Saturday, June 7, 2014

ASDA and the KKK-Style England Flag

Shops across the country are cashing in on the upcoming World Cup with all sorts of England themed tat, but it's only Asda that has put out a wearable flag that looks like a Ku Klux Klan outfit. The supermarket giant has received a barrage of criticism for the pointy-hooded flag yet still they refuse to pull it from their shelves. As random acts of corporate stupidity go, it’s difficult to beat.

If you were feeling charitable you might describe the wearable flag as a massive error in judgement on the part of the retailer, but their intransigence in the face of widespread condemnation is hard to fathom. It all smacks of corporate arrogance and ingrained insensitivity. Asda is owned by Wal-Mart, the world’s largest multinational who last year posted profits in excess of $2 billion dollars. Their commitment to equality, diversity and social responsibility is nothing more than a fig-leaf, a business strategy to be jettisoned whenever there’s the possibility to make a quick buck.

Surely, once the KKK resemblance had been pointed out, Asda would drop the flag in a blur of shame and embarrassment. Given that the Klan is a racist, white supremacist organisation with a history of violence, lynching, rape and murder, you would imagine Asda would go to any lengths to avoid the association (however unintentional) and the negative publicity that would inevitably follow. Instead the company has engaged in implausible deniability. “It’s a flag with a hood, nothing more, nothing less,” said a spokesperson. You have to ask: Why on earth would you want to produce anything that looked like a KKK outfit? It’s a simple enough rule of thumb - if it looks like something the Klan might wear, you really shouldn’t sell it.

Unsurprisingly the flag is already proving particularly popular with racists across the country, giving Asda the dubious honour of being the far-right’s summer outfitter of choice. Already Stormfront, a favoured online cesspool for white supremacists, has posted about the flag, with one contributor promising he’s off to his local superstore to pick one up as soon as possible. He won’t be the first Nazi to fork out three quid. The picture to the left shows Darren Miller of the North West Infidels decked out in the flag from Asda’s KKK range.

Thankfully the flag has sparked a fair degree of outrage on social media. In a twist on the usual supermarket wars, some cad at Tesco HQ has apparently been re-tweeting messages posted by anti-racist activists. I'm not sure that every little helps in this case. London-based activist Zita Holbourne emailed Asda CEO Andy Clarke to voice her disgust. This is part of the response she received:
"I’m sorry you’re unhappy with our wearable flag, I can assure you it was never our intentions to upset any of our customers. We opted for a hood on our wearable England and Brazilian flags as we know how unpredictable the English weather can be. We want customers to get behind the teams at the World Cup without getting wet."
The weather! They justify the KKK style wearable flag on the grounds of the English weather! Top marks for farcical excuse-mongering, but the reality is that there is no defence for this flag remaining on sale. The gap between their “intentions” and the eventual outcome is huge and they need to rectify the situation fast. The company should go and have a word with themselves, withdraw the product, and apologise for the offence it has caused.

I much prefer activism to clicktivism, but in this case I think it’s worth letting ASDA know that they’re out of line. I urge all of you to sign the petition over at change.org.  Better still, ping an email to Asda bigwig Andy Clarke and vent your spleen. You can contact him at this address: andy.clarke@asda.co.uk