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The Angry Flag Vendor.
September 23, 2001 6:20 PM   Subscribe

The Angry Flag Vendor. From Jeffrey Zeldman's glamorous life. The latest entry makes for a very interesting read.
posted by arrowhead (36 comments total)

 
I just got around to reading his entries since the 11th, too. Very moving.
posted by waxpancake at 6:53 PM on September 23, 2001


Wow. That woman is my hero.
posted by Zettai at 7:30 PM on September 23, 2001


South Africa because of diamonds? DeBeers owns *all* the diamonds, and that's a monopoly the US gov can't do anything about (they're not a us company).
posted by tomplus2 at 8:02 PM on September 23, 2001


Wow. That woman is my hero.

What made you a fan -- her simplistic and offensively timed anti-American platitudes or her repugnant attempt to profiteer on mass murder?
posted by rcade at 8:18 PM on September 23, 2001


i believe the poster in question is the same one i saw in a stack at the local kroger last night (yours with a $5 donation). it is entitled liberty mourns and was drawn by mike luckovich of the atlanta journal constitution. luckovich has always been a compelling editorial cartoonist, but something about this one just strikes me as odd. i see what he is trying to portray and i am so glad that he didn't take the ever-popular "statue of liberty cowering" approach, but those eyes are creepy. they remind me of the "big eyed" art that haunted the houses of my parent's friends in the '70s.
posted by grabbingsand at 9:00 PM on September 23, 2001


...repugnant attempt to profiteer on mass murder?

There is a lot of that going around. I went to a mall in Irvine the other day and almost every store that could, was selling something(s) with a flag or liberty symbol.
posted by Brilliantcrank at 9:03 PM on September 23, 2001


Obviously, fatuous leftist cliches are quite popular right now.
posted by argybarg at 9:15 PM on September 23, 2001


What's the matter with her, everyone knows you should be chanting USA at least 2 to 3 minutes a day. Preferable in a crowd. Sheesh!
posted by skallas at 9:28 PM on September 23, 2001


What made you a fan -- her simplistic and offensively timed anti-American platitudes or her repugnant attempt to profiteer on mass murder?

Wow, think you could be a little more histrionic, Rogers?

"Simplistic" is arguable. As a corrective to some of the more aggressive rhetoric, we've been hearing, it's adding complexity to the dialogue, not subtracting.

"Offensively timed"? If you believe that irrevocable decisions are being made in the next few days or weeks, this is the crucial time to try to have an impact. Saying "Oh, is this a bad time? I'll try again later" is just granting decision-making power to the hawks. If you're not a hawk, it's "offensive" to hear it suggested that you should have no voice.

"Anti-American"? You're better than this--it's worthy of HUAC. Being critical of American foreign policy is not anti-American, any more than it was during Vietnam. Amazingly enough, even the people who have dissenting views can be patriots. In fact--amazing but true--the last I knew, it wasn't even considered treason to disagree with the government.

"Platitudes"? A platitude is something trite, a cliche. I see no cliches here. Nothing that hasn't been said before, perhaps, some false and debatable claims--but that's not what "platitude" means.

"Repugnant"? Well, that's your call, but the fact that you feel an emotion, or profess to feel one, isn't the same as having an argument.

"Profiteer"? How is this different from "profit," except for being more inflammatory? You have no idea from this whether she was "profiteering" or not. It's not unheard of for people to buy posters and sell them at cost because they have a political message to sell with them.

You disappoint me of late, Rogers. I've admired your independence and pugnaciousness in this forum, but in this and other messages you've descended to this kind of grandstanding, bullying people who don't see things your way, and going for the cheap sarcastic zinger instead of engaging in an issue.

This woman may be wrong, she may be stupid, she may be hopelessly out of her element, but she's trying to act on her principles. I admire her a hell of a lot more than some guy making shrill, sarcastic denunciations of anyone who doesn't bow down before his outrage.
posted by rodii at 9:33 PM on September 23, 2001


Obviously, fatuous leftist cliches are quite popular right now.

Hmmm. I'd say fatuous cliches of any stripe are quite popular right now.
posted by Vidiot at 10:18 PM on September 23, 2001


Now Rodii is my hero. Thanks Rodii.

