• Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    EDIT: HERE'S THE LINK: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/02/business/betsy-ross-shoe-kaepernick-nike.html

    Note: The first headline for this story appearing on the NYT web site included the word "slavery". The headline has since been edited to its current reading.

    Nike planned to celebrate the Fourth of July with a new sneaker, a special edition of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike featuring that most patriotic of symbols: an American flag. ... On Tuesday, Nike canceled the release of the sneaker, again plunging headlong into the nation’s culture wars. ... The abrupt cancellation came after Colin Kaepernick, the former National Football League quarterback and social justice activist, privately criticized the design to Nike ... [Mr. Kaepernick is a Nike 'brand ambassador"]

    What irritates me about this kerfuffle are the steps with which some people reason their way to the latest demon in need of exorcism.

    1. A flag was made by Betsy Ross (disputed) in 1776; it was the first American flag. (not disputed)
    2. The KKK, American Nazi Party, and other racists used the Betsy Ross flag in their iconography. (not disputed)
    3. Other groups not associated with white racism have also used the flag for iconographic (not disputed)
    4. Nike decides to decorate a shoe with the Betsy Ross flag image for the 2019 4th of July.
    5. Colin Kaepernick put 2+2 together and got 5. He identified the Betsy Ross flag as a symbol associated with slavery and racism.
    6. Nike, not wishing to be characterised as a racist tool of the KKK and American Nazi Party, withdraws the shoe.

    Anything about the American Revolution, the US Government before 1865, and the flag of the United States could be associated with slavery. Slavery is a fact of our history. Racism (and sexism, heteronormativity, class oppression, ruthless exploitation, and numerous other features) have been part of our history from the get go.

    While I have no loyalty or warm fuzzy feelings toward Nike Corporation (liquidate the filthy capitalist corporation!), I do think it is immensely unlikely that their use of Ross's flag on a shoe was in any way, shape, manner, or form a "racist gesture". It was just a plain old shallow patriotic gesture.

    Colin Kaepernick was not performing a public service. He was performing a familiar sleight of hand:

    We are to believe that because Betsy Ross's flag (a central item of American national iconography) has been used by disreputable groups, the only meaning that flag can now have is a symbol of racism and slavery. No shoes for Betsy Ross.

    Nike should go ahead with the shoe bearing the 1776 flag. It isn't a racist symbol.

    The US dime used to bear what was a symbol of Italian fascism--the bundle of sticks and an axe called the fasces. It was an ancient Roman symbol.

    tumblr_pu1plkwYJ31y3q9d8o1_540.jpg

    Using Kaepernick's reasoning, we should conclude that the Romans and Americans are both fascist since we were all using a symbol attached to 20th century fascism. Round up those old dimes and destroy them. Smash Racism!
  • Brett
    768


    I think it’s truly fitting that Kaepernick should turn around and bite the hand that feeds him. They deserve each other and hopefully they will neutralise each other. Nike tried to play a very subtle game (not so subtle). What now?

    Long live the common sense of the common man!
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    Using Kaepernick's reasoning, we should conclude that the Romans and Americans are both fascist since we were all using a symbol attached to 20th century fascism.Bitter Crank

    On the other hand, using your own reasoning, it ought to be perfectly alright for Nike to put zwastikas on their shoes since the zwastika was an ancient Eurasian religious icon before it historically came to be associated with the German Nazi party. This may be a more extreme case, but it illustrates that symbols and icons, just like words (think of the N-word, for instance) can't always be claimed by their users to mean what they want them to mean or what they originally meant when they were first created.
  • Brett
    768
    it illustrates that symbols and icons, just like words (think of the N-word, for instance) can't always be claimed by their users to mean what they want them to meanPierre-Normand

    That’s a persuasive point and if it means that words can’t always be claimed by their users to mean what they want them to mean then what next?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    That’s a persuasive point and if it means that words can’t always be claimed by their users to mean what they want them to mean then what next?Brett

    It means that sensitivity to salient features of the historial and social context (and not just origins) is required and the display of such sensitivity can't always be blamed on rampant "political correctness".
  • Brett
    768


    I wasn’t after what it means, I was after ‘ what next?’.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    I don't expect to see a swastika on a Nike shoe or a VW car anytime in the near future. 250 years from now? It's quite possible that the swastika will be a neutral symbol by that time. Betsy Ross is about as far back in time.

