Poppy Wars

Reading Saturday’s Guardian, I became aware for the first time of a bit of a spat between a Guardian columnist and the Daily Mail. These spats are not particularly unusual; the Mail specialises in splenetic outbursts and is notoriously sensitive to any assaults on anything it identifies as national pride.

So although I have some sympathy with the columnist who found himself accused of sneering at the poppies in the moat, I don’t think he should have been surprised. I didn’t see his original piece, just the response to the Mail’s denunciation. Think popes of middle ages and threats of eternal damnation and you get the picture.

The columnist feels the poppies are essentially saccharine; a comfortable ‘toothless’ display that sweeps the murderous truths of war ‘under a red carpet of artificial flowers’.

Predictably the Mail thinks this disses the dead. The lines are drawn up in drearily familiar style.

Short of banging their heads together in the hope that some of the molecules will be knocked into life and get these two protagonists to see sense, it’s probably best to ignore them. I freely admit I haven’t read the whole of the Mail’s outburst. Reading anything bar the weather in the Mail is something I prefer not to do. As a publication (like Linda Smith, I cannot bring myself to call it a newspaper) it depresses me enormously. That said, the columnist Jonathan Jones doesn’t exactly make me want to watch out for more of his writing. Without the picture by his byline, I could have thought him an adolescent; grimly serious about his views, convinced that these are the correct ones, the rest of us idiots, and quick to condemn others. Rather like the Mail in fact.

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