June 15, 2005

Subtle Nuance

Slightly paraphrasing Bill Maher, "Flying a flag on your car is literally the least you can do."

The ribbon phenomenon, what a fantastic use of unregulated capitalism. The companies unable to compete in the rush for government contracts can still make a quick buck with no sacrifice. My complaint though isn't with the ubiquitous yellow ribbons, cammo ribbons, red white & blue ribbons... ad nauseum. What stands out is the wording.

The ribbons say;

"Support the Troops".


"I Support the Troops".

Isn't it odd that the message being communicated is a directive and not a declarative? It's a command to random strangers to do something and not a statement that the individual displaying the ribbon has actually done something. These are the same people who think a tax cut during war time is fiscally smart and probably wouldn't cross the street to piss on a man on fire. As long as the focus is on telling others what they should be doing, there's no need for personal sacrifice?

The ones that have "made in China" printed on them are the bestest!!

Posted by kerry at June 15, 2005 05:28 AM | TrackBack

On target as usual, Kerry. And not alone. I just read an article in DETAILS magazine titled "Ban the Charity Wristband." (by Jonathan Sabin) The subheading reads, "Go ahead - buy a rubber bracelet to support a noble cause. But WEAR the bracelet and you are promoting only yourself." It goes on to say, "It never fails, just when it seems America has finally produced a virtuous idea, modern marketing and native bad taste turn it into pop schlock.....The problem is we've become a nation of philanthropic exhibitionists. Whatever happened to the notion of anonymous giving?....The bracelet craze recalls the freedom-fried hysteria after 9/11, when anyone not proudly flying Old Glory on his lapel was suspected of harboring an Al Qaeda cell in his basement." But the last paragraph provides some really important info! "Hospitals have started prohibiting staff and patients from wearing yellow charity bands. It seems they tag patients with bands the same color and people are getting confused. The medical bracelets don't stand for LiveStrong, though. They stand for DO NOT RESUSCITATE." Good to know!

Posted by: lulu at June 15, 2005 09:42 AM

I suppose it's not as bad as if they said, "Go fuck yourself." That's the Dick "Dick" Cheney bumper ribbon.

Posted by: Mark at June 15, 2005 10:06 AM

I thought it was the "Go Cheney yourself" bumper magnet. :-P

Posted by: madbad at June 15, 2005 11:10 AM

But isn't that part of the whole moral posturing of the modern right-winger?

"Do as I say, not as I do."

"Lower MY taxes, everyone else can get bent."

"NO ABORTION FOR ANYONE-- unless my teenage girl gets knocked up by her damn non-Aryan boyfriend."

"KILL THOSE DIRTY HOMOSEXUALS!! And where's my huge plate of shellfish?!" (Both abominations in Leviticus, don't you know)

Posted by: RW at June 15, 2005 11:28 AM

I knew the ribbon thing had gotten weird when I saw one dedicated to the memory of Dimebag Darrel, the former Pantera musican who was shot on stage.

Posted by: John Gillnitz at June 15, 2005 11:30 AM

This issue is a waste - there are plenty of left-wing and centrist 'commanding' slogans, too.

We need to stick to the real issues and not let the noise from a thousand tiny ones hide the big ones.

It's been a while since I've seen the left discuss the project for a new american century - that should get repeated, repeated, repeated - like the "liberal media" mantra of the right - until almost everyone in America is aware of the 'agenda' the administration brought from before the election.

Posted by: Craig at June 15, 2005 11:39 AM

I don't see this "issue" so much as an issue as I do a personal observation on an interesting manipulation of linguistics to further a less than worthy cause.

Should you feel inspired to write up a screed on PNAC subterfuge, do so and email it to me. I'll post it with full attribution. I can only get to so many topics in a day.

