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Poppies as propaganda

I read with dismay Greg Barker-Devereux’s letter in Pugwash [News] (‘About time to wear your poppy’ 3 November 2010). Barker-Devereux argues that the red poppy is a symbol of respect that we should all pay to ‘our fallen’. Many of us strongly disagree. We are all upset to hear that men and women ‘serving’ in the armed forced have been killed; yet not everybody believes that the wars in which they are participating are justified. Those who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan are not ‘our fallen’.

Many of them died as they took part in acts of violence and terror perpetrated abroad by the British state. It is the war-mongering politicians of this same state who proudly wear their red poppies at this time of year, braying about the need for national ‘sacrifice’.

If individuals wish to wear a red poppy in order to commemorate the lives of all victims of war (and not just, as Barker-Devereux would have it, ‘our’ British victims), then that is all well and good. But that is not the primary significance the red poppy has today in the British media and among British politicians. The red poppy – like the disgusting Help for Heroes campaign – has been co-opted by the British state and its media as part of its nationalist, pro-war propaganda.

This letter was sent via email by Dr Stephen Harper, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies.

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