ChrisMaverick dotcom

And in the category of “What the fuck were they thinking?”

hangingtreeYou know, it’s funny… I am all for using controversy to drum up press. If you want to be evocative in order to generate buzz and maybe get your product some free advertising, then sure… more power to you. It takes about two seconds of knowing me or reading anything I write to see that I don’t really have a problem with being offensive.

But the problem is, you have to actually have a business plan in place to turn that buzz into sales. Otherwise you’re generating negative press for pretty much no reason.

That’s where I think these people are. A Florida Company created a set of plugins for Photoshop called The Hanging Tree. Yeah, seriously?!?!? So normally I would make fun of them and say “how did no one in marketing say ‘you know, people might get the wrong idea from this Bob,’ and boot Bob right out the door.” But then I looked at graphic that they use for their ad (a noose hanging from a tree in a desolate forest) and it clearly isn’t an oversight. Someone actually said “Bob, you want to sell our new software by creating an association with hanging niggers?!?!? You’re a fucking genius, Bob! Why don’t you take the corner office with the window. You’re going places, Bob!”

Reading their defense of the name and the ad pretty much confirms this. They did to push the envelope. Again, I’m kinda ok with that. But you need an endgame or why bother? Clearly you’re going to offend a lot of black people, so that market segment is right out the door. Sometimes you can start an offensive ad slogan and depend on countercultural hipsters to support you because they’re weird like that. For instance, I’m a big fan of T-Shirt Hell. Sometimes it’s kind of fun to do something offensive ironically, even if it pissed people off.

But did they really think there were people out there photo editing ironically? They clearly couldn’t have. If they did, then Bob and the other guys in marketing need to be replaced by a team of 7 year olds. They have better sense.

So my only assumption is the guys in marketing sat Bob down and said “you know, the whole Adobe Photoshop action market is seriously crowded. We need a niche to go after. Something that distinguishes us. What untapped market can we go after?” And Bob said, “it’s obvious, the digital photo processing arm of the KKK!”

So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Bob is brilliant after all. Let’s run the numbers. The Klan has an estimated 5000 members today… We know that like 2% of the world’s population has a photoshop license. If we assume the Klan is standard in that respect and double that to account for piracy we’re at 100 members… I figure at best 5% of photoshop users are willing to buy aftermarket plugins, so we’re down to 5 people, but because of the stellar marketing directed right at the Klan, I’ll double that too… So lets call it 10. If we set the price tag at a standard rate of $5-20…

Wow, I stand corrected… clearly they stand to make tens if not twenties of dollars! Who’s the idiot now. You go Bob!!!

 

om

49 comments for “And in the category of “What the fuck were they thinking?”

  1. avatar
    February 17, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    wow, and I thought the ostensible PR team calling themselves Strange Fruit was idiotic…. this…. yeah.

  2. avatar
    February 17, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    The comments are so strange … the company basically says “It’s not racist because people of all colors have been hanged” (or hung if you prefer). OK, that’s true, but we are still talking about hanging people.

  3. avatar
    February 17, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    I REALLY, REALLY wanted to comment on this one – but for once, I’m at an absolute loss for words.

  4. avatar
    February 17, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    I thin this might be the same Bob from Marketing that got fired from Urban Outfitters for his Holocaust Chic clothes not long ago.

  5. avatar
    February 17, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    But, but… don’t forget the witches!

    Yeah, I don’t really get what the hell they were trying to do here.

  6. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 1:16 am

    I’ve been following this on Facebook, Twitter, news feeds…what I don’t get is how awful their English is. It really reads like a non native speaker, which would also explain the tone deafness of their defense and how they may not have been able to predict the rather normal predictable outrage a noose and the title hanging tree would prompt. Clearly this is stupid on so many levels, but I want to know WHO is WRITING this shit for them. Their twitter feed can not be by a native English speaker. Who are these people. No one seems to know.

  7. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 1:21 am

    Brenadine: yeah, totally. I mean, the whole thing would make WAY more sense if it was some very elaborate performance art piece based on internet trolling. Like as ridiculous as that sounds, it kind of makes more sense than anything they’ve said.

