Wednesday, April 25, 2012

So upset right now.

It just came to my attention that a band from Hong Kong released an album two years ago called "RedVolution."  Their album cover is black, with a red band on the right side.  On top of the red band is a white circle.  Inside that circle is a black swastika.  The swastika is arranged in the traditional Buddhist fashion, not in the Nazi fashion.  However, with those colours surrounding it, how could it not conjure up the idea of Hitler and the Nazis?

I came across it while viewing another unrelated video on YouTube, and I read some of the comments that people had posted.  Naturally, some users posted messages that questioned the motives behind using that symbol, including the symbol itself.  These posts were not an attack on the band members or their music; rather, they were pointing out the negative associations the symbol inherently evokes.  What upset me were the responses posted by other users.  And by the band itself.

To those who questioned the use of the Nazi image, they said that these users were ignorant, and they called on people to focus on the music and not their appearance.  Their defence was that the swastika they used is not the one used by the Nazis: this one is inverted.  The Buddhist swastika has positive connotations, means the sun, etc.

Wait!  Of all the symbols they could have chosen to represent the Sun god, or goodness, or positive energy or whatever, they chose the swastika?  Not only that, they had to put it on red band?  And then put it on top of a black background?  Do they really expect people to buy their argument that they meant well?

If that was not convincing enough, later they tried to defend their actions by talking about the angles and the direction of the image.  They're quibbling over details instead of looking at the bigger picture--literally!

And if that still isn't convincing enough, they want people to ignore the image completely.  It's as if they're saying: "Okay, we hurt some people's sensitive feelings, but why don't they just ignore it?"  

Apparently, a lot of their supporters have ignored it, and have tried to defend it by insulting other users of YouTube.

Recently, a friend told me that Hitler liked animals, as if this were a redeeming quality.  WFT?!

To be honest, I don't think the band is anti-Semitic.  Extremely insensitive, for sure.  Ignorant, even.  What makes me say this?  There is a picture on the inside of the CD that shows the band members standing in front of said-offensive-image.  It is a black and white image, reminiscent of the poster for the film "Valkyrie" (2008).  The historical characters from that story were actually trying to stage a revolution--against Hitler.  Hence, I believe the people who are behind the album package design meant to use the image to refer to the idea of "revolution," and not "anti-Semitism."  And this practice of stealing other people's music, posters, logos, images, etc. is common practice in Hong Kong.  People who do this are sometimes lauded for their creativity instead of being chastised as one would expect.

An example of this is Edison Chen's album from many years ago where it says: "Please Steal This Album."  This was a complete rip-off of System of a Down's cover.  How ironic.  Anyhow, I highly doubt many music listeners in Hong Kong even know who System of a Down is.

Often, I believe that these so-called designers steal other people's material without even knowing what they are stealing.  If they do know what they are stealing, they still don't care how it impacts on the industry, and society at large.  In the case of Red Noon's album cover, I believe it is a combination of the two.  The band, their management & their design team were simply too ignorant of the impact that viewing such an image would have on people who are more familiar with WWII history (namely most of the Western world).

That being said, all it would have taken was for the band to acknowledge that their design is in bad taste at the least, and better yet to simply apologize for their ignorance.  Admit ignorance even if they weren't.  The point is that the damage is done.  It's too late to try and explain it away with fine details and asking people to focus on their music, not on their appearance.  They put the image on their album cover, and that's what people will see first thing before they even buy the CD and listen to the songs.  The damage is done.

If only they understood this.