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Concerning four flags and two tees

[ by Charles Cameron — a brief meditation on word and image ]

Flags have been in the news quite a bit recently. There were the Marine Corps and Confederate flags carried by the protester outside the White House in the upper panel below:

and the flag some protesting Native American (Lakota?) grandmothers took from the white supremacists who hoped to establish a community of the like-minded in the tiny town of Leith, North Dakota — in what one account called an improv “game” of “capture the flag”.

So that’s two protests, right there. But the title of this post suggests it will concern “four flags and two tees” — and thus far I have mentioned three flags. The fourth is the flag worn as a tee-shirt decoration by one of the Grandmothers, and as shown below (upper panel) it is in fact the flag of the American Indian Movement:

while by way of contrast, the tee worn by the confederate-and-marine-flags chap is a logo rather than a flag — it’s a Southern Thread Men’s Special Deluxe Art Tee to be exact. As the ad says:

Alone or under a snap front shirt or a button down, you can show your southern roots or the vintage inspired western look.


My mind is a side-winder, as you know, so all this thinking about flags and logos got me thinking too about the Logos (or Word of God) and his standard.

When the Emperor Constantine, for better or worse, co-opted Christianity or converted to it or both, his battle cry in hoc signo vinces (or in this sign you will conquer in late Barbarian, in case that’s your maternal tongue) raised the chi-rho as the sign, ensign, or battle flag — the logo if you will — of the newly baptised Roman Empire. The chi-rho — ☧ — combining the first two letters of the Greek word Christos, and meaning the Anointed One.


Flags and mottos are consequential things. Which comes first: the image, or the word?

11 Responses to “Concerning four flags and two tees”

  1. Lexington Green Says:
    The guy with Confederate banner was almost certainly a plant.  
    None of the genuine conservatives knew who he was and he refused to say who he was or where he came from.  Or so I read somewhere.  It is very plausible.  The lefties frequently show up at Conservative events and say bigoted things to try to create a scene.  It is a common tactic.  I was at a Republican National Lawyers Association meeting once, and a guy came in and was saying that if someone did not speak English they should not be allowed to vote, and he was angry and insistent, despite patient responses.  Finally someone said, “who sent you here?” A little later he left.
    Don’t be fooled by this.
  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thanks for that, Lex.  And I’m sorry the comments box was closed — it does happen, but hadn’t done so in quite a while — I hoped whatever the problem was had somehow been fixed.
    Good to know / be reminded that “false flags” exist — I imagine such tactics are used on both sides.  
    And “false flag operations” and “under false colors” — these phrases we use are interesting too, using the word “flag” metaphorically to cover much more than just literal flags, extending its use in the direction of deceptive practices in general.

  3. Lexington Green Says:

    I actually don’t these tactics being used by “my” side.  Fake swastikas happen all the time.  Fake homophobic harassment has been documented.  I have seen an almost certainly fake “gun nut” at a Tea Party rally.  
    I have attended events hosted by the other political side, such as an Organize for America event.  it was in a public place and I wanted to see what was going on.  i asked one non-disruptive question.  I could easily have pretended to be an unhinged lefty.  But that would be pointless.  The false flag activity is meant to create images and “facts” that can then be put into circulation through the media, which is predominantly supportive of the political left.  There is simply no point in doing it on the other side.  The massive amplification that occurs through the media is not going to happen.

  4. Charles Cameron Says:

    Ah. I think people on the left would say there are oten enough agents provocateurs who, for instance, incite violence during non-violent demonstrations. But the complaints seem to be made against undercover cops rather than civilians, Since i don’t go to demonstrations on anybody’s side, though, it’s hard for me to tell.  I have certainly seen other sorts of ugliness, on both sides of the aisle. 

  5. Grurray Says:

    Speaking of capture the flag, I saw this on cable recently:
    I thought it looked familiar then remembered your article:

  6. Charles Cameron Says:

    That’s fascinating, Grurray.
    I went surfing, and came across someone who has made a “wild” DoubleQuote out of other versions of related mages:

    Edwina Trout, who posted that, evidently didn’t think the parallel was very strong.  She commented:

    we find your comparison a tad weak. Nonetheless, if an image of an upraised arm holding a rifle is your criteria, how about this one:

    — so it looks as though the rifle raised in fist motif has quite a chequered history, one way and another.
    Apparently the Exodus design you pointed us to draws on the movie’s title sequence by Saul Bass, a designer noted for his logos and titles:

    Thanks again!