  8. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 2:14 am

    I feel like they assumed that You Suck at Photoshop http://www.mydamnchannel.com/channel/you_suck_at_photoshop_1906 was completely real and that that was their target market.

  9. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 2:35 am

    The Hanging Tree is also a song from the Hunger Games that got up to at least #2 on iTunes in December. Maybe they’re trying to leverage searches for that on online marketplaces?

    http://artery.wbur.org/2014/12/10/hunger-games-mockingjay

  10. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 7:08 am

    The song had been getting airtime around here. It sounded alright but was a bit of a shocker to me.

  11. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 11:13 am

    So to be clear, anything, anyone associates with racism, regardless of intent, is by default racist? I am not suggesting they are or they aren’t being racist, but I am a bit curious as to who decides what imagery is and is not inherently racist? Pretty sure I have seen nooses in media before, played hangman, hung ropes from trees. I don’t recall any of those things being racist just because they happened…

    I mean if there was a black guy in the image, I would get your point, but, a dreary image of a noose on a tree, does not immediately scream “hanging niggers” to me. Not in this day and age.

  12. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 11:30 am

    I would say there’s a difference between “anything, anyone associates with racism” and “things which are strongly emblematic of the most brutal historical racist practices”. Sure, you can be like “but I just think that crosses and fire are awesome, so that’s why we’re burning cross productions” or “swastikas are a traditional Buddhist symbol, so that’s why I have one on my armband here”, but people aren’t really going to be good with that. But things which are less strongly emblematic, but could in some vague way be associated aren’t problematic. You can be “policeman with a firehose productions” or drive a Volkswagen beetle and no one will care. Heck, you can be a confederate reenactor and people will be cool with that. But nooses hanging from trees, yeah, most people think immediately of lynching. And black people especially are going to think of it. It continued well into the 1920s, you know, so there are people alive today who saw one.

  13. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Of course Keith. But I would contend that a lot of people simply see a gloomy tree with a noose on it. If that were a book cover, I would not immediately assume it was a book about lynching black folks.

    Again, maybe Chris is right. Maybe Bob did have the brilliant idea of creating an association with ” hanging niggers”. That was not my first thought, and had I seen this on its own, I doubt the thought would have occurred to me at all.

    I don’t get the point of the imagery as stated in any case:

    ” Our collection is about rising above and refusing to let the world run us and hang us by any mistakes we have made or didn’t make. ”

    That makes even less sense than the assertion it is inherently racist to me, but hey, that is what they are going with, so, yeah.

  14. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 11:49 am

    ” Seeing the noose wasn’t meant to make people think of a certain race being hung. It was left empty to represent that we refuse to be judged and hung in a non-literal sense. ”

    I still don’t necessarily think of it as representing lynching blacks, but on the other hand, if what they are saying was truly their thought process, why not use a gallows? I think calling the collection The Gallows, with the same composition would have made their point more accurately.

  15. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 11:50 am

    So ultimately, I think they are just crappy artists justifying something that caused a stir, after the fact.

  16. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Lynchings continued a lot longer than the 1920s; Paul Robeson’s “We Charge Genocide” speech was in 1951. Tuskegee reports at least one lynching a year through 1947, continuing sporadically through 1955 (3 cases that year). But the peak was up through the 1920s, after which there was a swift decline.

  17. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    “if what they are saying was truly their thought process, why not use a gallows?” Vic, I think that’s part of why people are side-eyeing it. Because…why not use a gallows? Why use a noose in a forest, if what they say was their thought process WAS their thought process? It ends up making me think “well, why did they choose that SPECIFIC representation of hanging?” because the one they chose happens to be strongly racially inflected.

  18. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Or… Maybe they just aren’t all that clever. Maybe they couldn’t find a cool enough stock photo of a gallows.

  19. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    right, but being unintentionally racist because you’re an idiot is still being racist, you know?

  20. avatar
    February 18, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I’m still going with nonAmericans who are not native English speakers…it’s the only angle Insee that makes any kind of sense. Or racists, there’s always that one.

