had won?”. In the short to medium term, obviously, a German-dominated Europe and a reinforcement of authoritarian systems.

    * In WWI the British Empire Dominions – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa – had no choice about taking part: Britain’s declaration of war automatically committed them. The 1931 Statute of Westminster gave them control of their own foreign policy.

  140. 140
    Nick Gotts

    d.f.manno@125,

    Different law, different situation.

  141. 141
    alanbagain

    #Back in the teens – after I logged off for the night

    “Sarcasm”. Ok, if you say so, but sometimes sarcasm can be so like reality that when the boss said

    “I’m just curious …”

    I took him at face value and wondered where he had got the idea of reverential storage of a paper Remembrance poppy.

    I personally love the /sarc tag because otherwise you can never be sure when someone is writing tongue in cheek.

  142. 142
    sonofrojblake

    What was he even tyring to say by burning the poppy?

    If his illiterate scribblings below it are to be taken at face value (and I judge him to lack the wit for anything subtle), then what he was trying to say was “I hate soldiers, me”. Nothing more nuanced than that. He sees soldiers, people doing a hard, mostly thankless job for very little money, getting one day a year where they get some approbation instead of opprobrium for a change, and he can’t stand it and wants everyone to know. Well, now we do. I wonder if he’s happy now.

    I’m the kind of atheist that, yes, sees a bayonet as a weapon with a worker at both ends, and who chooses to see past the political complexities to the millions of human tragedies the poppies represent. The armed forces always have and likely always will offer one of the few reliable routes out of working class poverty for those who have no other opportunities. These people were and are manipulated by the system into putting their lives on the line, either as conscripts or volunteers. To begrudge them respectful remembrance seems to me to require a particularly heartless, churlish and above all dehumanising commitment to a political position. Have contempt for and take vocal issue with the politicians that put them in harm’s way the other 364 days of the year by all means, but on remembrance day take a moment to mourn the victims, in uniform and out of it.

    “Lest we forget”, in my mind at least, means “lest we ever do this again”.

    For information, the last surviving veteran of WW1 in the UK died this year, in February.

  143. 143
    alanbagain

    #26

    I’m not convinced this spotty teen was protesting anything.
    He is reported to have been drunk.
    End of.

  144. 144
    Red-Green in Blue

    geniusloci,

    Yeah, sure, freedom of speech. Mutilating a Star of David on Holocaust Remembrance Day and posting it all over Facebook (or reposting it everywhere just to make a juvenile point) is freedom of speech, too. Sure, it should be legal, but that doesn’t make it any less fucking rude.

    Holocaust Remembrance Day = remembering the victims of state-sponsored demonisation of religious and ethnic minorities and social out-groups.

    Remembrance Day (11th November one) = remembering the combatants of two world wars and the UK’s subsequent military escapades with extensive military pageantry and symbolism. Hardly any mention of the fact that the first was utterly futile and callously mismanaged by an incompetent aristocratic class, the second would never have happened but for the economic collective punishment of the German population that was the Versailles Treaty, and the rest were mostly ill-advised military interventions for geopolitical motives. Hardly any mention of the fact that the government sees fit to throw public money at waging war, sending young people inexperienced in life to die in the process despite huge public opposition, but not to spend the far smaller amount that would be necessary to properly fund treatment and rehabilitation of wounded and former service members, instead expecting charities to pick up the tab.

    Big difference. And when I don’t get snide comments or outright hostility for wearing a white poppy, which truly symbolises the desire for peace and non-violence and the remembrance of the civilian casualties of war, then I’ll believe that Remembrance Day isn’t just an exercise in socially-required jingoism.

    PS. The best way to commemorate Remembrance Day would be for all schoolchildren to have the chance to properly explore the causes of war – expansionism and colonialism, ethnic or religious hatred, economic collapses, resource scarcity – and its dire consequences. But that, unlike the jingoism of Remembrance Day parades, would probably be attacked as leftist indoctrination…

  145. 145
    sonofrojblake

    Remembrance Day (11th November one) = remembering the combatants of two world wars

    Conscripted combatants = victims.
    Uneducated, propagandized “volunteers” = victims.

    We cling desperately to the idea that we were fighting tyranny or oppression or whatever but we do know the truth – that it’s mostly sheer bloody pointless slaughter.

