More soaraway propaganda

Just over a year ago, I made my first foray into the pages of the Sun, since a headline I'd seen on the front of someone else's copy on the tube had me involuntarily stuffing my tongue behind my bottom lip and fighting the urge to make decidedly un-PC noises toward the paper's reader.

The headline was 'UP YOURS', and I covered the story it referred to in 'Super soaraway ARSEPAPER!' - a headline of mine that went on to spawn many embarrassing variations. The jist of the Sun article was that PC killjoys want to stop people flying the St George Cross during the World Cup so as not to offend Muslims. It followed the familiar Sun template of saying that something is being done for one reason, providing examples of people doing it for other reasons, and claiming them as evidence that people are doing things for their original reason. None of the people in the article had actually been banned from flying the flag because of Muslims. The paper followed that up with it's brain-rottingly stupid 'Kick 'em in the baubles campaign', which was another attempt to get people to do what they'd be doing anyway by pretending PC killjoys wanted to stop them. It used the same blame template too.

Today, there's an eerily similar headline. 'FLY IT IN THE FACE OF TERROR' is superimposed over a picture of the Union Flag, and the headline of the online version of the story is 'PM: Fly flag on every building'.

Both headlines are utter rubbish. They're big pants with cack in them. Fly the flag in the face of terror? Never mind that terror is an abstract noun - does the Sun think that last weekend's Keystone Terrorists targeted Tiger Tiger and Glasgow airport because they were the last two buildings in the UK flying Union Flags? Or the last two not flying them? Maybe I've got it all wrong and the paper's just got its Terrys and Trevors mixed up. I dunno.

Still, what kind of rubbish nonsense is that? What could flying a Union Jack possibly do either way to 'terror'? What are terrorists supposed to do, give up because they see some bits of magic cloth? The tabloids seem to love attributing supernatural status to material, but does the paper really imagine terror cells dropping to their knees and repenting because some shovel headed goons have sent off to the Sun for a piece of crap they can attach to their windows? Actually, no. The call to fly the flag serves a definite purpose that has bog all to do with terrorism, but I'll get back to that in a bit.

The second headline, 'PM: Fly flag on every building' is also nonsense - despite being a better illustration of Charlie Brooker's point that Sun headlines sound like Red Injun speech from old westerns. It's followed up by this opening sentence:
GORDON Brown last night staged a show of defiance against terrorist killers by ordering ALL government buildings to hoist the British flag. [Emphasis most definitely not mine]
No he didn't. This is just made up nonsense. We get a clue as to where the paper gets this ridiculous idea a bit later, when it says:
In a document titled The Governance of Britain, he told MPs [yadda yadda yadda]
Here's 'The Governance of Britain'. To save you the trouble of looking through it, I'll tell you that it doesn't mention terror, terrorism or terrorists in connection with flying the Union Flag. Nor does it order ALL government buildings to hoist the British flag. It says instead that the PM will consult over the possibility of relaxing restrictions so that government buildings will be able to fly the flag every day if the people inside them want to. But not in Northern Ireland.

I won't make too much mention of the extensive use of crap photoshop mock-ups of what buildings might look like if they had ridiculously out of proportion flags hanging from them that the paper includes because the it knows its readers are too thick to work it out for themselves. I'm busy trying to erase them from my memory. Still, look at the size of the ones hanging from the Blackpool Tower and Edinburgh Castle. How the fuck would there ever be strong enough winds to make monsters like that wave? Or flagpoles strong enough to hold them for very long if they did? Spacks.

Now, I promised a reason for why the Sun's banging on about waving the flag (again) and here it is. Drumroll please. It's for propaganda purposes. It shouldn't take a genius to work that out. There's even a specific category of propaganda referred to as Flag Waving - although it's usually a bit more subtle than this. Here's the Wikipedia definition of Flag Waving:
An attempt to justify an action on the grounds that doing so will make one more patriotic, or in some way benefit a group, country, or idea. The feeling of patriotism which this technique attempts to inspire may not necessarily diminish or entirely omit one's capability for rational examination of the matter in question.
Most examples of flag waving are not as literal as this, with the use patriotic language or other symbolism to imply that opponents are actually being unpatriotic. Here, the Sun is literally telling us to wave flags, and telling us that we must do it as a show of defiance against terrorist killers. Who wouldn't want to defy terrorist killers? Enough to make it necessary to mark ourselves out if we do?

This is where there is a difference between the 'Kick 'em in the baulbles' campaign and 'UP YOURS'. Whereas the first two called for people to do things they'd do anyway in defiance of non-existent PC killjoys an order to make the paper's readers scared of anything even slightly left wing, this article is asking readers to do something a bit less common, and for different reasons. What the Sun is doing this for is made clear pretty early in the article, when it says:
But Mr Brown REFUSED to rip up the Human Rights Act despite Britain’s security crisis.
And when the article switches from being about flag waving to how the Human Rights Act is hampering our security services, the link is made pretty clear.

Basically, the paper is co-opting its readers into adopting a viewpoint without ever soliciting it. Like with the George Cross, Christmas decorations and the defiance of PC Killjoys, or with the really crap Saddam Hangman nonsense. What it's doing here is encouraging readers to do something for one reason, while slipping another one under their radar. Now, not only is the paper creating a link between opposing the Human Rights Act and patriotic opposition of terrorist killers, but also setting things up so it can claim that not only are people flying the Union Flag in defiance of terrorists, but because they hate the Human Rights Act as well. And they can claim this about anyone who waves a Union Flag, too.

It's done in such a hamfisted and clumsy way, I despair that anyone will fall for it. Even some of the commenters on the story have seen through it - although that might be more because the paper attributed the order to Gordon Brown rather than anything else.

"Wave flag. Flag wave good. Human Rights Act bad. Wave Sun flag - flag wave good, Human Rights Act bad." There. Just saved the Sun a whole bunch of words that were just cluttering up the page. Not to mention the shit pictures.

Apologies for the light posting recently. Been off on my holidays again.

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