  7. Grurray Says:

    Hmm, well I’m not quite as dismissive of the connections as Edwina.
    Saul Bass, being a South Bronx Jew in the first half of the 20th century, was undoubtedly cognizant of the imagery of the revolutionary upraised fist
    And the man who played Moses certainly was informed by the imagery of Saul Bass, not only because of Exodus, but because Bass did the graphics for ‘The Big Country’ in which Heston starred (and a movie which shared another important attribute with Exodus which is they both have classic theme songs).
    People forget that back in those days Heston, like Reagan, was a Democrat, and they were both active in the Screen Actors Guild which leaned pretty much to the left (and at times was infiltrated by radical leftists).
    The deeper connection with these images is socialism. Israel was founded by Central European Zionists with a workers party/socialist bent, and Hezbollah has its roots in militant factions of the PLO who were adherents of anti-colonial socialism.

  8. Charles Cameron Says:

    As it says at the very, very end of Silence of the Lambs, A Luta Continua

  9. Phillip Says:

    Mr. Cameron, the Exodus cover is actually based on the symbol for the Irgun. Remember, one of the main characters of the book (Dov Landau) was a member of Irgun. (for the symbol, see: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/15/Pantani.jpg/200px-Pantani.jpg).

    In terms of Iranian-backed group, the clenched rifle is a sort of Muqawama-motif. I made a little chart here: http://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/untitled35.png?w=960 (Note: I just put in a few Shi’a Islamist groups). Still, this continues to other long standing Shi’a Islamist organizations backed by Tehran. See, the Badr Organization’s “Military Wing” – http://jihadology.net/2013/06/25/hizballah-cavalcade-breaking-badr-is-iraqs-badr-organization-operating-in-syria/ (note figure 1). This extends to their Sunni creations (Palestinian): http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/images/terror/prc.gif (Palestinian Resistance Committees. Also note how “Resistance” A.K.A. “Muqawama” in Arabic is in their name) and http://www.jadaliyya.com/content_images/3/islamicjihadbanner.jpg (Palestinian Islamic Jihad — They utilize a different form of the clenched fist + rifle). 

    In an upcoming post for my “Hizballah Cavalcade” on Jihadology, I will have some new militias which also use the Iranian-style clenched-fist motif. It’s a very easy “Tell” when it comes to Iranian-backed groups and writing off that symbolism is really insane if anyone has suggested it means nothing. 

  10. Phillip Says:

    “Hezbollah has its roots in militant factions of the PLO who were adherents of anti-colonial socialism.” – Grurray  
    Actually, that’s completely incorrect. Hizballah has its roots with the Islamist ideology of Wilayat al-Faqih, the principle form of revolutionary ideology created (in part) by the Ayatollah Khomeini. This is the guiding ideology for Iran. Yes, this ideology borrowed a number of left-wing populist concepts, especially in terms of economy, but the Hizballah symbol and ideology has its roots in Shi’ism and particularly, Shi’a Islamism. The concept of “Resistance” (see what I said above) or “Muqawama” in Arabic, have their roots for these groups going back to the martyrdom of many key leaders back during the early days of Islam. 

  11. Grurray Says:

    Although I’m wondering why you want to disregard early Hezbollah fighters’ involvement with Palestinian militias in the Lebanese Civil War, I will defer to your expertise on the matter. I’m not sure if perhaps the demarcation between legal origins and militaristic origins is a delicate subject politically or academically. As an independent observer, I don’t have the concern with those things, but the dance is interesting.
    One question for you. The intellectual concepts come from the Iranian Revolution as you point out, but we’ve shown that the images do not. Is the ubiquity of the symbolism a “Tell” that Hezbollah is operationally in charge of these other Shia militant groups?
    The story lately has been that the Quds force is running the Syrian counterinsurgency. It has struck me as giving them too much credit since the tide didn’t turn in the war until Hezbollah sent troops in.

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