  21. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    No Laura it isn’t. You are not racist just because someone says you are, or gets offended by something you do or say. You are a racist, if you purposefully use race as a means of discrimination. It’s a picture for what appears to be a gloomy plug-in, not a add for lynching supplies.

  22. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    I got so busy yesterday that I never got to come and comment on any of this stuff.

    Vic asked: “So to be clear, anything, anyone associates with racism, regardless of intent, is by default racist?”

    That’s arguable. Normally I’d stay that it’s not so much that they ARE racist, but they are BEING racist. It’s an institutional thing. But that’s not really what I see as the main point in this particular instance. It’s not so much that I am commenting that Bob from marketing is a racist. it’s more that I think he’s an idiot.

    If they really had decided consciously to market based on a a racist image, that would be one thing. It would be evocative. it would get people talking. Maybe for the wrong reasons. But whatever.

    The problem is, in this instance, it seems like Bob from marketing really is honestly surprised that people had that reaction to it. Which makes him an idiot. They’re the worst marketing group in the world.

    It doesn’t matter if you are really racist or not. As a marketing rep, your job is to consider what the effect of the campaign you are launching is going to be. That’s actually the job of any artist.

    Symbols become inextricably linked in the public mindspace. You can’t just pretend those links don’t exist if you’re trying to get the public to buy into your message. If you use an eagle image with stars and the colors red, white and blue, people are going to assume you are being patriotic, even if you want to say that you’re doing something else. If you use a stylized rainbow, people are going to assume you are making a statement about homosexuality, even though it was a judeochristian symbol way longer. If you make a product with a swastika on it, you can claim you’re trying to evoke the ancient meanings from Hinduism and Buddhism all you want, but people are still going to look at it and say “why do you want to kill the jews?”

    So in the case of Hanging Tree song, that Sumner referenced, this works. You’re asking people to make a link between lynching imagery from the past and the dystopia represented by the Hunger Games trilogy. But when you’re trying to sell photo editing software, that link doesn’t really buy you anything.

    So sure, at worst, they’re being blatantly racist. I don’t really believe that. Their statement is “hey, we don’t really see the link here. Why are you guys?” which just makes them sound like morons. Because even if they were right, then Katherine’s statement of “why exactly do you want murder associated with your product, anyway?” is the obvious logical response. I don’t really believe that’s what they did either. I think that was a damage control move that backfired because it makes them seem even stupider than they are.

    I think that what really happened was they said “hey, lets make a racist statement, and hope that we get some press. That will be free advertising, and at least we’ll get some buys from it.” And I think that works for a place like T-shirt Hell. It works for a place like Urban Outfitters (Meron’s example) too. Those people are marketing to a specific niche, and they’re making the informed judgement call that “hey, the people who are going to be upset weren’t going to buy this anyway.”

    With the Hanging Tree, you’re not really getting that. Because you’re not in the business of selling “offense” (urban outfitters) or “pathos” (hunger games). The yield on sales of Photoshop actions is never going to be especially high, so anyone with any sense isn’t going to try to sell them through a controversial emotionally charged campaign of any kind. These people simply don’t have sense.

  23. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    ” Symbols become inextricably linked in the public mindspace. ”

    I agree, but there is nothing inherently racist about a noose and a tree. People were being hanged via this method long before it was all too commonplace in the south. Which is why I did not find the image inherently racist, all I see is a poor connection between message and imagery. I would connect a noose, based on it’s use in popular media more with suicide and self destruction than lynching. Which I guess, tangentially matches their stated intent, though I still don’t think it works on a creative level.

    Of course some people will see it as racist, obviously, since that is what happened. But others, like me, and some of the people listed in the comments from your link did not make that connection by default. So regardless of whether or not racism was their intent, the image, in and of itself is not inherently racist.

  24. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    “You are not racist just because someone says you are, or gets offended by something you do or say. You are a racist, if you purposefully use race as a means of discrimination.” I find it interesting that you used “a racist” in the latter instance but not in the former, because I actually mostly agree with what you wrote (although I don’t think you really intended to write what you wrote). It’s like Mav said: “Normally I’d stay that it’s not so much that they ARE racist, but they are BEING racist.”