    The best way to commemorate Remembrance Day would be to show all schoolchildren the last episode of the BBC situation comedy show Blackadder Goes Forth. After five episodes of satirical hilarity, and twenty minutes of the final episode of more knockabout humour, it all comes down to terrified people who don’t understand why they’re there, dying horribly and meaninglessly. And then… the reminder that this wasn’t fiction, that it really happened, and it happened to pretty much every family in the country. We all have ancestors who died that way. Anyone who can sit dry eyed through the end of that comedy show isn’t someone I’d want to spend time around. And anyone who thinks war is a good idea after it, similarly. It’s a strong contender for the single best piece of television ever made, imo.

  146. 146
    richardt

    I’m commenting solely on the point that whenever and wherever the police get the chance to be officious and oppressive, they’ll take it whether it’s something like the case in point, obstructing photographers or whatever; as for gving them tasers well it’s madness. In the USA they have I believe killed innocents with them; so far in the UK it’s been confined to tasering a 61 year old blind man with a white stick they thought was a weapon. Competes with the Met who shot dead a man who was carrying a chair leg. My point is that sympathy with the necessity for policing and the innumerable times when officers put their lives at risk evaporates when Mr Plod goes into normal mode.

  147. 147
    Anri

    sonofrojblake:

    *sigh*

    There’s always someone with the “Oh yeah? I bet you wouldn’t be so in favor of free expression if’n it made you unhappy!” and then a clumsily constructed hypothetical.
    But let’s look anyway, shall we?

    How about you have to watch

    Ok, Imma let you finish, but until or unless you can demonstrate how anyone – anyone at all – was forced to watch this, your analogy has broken down by word #6.
    If your stunning rejoinder has already failed by half-way through the first sentence, you might wanna think a little more before trying another one, ok?

    Moving on…

    …while I evacuate my bowels onto the recently filled grave of someone you loved, in “protest” about something they did at some point before their death?

    I dunno, how many people died in the incident you are protesting?
    Seriously, I’m asking, what’s the death toll?

    Most people I know would think I should probably be restrained from doing something like that, but if you think that’s something I should be permitted to do, I find I simply can’t agree with you.

    Well, leaving aside the difference in the respect that we might want to extend the singular, unique resting place of the remains of a particular person versus a mass-produced and mass-marketed impersonal item*, there’s another issue.
    The item being burned was the property of the person doing the burning. If I didn’t want you to treat my loved one’s gravesite as you wished, why did I site it on your property?
    Unless, of course, you’re talking about this taking place on public land, or my property, in which case your analogy breaks down again, doesn’t it?

    We went round and round with several posters in regards to flag burning trying to use exactly this type of analogy. They eventually resorted to a hypothetical involving an item made of the tanned skin of the loved one in question. Please don’t go down that road, it was depressing enough to read the first time.

    - – -
    *This is not an insignificant aspect of the issue, by the way. I strongly suspect you would think poorly of someone who attached the same emotional value to a mass-produced paper flower as they would to the grave of a loved one.
    However, as I don’t wish to jump to conclusions, do you think these should carry the same emotional weight?

  148. 148
    sonofrojblake

    I strongly suspect you would think poorly of someone who attached the same emotional value to a mass-produced paper flower as they would to the grave of a loved one.

    Do I think they should carry the same emotional weight? Of course not. However, what I think about what other people should think is not at issue.

    Do I think they do carry the same emotional weight? For some people, maybe. For people whose only other focus of remembrance are faded photos of husbands and brothers and wives and sisters from seventy years ago, the mass produced paper flower is a symbol. Every other day of the year, even for them, it is what it is, a mass produced paper flower. But for one hour of one day each year, it serves as a focus, a symbol for their memory of loss.

    Sure, piss on it if you like. It’s only a mass produced paper flower. That’s your right. And if you choose to do so, it says all I need to know about you.

  149. 149
    Nick Gotts

    Competes with the Met who shot dead a man who was carrying a chair leg. – richardt

    Now that’s hardly fair: he also recklessly had a Scottish accent that could be mistaken for an Irish one by someone in a pub.

  150. 150
    alektorophile

    @139 Nick Gotts

    “What would have happened if Germany had won?”. In the short to medium term, obviously, a German-dominated Europe and a reinforcement of authoritarian systems.

    I seem to remember that it has been argued (by Niall Ferguson IIRC, not one of my favourite historians to say the least, but still thought-provoking) that a German victory would actually have been rather beneficial in the long run for Europe, if nothing else in likely changing the course of history, possibly resulting in a continent without fascist and communist regimes running amok for decades.

