Discussion on the Future of Mozilla Tech Evangelism
Monday May 12th, 2003
Bob Clary has posted a newsgroup message to netscape.public.mozilla.general about the future of Mozilla's Technology Evangelism effort, which aims to increase support for Mozilla and other Gecko-based browsers on the Web and inside of corporations.
#9 V. Communist Propaganda in Mozilla Graphics
Tuesday May 13th, 2003 4:20 AM
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Main point: I believe that the strong resemblance to official Communist propaganda in Mozilla's graphics is offensive to many people and an impediment to the evangelization of Mozilla.
Symbols mean different things to different people, and resemblance to a single symbol may be meaningless on its own. A star has no universal meaning. The significance of a particular color is subjective without a context.
There are certain symbols and images that *do* have a widespread common meaning even in isolation, such as a swastika, a fish drawn with two curved lines (ichthus), and a jolly, old, fat, white-bearded man wearing a certain red and white outfit. Some graphical elements help to *shape*, to some degree, what the total picture should convey: clenched fist (defiance), raised arm (allegiance), globe (worldwide), star (revolution, accomplishment). Color schemes can conjure associations if they fit with other symbols. Here are some examples true more often than not when used in propaganda: red/white/blue (USA), red/yellow/green (pan-African), red/yellow (Communist).
First, let's examine context. The elements of Mozilla's graphics have a *social* context, which we must take into consideration, because it is more fundamental than any graphical context. The social context I refer to is the Free Software movement, which began as Richard Stallman's campaign against the restrictions of commercial software. The word "free", as the philosophy is put into *practice*, essentially refers to freedom from capitalism. Its objective is not to eradicate capitalism per se, but the movement is very attractive to people who believe in communism, socialism, or subversive, anti-establishment, or anti-Western ideas. It is clearly seen as a way to kick Bill Gates, Steve Forbes <http://forbes.com/>, or Uncle Sam in the teeth. It's no coincidence that the People's Republic of China has its own distribution of GNU/Linux: Red Flag Linux. Linux is virtually synonomous with Free Software.
As you know, many people in online forums and newsgroups have been raising objections to Mozilla's Communist symbolism for a number of years. Mozilla was featured in an article called "Socialist art in IT marketing" <http://boldra.com/features/socialist_art/> , which was picked up by Kuro5hin <http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/8/17/64130/4272> .
A Stalinist fan of Mozilla <http://mithgol.pp.ru/Mozilla/> has enhanced the Communist symbolism in Mozilla graphics. He has made some splash screens commemorating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the former Evil Empire. Lest you need to be reminded, this is the empire that threatened Europe and North America for decades with its huge arsenals of weapons of mass nuclear destruction. (U.N. weapons inspectors were not necessary.) This comrade writes of Mozilla and his splash screen saying, "The splash is a sign of my true gratitude: notwithstanding that the great Leader [Stalin] is dead (and all his achievements are ruined in Russia), there is now a new browser which brings ideals of Freedom and Communism to the masses of wired people."
Now, let's move on to particular Mozilla graphics.
EXHIBIT A -- <http://www.mozilla.org/party/1999/> The main graphic here has been used in all Mozilla party announcements since 1999. First, notice the red star. A red star usually symbolizes a revolution. Since Mozilla, you might say, is an open source revolution, the red star might seem appropriate. But what kind of revolution does a red star usually pertain to? Search Google, and you will see. Communist revolutions.
Some top Google results -- Red Red Star: <http://www.geocities.com/…ill/Senate/6059/links.htm>, USU Special Collections: Red Star of Communism <http://library.usu.edu/Sp…bits/masaryk/redstar.html>, Red Star: Platform for Communist Revolutionaries (publication of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Red Flag) <http://www.cpimlredflag.com/010403rs0.htm>, The Red Star - a comic with this character <http://www.archangel-stud…ics/redstar/makbust23.JPG> Indeed, the red star appears on almost every USSR military hat and badge. <http://www.russianlegacy.…/soviet_collection_03.htm>
Given the anti-capitalist movement in which Mozilla exists, the symbolism is already risqué. There are Communist overtones, but no smoking gun yet. However, exhibit A doesn't have just any red star. Its star has a yellow border, just like the Soviet star. <http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/su.html> The Communist symbolism is all but certain at this point, but there is yet another clue: the glorified workers hailing the Red Star. They are wearing uniforms and most appear to have hard hats. They represent the proletariat in the class struggle. The message is like that of the Soviet banner here <http://www.geocities.com/…on/Bunker/5153/banner.htm> which reads "Working people of all countries unite." Mozilla's dinosaur -- a tyrannosaurus rex, which is believed to be the most aggressive of dinosaurs -- is framed by the Red Star and fits well with the Reds' glorification of muscle, might, and physical prowess which is often depicted in Communist artwork (but not pictures *of* dinosaurs).
