Flagging the Flag

I was poking around Facebook when I found this picture:

Jermaine Rogers.

Facebook took it down.

Jermaine Rogers, the artist, posted soon afterward, explaining that it was not his decision.

He explained that people must have been really offended–he received a lot of nasty hate mail. Maybe that’s understandable. Maybe people saw the Swastika flag and failed to understand the artist’s message. For Jews, myself included, the Swastika connotes an oppressed people who were enslaved, gassed, burned alive.

It is estimated that over eleven million Africans were shackled and processed and forced across four or five time zones in a boat. Nobody knows how many died in total, but the estimate for African deaths on the journey across the Atlantic Ocean is over a million. That’s just during the trip, folks—and if they tried to escape, these people were branded, whipped, or killed.

Slave Auction

Either flag is horrible. Today, the Swastika is illegal in Germany. The confederate flag’s legality is being discussed in the US: it is symbolic of an oppressed people. I’d be scared if there were Nazi flags hanging in my neighborhood. I’m just putting the shoe on the other foot. It’s the same size shoe.

Here’s the thing.

This is getting ridiculous.

Apple pulled the ‘Gettysburg’ game out of their app store “…because it includes images of the confederate flag used in offensive and mean-spirited ways.” It’s a history-based game—and shouldn’t history be preserved rather than denied? Bernie Sanders, who is running for President, recently said of the flag that it “belongs in a museum,” not in public. Can’t call that a bad idea. Apple just went kind of crazy with it.

Gettysburg

Take the flag off the streets. Put it in a museum.

It’s still legal to print a Swastika in Germany, as long as the message is anti-Nazi (for example, a flag with the Swastika–and a cross through it–could be interpreted as legal). So this post here gets removed from Facebook. I realize that Facebook is not the government. But I find that its removal implies censorship’s trump over parody. Parody is a vital ingredient in the soup of political awareness (soup: no pun intended–that’s a Jonathan Swift joke!).

“A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, …” –Jonathan Swift, a Modest Proposal

Jonathan Swift

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Flagging the Flag

  1. elmediat

    This is a complex problem. All Mass Media contain values, beliefs and ideology. All Mass Media convey intended and unintended messages. In terms of the game, is it intended to instruct or convey accurate historical & social information about the time period or is it intended to provide entertainment ? If the game’s main purpose is to provide entertainment, what the unintended messages being conveyed ? As you point out, one has to carefully study the context and intention of the piece of media. A large corporate institution, such as Apple or Facebook, will look at the quickest and easiest means of determining a negative impact on their profits – all Mass Media have business interests – if the symbol has the potential to offend and impact profits, get rid of the symbol and avoid potential problems. This , of course, creates issues of censorship which may or may not trigger a potential impact on profit , but one that can be more easily managed.

    The context of a particular piece of Mass Media contributes to the message that is being delivered. The Confederate Flag means different things to different people. The problem is any romanticizing or glorifying of the an emblem of the Antebellum South becomes a justification or normalizing of an society & an economy based slavery and racism.

    • The game in question is a historical tactical simulation designed to show the battles from the perspective of the commanders, i.e., you do not have direct control of your troops; you can tell them where to move, and they will go there, but for example each battalion has morale, and if thier morale falls too low (from shelling, crossing rough terrain, or getting slaughtered) they’re going to run away; there’s nothing you can do about it. It is so accurate, that it has been used in schools in the U.S. to show students how difficult it was to fight these battles, and command so many troops in such a hectic situation.
      Yeah, though, you can play as the Confederates if you want. And, you know what? It is extremely difficult to win as them. The Union has a definite advantage (more men, better artillery) just like in real life. The developers of the game have even said that they refuse to take the flag out of the game because “True stories are more important to us than money. Therefore we are not going to amend the game’s content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple’s decision will achieve the desired results. We can’t change history, but we can change the future.”
      So I think this definitely falls into your “convey accurate historical & social information about the time period” category. There was no reason to remove the game.
      The Confederate battle flag should not be flying over state buildings, or displayed on a belt buckle, or the bumper of some idiot’s ’85 Dodge Ram, but ignoring the fact that it was a part of history is idiotic.

      • elmediat

        Yes, this is an over simplification. A wide bureaucratic decision that ignores context and purpose of media content. This is a typical corporate reflex response.

    • Elmediat, all good points–and I want to stress that I understand why these companies are making their decisions: it’s the easiest solution. But I find it necessary to question those decisions. Censorship is dangerous to a free society, and let’s be honest, Facebook has a lot of pull when it comes to our society’s communication.

Whaddya think?

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