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July 28, 2005



Since 9/11, of course, the flag has served as the official wrapping paper of America’s response and resolve, and well as the symbol by which to verify and affirmation one’s patriotism.

However, as the problems we face (or the problems arising from the supposedly simple and straight-forward solutions to those problems) reveal themselves to be more complex, the messages attached to the flag have become increasingly less obvious.

Perhaps that’s why — even though the flag and it’s display remains ubiquitous — it has begun to stand out for me lately.  Or, more specifically, it’s use as a propaganda vehicle has become more noticeable.

Isn’t it interesting that John Roberts comes appropriately wrapped just
days before his newly released government memorandums (Justice
Department 1981- 82; White House Counsel Staff 1982 – 86) reveal a
reactionary with the empathy of a caveman? (NYT Analysis: An Advocate for the Right – link.)


And, isn’t it also interesting that Reuters somehow manages to find and
release a starry August 2003 photo of a smiling Bolton (if that is
physically possible) just as: a) Questions are being raised about his
knowledge/involvement in the Plame affair, and b) Congressional
adjournment now leaves Bush the option to name Bolton to the U.N. as a
recess appointment?


And then, consider the photographer who realized that the real booster here would be to America’s morale. 


Finally, this little icon jumped out at me. What better way to
emphasize the glory of mass transit than to remind everyone that it’s
not just your train or my train, but America’s train

Of course, to the people who don’t see these stars and stripes as
simply matter-of-fact, this placement wouldn’t give the bad guys
additional incentive to provide a counterpoint, would it?

(image1: Newsweek cover. August 1, 2005.
image 2: Toshiyuki Aizawa/Reuters. August 1, 2003 in YahooNews. image
3: AFP/Robert Sullivan. July 26, 2005 in YahooNews. image 4: AP/Richard
Drew, File. In YahooNews.)

  • jonst

    BAG wrote: “Isn’t it interesting that John Roberts comes appropriately wrapped just days before his newly released government memorandums (Justice Department 1981- 82; White House Counsel Staff 1982 – 86) reveal a reactionary with the empathy of a caveman?”
    No….I must respectfully disagree. I don’t find it interesting anymore. Maybe once…a long, long, time ago I did.
    I would find it “interesting” when, and only when, a BushCo appointee did NOT wrap themselves in the flag and was NOT a “reactionary caveman”[or woman, as the case may be].

  • mugatea

    John Roberts eyes are red again in this post. He either has a bad set of contacts or a serious health condition. Somebody commented on his red eyes on a previous post and since then I have noticed in every recent photo of him he looks like he’s got pink eye.
    The Flag is such an important icon to us all. As a child, in school, I was tought to treat it with respect. There were a number of rules – don’t let it touch the ground, a specific fold, don’t display at night unless a light was on it, don’t use as clothing … Those rules don’t seem to apply anymore. As I drive around my region I see the Flag treated with less respect than a handkerchief. Oddly enough it’s usually in yards, or hanging off cars with the yellow ribbons, that promote the same values as our current leadership. Has any administration ever used the Flag as much as this one has? It’s an icon that needs to be treated with dignity, not like a high priced whore.
    The use of our Flag as political eye candy is disturbing at best.

  • PTate in MN

    Interesting observation about the use of flags as Right-wing propaganda. I wish our Democratic leadership would spend an entire day absorbing the picture of Roberts. The non-verbals in that picture express the essence of Republican impression management. During the last election, in the mistaken impression that I was a Bush supporter, the RNC sent me promotion images of Bush that have exactly the same characteristics–flag, modest expression, mainstream wholesome goodness personified.
    In addition to the “aw,gee,shucks, ME???” expression, I was struck by the headline, right above Roberts’ head, “EVERYBODY LOVES R….” Just in case the non-verbals didn’t do the job?
    And Bolton’s picture! Only a sour, mean-spirited Democrat would not like that jolly man! With a beard he could be Santa Claus.
    When the Senate was on the brink of eliminating the filibuster, we saw all sorts of images of Republicans in the posture of prayer–reverent expressions, light on the face, hands folded together–I remember Laura Bush at the Wailing Wall, Bill Frist and Rick Santorum. I guess that was the RNC religious vote week. This week it is patriotism week.
    It can’t be a coincidence, but how does the WH pull it off??

  • PTate in Mn

    Oops, one more thing. Notice in the Roberts’ cover that the other headline, the one above the flag is LONDON TERROR TRACK.
    So it’s a conditioned subliminal two-fer!