The five points on the Soviet red star represent the five fingers of the hand working together. It also represents the five known/recognized (in the 1910s) continents of the earth, meaning that Communism was meant to have representation and influence worldwide. It may be the intention of Mozilla to effect a worldwide "revolution", but Mozilla should avoid at all costs the appearance of, in *any* respect, whether in symbol or in substance, showing signs of sympathy, support, or desire to restore elements of regimes that have slaughtered over 100 million people and are still persecuting people to this day. Yes, the Red Star is still over Russia (the red star is rising again: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2515515.stm> <http://www.telegraph.co.u…ews/2002/01/27/wrus27.xml>), China, North Korea, and Cuba.
EXHIBIT B -- <http://www.mozilla.org/images/mozilla-banner.gif> The Mozilla banner. Here you see twin smokestacks and the silhouette of big buildings. This symbolizes the zealous industrial ambitions that the Soviets had for their country. A rising Red Star is characterized by industrialism, military might, and technology. (That's how the USSR came to be a superpower comparable to the USA. Red China is following in USSR's footsteps.) It is the peasants and workers (like in Exhibit A) who often fall for the scheme of communism. Again, you see the Communist color motif in this graphic. It also includes stylistic features of Communist propagandist posters. See the boldra.com link above.
I could go on by explaining the symbolism of the red and yellow or by analyzing other Mozilla graphics, but hopefully this is sufficient for now.
The combination of the Communist red/yellow theme, the Soviet star, the industrial imagery, and the uniformed workers with raised fists or outstretched arms hailing the Red Dinosaur (which replaces the hammer and sickle, the symbol of their blood in united work), put into the social context of an anti-capitalist Free Software movement, all together help to paint an undeniably Communist picture within Mozilla.org.
I am *NOT* saying that Mozilla.org is a Communist organization. I am *NOT* claiming that a majority of Mozilla developers or fans is Communist. I *AM* claiming that there is definite Communist symbolism in Mozilla.org's graphics. I take this as evidence that there are at least a few Communist sympathizers (or worse) among Mozilla decision-makers.
My sole request is the removal of the Communist graphics.
At the very least, you should have a disclaimer like the one of a company called All Red Star. <http://www.allredstar.com/> At the bottom of their site, they have this disclaimer: "Communism: Lousy Politics - Excellent Airplanes! All Red Star does not support the Communist Ideology, or the French Government, in any way. Thank you."
There is no room for the discussion of any perceived merits of communism. It is a philosophy that made the 20th century the bloodiest in human history. The horrors of Hitler's fascism are dwarfed by the horrors of Stalin et al's communism. Never forget! The blood of Communism's victims is still flowing across Asia as we speak. Communism in every real-world form is evil and deadly! You should avoid Communistic symbols like the plague! It is to be ABHORED and SCORNED and HATED forever more.
Don't point me to red stars of harmless products or associations. I've explained to you the *context* and the *collective association* of Mozilla's multiple symbols and images.
These images are extraordinarily offensive and even frightening. The Red Star is as repulsive and terrorizing to many people as a swastika is to Holocaust survivors and most of the world or a poster of Saddam Hussein is to formerly oppressed Iraqis.
They are damaging to Mozilla's image (no pun intended). It will repel many potential users rather than attracting them. Would a Jew use software applications with swastikas on the developers' web sites? How do you think African-Americans would feel if Exhibit A depicted men uniformed in white sheets with pointed head coverings and had raised fists and hands outstretched toward a burning cross? It would be intolerable. Why not extend your sensitivity to other oppressed groups?
PLEASE remove all of the Communist-inspired graphics from the Mozilla software suite and web site. Thank you for reading and considering my request.
P.S. However... *IF* Mozilla.org really is a Communist organization, then I think you should leave the images where they are. Make them bolder and more extreme. It is helpful that wolves remain in wolves' clothing. The world needs to know where evil lurks -- where the Red Star is rising.