    I have been, in the past, accidentally racist to people. I’m sure I’ll be accidentally racist to people in the future. The fact that I was ignorant and didn’t KNOW that thing I did or said was racist doesn’t magically make it not a racist thing to do or say. It does mean that I myself was not “a racist”, in the sense that I was not deliberately and consciously using race to discriminate against and be mean to anyone. But I was still *being* racist.

  25. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    An empty noose isn’t automatically racist. Now if they added words that were racist…

  26. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    ” I have been, in the past, accidentally racist to people ”

    Sigh… There is no such thing as “accidentally” racist. You can’t accidentally be racist. Either you are doing something ON PURPOSE to discriminate based solely on race, or you are doing something that someone takes offense with that may or may not actually be rooted in racism, depending on your reasons and the extent to which your actions affects others.

    “We used this image to discourage blacks from buying our product” – racist

    “We used a gloomy image of a tree and a noose to illustrate despair” – not racist

    Like I said, just because something is perceived a certain way, that does not actually mean the perception is accurate or reflective of the intent of the originator.

    Accidental racist. No wonder the world is so divided..,

  27. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Vic: You’re missing the point. There is no inherent connection between any symbol and its meaning. Crosses have nothing to do with christianity, they were being used as murder devices LONG before Jesus. There’s nothing naturally anti-semitic about a swastika, there’s nothing patriotic about an eagle. There’s nothing gay about a rainbow. Four leafed clovers aren’t really lucky. X doesn’t mark the spot. Poison doesn’t turn you into a skull and bones, nor do skulls and bones look like pirates. Some of them are entirely arbitrary. Letters for instance. Or ♥️ for a heart or love. That doesn’t actually look like a heart, and theres nothing that the actual heart or that symbol has to do with the concept of love.

    The connection comes from social convention that grows organically in the cultural landscape. That’s the basis for semiotics, the study of symbols. Symbols and iconography gain meaning because of a complex set of social conventions that we all naturally agree on. This is an A. Because we say so. When combined with a C and a T, two other arbitrary symbols we agree that it means which doesn’t even really look like a cat. But we agree that that symbol means the creature which we refer to as felis silvestris catus.

    SO, what that means is, no matter what the origin of hanging, You can be certain that a significant portion of the American populace is going to associate it with racism. Especially if you’re hanging from a tree, in the woods rather than a gallows.

    And if you’re not certain of that, then you have no business working in marketing… because knowing that shit is exactly what your job is.

  28. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Vic: You’re missing the point. There is no inherent connection between any symbol and its meaning. Crosses have nothing to do with christianity, they were being used as murder devices LONG before Jesus. There’s nothing naturally anti-semitic about a swastika, there’s nothing patriotic about an eagle. There’s nothing gay about a rainbow. Four leafed clovers aren’t really lucky. X doesn’t mark the spot. Poison doesn’t turn you into a skull and bones, nor do skulls and bones look like pirates. Some of them are entirely arbitrary. Letters for instance. Or ♥️ for a heart or love. That doesn’t actually look like a heart, and theres nothing that the actual heart or that symbol has to do with the concept of love.

    The connection comes from social convention that grows organically in the cultural landscape. That’s the basis for semiotics, the study of symbols. Symbols and iconography gain meaning because of a complex set of social conventions that we all naturally agree on. This is an A. Because we say so. When combined with a C and a T, two other arbitrary symbols we agree that it means ? which doesn’t even really look like a cat. But we agree that that symbol means the creature which we refer to as felis silvestris catus.

    SO, what that means is, no matter what the origin of hanging, You can be certain that a significant portion of the American populace is going to associate it with racism. Especially if you’re hanging from a tree, in the woods rather than a gallows.

    And if you’re not certain of that, then you have no business working in marketing… because knowing that shit is exactly what your job is.

  29. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Vic: As for the intentional vs. accidental racism. You bring this up every time. You’re just wrong. You’re allowed to believe it. You’re allowed to define any word the way you want. But that is not the commonly understood way that racism works. Again.. semiotics.