As for what made me admire the woman Zeldman wrote about: Rodii basically nailed it. "This woman may be wrong, she may be stupid, she may be hopelessly out of her element, but she's trying to act on her principles." I see no contradiction between distributing flags and posters about the attacks, and trying to spread the word about the U.S. policies that preceded it. (Notice I don't say "led to it" or "provoked it"... just preceded it. So don't lump me in with the "anti-Americans" who say the U.S. was "asking for it", as I'm sure you're itching to do.)

Coming home from an outing today, I drove past a mosque. There was a police line and a crowd. It was hard to see just what was going on, but one thing I couldn't miss: big posters of Osama bin Laden's face and lettered signs sporting what looked like racist slurs, plastered across the gate.

A lot of people are making themselves heard these days. I'm glad for every cowardly mosque-defacing vandal, there's someone like the flag lady trying to get people to question the simplistic good vs. evil picture being painted right now in the media.
posted by Zettai at 10:45 PM on September 23, 2001


Semi-sarcastic addendum: And not only was the flag seller exercising her freedom of speech to express her dissent, she was making money at the same time! What's more American than that? (Where's dagny to back me up on this?)
posted by Zettai at 10:48 PM on September 23, 2001


Trying to act on her principals, she's selling flags? Given the quotes attributed to her, I fail to see that logic...

This woman is exercising her rights, and she's free to do so. The facts -- that she is choosing exercise her rights with inflammatory rhetoric, that she is mouthing words which could be construed as justification for the heinous attacks in NY and DC, that she implies that Bush's decisions would be different if he children in the military, that she places the blame for the terrorist attacks on our own country -- don't inspire in me any sort of admiration. I think reprehensible is the appropriate word. Just because people can say anything they want in the USA doesn't mean it's always a good idea, and it certainly doesn't mean I have to agree with them.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" -- widely attributed to Voltaire, actually from The Friends of Voltaire (1906), written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall. That about sums it up for me.

I agree with one thing Zettai and Rodii said, at least in part: Rodii basically nailed it. "This woman may be wrong, she may be stupid, she may be hopelessly out of her element...
posted by JParker at 12:43 AM on September 24, 2001


she is choosing exercise her rights with inflammatory rhetoric

Look at the original piece again: "In spite of the woman’s comments, her flags continue to sell briskly." It doesn't sound as though anyone was particularly "inflamed", as far as Jeffrey overheard. The only exchange he reports was civil.

Trying to act on her principals, she's selling flags? Given the quotes attributed to her, I fail to see that logic...

Arguably, it's more in keeping with the spirit of the United States to engage in criticism of the government than it is to dutifully wave your flag and say "My country right or wrong! USA all the way!" Conformity is not the same thing as patriotism.
posted by Zettai at 1:33 AM on September 24, 2001


she may not be truly supportive of the government's foreign policies, but thru and thru, she is probably still an AMERICAN.

where does it say that you're not patriotic to your country simply by criticizing the government?
posted by arrowhead at 2:10 AM on September 24, 2001


zettai: not only was the flag seller exercising her freedom of speech to express her dissent, she was making money at the same time! What's more American than that? (Where's dagny to back me up on this?)

Right here, right here :-)
posted by dagny at 3:25 AM on September 24, 2001


The facts -- that she is choosing exercise her rights with inflammatory rhetoric,

I'm sorry, I don't get "inflammatory." All I can see is that you disagree with her--which we agree is OK--and that you think her words might rouse people to some kind of action. (Isn't that where the "inflame" comes from? If you agreed with her, you say "inspiring" instead.) Is it that you prefer your dissenters to be ineffectual? I mean, if this is just a high-energy way of saying "I don't like her message," that's one thing, but "inflammatory" carries with it clear tones that there's some danger involved and that people that do these things should be stopped. I don't believe that, do you?

that she is mouthing words which could be construed as justification for the heinous attacks in NY and DC,

Again, more emotive slanting. She's "mouthing" words--as opposed to just saying them, like more acceptable folks do? "Could be construed as justification"--sure, if you take the least charitable interpretation. God knows we've seen a lot of that around here, where posters trying to understand how we got to this situation are practically labelled enemy sympathizers for it. It's not right. She is taking a position. Deal with it.

that she implies that Bush's decisions would be different if he children in the military,

Agreed, this is unfair, though I have to note that it's a standard tactic in American politics and we see it here all the time. Are our watchdogs of political speech going to apply the same standards to Metafilter discourse as we do to a flag seller in Union Square?

that she places the blame for the terrorist attacks on our own country

This is just fabrication. As people have noted here over and over and over, pointing out that we played a role in the events leading up to this is not the same thing as assigning "blame" for anything. When something bad happens, you analyze how it happened and try to learn from it; if you had a hand in it, you admit that and ask yourself what your responsibility is. Unless, as in politics and MeFi, you're more concerned with winning debates than with meanigful action.

