Sunday was Remembrance Day, where people all over the country pause to remember those who gave their lives during war. It’s a time for remembrance, thanks giving, reflection. It is also unofficially called Poppy Day, the culmination of the Royal British Legion‘s annual Poppy Appeal which is when they raise funds to help them to continue to support all Service personnel and families who need them – people are asked to make a donation to the Appeal, and they are given a poppy as a token of thanks for their donation.
One individual who was apparently feeling less than thankful to The Fallen Heros was a teenager from Kent who, whilst seemingly drunk, set fire to a paper poppy, photographed the act, and uploaded it to the internet reportedly with the caption “How about that you squadey cunts“. Clearly not the most respectful of posts, but on the other hand it was nothing more than a bit of harmless idiocy from a drunk teenager. Even his friends told him he was daft to do it and so he removed the post the following morning (presumably once sobered up).
Now, in any civilised society, that would have been the end of the matter and very few people would have been any the wiser.
But alas, here in the UK we are living in an increasingly authoritarian society, for the hapless idiot has been arrested by Britain’s Finest under the 1988 Malicious Communications Act, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and/or a £5,000 fine.
Yes, you read that correctly – man arrested for photographing the burning of a piece of paper and faces six months in prison and a £5,000 fine.
Just what the hell is wrong with the authorities in this country? It’s not as if he turned up to a Remembrance Parade and started shouting obscenities at everyone during the Two Minutes Silence whilst taking a flame-thrower to the wreaths. No, he simply burned his own piece of paper and uploaded the photo. His spelling was appalling (squadies not squadeys) but even I would not think that dodgy spelling should be an arrest-able offence.
“Oh, but he caused offence and disgraced the memories of those who fought and died in the Second World War”, comes the usual rant in response.
So what? It is not against the law to cause offence, and rightly so. Besides, as I said, he did it in a pretty quiet fashion, one would almost have t go out of one’s way to have found it in order to be offended by it.
But so what if a small minority were offended? That’s no excuse to arrest anyone. “But he disgraced the memory of those who fought blah blah blah”. Hang on, what were those brave men and women (and yes, they were brave, often fored to fight and endure unimaginably horrific conditions against their will) fighting for? Oh yes, ostensibly to protect us from (in the case of WW2) the Nazis, and defending out freedoms. Which would include the freedom to burn a bit of paper.
Why is it that so many people have chosen to become so offended by the act of burning something?
The only valid, civilised and mature response to someone burning something, be it a paper poppy, a flag or the koran or the bible, is to gently role one’s eyes, tut quietly whilst shaking one’s head, and move on. Is certainly is NOT to riot, or to arrest them, or to mount violent counter protests.
As comedian Dara O’Briain once observed when someone sets fire to a flag, first they have had to buy it. Which means when they challenge you “Ha! I’m burning your flag, what do you say to THAT?”, the answer is “No, you are burning your own flag – you bought it.”
Alas far too many people thrive on being offended, they love to feel morally outraged at the least little thing (and yes, burning a poppy, a flag or a copy of a holy book IS a tiny thing in the greater scheme of life). Get Over It. You know, if we all just reacted to such burnings with complete indifference, ignoring them, then those who burn flags, poppies et al would soon get bored and stop it. But no, that would never do, for the professionally Offended would not find their regular dose of outrage, and then where would they be?.
And as for our utterly ridicukous, stupid and (let’s face it) offensive Police force deciding that this particular idiot’s actions constitute an offence under the Malicious Communications Act? THAT is perhaps the biggest source of genuine offense in this whole matter. That our authorities feel justified in threatening a man with 6 months in prison for burning his own piece of paper is offensive, disgusting and downright frightening.
Is this really what we fought the Nazi menace in order to create? A state whereby doing something vaguely unpopular is a Crime?
How many times does we have to keep pointing out, George Orwell’s 1984 was a warning, not an Instruction Manual.
By the way – those who were so offended by the poppy being burned; presumably they are all good god-fearing poppy-wearers, but what do they do with their paper poppies after Remembrance Day is over and done with? Surely they don’t simply throw them out with the rubbish? Do they? How offensive and disrespectful! Quick PC Plod, arrest them!