Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for September 8th, 2007

Why can’t the invisible hand claim sets?

Posted by digglahhh on 8 September 2007

This is old news. I intended to address it last week, but did not get around to it.

From the AP:

NEW YORK — A lineup of team logo baseball caps denounced as tailor-made for gang members was ordered removed from store shelves by its manufacturer Friday after complaints from baseball officials.
“It has been brought to our attention that some combinations of icons and colors on a select number of our caps could be too closely perceived to be in association with gangs,” said Christopher H. Koch, CEO of New Era Cap. “In response, we, along with Major League Baseball, have pulled those caps.”
…Both MLB and the Yankees insisted they were unaware of the symbolism in the cap designs, with the New York team noting they were never given a chance to review the new hats until they were already for sale.
…New Era said it would increase its efforts to ensure it had a better working knowledge of gang symbols, names and locations.

The black and gold hat with the crown perched atop the NY is the real nail in the coffin here. The bandana print of the other two is relatively common, and if New Era produced that design in additional colors, beyond red and blue, they may have had a chance at pleading ignorance. But we are supposed to believe that by sheer chance the company selected a color combination that happens to be the colors of one of the most famous gangs in the world, and randomly decided to adorn an appropriate symbol that has no relation to baseball? Oh yeah, and they chose the team that plays in the city where the gang is most prominent. That’s an extraordinary set of coincidences that could only be possible if their Marketing Director was Larry David.

By consumer choice, New Era has a virtual monopoly on the fitted hat industry. Personally, I’m a hat junkie, owning probably upwards of forty New Eras (working for Major League Baseball was a blessing and curse there). For them to plead ignorance here is simply an insult to our intelligence. Are we to believe that they don’t do extensive market research targeting the urban teens and young adults? Really? So, New Era has done hat collaborations with, Wu Tang Clan, and Dip Set, they have put out hats inspired by a relatively obscure (but awesome) Jay-Z song, but they know nothing at all about gang colors or symbolism? Well, if Larry David is their Marketing Director, Dick Cheney must handle their public relations… By the way, the first hit when you search on “black gold gang colors” is to a sociology-style page describing the Latin Kings.

Scope: Primarily metropolitan areas throughout Connecticut, Chicago and New York

Gang Colors: Black and gold. Black represents death, gold represents life.

But here’s the thing, our consumer culture is hardly characterized by socially responsible marketing, so who cares if they did put out these products – even if they did so with the intent of cashing in on the glamourization of the gang lifestyle? We market radar detectors to speeders. Myriad companies use graffiti motifs to appeal to urban demographics. Our cosmetic, diet, fashion, and alcohol industries play on our insecurities to cash in at the detriment of our physical and emotional health. Let’s get real here, is selling gang-inspired fashion a uniquely irresponsible or distasteful offense? If so, why haven’t we gone after the freaking bandana manufacturers?… If the Yankees disapprove of their logo being used that way, so be it. But, let’s not pretend that a network that calls itself “Arts and Entertainment” didn’t air a reality show called “Growing up Gotti!” The Gotti boys were pretty fond of wearing Yankee hats, by the way.

I don’t necessarily endorse the products, but this is free market capitalism, no? Wouldn’t this be a pet case for the conservative libertarians who rage about political correctness neutering our country? Some people may be offended at the invisible hand throwing gang signs, but is that really a legitimate reason to stop the voluntary flow of consumer goods? When did we start giving a fuck about what our consumer actions say about our culture? Disapproving of this product is certainly rational, but it seems unfair to single New Era out for this.

Posted in digglahhh, pop culture, sports | 4 Comments »