-- don't inspire in me any sort of admiration.

Whatever.

For the record, my own take on the situation is close to the flag sellers than to the MeFi hawks, but I recognize that she is being simplistic here and that some of her facts are wrong. I don't see how that makes her any different from much of the discussion I've heard, on and off-line, where people are saying simplistic and wrong things all the time, and getting debated and (hopefully) moving toward more sophisticated positions.

The only comment here I see that's actually substantive in that way is tomplus's. Everything else has been about who has the moral high ground, and this is all too representative of the conversation here. It's the way people are, I guess, but it's just noise--well, no,worse, it's propaganda--in the long run.
posted by rodii at 5:41 AM on September 24, 2001


This woman may be wrong, she may be stupid, she may be hopelessly out of her element, but she's trying to act on her principles. I admire her a hell of a lot more than some guy making shrill, sarcastic denunciations of anyone who doesn't bow down before his outrage.

A lot of people on the far left and right have fallen into reflexive anti-American sentiment after Sept. 11. That this woman engages in U.S. bashing while selling flags is the icing on the cake.

Though you may consider it principled for people to map their long-term grievances about this country onto the motivations of terrorists who made no demands and claimed no responsibility, I don't see any basis for it.

Considering the depth of the tragedy (today's fun fact: the dead and missing employees of Cantor Fitzgerald leave behind 1,500 children), I think it's squalid opportunism to use mass murder as a catch-all for anything and everything that you don't like about the country.

How many different ways can different people from different ideologies write that the events of Sept. 11 prove their own politics are correct?
posted by rcade at 7:21 AM on September 24, 2001


The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

-- That infamous U.S. basher, George Washington.

Reflexive anti-anti-Americanism (aka other ways to misuse a flag):



[the 1976 Pulitzer Prize photo]
posted by dhartung at 8:07 AM on September 24, 2001


I'm late on this Tomplus ... but
"you bring Debeers and we'll have Apartheid"
posted by johnny7 at 8:18 AM on September 24, 2001


Looking at only one side of an issue always inflames people.

People dead at the WTC: approx 6500
People dead at the Pentagon: approx 190
People dead in Pennsylvania: approx 65

From the historyguy's web site on the Persian Gulf War:
Iraqi soldier deaths in the PGW: 20,000
Iraqi civilians dead in the PGW: 2,300
US deaths in the PGW: 148
Non-combatant US deaths in the PGW: 121

Add that to US involvement in Israel, the arms for hostages debacle, US involvement in driving the USSR out of Afghanistan only to allow the Taliban regime to take over and violate just about every human right one could think of... Wouldn't you, possibly without television or radio, poor and starving, living among the rubble, probably growing up in a refugee camp.. wouldn't you feel just a LITTLE angry at the US? Particularly if your respected religious and political leaders are pointing their fingers West and saying "blame them!"

Conversely, it would be reasonable to say that our history of involvement in the Middle East has often been an attempt (perhaps misguided at times) to assist those living there. We helped the Afghanis with their Soviet problem. We are abiding by our agreement to officially recognize Israel as a Jewish state. We came to Kuwait's aid when Saddamn came barelling through.