    The simplest way I can think of it is this. Your assumption is that to be a murderer you have to intend to kill someone. So if I have a gun and I shoot it at you, and I’m not really trying to murder you. My intention is actually to knock your cowboy hat off your head, just like they do in the old movies. By your definition, I’d not be a murderer because of a lack of intent. I only killed you through negligence and ignorance.

    Except your definition wouldn’t matter. Because you would be dead. And I’d be in jail… because I’d be a murderer.

    It is the same with racism.

  30. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    ” SO, what that means is, no matter what the origin of hanging, You can be certain that a significant portion of the American populace is going to associate it with racism. ”

    That is an assumption based on your own personal feelings. And the fact of the matter is that the meanings of symbols changes over time. Continued use and reference, keeps the link active and relevant. Nothing in 2015 makes me think of lynchings when I see a noose and or a tree. Edit – Nothing makes that the FIRST thing I think of in 2015.

    And yes Chris, in order for the crime of killing someone to actually be considered “murder” your intent would have indeed had to have been to kill that person. That is the definition of murder. If I shoot my gun at a target and it passed through and kills you in your yard, I did not murder you. I killed you, by accident as my intent was to hit the target, not you.

    Murder and kill do not mean the same thing. That is where the whole “intent” thing becomes important, just as it is with racism.

  31. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    I can then assume that a hanging in a movie would be racist to people.

  32. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Let me state for the record that using a hanging tree is at the very least, a very poorly thought out idea that can conjure a variety of despicable acts that have been committed by people. I do not think this image is at all appropriate for what the company is trying to promote. However, here’s my question and playing a bit of devil’s advocate: if they used other tree imagery, a pine tree, for instance, or hell, a coat tree, or better yet, didn’t have the name “the hanging tree”, would the symbols still carry the same issue? That is, can one have a noose hanging from a non-traditional tree and it not conjecture abhorrent historical moments? I’m not saying the non traditional tree and noose will look good.

  33. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Dan: I exactly addressed that. I used the Hunger Games Hanging Tree song. Hanging someone from a tree in a movie will automatically connect the viewers, or at least many of them, to the *idea* of lynching blacks. Sometimes, this is what you want. Certainly if you’re making a movie about slavery or the civil rights struggle. Sometimes, even when you’re not. Like if you’re making a movie like Hunger Games, you want to evoke the connection so that people draw subconscious (or conscious) parallels.

    Sometimes, you may even want to do it just for controversy… maybe your movie isn’t really about civil rights. But you put a lynching scene in it just to get people up in arms about it and you drum up some press and maybe people go to see your movie just to see what all of the commotion is about.

    That’s not a very effective way to sell photoshop actions though. And a marketing guy should know that.

  34. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Vic, you’re just wrong about murder. There are many ways to be convicted of murder that don’t require intent to kill the victim: felony murder, depraved indifference, criminal negligence, and mistake of target are among the most common.

  35. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    Vic: I used that example intentionally. Murder is different from racism in that as a crime we separate it by degree. We have Murder I, II and III (and in some jurisdictions IV). In some cases you can get the lesser charge because of lack of intent. We often call it manslaughter.

    BUT, even without the intent, if you get convicted of Murder III (what is commonly called manslaughter in most jurisdictions), which means you didn’t haven intent. You are still a murderer, you just get a lesser sentence. So the law considers you a murderer and more importantly THE PUBLIC considers you a murderer.

    And in this case, the public is all that matters. Because the imagery was used to sell something to the public. So keeping their desires in mind is just good marketing.

    To look at an alternate and less controversial view. When Nationwide made their Super Bowl commercial this year they figured “hey, what if we evoke a lot of sad emotion in people by showing them this cute little kid and then we’re going to reveal that the poor kid is dead. And since people don’t want their kids to die, they’re going to buy our insurance. Money in the bank, yo!”

    Except, it didn’t work. Because they didn’t consider their audience. That commercial would run fine in some places. But NOBODY wants to be bummed the fuck out thinking about dead kids while watching the SuperBowl. Their intent was to play on people’s love for their children. Instead, they pissed people off because dead kids suck and I’m trying to watch a football game, can’t you just show me some boobs or maybe a cute dog or something?

