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Friday, November 07, 2008 

The rise of poppy fascism.

One of the most curious things about this time of year is how supposed impartiality is temporarily suspended on almost all TV channels during the build-up to Remembrance Sunday. When this first started is beyond me, but surely poppy fascism, as Jon Snow so accurately described it, is now reaching ever more ridiculous heights. The sight last week of the panellists on Question Time, which had decamped to America for the US presidential election all wearing poppies ought to perhaps have suggested to some of the producers or higher-ups that decree that everyone seen on screen must have a poppy that there should be sensible limits on how far it should go. The BBC incidentally claims, or claimed at the time not to have a compulsory policy on poppy wearing, but incidents such as last Thursday's suggest otherwise.

It isn't of course their fault. They're just running scared, as usual, of the tabloids that think that not wearing one at this time of year is some sort of insult to the memory of those who so selflessly gave their lives in the past. It doesn't matter that the Royal British Legion themselves, in the aftermath of Snow's justification for not wearing one said that wearing a poppy is entirely voluntary and that he was justified in holding his opinion; such outbreaks of free-thinking are anathema, as is the idea of non-conformity.

Likewise, bans on wearing poppies should be similarly resisted. A young woman who protested to the Sun about not being allowed to wear one on the make-up counter in a Christian Dior store was perfectly justified in doing so; it's then that as usual things start getting completely out of hand. The Sun in response has stated that it will, predictably, name and shame any bosses or companies that ban them. Again, that's perfectly acceptable. What is not acceptable is then to do the exact opposite of that and go randomly around shopping centres looking for stores that aren't selling poppies or have employees wearing them, as the paper has:

Here’s what we found in spot checks:

LONDON: Sainsbury’s, Victoria: Poppies not sold, just two staff wearing.

M&S, central London: Not sold. One staff member wearing. A worker said: “We sell them in some stores, but not this one.”

NatWest, central London: None of 15 staff wearing.

BIRMINGHAM: HMV, Bullring: Not sold. No staff wearing them.

Tesco Express: No poppies at tills. Primark: None sold, but a quarter of staff wearing them.

YORK: Morrisons: Two staff members wearing. But a poppy vendor in store.

WHSmith: Lone security-guard wearing. Not sold.

Borders books: Not sold, one worker spotted wearing a poppy.

We've gone then from denouncing bosses that have banned them into doing the exact opposite: naming and shaming stores where employees just happen to be not wearing them. That they have a personal choice to not do so is apparently neither here nor there, as is the fact that banks and stores like HMV might have more usual things to be stocking and doing than competing with the sellers that almost always operate outdoors. The mindset behind this kind of behaviour was again summed up by someone quoted at the time of the Snow controversy:

"Any questioning of the poppy can only cause anguish to the people that have worn it with pride over the years, the families of those who gave their lives and those people who are still doing so."

Yes, any questioning. Snow's invocation of fascism, which was fought so we still had freedom of choice, could not be more apt.

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On my local news show we had two presenters not wearing poppies and as soon as the camera was pointed at them the first thing out of their mouths was an apology and the excuse that they'd 'fallen off'.

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