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November 15, 2017

It’s pretty easy to prevent Nazis from claiming your brand (so do it)

(Chuck Kennedy/KRT)

If someone had told me two years ago that racists would be claiming brands as part of their movement, I wouldn’t have believed them — but here we are. Members of the alt-right, many of whom are white supremacists or neo-Nazis, have recently claimed Papa John’s as the official pizza of their movement through the website The Daily Stormer. The Daily Stormer, like Breitbart News, is a news site popular with the alt-right, though unlike Breitbart, The Daily Stormer openly caters to neo-Nazis — their site has an entire section dedicated to the “Jewish Problem.” Inexplicably, The Daily Stormer is available in both English and Spanish.

It makes sense that Nazis are trying to stay relevant and cater to younger generations by using memes like Pepe the Frog, which the Anti-Defamation League recently labeled a hate symbol. Popular culture is an easy way to reach a younger audience. Still, a business can’t stand by and watch while the alt-right ruins their image — or else we’ll see more instances like when The Daily Stormer claimed New Balance sneakers “the official shoes of white people.”  

A similar incident occurred in 2016 when Wendy’s tweeted an image of Pepe, only to “accidentally become the official burger of Nazis,” as one Twitter user noted. Wendy’s removed the image soon after the incident, and they aren’t the only ones to respond to racism in that manner. Many major brands have made statements objecting to neo-Nazis trying to latch onto their company. Tiki Brand, a company which makes tiki torches like those used in the Charlottesville protest marches over the summer, released a statement distancing itself from the alt-right. So did GoDaddy. Even the Detroit Red Wings made their feelings clear.

But why do these companies have to do this in the first place? Because it would be unconstitutional to silence the alt-right by taking legal action, since hate speech is something of a grey area, and doing anything that extreme could turn the alt-right into martyrs. Take Richard Spencer, for example: He’s the white supremacist who was famously punched in the middle of an interview. Spencer could appear to be a poster boy for the vocal minority in America and for people who stand up for what they believe in even when they are attacked, but we can’t forget that he is still a Nazi. Still, violence isn’t the answer. Action has to happen outside of courtrooms, in business boardrooms. People in the spotlight have a responsibility to speak out, just like anyone in the political world. They influence people every single day. Nothing happens in a vacuum — every action has consequences.

The recent controversy surrounding Taylor Swift makes this clear. Swift, who has been criticized in recent years for everything from cultural appropriation to white feminism (that is, feminism that only benefits cisgender, straight, able-bodied white women), is making news again for not speaking out against the alt-right.

People in the white supremacist movement have deemed Swift their “Aryan goddess,” which she did not ask for and did nothing to deserve. But unlike other major brands, Swift has not spoken out against the alt-right. Conversely, the pop star has threatened to sue a blogger whose post on PopFront criticized the singer for alleged racial undertones in her music and for not speaking out against her alt-right fan base. Obviously, the right response is clear: Swift should just say she isn’t affiliated with the alt-right movement. For some reason, though, Swift has sent the blogger a letter threatening a defamation lawsuit. Although public figures rarely win these types of lawsuits, it appears that Swift would rather accuse someone of defamation than alienate racist fans. The American Civil Liberties Union wrote that Swift has made the wrong choice, and that nothing the blogger wrote constituted defamation.

Most brands understand that the logical thing to do in a situation like this is to issue a statement distancing themselves from and condemning racist ideologies. That’s good for business, since most people are anti-Nazi and pro-buying things. But Swift’s silence speaks volumes. It’s easy to distance yourself from the alt-right, and if you don’t, it seems like you have something positive to say about them. The connection I’m trying to make is clear, but if I say it plainly, I might have a lawsuit on my hands.

Sophie Allen is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at siallen@umass.edu.

Comments
3 Responses to “It’s pretty easy to prevent Nazis from claiming your brand (so do it)”
  1. JR says:

    I️ feel dumber. Can I️ have my two minutes back?

  2. Mike Danger says:

    Advocates for a highly centralized government. (check)
    Permits privately owned business albeit heavily regulated (check)
    Control public opinion via political correctness and suppression of free speech (check)
    Advocates for gun control (check)
    Quasi-State run media (check)
    Suppresses political opposition through intimidation {Antifa} (check)

    ergo progressives = fascists

  3. Mike Dagner says:

    Re: Mike Dagner
    “Fascism rejects assertions that violence is automatically negative in nature and views political violence, war and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation.” -Literally just Wikipedia

    Now: which government response to the US gun safety crisis sounds more like fascism to you! A) a government that seeks to regulate the market so that Domestic Abusers can’t by AR-15s while Good Old Boys like yourself who pass their background check can do so freely or B) a government that advocates EVERYONE buy a gun to bring to church, to the elementary school, to the mall, that ALSO, while you’re not paying attention, arms and militarizes the local police forces where minorities live!

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