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The Misuse of War Imagery as Symbols for Hateful Propaganda

Remembrance Day has passed and there has been more controversy than ever before. For many, wearing a poppy and having a two minute silence at 11am on the 11th of November simply shows that you are supporting the war effort and remembering all those that have died in wars past and present. However, to others, it has become a symbol of intolerance as a result of the way war imagery has been adopted to spread racist views (despite the important fact that about 400,000 Muslims fought and died for Britain in the First World War).  

On the 11th November every year there is an influx of poppy and soldier images that monopolise social media. Unfortunately, many people on social media attempt to distort public opinion and manipulate images of soldiers placing them alongside racist, homophobic or transphobic messages. The worst culprit of this is the notorious Britain First group. You will never be short of examples of memes posted on their Facebook group that they have quite clearly created themselves, featuring a soldier (likely random or a Google stock photo), a group of non-white individuals (often Muslims) and an ignorant racial slur. The problem with these memes is that it links soldiers - many of which do not know that their image is being used or do not agree with the messages they are being associated with. The majority of people are sympathetic and strongly supportive of war veterans, yet every year groups exploit these sympathies by using war imagery to promote their far-right agendas. Almost evoking guilt from the public by suggesting that if you want to show your appreciation for soldiers you should agree with their ridiculously, irrelevant and frankly ill-conceived opinions.  

A recent image that has gained popularity on social media recently is the image of two female soldiers which have made history.  Their image and story has been adopted and spread online alongside the message, "It sickens me that Bruce Jenner is Woman of the Year, when these two ladies have made history, and become the first two female soldiers to receive their Army Ranger tabs." The irrelevance of this argument is rooted in the fact that, yes, Caitlyn Jenner won an award for 'Woman of the Year,' but this was awarded by Glamour magazine. Glamour's 'Woman of the Year' is awarded to celebrities every year, mostly to women in entertainment, fashion and sport. There are other Woman of the Year awards given by a number of organisations and businesses specifically designed for women and their achievements in the army.

The post has now been shared 38,427 times and the comments are filled with transphobic insults. The writer of the post claims: "Bruce Jenner is Woman of the Year," (he must've misread the award winners name, CAITLYN) resulting in a number of people posting transphobic comments whilst congratulating these women on their achievements. Griest said the following to reporters after her contributions were acknowledged, "all of a sudden the men really don't care at all that you're a female. You're all carrying some of that and you feel the exact same way. You're going to help share the load as much as anybody." A sentiment which suggests that in all walks of life, we should all be treated equally and all be respected for being ourselves. I highly doubt these women would want their well-deserved achievements tarnished by such hatred.

The image of Lee Rigby has also remained a popular choice to be exploited by Britain First, despite calls from many to stop tarnishing his memory with such disgusting opinions. Images of Caitlyn Jenner have been made popular by the group this year with the implication that she is attempting to undermine the courage and bravery of soldiers by speaking out about her personal struggles. It seems that, you can only show bravery by fighting in war obviously….Soldiers that have fought to restore peace and solidarity are now being used to promote the exact opposite.  

It seems that soldiers have become a symbol of choice to those intolerant of any group they consider to be damaging to ‘Britain’ and ‘Britishness.’ If this hatred is what it is to be ‘British’ then we don’t want anything to do with it.







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Marie Annett


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