  • hubris sonic

    in red, above the head
    for the hawks, not the doves…

  • Martin

    The ancient Hebrews had foresight when they decided against representations (verbal or visual) of God. The flag is a representation of the “Nation” – it reinforces the nationalist feeling but has also become an item of worship in its own right – and not just in America. Yes, please treat the flag with respect, and see it for what it is, a symbol. Oh, and dear American friends, please remember that the worse excesses of the 20th century were caused by nationalism, above other “-ism”s.

  • Asta

    This political eye candy, as Mugatea so correctly called it, has become so tiresome. The tattered flags clinging to car windows and antennas, the faded flag magnets, homes still shrouded in red, white and blue ribbons and banners left over from The Fourth, have become an eye sore.
    I will probably be hunted down by the Thought Police for this, but I’ve never considered our flag to be very attractive. In fact, its pattern strikes me as being borne from the necessity of easy recognition on a battlefield, rather than an aesthetic symbol for a new nation.
    Even Canada’s flag has a maple leaf on it!
    What kind of nation would we be today if Betsy Ross had a pattern for a dove and olive branch, instead of only being able to sew stripes together with a few stars on a blue square?

  • Quentin

    Right on, Asta, about Betsy Ross’s flag, whatever veracity that piece of high-camp American folklore might have. Imagine: children, everyday, U.S. children are forced to pledge allegiance to the flag as if they are traitors, potential traitors or have somehow done something wrong. It’s sick to subject chidren to such suspicion and fear of adults. They do not understand what they’re doing, they do not understand why they must do it. It’s like the ridiculous concern during the Clinton-Lewinsky hypocrisy: what will we tell the children? I heard an Italian journalist laugh herself to death on the BBC Word Service: why would anyone talk to children about such matters?, they’re not interested. Isn’t that the answer to end all answers to such concerns? Let Rove and his bunch go on prime-time television and pledge allegiance to the flag.

  • donna

    Right… all regular guys go to Harvard Law School, spend their lives in service to the Bush family, get married at *41!* to an anti-abortion “feminist” and adopt two kids who just happen to be little blond blue-eyed poster children…
    Tell me another story…

  • Asta

    Quentin, your comments gave me a shudder. Children placing their little hands over their hearts and swearing an oath to a…piece of cloth. I remember this ritual when I was a child, and I always felt guilty somehow when chanting along with the others. Your post helped me understand why I felt that way. (I thought even as a 6 year old that this pledge was a bunch of crap. Which is probably why I became neurotic and was a bed-wetter for so long.)
    Also, you inspired me to dig further into this flag thing. Upon discovering
    I got distracted by state flags. Boy, they’re ugly, too!
    After viewing all 50 flags, I can summarize them as follows:
    Most state flags are clumsy ripoffs of the national flag, but there are exceptions.
    The New England states’ flags depict nautical themes and are old-fashioned looking…acceptable in a nostalgic way if you’re into country bunnies and ducks.
    Colorado and Arizona flags look like company logos.
    Alabama and Florida flags look like leftovers from the Crusades. (Not the current Crusades, I mean the wars going on back in the Dark Ages…not the Dark Ages we are in now, but the Dark Ages of long ago…when the world was flat.)
    Oklahoma and New Mexico pay tribute to the Native Americans we slaughtered en masse. I’m sure the flags make the Navahos and Otos feel much better. (Although NM’s flag is rather cool looking, being the symbol for the sun.)
    Tennessee’s flag absolutely sucks.
    Mississippi is still fighting the Civil War.
    South Carolina’s flag is suspiciously Islamic, featuring a crescent moon and a palm tree! We should bomb them.
    The most unusual flag is, surprisingly, Louisiana’s. It features a bird feeding its young. They are either saying “We love nature” or “We are the Welfare State.” It’s hard to tell.
    “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands- one nation indivisible-with liberty and justice for all.”
    On September 8,1892, the Boston based “The Youth’s Companion” magazine published a few words for students to repeat on Columbus Day that year. Written by Francis Bellamy,the circulation manager and native of Rome, New York, and reprinted on thousands of leaflets, was sent out to public schools across the country. On October 12, 1892, the quadricentennial of Columbus’ arrival, more than 12 million children recited the Pledge of Allegiance, thus beginning a required school-day ritual.
    At the first National Flag Conference in Washington D.C., on June14, 1923, a change was made. For clarity, the words “the Flag of the United States” replaced “my flag”. In the following years various other changes were suggested but were never formally adopted.
    It was not until 1942 that Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance. One year later, in June 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite it. In fact,today only half of our fifty states have laws that encourage the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom!
    In June of 1954 an amendment was made to add the words “under God”. Then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower said “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
    And perhaps that’s when the division of church and state began to blur. Thanks, Ike.