There are two sides to every story. While no one deserves to lose some 7000 non-combatants in one day, it is never a bad idea to ask why anyone would hate the US so much. Understanding the point of view of the enemy is important, and I hope that the news shows devote a lot of time over the coming months to education. I don't know nearly enough about the Middle Eastern conflicts, and I doubt the majority of Americans could pick out Afghanistan on the map before this happened, much less repeat information about the Northern Army, the Taliban, or the human rights violations taking place there.
posted by xyzzy at 9:52 AM on September 24, 2001


xyzzy, I dont think those numbers are right

The United States suffered 148 killed in action, 458 wounded, 121 killed in nonhostile actions and 11 female combat deaths


In June 1991 the U.S. estimated that more than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers died,
300,000 werewounded, 150,000 deserted, and 60,000 were taken prisoner.
Many human rights groups claimed a much higher numbers of Iraqi killed in action.

http://www.netwiz.net/~cryan/war.html

I've seen the 100,000 dead soldiers estimate in more than a couple places.
posted by skallas at 10:18 AM on September 24, 2001


Yes, the numbers have claimed as much as 2 million. But even in the lowest estimates, if you compare that to the number of American forces lost, the disparity is just overwhelming and certainly a source of anger for many people in the Middle East, not just Iraqis.
posted by xyzzy at 10:57 AM on September 24, 2001


I think it's tragic how badly everyone wants to focus on their own beliefs. I've been to Union Square, I saw a woman who might have been the same one Jeffrey was talking about.

All anyone was doing at that square was fighting. All of them, all of them, were standing on the wax of hundreds of melted candles. All those candles were from people who cared enough to memorialize the dead without having to engage in the street theater of bickering amongst themselves.

I don't dispute that anyone has the right to whatever beliefs they have about these attacks. But these people weren't writing their representatives, they weren't talking to ambassadors at the embassies that are speckled all over this city. They were just fighting. More fighting. I saw people on the verge of a fistfight there Saturday night.

All of this went on a few yards from a circle of Buddhist monks, leading a silent vigil. They might not have been advancing a political agenda, but, to my mind, they were doing the right thing.
posted by anildash at 11:19 AM on September 24, 2001


anil, it's only been two weeks, people are still in the midst of violent feelings of sadness, anger, confusion, fear.

everyone wants it *fixed* and there are several dominant ideas out there as to how best to do that.

I like that on metafilter we've been extra-respectful (for the most part) of each others ideas. it helps that we knew each other beforehand. I've felt a strong desire on the part of this community to support each others' feelings, even when we've disagreed. I'm proud to be part of such a community.

anyway, please try to shake off what you saw in union square. I think people are still traumatized (especially in NYC) by the event, and they're coping as best they can, and trying hard to regain a sense of control of their lives.
posted by rebeccablood at 11:49 AM on September 24, 2001


I want to apologize to Rogers for getting personal above. I won't try to justify it, it was wrong and I shouldn't have done it. (We still disagree, in case that's not obvious.)
posted by rodii at 5:09 PM on September 24, 2001


I'm sorry, I don't get "inflammatory."

What part of "this is our government’s own policies coming home to roost" didn't you get?
posted by leo at 6:05 PM on September 24, 2001


For some reason, as I keep reading the "America is evil!!!" comments, I keep hearing in my mind this voice saying, "She deserved to be raped, she was wearing a short skirt."

I know America has been evil, but we weren't that evil. No real holocaust. Soldiers died, but not millions of civilians. If we deserve it, we should have done worse. Raped children, committed genocide, that sort of thing.
posted by stoneegg21 at 12:17 AM on September 25, 2001


Apology accepted, Rodii. Besides, I thought the long explication of my pointed comment was interesting.

To those who believe the U.S. had it coming -- if bin Laden is the mastermind of Sept. 11, doesn't Afghanistan have it coming?
posted by rcade at 6:28 AM on September 25, 2001


What part of "this is our government’s own policies coming home to roost" didn't you get?

A snarky comment does not an argument make. If you have something rational to contribute, I'd like to hear it.
posted by rodii at 7:35 AM on September 25, 2001


To those who believe the U.S. had it coming -- if bin Laden is the mastermind of Sept. 11, doesn't Afghanistan have it coming?

I'm sorry, but--for the thousandth time--this is a non sequitur. Just because you're critical of US foreign policy and believe it played a role in bringing this to pass, that does not mean you necessarily think the US "had it coming." I don't, and I don't deny the evil of the terrorists' acts.

Look, if you saw your neighbor building an unsound house, and you thought it was dangerous, would you not consider warning him? You might have ethical reasons (fear for his safety) or pragmatic reasons (fear that his house would fall on yours) or more generic concerns (the wish to see things done right). None of those things translate to hatred for your neighbor. And if the house fell down, might you not try to tell him not to make the same mistakes again?

