Posts Tagged 'patriotism'

The End


One year ago, I embarked on a mission. In order to document and call attention to the prevalence of patriotic imagery on the American landscape; I decided to photograph one new use of the flag, everyday, for one year. Now, 366 (I bet you forgot it was a leap year) flags later I am finished. The point has been made; in 2008 flag imagery is everywhere. It is common to see a person in a flag t-shirt or see the flag image decorating a mailbox or used on the packaging for cigarettes or any product you can think of.

All the uses I have photographed are blatantly against the U.S. Flag code (click here to check it out, great site)  yet it is considered acceptable and even patriotic to stick a plastic flag in your yard or don a flag shirt. However, some uses of the flag will get you arrested like hanging it upside down to protest the war in Iraq. And burning the flag is out of the question. Why does burning the flag incite people to violence while using it on a disposible garbage bag does not? Both are against the flag code.

To me the over usage feels like propaganda. It seeps in through your skin when you are not paying attention, subliminally creating a sense of nationalism.

Thanks for coming along on my journey! It has been an interesting year!


FLAG A DAY is going to be included in a show, sponsored by CREATIVE TIME that promises to be really exciting. DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA: THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN will be at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park avenue between 66th and 67th streets) in NYC from Sept. 21 – 27.


Living Photographs – 2

Recently a woman named Patty Watson sent me a group of photographs that I would like to share with you. Here is what she has to say,

Since 911 each Flag Day I have been organizing aerial photos consisting of 750 students, staff and volunteers at Cloverbank elementary school. We have a big Flag Day ceremony each year so I thought it would be fun to make a symbol to teach the kids about being patriotic. These enlarged photos line the foyer of the school. Each child receives one on Field Days and decorates the frame in red, white, and blue stars. Last year I also had the kids sing “God Bless America” while in the formation. I have completed 8 patriotic symbols and given 4 Flag Day speeches.




He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.
– George Orwell

I think that quote is so appropriate for what is happening in our country right now and is for a large part of what my work in general is about. The present and the past is a story told by whoever has the power to control the telling.

To understand how this is being done in broad daylight read “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” by David Barstow published in the New York Times on April 20, 2008. The article outlines how Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon, and the Bush Administration manipulated the telling of facts about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the progress of the war in Iraq by using retired military personnel, many of whom were on the boards of military contractors, as puppets to spout their carefully scripted rhetoric in the name of objective journalism.

Here are some highlights:

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.

The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events.

The group was heavily represented by men involved in the business of helping companies win military contracts. Several held senior positions with contractors that gave them direct responsibility for winning new Pentagon business.

In the fall and winter leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. The basic case became a familiar mantra: Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, was developing nuclear weapons, and might one day slip some to Al Qaeda; an invasion would be a relatively quick and inexpensive “war of liberation.”

At the Pentagon, … staff marveled at the way the analysts seamlessly incorporated material from talking points and briefings as if it was their own.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”




Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.

– Charles de Gaulle

Nitro Girl

You need to see Tuesday’s Colbert Report. It concerns the erection of the “Nitro Girl” patriotic statute in front of Werbeny Tire Town in Hilltop, NJ. It’s on Black Horse Pike. I think you will want to visit this place with your photo-mojo.
–Russ in LA


Thanks Russ! Here is the link to “Difference Makers Nitro Girl, If you don’t have a patriotic statue in front of your business, the terrorists have won.” on the Colbert Report…hilarious!

While we are on the subject of Giant Women I found out that Nitro girl is not the only giant woman made from this mold. In fact there are many “Uniroyal Gals” overlooking the highways of America clad in outfits befitting the climate of the area and taste of the owners. So if you happen to be the lucky owner of a giant fiberglass woman statue you can paint in whatever clothes, patriotic or not, that appeal to you.

Most of the original statues where made in the 1960’s by International Fiberglass a company that also produced giant men designed to lure in customers to the business of choice. The original man mold, for a Paul Bunyan, was altered in several ways depending on the purchaser’s need. For muffler and tire companies the Paul Bunyan beard was filled in and the arms changed to hold mufflers and tires, for Indians a naked chest was created and the arm was raised to give the stereotypical “Indian” greeting.


The Valley of Elah

tommy lee jones

Last week Mark was in town with a day off so we ditched the kids, well actually the kids ditched us, and caught our first movie in Norfolk where I am living and teaching at Old Dominion University. We went to the Naro, a very cool, old (1936), theatre to see The Valley Of Elah.

I wasn’t really expecting much, although I am a big Tommy Lee Jones fan from way back (Mark thinks it’s the three name thing, you know John Lee Hooker, Stevie Ray Vaughn) so I was surprised that I was really moved by this movie.

The movie effectively lets the viewer into the minds of young soldiers in Iraq who are unable to deal with the senseless, brutal, and horrific acts of a war that means nothing to them. Tommy Lee Jones, a retired career army man, and the father of a soldier who has gone missing, has a complete change of thinking and an awakening about the course America is on with this war. In the end he commits a hugely symbolic act with the flag (loved it!)

What touched me about The Valley of Elah was how effectively it relates one of the true devastations of this war, the destruction of the human mind.