Yesterday I, like many others, were shocked (and disgusted, can’t forget disgusted) by seeing a “seemingly” blood splattered sweatshirt with the Kent State logo being sold by UO for $129.
Like usual, my brain jumped into devil’s advocate mode, and I thought out instances where the thought of combining blood (or what looks like blood) and Kent State insignia could be a stellar piece on the struggles for freedom within the 1970’s context as well as our own today. Ferguson anyone? Except that’s not what’s happening. If the sweatshirt hung in a museum along with other artifacts and constructions hoping to start– or continue– a larger conversation, it’d be jarring, but there’d be meaning in the jarring. A Clockwork Orange is gruesomely violent, and it’s definitely difficult for me to watch– but this is the point.
Once I read UO’s “apology”, I knew I had to write something now.
“It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such.”
This is such a crock of insane bullshit I can’t even be diplomatic. Many of my opinions (and the blogposts they spawn) deserve thoughtful diplomacy– I cannot know every intention and facet of communication that was purposefully derived, but I sure as hell can tell you when I smell a semiotic pile of horse shit.
And MAN does it stink in here right now.
There is no way in the reality we are all apart of that UO did not mean to allude to the tragedies of Kent State. There are 3 parts to this semiotic crap fest: the visual equivalence to blood, the Kent State logo, and a sweatshirt. Need me to delve in further you say? Why I thought you’d never ask.
Normally I chalk stuff like this up to laziness or just strange but blatant unawareness, but sun-faded vintage collection? When Kent State’s colors have always been blue and gold? Not red? Sun. Faded. Vintage. Collection. ?!!!! No, sir. I can’t swallow that load of lies and I can’t believe you just asked me to.
To tell people you are ‘saddened that it was perceived as such’ is the same when someone claims the Confederate Flag wasn’t/isn’t racist, or when the owner of the Redskins tells us the name isn’t derogatory. The sweatshirt was perceived as such because it communicated that horrific moment in our history so succinctly.
Semiotics and the messaging through crafted (and implied) imagery cannot be “logic’ed” away by mitigating speech or making us believe we are the ones who misunderstands what we are looking at. You made it, back it up with why you made it. To quote Judge Judy– don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
In lieu of yet another half-assed-and-not-even-based-in-reality apology, wouldn’t it be a stronger business position to design better instead of diving head first for the barely-healed scabs of America’s controversial topics?