I spotted a fascinating article in my local newspaper this week, revealing how the paper had done it’s bit for the war effort in 1914 by shaming its male readers into signing up.
The article interested me for two reasons. Firstly it added to my understanding of the great web of social pressure that pushed men into the “protect and provide” mode of masculinity a century ago. In particular, it highlighted the role that employers played in pressurising their young male staff to die for king and country, a factor I hadn’t previously considered.
Secondly, it provided evidence of the way local newspapers shamed their male readers into sacrificing their lives and it did so with no sense of guilt, regret or reflection. In a section dedicated to showing today’s readers what the local media was talking about 100 years ago, the paper proudly declared:
“Sussex men were being castigated for any unwillingness to sign up……The Argus reported an appeal for the Sussex battalion of Lord Kitchener’s expeditionary force of 100,000 men was short of soldiers. Our reporter said the response from the county had not been sufficient, that our men were “lagging behind” and were in danger of reflecting badly on the honour of Sussex.”