    Intention didn’t matter. Social context does. Good marketers know that.

  36. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Vic says: That is an assumption based on your own personal feelings. And the fact of the matter is that the meanings of symbols changes over time. Continued use and reference, keeps the link active and relevant. Nothing in 2015 makes me think of lynchings when I see a noose and or a tree. Edit – Nothing makes that the FIRST thing I think of in 2015.

    Yes… well, sort of. Actually it’s an assumption based upon my having studied social convention for most of my life. The fact that I can make that assumption is what made me a good designer. It’s what makes me a good cultural critic now. I know that symbols matter. The intent is irrelevant.

    When you’re designing, particularly when you’re designing messages for public consumption (i.e., marketing) your job is to consider these effects. When I sit down to work on a marketing campaign or ad, I consider not only social context, but color, composition of image, whether or not to use a font with serifs. Because I am awesome at my job. And that’s what the job is. I even consider this when I’m publishing something like a text document. Brenadine will tell you that even 20 some odd years ago, in college we sat down and had like a two hour meeting trying to decide what font to publish CMU’s literary journal text in. Because details like this matter when you’re designing something. That’s what design is.

    For the record, it turns out, I actually REALLY like that picture. I think it’s an extremely well composed photograph and in certain situations, it’s the kind of image I would use to evoke an effect. Because I, as a good designer, and a good cultural critic would anticipate a certain response.

    If you’re honestly trying to say that you believe you can (not SHOULD be able to, but CAN) publish an image of a noose hanging from a tree and not expect some people… no LOTS of people to make an association towards lynchings, then you’re essentially saying “Hi, my name is Bob and I would be horrible at marketing”

  37. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    You are also saying that you are completely ignorant of American history, current events and that it is currently African American History month. If you see THAT image with THAT text and don’t think lynchings, then you are either the finest example of white privilege or the not too pointy end of a dull pencil.

  38. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I agree that it’s not a good marketing plan. I don’t agree that a noose by itself is automatically racist. It doesn’t sit right with me that society says a noose automatically means lynching blacks. When it is highly possible that the person didn’t see race when creating it, Bad marketing yes. Racist, I don’t see it.

  39. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    So… Just a thought that occurred while reading back through. The comment about accidental shootings stood out to me, about what is murder and what isn’t. If I were to attempt to shoot the hat off of Chris, and accidentally killed him, there’s a fairly good chance it would be considered accidental or involuntary manslaughter and carry little to no official punishment. I’m basing that off of precedent in the news. There’s quite a few accidental shootings out there. But, if Chris were to shoot me, there’s a fairly solid chance it he would be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

  40. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Dan: So it depends on what you’re trying to say.

    If you’re trying to say “I wish I could use a noose, or a swastika or a cross without having to deal with people preconceived notions of what that means and it sucks that i can’t.” Well, I guess… but that’s how semiotics work. And it’s actually good. I don’t want to write a whole 20 page paper here, but it turns out that if you give up on the base idea of cultural imbuing of meaning in symbols, language and communication don’t work at all.

    But if you’re trying to say “I don’t see how anyone makes that connection, because I sure don’t” then the answer to that is something that Vic actually said in passing. Meaning in symbols change over time. So not everyone has the exact same definitions of anything. It turns out semiotics also shows that no two people have the same idea of any semantic concept. We just rely on them being “close enough” so that we can get things done. I say “Blue” and you have a base idea of what I mean. But for some people, your blue may be a little closer to what they call purple. We just deal with it. Because it usually doesn’t matter.

    For marketing, design, art and writing… your job is essentially to second guess what MOST people will assume when they see the symbol. So you might not LIKE that a noose hanging from a tree has racial overtones. But if you are a good marketing exec, you know that and you plan accordingly.

  41. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Joe: yes. And the truth is, in 2015, in a climate where we keep hearing about racially motivated killings in the press (regardless of whether you believe the Martin, Garner, etc. killings were actually motivated by race or not, you still hear about them) the idea of racial violence is actually MORE on people’s mind than it has been in the last several years. So that means even if some people (for instance, Vic and Dan) aren’t going to make that connection, a good marketing designer should be cognizant of the effect that way too many people will to make this an appropriate design campaign.

