This post originally appeared on VICE UK.
Clint Eastwood's American Sniper has provoked a lot of powerful reactions both positive and negative. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi called it "almost too dumb to criticize," the Village Voice said that "we're watching a drama about an idealized soldier, a patriot beyond reproach, which bolsters Kyle's [the sniper's] legend while gutting the man," and Roger Ebert's website said it was "one of the more tough-minded and effective war pictures of post-American-Century American cinema." But yesterday, the Sun managed to trump all the on-screen absurdity of the film by turning it into an international dick-swinging competition. The thing is, they claim, a UK marine is actually the World's Best Sniper, not Cooper's real-life counterpart, Chris Kyle.
"BRITISH SNIPER" screams the Partridge-esque Sun headline: "World's deadliest marksman with 173 kills is Royal Marine. That beats the 160 of American Sniper marksman Chris Kyle. A source said of the unnamed marine: 'He's not the sort of man to brag. He's very professional and humble, but with a gun in his hands this bloke is deadlier than the plague. He's a legend. A unique breed.'"
And, more important, he's bloody British.
Don't know about you, but I'm packing this day job shit in to go and stand outside Buckingham Palace and protect the fuck out of the Queen. It warms the heart of this Briton, readers, to learn that one of our brave boys sniped more enemy soldiers than the next-best American. Makes me want to pin poppies to all of my clothing and shave my head and get a St. George's cross skull tattoo and buy a big, hard English dog. Makes me want to put on a size-too-small football shirt and eat some fucking chips. Pizza? None of that foreign muck for me, pal; I'm as British as pie and eels and binge drinking. Best in the world at sniping, us. So proud about it that I've just popped a big, hard British erection.
Weirdly, the really quite uncomfortable information that a Royal Marine is one of the sharpest trained killers in the world has been met with more nationalistic tub-thumping than you might expect. Over at UniLad (SingleBulletStraightThroughTheHeartLAD), amid some spectacularly shit banter about their respective Call of Duty kill:death ratios, comments (all sic) beneath the headline "The World's Deadliest Sniper Is Actually a British Royal Marine" include:
"Trust the yanks to try and take all the glory lol British Military is the best"
"Longest confirmed kill shot was by a british sniper.. fact"
"so lets make a movie out of this gentleman, and rip apart his integrity saying he wasnt hero and hes a coward etc..... congrats to this man, chris kyle was a hero and this royale marine is a hero no doubt about it.... congrats from america!"
From the Daily Mail, who led with "Deadlier than American sniper Chris Kyle: Royal Marine has 173 confirmed kills including 90 in just one day and most came during a six-month tour of Afghanistan," the comments shitshow included:
"We're better than the yanks at everything."
"The L115 A3, an excellent piece of equipment, designed and made in the UK by a British company."
"Now that's the type of person who SHOULD be included in the honors list!"
"To all the idiots saying snipers are murderers and cowards. You fools!"
And from the esteemed Sun Online comments section (all sic):
"PRIDE of CHURCHILL'S & THATCHERS x BRITAIN"
"Then tell him to 'get' Jihad John !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"He would be great at those fun fairs, the ones where you shoot a target and get a stuffed toy. (or he has been banned from them for winning all the time)." 1
It's all a bit odd, isn't it? Maybe it's just me, but I'm not big into gigantic, sustained bouts of murder. Maybe I'm just a square who's not all that keen on illegal wars, a limp-wristed lefty who doesn't support the Lads. Bet you'd like me to say this to their faces, eh?
"You know what, I don't reckon shooting 90 people dead in one day from an alcove a mile away is especially morally just or a great source of national pride," I'd say, seconds before getting kicked to within an inch of my life in a pub parking lot.
Anyway, this is all moot. The deadliest sniper is generally considered to be Finn Simo Häyhä, credited with 542 career kills, 500 of which occurred during a 100-day period in the Winter War with the Soviet Union. But still: Rule Britannia!
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1. This is actually a very good point. Is the unnamed sniper banned from all funfairs? Do funfairs have a union—or at least an interconnected database—where they can share mugshots and pertinent details of trained snipers who might scam them for oversized teddybears or Teletubbies stuffed with heroin needles? Or would that database be a national security risk, in case it fell into terrorist hands? To be safe, it's probably best if carnies just take this hit. ↩