Royal Marine, Royal Navy, Publish and Be Damned

 (Update: It seems this has been added to Digg)

I am not sure why I have strayed into current affairs as a topic for debate here, but I promise this will be the last blog post I make on this topic (for a while at least…). Previously, I have ranted about the supposed “outrage” over the 15 sailors and marines held hostage by Iran being allowed to sell their stories, and about them wrongly being called cowards or a disgrace.

For people outside the UK, this may come across as little more than a parochial spat and, to be honest, I am amazed there is so little going on in the world that this is actually headline news. Again, today, I have spent most of the day listening to the radio. This is never a good thing, and especially so when I spend time listening to the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 (he gets callers to call in on current affairs topics). I am also very aware that they will screen callers to ensure the cranks get more air time than they deserve.

Knowing all this doesn’t stop the idiocy and bigotry winding me up though. (Again, this is long so most is below the fold)
On today’s show, there was a segment about the Royal Navy having allowed the sailors and marines to take payments for giving their story to the news. To my amazement, and disappointment, the vast majority of callers were ranting about how disgraceful it was, how they (the service personnel) should be ashamed of themselves, the payments should be taken off them and so on.

It really intrigues me what line of thinking comes to these conclusions. This site is getting a fair few hits at the moment from people searching for terms like “royal marines disgrace,” so please can you enlighten me as to what is wrong with them selling their story to the highest bidders?

As well as being a depressing insight into how irrational (and selfish) people can be, the Vine show was oddly entertaining. The people phoning in were so wrapped up in their own nonsense, they could barely string a reasonable argument together.

There were a few along the lines of one caller who I will use as an example. He claimed to have served 10 years in the Army and started off with it being disgusting that these soldiers were selling their story (hint: They are not soldiers…). The caller said that he had loads of stories from his time in service, Northern Ireland, Balkans etc., but he hadn’t sold it. Call me old fashioned but we live in a market economy. I suspect the reason he hasn’t sold it, is there is no customer… Jeremy Vine asked him if he (caller) thought the captive’s stories should be made public, and the caller said “yes.” The caller hammered on about the captives just doing their job, they get paid for their job etc., and that taking a payment to tell this story was disgusting.

This amazes me. The public want to read/hear/watch the story and drama of what happened to the Royal Navy / Royal Marine boarding party, but they don’t think they should get paid to tell it. Seriously, what crazy world is this? If we accept the fact that the story of what happened to the captive should be made public, and it can be assumed that any newspaper which carries this story will sell more issues (same with magazines and books) it can be seen the only people to benefit from the captives not getting paid are the media empires. They will get an increased revenue for no outlay. What on Earth have they done to deserve this windfall? Conspiracy Theory time: I strongly (now) suspect this public outrage is manufactured by the media chains which did not bid enough to get the stories…

Another argument went along the lines of they were just doing the job, why should they get paid for their story. I am fairly sure “get captured and detained for two weeks by crazy Muslims” is not down in the Job Description for the Royal Navy. If you doubt me, contact your local Armed Forces Careers Office, or the RN website, and ask them. The shelves of any bookstore in the UK are filled with people writing about doing something unusual in their job. David Beckham is paid a bazillion pounds a second to play football, but he was still paid to write a book about his singularly uninteresting life. Are we saying the service personnel are, for some reason, not allowed to write about themselves? (Pte Benharry VC, is an interesting exception). Is the Royal Navy so heavily over manned that it would be better to have these 15 discharge themselves so they can talk about what happened? Do we live in a world where the Iranians get to put them on TV, but the British don’t? What nation do they work for?

Bizarrely there was an argument about the timing, saying that their press statement came the same time as the news about four soldiers being killed, and how that was inappropriate. I know four of the 108 killed in combat in Iraq, and I don’t feel it was inappropriate. I find it inappropriate that Madonna gets headlines on the day a woman is told she can never have a family. The media coverage of the captives was nothing to do with them. They did not ask the newspapers and TV to talk about them.

The usual crackpots chimed up, saying how this was making the British forces a laughing stock on the world stage. Seriously, I nearly choked when I heard that. What in the name of Toutatis is that all about? How does the effectiveness of the Royal Navy get questioned by the fact the sailors are getting paid for their story? Honestly? Because these Marines got a six figure sum [*] it means all the Royal Marines can no longer shoot straight. Wow. Some people are real crackpots.

Also from the department of strange logic, there was an old fogey saying about his naval service in the 1960s. Apparently he was on a sub (or ship, I cant remember) which had an accident with its nuclear reactor. He said how in his day no one talked to the press about that sort of thing and it was a disgrace that they could now. I found this mind boggling. For a start, his incident was at the height of the cold war and dealt with nuclear information — which is heavily classified. As the MOD is getting oversight of what is released (another advantage of permission), no secrets will be give away by their stories. The captives were already a media plaything long before they were released, refusing to allow them to cash in on it, simply because they didn’t let people do that 40 years ago is a mixture of madness and jealousy.

It is reasonably safe to assume if the captives had been banned from giving their story to the press, the media (and public) outrage and demand to find out what happened would have ensured the story was leaked one way or another. What the Navy have done here is allow themselves to maintain at least some control. How can that be a bad thing?

Jealousy aside, if people are willing to pay for the story, what is really so wrong with the service people actually getting paid. Do the public really hate public servants that much?

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