Because I’m guessing they are not racist, right-wing Japanese ultranationalists.
You’d have to be one or the other to build an entire ad campaign around a symbol that is deeply offensive to millions of people across Asia:
Sure, maybe a lot of those Asians don’t care about baseball, or the Cubs but isn’t this still kind of a bad idea? I mean, I don’t know if 85-year old Eastern European Jews care much about baseball either, but would you build a marketing campaign around the Nazi swastika flag?
What’s more amazing than the fact that this ad campaign even exists is the way the Cubs are so blithely hyping it on their official website. In an article on Cubs.com entitled “Cubs unleash bold, new ad campaign: Promotions international in scope with dash of local flavor,” there is clearly no understanding whatsoever that this image might at all be offensive:
CHICAGO–Kosuke Fukudome is among the players featured in a new ad campaign unveiled on Tuesday designed to showcase the international breadth and depth of the Cubs.
A graphic red, white and blue image of the Japanese outfielder that includes a rising sun includes the statement, “I don’t need an interpreter. My bat does the talking.”
The campaign focuses on individual players with a bold treatment using elements from each player’s unique background. Ads featuring Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano will use a portion of the Dominican Republic flag as a background…. There also is an ad with pitcher Kerry Wood that will feature the Texas flag.
“It’s a very international campaign. Yet the red, white and blue also makes it very Cub,” said Scott Maney, president and executive creative director of Jones, which is based in the River North section of Chicago and the company behind the creation of the ads.
“Most of the time, advertising has to work pretty hard to lift a brand up,” Maney said. “But with the Cubs, the opposite is true. The brand is already so sacred, the advertising has to work extremely hard just to keep up. It has to earn the right to represent the Cubs.”
This is the kind of ad that will “earn the right to represent the Cubs”? This cheery article gets posted on the Cubs’ official site, including a picture of the Fukudome ad? And the ad has already been printed in several Chicago area newspapers? It boggles the mind to think of the number of people in the Cubs’ front office who must have had to green light this ad for it to get so far.
Clearly the Cubs have no idea what kind of campaign they have “unleashed.”
But what surprises me most of all is the reaction so far to this ad campaign, which makes me wonder, if only for a moment, whether I am giving the Cubs too hard a time. While plenty of people were shocked by the ads, there also seems to be a large number of people who think that it is not a big deal. Witness a representative comment to the post that first broke this story on the blog “On 205th”:
Or this one:
“Given the craptacular diplomatic performance of our current administration could the same not be said of the American Flag?
Hell, that thing is all over the place in MLB.”
There seems to be an erroneous assumption here that this image is simply the Japanese national flag, equivalent to our own American flag, so what’s the big deal? Which means it’s time for a little history lesson…
So there are two flags which were used by the Japanese at various times in the 20th century:
The flag on the top is the current national flag of Japan. The flag on the bottom, however, is not. Rather, it was the battle flag of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy during World War II and earlier Japanese wars. This was the flag that was raised over Nanking, that flew over “comfort” stations, that was saluted by Unit 731. It was the flag of Japanese militarism.
Anyone who has been in Asia for any length of time will recognized why the second flag is so offensive. There is a reason why extreme right-wing ultranationalists in Japan make a point of marching around carrying this flag and not the regular Japanese flag when they protest in favor of restoring Japanese military might. There is a reason why many Chinese and Koreans fly into a rage at the mere sight of this flag. There is a reason why the Japanese government itself never used this flag at all for more than 50 years after World War II, until some right-wing politicians made a political statement by passing a law in 1999 “rehabilitating” the flag as a national symbol, although it is still almost never actually used.
And then there is our good friend Jay Mariotti of the Chicago-Sun times, who writes a piece today calling for people to have some “perspective,” and asking us to “remember that World War II ended in September of 1945. A month later, the Cubs played in their most recent World Series. We’re talking a long, long time ago, maybe too long to get worked up over what’s supposed to be a proud showcase of the new right fielder.”
Yeah, and the Holocaust was a long time ago too.
World War II in Europe killed 40 million people. The War in Asia killed 30 million people. The only difference between the armies that bore the swastika on their flags and the armies that bore the sunburst was that the armies with the swastikas killed some more people. But we are still talking tens of millions of people killed.
So either symbol would be an absolutely moronic image to use in your “proud showcase of your new rightfielder,” let alone tout on your official website or run in actual print newspapers, no matter how long ago those atrocities were.