I watched the London Cenotaph ceremony on Sunday on the BBC:
Her Majesty the Queen and other members of the Royal Family are present, along with the prime minister, leading politicians, representatives from governments of the Commonwealth, the Armed Forces, faith leaders and thousands of veterans. They mark the two-minute silence and observe the National Service of Commemoration to remember the sacrifice of the British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the First World War and later conflicts.
I presume possibly hundreds of millions of others around the world saw it, or at least “highlights.” It was dignified and moving.
Afterwards, I made the mistake of opening Twitter, where I saw this “interesting” takeaway:
The likes of that from a journalist – which is what he says he is – drives me bananas. I know I am hardly alone in decrying any efforts to create discord among us all – particularly among the US, Britain, and France. We must all stand against it from whatever source it comes.
That dopey tweet from a journalist led me to recall once again why I basically hate Twitter and rarely use it any longer – having to put up with observations I’d consider too simplistic coming from even a first year political science student… and I taught first year political science students. I don’t know who that journalist is: he had been retweeted there by a Bloomberg Paris reporter I follow – and that’s how I saw that tweet. However, I felt that tweet needed an answer offered in much the same spirit as his tweet, so I decided to remind him that…
Next, here, I will address his other assertions. I hate wasting my time pointing out what ought to be blindingly obvious, but sometimes it needs doing. In fact, this is how blogging actually began nearly two decades ago: in its early days (just after September 11, 2001), it was often a line by line refutation of poorly sourced and argued “journalism.”
1) As my link there in my tweet shows, British Prime Minister Theresa May was in France and Belgium on Friday, November 9, visiting with the French president and with the Belgian prime minister. She and the French president observed the Armistice at a cemetery where some 72,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers rest forever. That was the three close European allies coming together. And lots of people overlook the Belgian army in the war, but the British don’t: it was Germany’s invasion of Belgium which actually officially brought Britain into World War One, and for four years the Belgians held a portion of the Allied line amongst the British.
2) The British “head of state” is not the PM, it is the monarch – meaning, currently Queen Elizabeth II. Remembrance Sunday in the United Kingdom is about the state hono(u)ring British, Irish, and Commonwealth (countries such as Australia, India, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and a myriad of smaller countries) war dead. For the Queen or the prime minister to be away at a foreign observance – regardless of where – on that solemn day? Only an ignoramus, or someone with a particular agenda, would “question” if “the head of state/PM” “might” better have been abroad on a November 11 – and presumably a journalist ought not to tweet like an ignoramus or possess an agenda.
3) Note the careful use in the tweet of that weasel word: “might.” How about another “might”? Given the gigantic scale of British, Irish, and Commonwealth sacrifice in aiding France from 1914-1918 “might” the French president instead, given this special occasion, have been here IN LONDON to show his gratitude to France’s greatest ally in the war?
4) To be clear, I’m not even British. As an American, I “might” also argue, if we are going to go down this silly route, given that without American money, supplies, and fighting men, Britain, France and the other Allies would probably have LOST the war in France by the autumn of 1918, “might” it not have been even MORE appropriate to have had everyone in Washington, DC on Sunday?
“Might.” From a journalist.
Attempted s-it stirring between France and Britain… on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, no less.
5) Finally, to the pompous reference to Marshal Foch as if Foch is some sort of argument clincher. As I have read from numerous actual military historians, he was not akin to General Eisenhower of World War II except perhaps in title. He did not really command, he suggested – with some suggestion extra-power. He was given that “supreme commander” title in 1918 to be an inter-allied facilitator – to try to create more of a “team” atmosphere and to better coordinate operations. The battlefield was mostly in France and France still contributed well over a third of the land force; the job could not reasonably have gone to an American general or to a British one, and both Washington and London knew that. So pointing to Foch as “supreme commander” a century ago is irrelevant based on the reality a French general would have had the job regardless, and therefore tweeting about him being in that post as somehow constituting a reason why the Queen – who is now, let us remember, age 92 – should have been in Paris for the Centenary yesterday is, frankly, asinine (and that’s being polite).
Social media misuse like that by a journalist can make you want a drink. Indeed university department cocktail party-style chit-chat – [he thinks] “I’ll mention Marshal Foch; that’ll impress them…” – like that dropped on Twitter trying to be passed off as journalism is I feel an excellent example of why the current US president enjoys lots of support when he criticizes certain media and reporters as conjuring up “fake news.” I also believe the president’s attitude towards the media as a whole stinks. However, just because his attitude does that does not mean any journalist should be immune from having arrogant sloppiness like that tweet go unanswered.
Have a good Veterans Day (in the US), and generally a good day wherever you are in the world. 🙂