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
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.