  • Agitprop

    That shuttle is so erect. What a symbol for America. The flag is standing straight up.

  • rose

    On another blog I read–this is what we get for pledging allegiance to the flag instead of to the constitution. resonated with me.

  • Realpolitik

    Roberts: Our first closet-case Supreme Court Corrupt Fascist Judge who Sucks Off BushCo! Who could possible object to that?

  • neko

    Flags as propaganda props is hardly new. A pol wouldn’t be caught dead without the requisite flag pin and campaign signs and paraphernalia are always decorated in red and blue, stars and stripes. Heaven forbid anyone think they aren’t completely, totally patriotic. Wrapping yourself in the flag cloaks your actions behind the veil of patriotism, so that the symbol hides the substance.
    Look at Roberts, he’s hiding behind the flag. I read his self-satisfied little expression as “I know something you don’t know.” Both the obscuring flag and expression hint at a hidden side made explicit by the title. How Right? Who knows? He sure isn’t telling.

  • Daniel Waldman

    Every time I see images like the first and last ones posted above, in which the flag is coupled with either a sign of military might or a politician, I’m reminded how quickly and quietly we are slipping into an Orwellian nightmare.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    No Old Glory
    immediately after 9/11, there were American Flags everywhere, all over the country ~ and world, for that matter. the Flag was our spontaneous, gut-level, grass roots response to an outrageous, horrific, premeditated attack. our Flag was the first thing we wanted, indeed ~ needed at that terrible time.
    there was no glory, old or new, in this show. rather, our Flags flying meant to say something more like sympathy, solidarity ~ and i daresay, dreadful mourning…
    …and resolve. no thing else, neither religious symbols nor mere words could possibly express what we felt, other than the Flag. even in libertine San Francisco, where i was, the Flag flew everywhere; eg., in The Castro, the “rainbow” flag came down and the Stars & Stripes went up; no one even asked, “why”. everyone understood, “why”.
    we were ready, willing, and able. we weren’t afraid ~ we weren’t terrorized; we wanted justice, reckoning, reform and revenge.
    we did not get those things.
    for some the first clue came in the moving, yes ~ but somehow weird ceremony in the National Cathedral: we were declaring War? and not by an Act of Congress = our elected representatives, but in a Church?
    well, OK. but then came The Patriot Act : we’re suspending Civil Liberties? When did Americans become afraid of taking a punch? didn’t our flags flying clearly say: we’re strong! we’ll stand our ground, thank-you; and we’ll do so ensemble = together, with all our free wills and freedoms naked, thank-you: because that’s the kind of peoples we are.
    After our failed military campaign in Afghanistan, many Flags came down… the puny few criminals we did manage to round up were not paraded down Fifth Avenue (our failure would have been too plain to see?) rather, they were secreted away in some bizarre legal-limbo -cum- torture house in Cuba. in Cuba? WTF??
    then, Iraq.
    Iraq, the irrational. Iraq, the perverse. Try to stop it; can’t {sigh} The invasion begins: must support the troops, after all ~ they are us
    …the Marines, i think they were, in those very first days of ground war, fight this hard-fought and bloody battle for a port terminal near Basra. Spontaneously, they fly the Flag from the central building for which they paid such a high price…
    “Take The Flag Down,” came the orders from Washington. Take the Flag… down?
    you mean, no Old Glory ?
    No Old Glory, iirc, the headline for that incident actually read. By executive order of the Pentagon and President. from time -to- time, the Troops had other, spontaneous responses to blood & sacrifice, only to be told: take it down. take the Flag down.
    today the Flag means something else. something most of us never felt, nor ever wanted to express. division, not Union; partisanship, not Liberty; and most of all… fear.

  • prj

    Why does every photo of this clown look like an advertisement for hemorrhoid treatment?

  • Molly

    Monsier Gonzo, congratulations. If you will allow, I would like to copy what you wrote. Thank you.
    And prj, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah ah ah ah ah ha ha ha !!!!!!

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