‘Carnage’ at the War Memorial
Philip Laing, the 19 year old student from Sheffield Hallam University has become the latest focus for the media. Recently photographed urinating upon a poppy wreath at a Second World War Memorial, Laing has attracted an enormous amount of negative attention. Although, Laing claims he was drunk at the time, and remembers nothing of the events of that evening, he did make ‘a full and complete admission’ when confronted by the photographic evidence. Upon appearing in court this week the teenager was warned that he may face a custodial sentence for what the judge described as a ‘disgusting and reprehensible’ act.
Although, many may agree with the judge’s comments, it seems that this case offers an outlet for many emotive concerns, not least binge drinking. Although, Laing has admitted his actions, and apologised profusely for them, the judge has raised concerns about the culture surrounding binge drinking. Carnage, the company responsible for arranging the pub crawl, has come in for particular censure. In the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday, which has seen increasing numbers of British deaths in Afghanistan, this case was bound to raise disquiet. However, by focusing on the actions, albeit distasteful, of one teenager, we run the risk of creating little more than a smokescreen. Thus, avoiding much wider and more important debates such as the nature of nationalism, patriotism and pacifism, together with growing concern over the continuing British military presence overseas.
Andy Ruddock on ‘Media Studies 2.0? Binge Drinking and Why Audiences Still Matter’
The strong emotional reaction to the teenager’s actions show that there are serious underlying opinions regarding the British military. I wonder how it is that these debates are kept just below the surface, and it makes me think about power, money, and the media. I wonder what would push that discussion into the public domain?
Thank you for a thoughtful post about an odd incident.
I think in many ways stories like this allow the public to vent their spleen safely. By turning the spotlight firmly upon Laing – and now the wider issue of student’s and their social lives – all of the emotions attached to Remembrance can be released. However, I fully agree that it will be some time (if ever) for the wider concerns relating to the British military to make their way into the mainstream media.
Philip Laing has been sentenced to 250 community service. On sentencing District Judge Anthony Browne said:
‘I have never seen anyone more contrite for what has happened nor one who regrets more the hurt and distress he has caused.’
However, Laing still has to face the wrath and disciplinary procedure of his university.