  42. avatar
    February 19, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    You”ll excuse my admittedly bizarre train of thought, but Im thinking they could have offended even more people/received more notoriety if they marketed a noose on a tree with a bag of silver coins under the tree, and a hand carved inscription in the tree bark that said “So long and thanks for all the fish -Judas”

  43. avatar
    February 20, 2015 at 6:03 am

    There used to be a restaurant near my house called the Hanging Tree. Very poor choice of name on so many levels.

  44. avatar
    February 20, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Murder is an INTENT do something that could cause harm or kill.

    I add the “could cause harm” on purpose, because that is how the degrees of murder factor in to this debate.

    If you miss your target and accidentally kill someone else, you still committed murder. If you hit a pedestrian with a car from speeding and they die, you accidentally killed them, but you still murdered them because you were intentionally driving recklessly(yes it would have to be proven in court, yada, yada, yada).

    Yes there are degrees of murder, but they all revolve around intent, be it intent to kill, or intent to do something that resulted in killing. If your car slides on ice into a bus and you were not speeding and you end up killing someone, or should I say, the circumstance ends up killing someone, you did not commit murder.

    You can not accidentally murder someone. Either you killed them on purpose, or your chosen actions put them in danger that resulted in their death. Neither of which was an accident.

    “Yes… well, sort of. Actually it’s an assumption based upon my having studied social convention for most of my life. The fact that I can make that assumption is what made me a good designer. It’s what makes me a good cultural critic now. I know that symbols matter. The intent is irrelevant.”

    Regardless of what you think of your own experiences/observations/education, it is still an assumption. Based primarily on bias. You believe that you have a greater insight into the human condition, therefore, you believe your assumption to be more relevant. I can assure you, it is not. How do I know this?

    “Because details like this matter when you’re designing something. That’s what design is.”

    You are 100% correct, the details do matter. But the maleability of user/viewer perception cannot be ignored when talking about social convention. You can’t recognize the ability to impact a user in this manner without also understanding that your ability to manipulate makes any true analysis of what is and is not acceptable meaningless. We can literally change peoples perception with our craft. So telling someone that something is “racist” eliminates the ability to determine it’s actual impact. Why? Because some will agree with what they have been TOLD and others won’t. Neither will be coming to that conclusion on their own.

    If I can change an image, or a text size, or a font, and illicit a specific reaction, it would be disingenuos of me to claim that reaction part of some underlying societal thought process.

    Yes, you are well versed in reading the patterns. Looking back and seeing the impact of various stimuli on the populous. You have apparently spent many years doing so. And now you are at a point where you have come to view those observations, the analysis, and the ability to predict what will push peoples buttons as something other than a highly educated opinion. Which is fine, but do not expect anyone else capable of critical thought to simply cede to your expertise. How do people react when they aren’t being influenced. Take the title away from the article, leave the name of the suite on the image. What do people see then? Some will see a reference to lynching, others will just see a tree and a noose…

    “You are also saying that you are completely ignorant of American history, current events and that it is currently African American History month.”

    No, I am saying that the image in and of itself is just an image. I also said right up front, that I did not know the actual intent of the firm. So either their act was deliberate(racist), or it was just poor decision making(not racist).

    “And the truth is, in 2015, in a climate where we keep hearing about racially motivated killings in the press (regardless of whether you believe the Martin, Garner, etc. killings were actually motivated by race or not, you still hear about them)”

    This goes along with my earlier point. Regardless of actual circumstance, you read/hear about race as a factor in these events. In other events, you do not. Public perception is altered, on purpose, to get eyeballs glued to whatever outlet has the best blinky lights. Yet, knowing this. Knowing the manipulation that occurs. There are those who would still use such things as examples of systemic problems(sexism, racism, homophobia).

    My position is that based on this constant manipulation, the only way to truly analyze any situation of this nature is to try and be as objective as possible, because the sources rarely are.