    I wasn't aware that the KKK or the American Nazi Party were using the Ross flag until I read the story in the NYT, and it doesn't altogether ruin the symbol by these birds using it. The KKK and American Nazis put together wouldn't fill up a minor league ball park. These two small bunches of right wing extremism aren't entitled to sole use of a prime America symbol.

    Kaepernick and Nike together have ceded an important symbol to the right-wing lunatics. Bad move.

    Besides, one could fly a Boeing 747 through the hole in the credibility of the flag-as-symbol caused by grossly promiscuous use of Old Glory to sell everything from cigarettes to Chevrolets.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    On the other hand, using your own reasoning, it ought to be perfectly alright for Nike to put zwastikas on their shoes since the zwastika was an ancient Eurasian religious icon before it historically came to be associated with the German Nazi party. This may be a more extreme case, but it illustrates that symbols and icons, just like words (think of the N-word, for instance) can't always be claimed by their users to mean what they want them to mean or what they originally meant when they were first created.Pierre-Normand

    This is your fault, @Bitter Crank. To anyone who knows you it's clear you set up this provocation to get the biggest boneheads on the forum to pipe up. And PN - the "N-word," by which you mean "nigger" but are too coy to say, has always been a degrading term for black people. And the swastika had no currency in European or American culture before the Nazis commandeered it as a symbol of their evil regime.

    Who cares about the Betsy Ross flag? Who cares about Colin Kaepernick? Who cares about Nike? What matters is the denaturing of American history, culture, and language by creepy, lazy, ignorant people.
  • Coben
    971
    Using Kaepernick's reasoning, we should conclude that the Romans and Americans are both fascist since we were all using a symbol attached to 20th century fascism. Round up those old dimes and destroy them. Smash Racism!Bitter Crank

    I think using his reasonsing we should conclude that it's not a great idea to use fascist symbols on our coins, that's the parallel conclusion. I would guess they won't use fasces again and without having to be reminded privately.

    That's basically a strawman argument. What you describe above is not what happened with the flag. He privately told them, they decided it might be insensitive given the way the flag had been used. He did not say they were a racist company, in fact he seems to have assumed they would be concerned about how the symbol might be taken and they were. End of story.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    Actually, I doubt very much if Nike IN FACT was worried about anything other than the bottom line and how social media might affect their image and sales IF Kaepernick et al were able to stir up enough synthetic rage.

    The American flag has been used by just about everybody under the sun for one purpose or another. And, don't forget, it has also been used by those dedicated to justice; peace; the true, the good, and the beautiful; motherhood; apple pie--used by the angels, in other words. Betsy Ross's flag. Old Glory--13 stars or 50.

    Just because some Americans out on the far right used it is no reason to be embarrassed about it.
  • Coben
    971
    Just because some Americans out on the far right used it is no reason to be embarrassed about it.Bitter Crank

    Perhaps so, but it still doesn't make it analogous to the situation with the coin. Further shouldn't we patriots dislike someone putting the flag on a sneaker. It's not illegal, but it is parasitic.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    I don't expect to see a swastika on a Nike shoe or a VW car anytime in the near future. 250 years from now? It's quite possible that the swastika will be a neutral symbol by that time. Betsy Ross is about as far back in time.Bitter Crank

    Betsy Ross also lived further back in time than the appropriation of her flag by white supremacists, just like the originators of the swastika are much further back in time than Nazi Germany. They're both irrelevant. You are the one trying to make this about Betsy Ross. But the complaint wasn't about Ross, and Kaepernick didn't suggest that Ross was a white supremacist (did he?). The complaint was about Nike's use of a flag that had more recently been appropriated by white supremacists, regardless of Ross' personal politics.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    And PN - the "N-word," by which you mean "nigger" but are too coy to say, has always been a degrading term for black people.T Clark

