Describe the Reaction of British People to the Argentinean Invasion of the Falkland Islands
There were huge number of different reactions and emotions shown by the British people following the invasion of the Argentinean junta of the Falklands. These included outrage, humiliation, anger, resentment, fear, pride and even shame. Much of the first response was of shame. The people were embarrassed that a “once-great” country could suffer such a humiliation in losing its territory to the Argentineans. Initially this reaction was vented upon the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and many people including influential politicians called for her resignation in the early stages of the conflict in the South Atlantic.
Many were outraged that Argentina had apparently beaten the British, because they thought that the Latin Americans were not a real world power. As one disgruntled Brit said to The Daily Mail, “Mrs Thatcher will not only go down in history as the first woman Prime minister but possibly the first to allow a Spanish speaking nation to defeat us. Sir Francis drake must be turning in his grave. ” This chauvinism added to the sense of humiliation and, despite being the words of a solitary person, is an example of the resentment that was being directed towards the Prime Minister.
Spawned by this feeling of humiliation arose one of anger. Again the anger was often directed at the government and, as I before, specifically at Margaret Thatcher. People looked at her leadership and saw weakness, believing her neither willing nor strong enough to defend her country’s history and heritage. After all the British had been for centuries one of the most successful militaries on the planet. Some even used the Argentinians government’s decision to invade the Falklands, as a way to criticise the way the British government was run.
The Times wrote “The Prime Minister should have resigned over the humiliation of the Falkland islands”. Some said that regaining the Falklands was a secondary objective, after sorting out domestic the political situation, which many disliked and didn’t support. However, Margaret Thatcher was not the only focus for public outrage and anger. The British people also commonly resented the Argentinians for their invasion. There was even a show of open aggression towards the Argentinian ambassador in London when an egg was thrown at his residence.
Other displays of resentment included one famous, world cup-winning Argentinian footballer, Ossie Ardiles, being forced to give up playing in England due to the hostile treatment he received from some opposing fans. Tesco banned the sale of Argentinian corned beef and Brooke Bond Oxo, a company selling Argentinian meat, halted its imports in protest at the invasion. At Westminster no Argentinian food was allowed to be sold in any of the canteens or restaurants. One football team in Sussex refused to wear their new kit, a copy of the Argentinian international strip, as a protest and a display of anger.
One newspaper, The Times again, condemned the Argentinian invasion saying; “Argentina’s seizure of the Falkland Islands is as perfect an example of unprovoked aggression and military expansion as the world has had to witness since the end of Adolf Hitler. ” News coverage like this further provoked the resentment and stirred popular anger against Argentina. This type of journalism, aimed at disrupting the peace and adding to the public’s angry view of Argentina, was rife amongst the newspapers of the time.
As well as anger, a popular view was the sentiment that British pride was at stake and action must be taken to counter the aggression to restore the country’s reputation. It was commonly believed that the majority of the British population wanted to use force to regain the Falklands and that they saw resolving the matter as very important. The Times reported that “Seventy percent of British people believe the Royal Navy should sink Argentinian ships. ” This shows the extent of resentment in the minds of the British people towards the Argentinians.
If the poll was representative of the British peoples’ view, it shows the real strength of popular opinion. It is very strong backing for war. This was seen when the first battleships set course for the Falklands. There were huge crowds at the ports cheering and holding messages of support for the Navy. Tens of thousands of people were there to support the fleet and their loved ones. There was joy at the prospect of beating the Argentinians and pride in the people whom were to do it.
However, there were clearly also some who did not want violence or war. There were people whose main interest in the islands was the safety and well-being of the 1800 occupants. Many wanted the solution to be a negotiated, rather than a forceful or violent one, to make the situation as easy and un-stressful as possible for the islanders. Support for this ideal was led by Tony Benn of the Labour Party. He wanted the party to oppose the plans to invade the Falklands in a response to the Argentinian one.
Some surveys found hardly any support for the total declaration of war by the British government. This was true of a survey by The Manchester Evening News. One person said that the “liberation of the Falkland Islands” was a “secondary objective” behind sorting out the political situation at home, which had created a “tangible atmosphere of blood lust”. He blamed the misguided government and media, for generating overly passionate and violent feelings about the Argentine invasion.
Again this, despite being a solitary opinion, was an example of the widely held belief that the government were handling the situation poorly and the use of force was not as important as some[politicians and media figures] suggested. Ossie Ardiles, the abused footballer, said, “Most of the British people don’t even seem to know where the islands are. They are only finding out now through newspaper reports”. This again is an example of the way the media were responsible for some of the “blood lust” that was generated at the time, with their inflammatory writing.
Another reaction to the Invasion by the Argentinians was that of fear and panic. This occurred when the economy and stock market was negatively affected by the loss of the Falklands. The pound was decreasing in value which led to fears about increases in interest rates which would affect all businesses and home owners. As well as this over the few days following the invasion i??5,000 million was wiped from share values in the stock market. The uncertainty resulted in a wave of fast selling of shares.
In conclusion I feel that the main reaction of the British was initially that of anger, towards both Margaret Thatcher and her government (for failing to defend the islands adequately) and also increasingly towards the Argentinian military government for attacking them in the first place. After this came other responses that stem from anger such as embarrassment, humiliation, wounded national pride and the desire to put the whole thing right again. It is clear from the evidence that the media had a huge effect on the reactions that were expressed.