Saturday 11 July 2015

How Embarrassing!

We’ve all had those moments. We’ve all gone up to someone we know only to find its not who we think they are. That’s no so bad, we can all live with that sort of embarrassment, but if the mistake is made in full view of the whole world to see then the embarrassment is likely to last forever. So spare a thought today for a couple of people who have let themselves be open to ridicule simply through cases of mistaken identity.

The first incident made me laugh. It made headlines in most newspapers and the internet. It was of a supposedly diligent CNN reporter, Lucy Pawle, who attended London Pride and came away with egg on her face. Among the many rainbow-coloured flags and banners Lucy noticed one that was black and white and disturbingly familiar.

Nations have often felt threat and dread at the sight of specific flags. The Nazis swastika flag being, perhaps, the most dreaded in history. In recent days the old flag of the Confederate States of the American Civil War has come under scrutiny for its association with slavery.

The most dreaded flag on the international stage at the moment is that of ISIS or ISIL, the black flag with a central white disc containing an Arabic inscription.

Lucy spotted this flag at London Pride (below). She was astonished that no-one else had noticed. She acknowledged that the inscription wasn’t in Arabic but some form of gobbledigook, as she put it.
She should have used her journalistic skills and investigated instead of just enjoy herself at Pride, because if she’d looked again she would have seen very clearly that the “gobbledigook” was, in fact, silhouettes of various sex toys! Perhaps Lucy is too innocent to recognise what a sex toy looks like (an innocent journalist? -if you believe that, you’ll believe anything). CNN removed Lucy’s report from their website a couple of days later. Surely, Lucy’s mistake is as valid a news story as any other? Journalists are not infallible and shouldn’t censor their website to try to prove it. (I’ll return to a real threat the sight of the ISIS flag has caused elsewhere next week.)

A second example of mistaken identity involves another American broadcaster, NBC.

When the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex marriage should be legal throughout the nation organisations showed their support and celebration by putting variations of the Rainbow Pride colours on their websites. Facebook was probably the most widespread example with millions of users using the Facebook app to change their profile pictures.

One Facebook user, however, strongly objected to NBC changing its corporation logo to include the rainbow colours. Its surprising how something so familiar can suddenly seem so different when certain news events dominate the media. As NBC pointed out to Don Stair after he posted a comment on Facebook, saying things like “Just stay out of it” and “Shame on you!”, the broadcaster has been using their rainbow-coloured logo since 1986. Obviously, Don Stair hadn’t taken that much notice of the NBC logo in the past 29 years until his blatant anti-same-sex marriage views made him see a gay rainbow in a place where it didn’t exist. As can be seen in thousands of lgbt rainbow logos the NBC colours aren’t even in the “correct” sequence.
Speaking of the sequence, we can return to the question of the more common mistaken identity of another flag. Many members of the lgbt community themselves often mistake a flag that dates back long before the emergence of gay rights as that of the Rainbow Pride flag. In this case there’s no big deal as the two flags are often seen together on Pride marches and both are positive symbols. There have been many media reports which have made the same mistaken identity, but they can be forgiven. Here are the two flags side by side.
It’s obvious how people can make a mistake. The Rainbow Pride flag is on the left. On the right is the Peace flag that was first flown in Rome in 1961 during a peace march. The lettering spells “peace” in Italian and has been translated into other languages. Often the “peace” inscription is seen on Pride flags as well. If you’re unsure of the “official” difference, apart from the inscription, you’ll notice when put side by side, that the red stripe is at different edges and the sequence of colours are reversed, and the Peace flag has one more stripe than the 6-striped Rainbow flag.

What the first two examples show is that anyone can make a mistake, especially if we haven’t taken much notice of what we see. We’re all human – it happens to us all.

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