    The word I was thinking about isn't 'nigger' but rather 'negro' (or, in French 'nègre'). They weren't originally pejoratives and indeed were routinely used by black people to refer to themselves in a neutral way. Still, complaining about contemporary uses of them (especially by white people) because of recently acquired connotations isn't a case of objectionable political correctness.
  • Brett
    768
    The complaint was about Nike's use of a flag that had more recently been appropriated by white supremacists, regardless of Ross' personal politics.Pierre-Normand

    Isn’t it possible that by doing this they’re allowing white supremacists to take ownership of the flag. Shouldn’t they resist this by actually using it themselves. If you let them own it then it will, like the swastika, become an emblem of what their beliefs and consequently be avoided as seems to be happening. This seems counter productive to me..
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    Isn’t it possible that by doing this they’re allowing white supremacists to take ownership of the flag. Shouldn’t they resist this by actually using it themselves. If you let them own it then it will, like the swastika, become an emblem of what their beliefs and consequently be avoided as seems to be happening. This seems counter productive to me..Brett

    Yes, that may be a better argument to make than the more simplistic argument (seemingly made by BC) that the symbol didn't have its current connotation many centuries in the past and hence can't be held to have it now.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.5k
    What makes x a symbol representing y is that S thinks about x as a symbol representing y.

    Any S could think about any x as a symbol representing y for any imaginable reason. Of course, the reasons are usually not going to be very arbitrary, but they're also not usually going to be very elaborate or educated or obscure, either. And insofar as any S doesn't think about x as a symbol of y, x is not a symbol of y to that S. Meaning is always to some S.

    So a way to determine how many S's are thinking x as a symbol of some particular y is to survey S's, preferably outside of some other S trying to presently persuade them to see x as a symbol of y (because then we might instead only be learning about the influence, or about how S wants to position themselves socially, re alignments and so on, rather than learning whether S was really thinking about x as a symbol of y).
  • Terrapin Station
    13.5k
    but it illustrates that symbols and icons, just like words (think of the N-word, for instance) can't always be claimed by their users to mean what they want them to meanPierre-Normand

    It's not a matter of what people "want" something to mean, but what it does in fact mean to them. And just because you (or whoever else) think(s) about something in a particular way that might be connected to particular historical facts, that in no way suggests that the way you think about it is correct or that it's the way any arbitrary other people do or should think about it. People can't be correct or incorrect in how they think about this sort of stuff (re what something does or doesn't mean/symbolize to them).
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    And just because you (or whoever else) think(s) about something in a particular way that might be connected to particular historical facts, that in no way suggests that the way you think about it is correct or that it's the way any arbitrary other people do or should think about it.Terrapin Station

    Its not just because *I* personally think that a word has a certain connotation that it has this connotation; and neither is it because of my personal beliefs about this words history. Just like anyone else, I may be wrong about such socially instituted facts. If some foreigner lands in the U.S. and starts calling black people the N-word out of ignorance of the connotation, which this word has acquired by dint of contingent history, that can be cleared up. That person might be excused, but they will stand corrected (unless they are willfully racist, or they are philosophically confused Humpty Dumptyists).
  • Terrapin Station
    13.5k
    Its not just because *I* personally think that a word has a certain connotation by dint of contingent that it has this connotation.Pierre-Normand

    Words, symbols mean or do not mean something solely based on how individuals think about them. They mean or don't mean something to each individual. It's not just Pierre-Normand. My "you" was the "generic you."
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    Words, symbols mean or do not mean something solely based on how individuals think about them. It's not just Pierre-Normand. My "you" was the "generic you."Terrapin Station

    How individual people come to judge what words mean also is dependent on social facts regarding how they are conventionally used. Else, per impossibile, everyone would have her own private language and communication would be impossible.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.5k
    How individual people come to judge what words mean also is dependent on social facts regarding how they are conventionally used.Pierre-Normand

    Influenced by social facts, in a wide variety of ways, sure. Hence why a couple posts ago I wrote "Of course, the reasons are usually not going to be very arbitrary, but they're also not usually going to be very elaborate or educated or obscure, either."

    None of this changes the simple fact that x doesn't connote y to S if S doesn't think about x that way.