    The danger of this(manipulation) is that it blinds people to the true instances of hate and discrimination. We need to stop looking for accidental racists, and keep the focus on making sure the actual culprits gain no ground.

    I think that makes all of my points. I will respond to specific questions, but otherwise I think this is as far as I need to go in this discussion.

  45. avatar
    February 20, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Vic: I don’t even know where to go with your murder argument. I used it because it was the most unambiguous thing I could think of. I expected your counter to be that murder and racism were different, which is at least a defensible position. As Sumner points out, there are LOTS of murder charges that don’t require intent. That’s why I used it. This one involves no opinion. You’re flat out wrong and a simple google search can even confirm that for you.

    But all of that is a side issue. So I’ll skip it and get to the real ones. First, YES, it is my assumption. But that’s what we’re talking about. Not even racism. My point is, I am good at my job. Both of them. And my job says that I should be able to make an assumption of what will happen in these situations. And in the place of Bob from marketing, I would have made the assumption that “this is a bad idea, because people will think it is racist.” And I am right. I honestly don’t see how you’re even arguing that. I’m clearly right. This doesn’t even require you to admit that it IS racist. The question is, can a reasonable marketing designer look at that image and say “hey, what will happen if we use this? Will people cry racism?” and the answer is… yes. That’s what we do. And if you can’t do it. Get out of the game.

    As to the rest of your argument. You’re essentially trying to make a creationist argument. You’re trying to argue that your opinions are just as good as mine. But mine aren’t opinions They’re theories. Backed up by YEARS of scientific study. Repeatable research. Cultural Theory and Sociology. These are sciences. Just like the physics that explain the Big Bang. You may not understand them. Fine. But they are there.

    That DOESN’T mean you have to agree. You are perfectly ok with NOT liking that certain things present certain social triggers. Just like I answered to Dan. There are a ton I don’t like. BUT, they do.

    So when you say, “racism has to be intentional” you’re just wrong. That’s not the definition of racism. In fact, the only reason we have the term “institutionalized racism” is that we needed to describe a specific kind of unintentional racism (there are others). What you’re referring to is “intentional racism.” Which is also a thing. And it is pretty rare. In fact, it’s always been pretty rare. It turns out that there are comparatively few people across all of history who have ever been guilty of intentional discrimination. Generally, institutional is much more common. It’s usually people who’s hearts are in the right place, but they are naturally responding to discriminatory practices that are ingrained in the culture. That’s the reason we study it.

    So, your assumption that it is a distraction from finding the “real” racists is invalid. It’s really easy to find the intentional racists. They tend to announce themselves. What we’re more interested in, as discipline (that is to say, people like myself) is finding the far more dangerous ingrained racism (or sexism or homophobia, religious discrimination, etc) in society. Because those are the things that actually affect cultural change. In both directions.

    As for you scientific method based on objectivity, etc. etc. There’s actually some logic to that. In point of fact, base cultural theory pretty much says that it is impossible to study 100% objectively because observance must be done inside of a point of reference and therefore always affects the population being observed. And if you are outside of the point of reference you can’t really observe it properly. Physics actually works the same way. It’s impossible to know the exact spin of a particle, because measuring the spin necessarily changes it. That said, we do measure particle spin and we do observe social strata, because otherwise we can’t learn anything.

    So no, I don’t have any specific questions. You always work from the understanding that “obviously no one else here is smart enough to understand the REAL point.” And once again, we understand your point. You’re just working with very faulty information and assumptions.

  46. avatar
    February 20, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Vic, you’re just wrong. http://law.onecle.com/new-york/penal/PEN0125.25_125.25.html has the 2nd degree murder laws for New York; definitions (1) and (5) require intent, but (2) (depraved indifference), (3) (felony murder), and (4) (depraved indifference special circumstances) do not.

    Other states have similar laws.

  47. avatar
    February 20, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    I do enjoy Vic being wrong.

  48. avatar
    February 23, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    “You always work from the understanding that ‘obviously no one else here is smart enough to understand the REAL point.'”

    Not at all. There is no question of yours or anyone else’s intelligence. A question of motive is not akin to questioning your intelligence.

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