    In any case, one should keep in mind that the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm was an entirely different beast than Nazi Germany (in popular imagination, the two seem to be often conflated, which in part explains the view of WWI as a good war “against tyranny and oppression” as one of the commenters here suggested), one that could be argued was not that much more authoritarian than most other European powers of the time, and one with strong reform-oriented and social-democratic factions which might eventually have taken the upper hand. That is not to say that Wilhelm (Queen Victoria’s grandson after all) wasn’t an aristocratic, militaristic, autocracy-loving prick, and his fall from power might in the end be one of the few truly positive outcomes of WWI.

  151. 151
    left0ver1under

    sonofrojblake (#80):

    Protest against war by all means [...] But there’s a time and a place.

    Please enlighted us. Who, exactly, is qualified and authorized to dictate when individuals are allowed to disagree with the majority? Are you appointing yourself, the government, the corporate media, or a group-thinking majority?

    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/dissent.html

  152. 152
    sonofrojblake

    Who, exactly, is qualified and authorized to dictate when individuals are allowed to disagree with the majority?

    Disingenuous question. Individuals are allowed to disagree with the majority all the time. Anything other state of affairs would require literal thought-police capable of reading minds.

    What’s at issue is when and how they are to be permitted to demonstrate their disagreement. I.e. what are the limits on their freedom to interfere with the lives of others. The law rightly places all sorts of limits on everyone’s freedom to do that, all the time.

    Who is qualified and authorised? In a democracy, the government is authorised by the people who elect them. Whether or not they’re qualified is a question for the electorate. Whether or not you think that’s right and proper is irrelevant. That is the observable fact of the matter.

  153. 153
    Rutee Katreya

    Yeah, that kind of quibbling sounds great, but the folks under discussion were arrested for content, not for procedure, so you can go fuck back off to your corner now.

  154. 154
    Nick Gotts

    alektorophile@150,

    I’m inclined to say that if Niall Ferguson believes it, it must be wrong :-p

    More seriously, of course anything more than short-term consequences are very hard to assess, but a German victory would have reinforced the militarist and authoritarian forces in German society – after all, they would have proven their success.

  155. 155
    slowdjinn

    Competes with the Met who shot dead a man who was carrying a chair leg. – richardt

    Now that’s hardly fair: he also recklessly had a Scottish accent that could be mistaken for an Irish one by someone in a pub. – Nick Gotts

    Also not entirely fair. What turned out to be a table leg in a bag was reported to the police as a sawn-off shotgun – which is why armed officers were dispatched in the first place.

  156. 156
    Genius Loci

    sonofrojblake (145):

    Conscripted combatants = victims.
    Uneducated, propagandized “volunteers” = victims.

    We cling desperately to the idea that we were fighting tyranny or oppression or whatever but we do know the truth – that it’s mostly sheer bloody pointless slaughter.

    What he said. That was, indeed, the analogy I was making when I compared the Great War dead to the victims of the Holocaust. And I agree with sonofrojblake that irony is the only possible response to this catastrophe. Irony, and grief.

    The best way to commemorate Remembrance Day would be to show all schoolchildren the last episode of the BBC situation comedy show Blackadder Goes Forth. After five episodes of satirical hilarity, and twenty minutes of the final episode of more knockabout humour, it all comes down to terrified people who don’t understand why they’re there, dying horribly and meaninglessly. And then… the reminder that this wasn’t fiction, that it really happened, and it happened to pretty much every family in the country.

    And, instead of “In Flanders Fields,” to have them memorize Siegfried Sassoon’s “At the Cenotaph” instead.

  157. 157
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    What’s at issue is when and how they are to be permitted to demonstrate their disagreement. I.e. what are the limits on their freedom to interfere with the lives of others. The law rightly places all sorts of limits on everyone’s freedom to do that, all the time.

    It also wrongly places limits on people’s freedom to do that; as is the case when people are prosecuted for burning poppies or Korans.

    Yeah, that kind of quibbling sounds great, but the folks under discussion were arrested for content, not for procedure, so you can go fuck back off to your corner now.

    That’s only true if we accept that the act of burning poppies was an end unto itself, without any ideological motivation. That’s not the case – hence the “Malicious Communications” charge.