Posted by: kerry at June 15, 2005 11:51 AM

For my money, the most bizarre twist on the ribbon magnet phenom is the one I saw outside my Chicago apt. building reading "Support Strippers". I haven't noticed who owns the car yet, but I certainly support his or her moxie. More to the point, the most honest ribbon magnet would read "Support Magnet Manufacturers".

Finally, how many ribbon purchases add up to one armored Humvee?

Posted by: Jon Weidler at June 15, 2005 02:15 PM

I always thought they should just cut through the bullshit and say "Support The War." Because it reduces to that, and only that. Human lives are a dime a dozen, but a good war? Ah, that, my friends, only comes along once every...couple months?

Posted by: Riggsveda at June 15, 2005 02:16 PM

Nowadays, when I see a support-the-troops magnet, I try to park and leave behind a copy of this note:

"I've often seen those support-the-troops magnets; so I got to thinking. Why not undermine the troops instead? And here's how:

Start a war of choice based on a pack of lies;
send a force that's undermanned and underequipped;
alienate every ally;
provide no exit strategy;
abrogate the Geneva Convention;
institute stop-loss orders and back-to-back deployments;
shortchange veterans on care, benefits, and pay;
condemn all patriotic dissent;
and above all, shield the civilian leadership from paying any price for their mistakes and crimes.

You may object to these proposals - as do I! - but they do possess one great advantage; they require zero change from present official policy."

I have some xerox copies of this note in my glove compartment, and have distributed about a half-dozen so far.

Posted by: Nathaniel Hellerstein at June 15, 2005 02:44 PM

Excellent post. I CANNOT stand the damn epidemic of ribbons in my small [minded?], red-state town. You're right on the money about the command vs. declarative rhetoric, but I think there's something else it's evoking as well - Vietnam.

One of the reasons the Vietnam War left such a scar on the American psyche was that as support for the war waned, it manifested itself as a lack of support for the troops. Too late Americans realized they were blaming the wrong people for the misguided Vietnam policy. They realized that even if they didn't support the war, they should always support the troops.

Fast forward to the 2nd Gulf War. With support for the actual war so soft, it was perhaps an appropriate reminder, nonetheless, to ask people to support the troops. But that's not really what the ubiquitous ribbons are about, especially in their demand, not request, or declaration. They are a diguised demand to support the war. They've taken one of the great lessons of the Vietnam War and turned it against itself. The ribbons are a way of saying, if you're against the war, you don't support the troops.

The one that personally enrages me the most, however, is the "Freedom Isn't Free" ribbon. Considering that there is no draft and the entire war is on the national credit card, unless that person has a loved one actually fighting, they didn't pay a damn thing for the war. Because if they were ever asked to, their support for it would evaporate.

Posted by: Dash at June 15, 2005 02:46 PM

And let's not forget that "God Bless America" is also a declarative. Yes, I know that this phrase originally came from the Kate Smith song. But I would think that people who are respectful of the Diety would make a request, such as: "May God bless America." Instead, it seems that the Right thinks they are empowered enough to make a demand of Almighty.

Posted by: Mickey at June 15, 2005 04:18 PM

Anybody have any info on the companies that are producing these things? I'm curious as to whether the troops are getting any benefit whatsoever from their sale? I'm sure Rupert or Mr. Delay are lining their pockets with the proceeds!

Posted by: Jason at June 15, 2005 04:18 PM

There's no shortage of these things here in Idaho. A car in my neighborhood sports a bumper sticker proclaiming "God Bless America, and to HELL with our Enemies!" In re the "directive" aspect of the "Support the Troops" ribbons: I was thinking of making my own yellow ribbon that says "Support the Troops, or Die Motherfucker!"

I think that captures the sentiment pretty well. "America, Fuck yeah!"

Posted by: Louie Simon at June 15, 2005 07:41 PM

What if you had a whole bunch of these magnets made up that looked just like the others but said things like " Goerge Bush killed my son." or "No Blood For Oil", "Bring them home now!" etc. and then went around replacing the ones on peoples cars? The owners would never notice and you might start to see a change in perseptions if everyone started seeing that there nieghbors felt this way. Most of these things are probably sold as "fund raisers" anyway, like those stupid "proud parent of a kid from the local school" stickers. Just a thought.

