July 5, 2019


Innocuous or even noble symbols can be appropriated for evil purposes. The swastika is an ancient symbol in various Asian cultures. It was adopted in Europe as a symbol of good luck until the Nazis made it their own. The KKK’s pointy hoods may have been inspired by the Catholic capirote of medieval Spain and Portugal, which looks dismayingly similar.

But here’s the thing: When evil people acquire symbols for their own ends, the only guarantee of success is when everyone else validates the acquisition.

If Nike had gone ahead with the special-edition sneakers, it would have been, in marketing terms, the equivalent of Godzilla versus Bambi. A few neo-Nazis and a few more social-justice warriors would have complained, and everyone else would have gone about their day totally unconcerned.

Instead, Nike followed the advice of a man whose business model is to stir grievance and controversy for its own sake. Suddenly, millions of people who once thought the Betsy Ross flag was just an admirable bit of Americana now associate it with hate groups. Worse, other entirely decent and patriotic Americans will now likely start brandishing the flag to offend people who, until recently, had no idea some hate groups adopted the flag in the first place.

The ranks of the perpetually offended will misread this trolling-to-own-the-libs effort as an endorsement of hate speech, and the culture war will have yet another idiotic fight on its hands, and a symbol of the country’s founding that should be a uniting image for all Americans will now be reduced to a weapon in that war.

Thanks a lot, Nike.

As Jim Treacher noted on Wednesday, Betsy Ross’s flag design “was good enough for Obama’s inauguration. Not anymore. If Betsy Ross is racist now, how about the 76ers? The Patriots? Should we start picketing showings of Hamilton?”

Given the Philadelphia Flyers’ recent memory holing of Kate Smith, I’d say the odds are 50-50 that the city’s basketball team updates their logo, which features the 13 star design. I wonder when the left starts considering their name as evil as the NFL’s Washington Redskins?

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