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you that the prosecution is bollocks; but it’s bollocks because burning a thing that you own as a statement of opposition to British military involvement in certain wars is every bit as permissible as wiping your arse on a book that you own as a statement of opposition to Islamism. Neither are valid, constructive, or inventive, but if the only way you can engage with an issue is by destroying something you own then, pitiable and puerile as you might be, you should be free to crack on without being subject to prosecution.

  158. 158
    zmidponk

    Marc Abian #105:

    I think posting on twitter is sending it to another person. It was a question which arose in the Twitter joke trial IIRC, though IANAL

    Unless you actually address it to someone, posting on Twitter or Facebook is you using electronic means to make a general comment to no-one in particular, just whoever happens to be listening. A simple reading of this act makes it clear it is designed to cover a person directly sending messages to another specific person, or a specific group of people. If a court has decided differently, then I am thoroughly confused as to how a competent judge who actually understands what Twitter and Facebook are and how they work could come to that conclusion. Of course, that might be the problem – given how out of touch some judges are, it’s entirely possible that one DOESN’T know what Twitter and Facebook are, or how they work.

  159. 159
    Anri

    sonofrojblake:

    Sure, piss on it if you like. It’s only a mass produced paper flower. That’s your right.

    Ah, so when you made your analogy and said this:

    Most people I know would think I should probably be restrained from doing something like that, but if you think that’s something I should be permitted to do, I find I simply can’t agree with you.

    You actually meant…
    Um, what exactly?

    That they should have a right, but not be permitted to exercise it? That you should be free to do something while being restrained from doing it?

    Lastly,

    And if you choose to do so, it says all I need to know about you.

    Oh?
    Can you be more specific?
    What does it say about someone?

    While we’re here, may I raise a possibly apropos hypothetical? What if someone, say a university professor, took a wafer of bread – a Host – and put a nail through it? And posted that he did so. Should he be arrested for offending people? For destroying something he owned, some totally non-unique, mass-produced essentially worthless thing that others had imbued with emotional significance?

    Does his act differ very much from what we saw here?

    What would you do to prevent this completely hypothetical never-actually-existed totally made up professor from his act? How should he be restrained? What does having done that allow you to conclude about him, this imaginary professor?

  160. 160
    left0ver1under

    sonofrojblake (#152):

    Who, exactly, is qualified and authorized to dictate when individuals are allowed to disagree with the majority?

    Disingenuous question. Individuals are allowed to disagree with the majority all the time. Anything other state of affairs would require literal thought-police capable of reading minds.

    If it’s “disingenuous, then why did you raise that question? You did raise it when you inferred that someone other than the protester is better qualified to decide.

    Who is qualified and authorised? In a democracy, the government is authorised by the people who elect them. Whether or not they’re qualified is a question for the electorate. Whether or not you think that’s right and proper is irrelevant. That is the observable fact of the matter.

    In other words, you’d rather cower to authority than stand up and risk your neck when you see that society is wrong. You’d rather go with the group than improve society unless there’s no risk to yourself.

  161. 161
    Ingdigo Jump

    Yeah no one worshiping militarism here…save for comparing the fact that someone hated soldiers (seriously who the fuck cares?) with grave desecration and defecating on great gram.

    And also the “one day to remember people who do a dangerous, thankless work for little pay” you know what, blow me. I’m all for, as was said before, begrudgingly accepting the reality of a military and sympathizing with people victimized by a batshit insane system but come the fuck off it. There are tons of people who do dangerous or thankless jobs for little pay and don’t get shit. Apparently doing said job in a uniform makes you an important paragon of the nation’s values (police, military, firefighter) but doing it in work overalls isn’t worth noting. FFS people there are folks who service their country and society all the time by doing their damn jobs, and get thanks for it much much less than soldiers do.

  162. 162
    Rutee Katreya

    Question: How did devoting considerable amounts of time and energy into worshipping our soldiers transmute it into a ‘thankless’ job? Also true of the police, although with less worship.

  163. 163
    bradleybetts

    He was prosecuted for “Malicious Communication”; he wasn’t arrested for burning the poppy, he was arrested for distributing a photo that he knew damn well would cause offence.

    I realise this whole concept is anathema to you guys in the US, but you put an enormous emphasis on freedom of speech; greater than any other country I know. And that’s something about your country which I admire very much, and I wish we in the UK took the same attitude… but unfortunately we don’t.

    Not that that makes it OK. He did deliberately attempt to insult people, and that’s just being a dick, but he didn’t hurt anyone, and no one has the right to go through life not being offended. I don’t think he should be arrested for this.

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