Some of use have been critical of the US's mideast policy for a long time. Since the Gulf War, or since our support for the Mujahedeen, or since the Shah's coup, or whenever. Pick your date. We have seen, or think we've seen, disaster on the horizon. And we've said so, for ethical reasons (we think our actions in the mideast were morally wrong and hurt innocent people), or for pragmatic reasons (we think we're backing the wrong horse, or likely to create a backlash) or more generic reasons (our policy has been hamfisted and distorted by external concerns, and we'd like to see it done right). Now the house has fallen, and our concerns seem to me to be more relevant than ever. Saying so does not constitute self-hatred, or hatred of the US or the west or civilization, and it does not constitute an endorsement of the terrorists or any other enemies. No one here, as far as I know, is contemplating a (metaphorical) trip to Hanoi, not even the angry flag seller.

This is a critical time. Decisions are being made now that are going to have ramifications for the next generation, at least. If someone genuinely believes that "this is our government’s own policies coming home to roost", then, as tasteless as you might find it, he or she has a duty to try to change those policies.

Conservatives often complained in the Clinton years about how vigorous debate, as they saw it, was unfairly squelched by Clinton's Doctor Feelgood politics. The same thing is happening now--it's considered tasteless to dissent, not nice, not positive at a time when we all need to get behind our president and stand together, etc. Nonsense.

This is the time when people need to speak out most. And, this being a democracy, many of the speak-outers will be to some degree naive, misguided, simplistic, unsophisticated, uninformed. This doesn't mean their contributions are devoid of value. One of the key principles in a democratic debate is charity: you try to find the value in what other people have to say, even if it's not very well expressed. To use sarcasm or scorn to stigmatize dissenters is ethically wrong and it's pragmatically stupid, because we need to hear those opinions if we're going to function as a democracy.

(I apologize for going on and on here. I realize these points have been made better elsewhere. This just seems to be the thread I picked, rather than the MeFi Warrior style of doing battle in every thread and posting every news article I see. Makes it easier to ignore me! I think I've said about all I have to say now, though.)
posted by rodii at 8:08 AM on September 25, 2001


A snarky comment does not an argument make.

Quantity of verbiage does not an argument make. Sometimes ideas are so obvious, only a word or two need do. The woman's comments were patently inflammatory. There was no need for excessive margin notes.
posted by leo at 9:03 AM on September 25, 2001


The woman's comments were patently inflammatory

No, they weren't. Patently.

Not convinced? The fact that I simply assert something doesn't do the job? Same here.

Assume I'm stupid. What do you mean by "inflammatory"? Who is being "inflamed" to do what?
posted by rodii at 9:21 AM on September 25, 2001


From the historyguy's web site on the Persian Gulf War:

Irrelevant. That was a WAR, a war started by Iraq, a war Iraq refused to surrender after practically the entire planet turned against him. (Remember that little something called the UN?) All such casualties therein are Saddam's casualties.

It has nothing whatsoever ever to do with the WTC mass murder.
posted by aaron at 12:16 PM on September 25, 2001



It has nothing whatsoever ever to do with the WTC mass murder.

and what about all the times we've bombed iraq since then? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you think that's all saddam's fault, too.

but, you know, you and I only get one side of the story, the one that comes to our journalists from their sources, many of whom work for our government.

and so do the iraqis.

if you and I and all the iraqis knew all of the unvarnished facts of the matter, all of us might change our minds about the entire situation.

that's true about all sorts of situations around the world. there are lots of people on the planet who see the US as a real bad guy. who might believe that the US has been having an undeclared war with their people for a very long time.

you do know that there are people who see things differently than you do, right? ;)
posted by rebeccablood at 12:26 PM on September 25, 2001


Part six of Phil Agre's "War In A World Without Borders" is particularly relevant here, as it discusses terrorism as a "discourse":
When we agree with a text, we tend to identify with it, saving its arguments for future use. And when we disagree with a text, we tend to treat it an object of investigation, trying to figure out what is wrong with it. The key to critical reading is to adopt both of these attitudes at the same time, neither uncritically accepting the text nor completely rejecting it.
posted by holgate at 12:59 PM on September 25, 2001


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