Posted by: Simi Dem at June 15, 2005 10:09 PM

I saw a ribbon for sale in the RW&B color scheme but it said "Just pretend... it's all OK." My wife pointed out, as I reached for it, that few if any would actually read the goddam thing.

Posted by: David at June 16, 2005 12:32 AM

How about putting a few ribbons up to contextualize the directive?

"Support Our Troops"

"Stop Troop Abuse"

"Bring Them Home..."

"Send'em to College"

Would that stir the pot and mix things up a bit? What do jingoistic right-wing nationalists say about their ribbons anyway? Do they read them? Do they have anything to say about cars that don't sport them?

Posted by: Emyth at June 16, 2005 02:12 AM

I recently saw a pink magnetic breast cancer ribbon with "Support Our Boobs" on it.

Posted by: FTS at June 16, 2005 03:56 AM

The ones here around the Boston area seem to say "Support OUR Troops" -- thereby injecting that all-important extra fillip of jingoism. The bigger the SUV, the more "patriotric" ribbons plastered on its giant backside -- 2 or 3 is common & I've seen as many as a dozen, all repeating the same mantra. My favorite counterattack is from Ted Rall -- one of his cartoons included a ribbon emblazoned OUR SAINTED DEAD.

Posted by: Anne Laurie at June 16, 2005 04:23 AM

The whole ribbon thing is a low-key, faux-naive way of suppressing dissent and questioning. It doesn't mean actually doing anything other than shutting up.

But most annoying of all are those saying "freedom isn't free," meaning that the best thing you can do for freedom is not to exercise it except in such risky, edgy activities as villifying Saddam Hussein.
Not to mention the sheer, mind-numbing stupidity of the belief that the war in Iraq has *anything* to do with *anyone's* freedom. Aaaaarrrrgh!

Posted by: ash at June 16, 2005 04:40 AM

yes - i've been taking "orders" in LA from ppl who'd buy my magnet-shaped ribbons that said "support ribbon manufacturers" or "GOD BLESS RIBBON-MAKERS", and i've quite a few ppl that want on once i figure out how to make them.

i have to admit it's not my original idea - i pretty much stole the concept from david cross.

Posted by: sheli at June 16, 2005 04:42 AM

I don't really like the ribbons, either, for the reasons described: it feels to me like an imperative and an effort to stifle dissent. BUT, I can also think of many other bumper stickers expressed as imperatives, that don't upset me:

Save the Whales
Make Love, Not War
Repeal the Patriot Act
Save Social Security

One big difference is that none of those slogans is shorthand for "Shut Your Mouth."

Posted by: Chris Williams at June 16, 2005 05:28 AM

I think the more appalling ribbon stickers are the ones I've seen in upstate NY, where a cross is superimposed on one end of the ribbon. Such a neat way to tell non christians that they are unpatriotic and going to hell in one statement.

Posted by: Alec at June 16, 2005 05:29 AM

I have two bumper stickers on my car. They both have pictures of ribbons on them, but say:

"I support meaningless jingoistic cliches."


"Support our troops - Send $5 to a ribbon factory in communist China"

Posted by: Pile at June 16, 2005 06:17 AM

Avis Rental is now putting the yellow ribbons on its rental fleet. They usually have bulges in them which get caught by the power windows.

Posted by: Earl F. Parrish at June 16, 2005 06:50 AM

I think the best use of those ribbons is the one I saw in Kona, Hawaii. It was one of those small, yellow ones; "Support our Troops", the usual. The cool thing was it was on the gas tank cover of a Prius.