    People do have their own private language. The notion that communication is impossible if private language is ubiquitous is false. Wittgenstein was wrong (and about many things).
  • Baden
    8.5k


    Where's the bit where someone said the flag was racist? Sounds like a regular business decision otherwise
  • Baden
    8.5k
    Using Kaepernick's reasoningBitter Crank

    What reasoning? What did he actually say? And where's the link to the full article?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.5k


    "The abrupt cancellation came after Colin Kaepernick, the former National Football League quarterback and social justice activist, privately criticized the design to Nike, according to a person with knowledge of the interaction.

    "Mr. Kaepernick, who signed a lucrative deal to serve as a Nike brand ambassador last year, expressed the concern to the company that the Betsy Ross flag had been co-opted by groups espousing racist ideologies, the person said."

    That's from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/02/business/betsy-ross-shoe-kaepernick-nike.html
  • Baden
    8.5k


    Thanks. Puts it in better context.
  • Baden
    8.5k
    So, expressing concern that X symbol has been co-opted by others who are racist is not the same as claiming that if corporation Y uses symbol X, it's a racist gesture, so, unless there's something more to this, it looks like you might be raging against a strawman here, @Bitter Crank.
  • ssu
    1.6k
    Just because some Americans out on the far right used it is no reason to be embarrassed about it. - Anything about the American Revolution, the US Government before 1865, and the flag of the United States could be associated with slavery. Slavery is a fact of our history. Racism (and sexism, heteronormativity, class oppression, ruthless exploitation, and numerous other features) have been part of our history from the get go. - Colin Kaepernick was not performing a public service. He was performing a familiar sleight of handBitter Crank
    Political correctness is a rabbit hole from which especially large corporations cannot get out of once they have engaged in the PC discourse and taken a 'political' stance (like Nike) and especially when they have given 'woke people', who typically are somewhat ignorant about history, the authority to decide on these issues. It's a very stupid strategy as basically 'woke' people in general don't like large corporations and consumerism. Trying to appease the PC crowd will simply backfire. It's like the state Church trying to appease socialists and assume they are in 'the same boat' if both are concerned about issues like povetry. A true socialist is an atheist, and atheists simply aren't going to start liking religious organizations, especially those with some formal power.

    If this thread would have been started by someone else not known to be a leftist as you Bitter, I would espect the condemnation of the whole thread would have been more straight forward by some. Wouldn't this be something that Fox News reports?

    Anyway, with these kind of humbug issues in the New World, I always remember the flags of the Finnish Air Force and smile. This kind of imbecile and utterly counterproductive 'wokeness' hasn't yet taken over my country and doesn't create any fuss as there...at least not yet. :wink:

    A happy Finnish government employee posing with the Air Force flag last year.
    088679773cba9617c4747fc54792c532_XL.jpg
  • Terrapin Station
    13.5k


    My wife is Indian (and a Hindu) and gets annoyed at all of the fuss over swastika (from all angles--that it was co-opted, that people are largely ignorant of the Hindu usage, etc.)

    ganeshaswastika.jpg
  • Maw
    1.6k
    None of you are Nike's target audience so it's really funny that you think they should give a shit what you think
  • Coben
    971
    So a way to determine how many S's are thinking x as a symbol of some particular y is to survey S's,

    preferably outside of some other S trying to presently persuade them to see x as a symbol of y

    (because then we might instead only be learning about the influence, or about how S wants to position themselves socially, re alignments and so on, rather than learning whether S was really thinking about x as a symbol of y).
    Terrapin Station
    [my bold and emphasis above]
    Which is ironic in the context of Nike since branding, which is all about such persuasion in its branding and branding of symbols and then branding with symbols. And putting a flag on a sneaker seems kinda tacky and problematic either way. If it's seen as a positive symbol - thus enhancing the sneakers image - that's kinda parasitic and if it's seen as a negative, well, then it's bad marketing and annoying some people. In a sense I am saying (now) that I agree, but in context what you are saying in not really something Nike wants us to understand. They want the symbols to be the thing, period. The Nike swooth means incredible stuff (objectively and universally ((I know that's silly))) and thus their sneakers are great.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.5k
    None of you are Nike's target audience so it's really funny that you think they should give a shit what you thinkMaw

    Not that I'm saying I'm their target demographic--I'm older than what they're ideally shooting for, but I do buy shoes like Nike, Reebok, Addidas, etc., and I even wear them to events like basketball games. ;-)
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