Sometimes the “politically correct” have a point
I’ve never been one for politically correct utterances or sentiment. If it ever transpired that city councils really were trying to ban Christmas trees, and that these stories weren’t tabloid concoctions, I’d be out with my pitchfork just like everyone else. On the other hand, sometimes things labelled politically correct in order to evoke a knee-jerk negative reaction in the public do not deserve such a reaction.
For the moment, set aside suspicions that the following story has been exaggerated and distorted out of all recognition. Apparently CO18, the specialist operations unit in charge of security at airports, was handed a ban on wearing Union Jack badges purchased from the Royal British Legion. The newspapers have claimed that it was a result of someone protesting that they found the badges offensive.
A petition to the Prime Minister’s office has attracted a couple of thousand signatures and today the Daily Mail and various London freebies have announced that the ban has been scrapped: police officers will now be permitted to wear the badge, which costs £1 and is supposed to be in support of the British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Naturally the interwebz has been full of outraged citizens attacking political correctness gone mad.
Stop and think about the ban for a moment. If any of us – police or not – wore badges to work which proclaimed our personal political opinions, we’d be asked to remove them. As a teacher, if I wore a red flag lapel pin to school, I’d be hauled over hot coals. Why are the police any different? Let me explain my reasoning for the hard of understanding.
Firstly, is wearing a Union Flag lapel pin a political statement? It is, and this is maintained by all press mentions and the response of Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson’s press office, “[T]he Met should be openly showing their support for British troops currently serving abroad. On this occasion it seems entirely appropriate that officers are able to show their support for these brave men and women.“
There can be no doubt that wearing the small flag is a political statement. So, if I was a policeman and decided to wear a Stop the War badge, would that be permitted by the powers that be? It’s unlikely that they’d face a tabloid backlash, so I doubt it. Therefore support for the wearing of these badges is first and foremost hypocritical.
Secondly, are there grounds for complaint about the badge, even excusing the inherent hypocrisy?
I, and many others, do not support the troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact I, like many others, would like to see an end to these wars as fast as possible, and an independent judicial investigation as to how much the military, government and intelligence services know and have known about various actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The whole conflict requires documentation and examination lest we should find out about similar instances to the use of white phosphorus as a weapon at Fallujah. In Afghanistan, some civilians are thought to have been killed and injured by US use of this incendiary material. British personnel complicit in similar actions should be arrested and tried for war crimes at the Hague.
But forget about the idea that our troops are not lilywhite and that a thorough investigation might see the arrest and prosecution of personnel all the way up the chain of command. There’s still something obscene about wearing a badge supporting British troops that are essentially paid to uphold Islamist oppression. In almost any other context, the Islamophobic press would be jumping all over such a violation of human rights – but it’s a different story when we’re essentially propping up the people responsible.
My point in this long-winded denunciation of the war, and the role of the British Army in it, is to outline that there’s good reason for people to object to shows of support for the troops on the part of the police, especially in a professional context. Just as people would object if the police wore anti-war badges. When war crimes and torture are at stake, we can’t glibly dismiss objections as political correctness gone mad.
(Appendix; this guy gets an award for most amusing and apposite inquiry on the matter).