BTW, can someone explain to me why these things are found on people's cars at every conceivable angle? I've seen them straight, words reading flat, as-if-on-lapel, oriented like jesus-fish, upside-down, whatever! You'd think if these people cared they would affix them properly...

Posted by: Joshua Goldston at June 16, 2005 07:04 AM

I've seen a couple of cars in Southern California where someone with a Magic Marker has added "If you truly wanted to" and "you would have voted for Kerry"

Posted by: George at June 16, 2005 07:23 AM

I find it truly ironic when I see a "Support our Troops" magnet on the back of an SUV. The owners of these gas guzzlers fill their tanks with Saudi oil. The Saudi royalty gives that oil money to the Whabi religious sect in Saudi Arabia. The Whabis then teach the children in the madrasas to become terrorists that hate America and the Jews. The newly trained terrorists, funded by American money of course, cross the border into Iraq and kill the American troops.

Hey buddy in the SUV, thanks for all your support!!!

Posted by: Kevin McManus at June 16, 2005 07:24 AM

In the gigantic red state of texas, the ribbon phenom has taken a religeous turn (literally). The self promoting christian-patriots find it most satisfying to position their yellow ribbons in a horizontal fashion to imitate their first favorite symbol, the christian fish. Well in order to do things really right, the local wal-marts started carrying a yellow christian fish shaped magnet for the ultimate expression of faith. I, personally, find it sickening to see these bible thumpers, most of whom would never raise their right hand and serve this country in uniform, take an expression of support for our soldiers in uniform and turn it into something that represents their ideas of intolerence and prejudice. If I were to purchase a ribbon, I could only display it fully erect and not in a flacid manner. I'm sorry, it just ain't in my nature.

Posted by: MONEL at June 16, 2005 07:31 AM

I wonder exactly how many people driving cars with any of the ribbons actually have children or loved ones serving in the military? Easy to "support the troops" when you don't have any vested interest in them...

Wouldn't the best way to support them be to get the hell out of Iraq?

Posted by: GW at June 16, 2005 07:31 AM

I'm still waiting for "SUPPORT OUR COURTS".

Posted by: Natalie at June 16, 2005 08:13 AM

Verbatim from a 'net cartoon that made the rounds back in January:

[Caption] "Hey, I'm not sure if all you bandwagon patriots have noticed or not, but all the ribbons in the world won't help sh*t. If you want to help the troops, give them something they want, like some armor for their vehicles or a f*cking trip home. Slappin' a magnet on your gas-guzzling SUV in the middle of a war for oil just makes you look like a GIANT PRICK."

Posted by: Scott at June 16, 2005 09:49 AM

Glad to hear that I'm not the only person completely annoyed by this ribbon phenomenon. For all you rebels wanting to produce your own magnets with other messages, I emplore you to use a shape other than the ribbon... perhaps an extended middle finger that says "Buck Fush and support our courts" or whatever. Just an idea.

I put my annoyance into action and started a campaign among my friends to rid the world of these things. I have over 300 in my possession, and this does not include those that my friends across the country have collected. My plan is to turn them into art in some fashion and donate the proceeds to charity (probably a Dem for president with a plan to support the troops and create a self-sufficient Iraq). If you'd like to join my cause, feel free to start a local chapter of "Operation Aesthetic Freedom."

Posted by: Sarah at June 16, 2005 09:55 AM

people, the most interesting thing is the coded (and not by a rocket scientist) Crusader message with these things. it's pretty much de-riguer that the ribbons are slapped on horizontally, like a Christian fish. ..and i have nothing against Christians per se, but the confluence of the Iraq War and christianity (rightwing, Jesus as Robert E.Lee, Crusader Christianity.) i find disturbing and twisted...

Posted by: john z at June 16, 2005 02:42 PM

The ribbons that get me are the ones that say, "God Bless Our Troops." I've been tempted to take a magic marker and over-write, "Bless Our Troops," with "Hates War."

Posted by: Dave at June 17, 2005 04:07 AM
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