Free the Crass Symbol!!! By the designer of the Crass Symbol, Dave King

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44 Responses to “Free the Crass Symbol!!! By the designer of the Crass Symbol, Dave King”

  1. Warren_Terra says:

    I’m unfamiliar with any of the people involved or their ideologies; I’m sure they’re lovely, highly admirable people. But – especially to a naive viewer such as myself – a number of the examples shown are highly reminiscent of the Swastika, especially when it appears in red and black (on white) and contains a plus symbol at its core (the more colorful ones and especially the one containing the peace symbol have much less resonance of this sort). For better of for worse, if I saw those symbols painted on something without further context or explanation, my initial interpretation would be that it was some sort of neo-nazi symbol. Maybe that’s not fair to the intentions of the creators of these symbols, but it is my visceral response.

    • robdobbs says:

      Smarten up.

      • Nobody in the history of the entire Internet, in the process of giving a snarky two-word reply to a full paragraph of sincere, lucid, if IYHO misguided opinion, has ever had the right for either of those words to be “smart” or any variation thereof. It’s a mantle your comment has already lost.

        • mr_3 says:

          When someone with no knowledge on a subject feels the need to contribute their opinion on that subject, and worse by comparing Crass’s symbol of all things to the swastika (which may be the most diametrically opposed symbol someone could conjure up), they get what they’ve earned…advice to educate themselves before opening their mouth and sounding like a fool.

          • neurogami says:

            You’ve missed the point.  If Joe or Jane  Random encounters this logo out in the wild,  unless they know in advance that it is the Crass logo they are not going to know what to research (even assuming they had the means and inclination at the time).  And at least some people are liable to make an association with the swastika.

            When I first saw the logo I assumed Crass were some sort of National Front skinhead Oi! group.

            We can dispute just how many people are likely to jump to this conclusion but that fact is *some* people do because of the logo.   

          • Petros Diveris says:

            Why does anyone need “knowledge on a subject” to suggest that something reminds him or her of something? Do we now need a degree of some sorts now, or some inner knowledge,  to be able suggest that this does indeed look like a swastika?

            Neonazi groups from Athens, to Warsaw and San Fransisco all sport emblems which are unfortunately very very similar.

          • dnebdal says:

            From some cursory reading, it was specifically meant to resemble, among other things, a swastika.  If I may quote the wikipedia article:

            Originally conceived and intended as the cover artwork for a self-published pamphlet version of Christ’s Reality Asylum by Penny Rimbaud, the Crass logo represented an amalgamation of several “icons of authority,” including the Christian Cross, the swastika, and the Union Flag, combined with a two-headed Ouroboros to symbolise the idea that power will eventually destroy itself.[16][17]
            Using such deliberately mixed messages was part of Crass’ strategy of presenting themselves as a “barrage of contradictions”, which also included using loud, aggressive music to promote a pacifist message, and was in part a reference to their own Dadaist and performance art backgrounds.

            It sort of reminds me of Laibach and their co-opting of totalitarian symbolism, though I’ve been entirely sure what their plan is. It seems to be somewhere between “parodying it as a means to compare fascism and aspects of modern society”, “making the totalitarian symbolism less powerful by dilution”, and “we think it’s stylish”.

          • mr_3 says:

            That’s exactly what I was talking about.  The logo was actually meant to resemble a swastika, among many other things…only in the exact opposite way of what was assumed here “viscerally”.  Of course no one needs knowledge on a subject to share their opinion, people do it all the time.  They just need knowledge on a subject to share their opinion in a way that actually sounds at least minimally informed.  And the minimum required here to at least question an initial judgement like that is pretty small.

    • Aron says:

      the “plus symbol at its core” is a cross
      and a swastika is a cross
      you are correct they are similar if you would like to learn more about the swastika here is a start.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika

      • Warren_Terra says:

        Yes, the Swastika is a cross (especially in the German, the Hakenkreuz or hooked cross). I was hardly unaware of this. But there are plenty of crosses that don’t inspire this same visceral response in me – crucifixes and Red Cross logos, for example. The Swastika is freighted by history (very unfairly to those who’d like to honor its former use in Hindu temples, for example), and that makes it more than just a cross. As I look at the graphic art above, there’s something about the red-and-black color scheme, with a cross at the center and circumferential sweeping arms that adds up to remind me, very unfortunately, of the Swastika.

        As I said above, this isn’t meant to impugn the designers or users of the symbol. It’s just a description of my own automatic response to the image.

        • Aron says:

          well you got me there.  the black and red stencil piece is probably intentionally similar to the nazi swastika.  though if you are interested in seeing the common color scheme of the crass symbol as it has been used by people for the last 30 or so years just google image search “crass”.    in my opinion unfortunate would be the partridge family colors used for the that second stencil good god that’s painful to look at.  but this is just art criticism really. 
          also if you are interested in becoming familiar with crass you could start with youtube
          http://youtu.be/zW1LAr8sbM0
          here’s a crass song that has always inexplicably held a warm spot in my heart

    • Ian Anthony says:

      I agree.

    • Keep taking the tablets Warren 

    • That’s a smart and understandable mistake. But in fact, the folks in Crass were pacifist, anarcho-socialists: about as far from Naziism as one could be. They were very well aware of trying to use elements of these visually powerful and even fascist symbols, but with the intent of turning them on their heads. (I read an interview once where they spoke about deliberately incorporating something like a cross, swastika, and yin-yang symbol, but again, with subversive intentions). They did this with their clothing as well–all black, etc., but ideologically they were rather more idealist hippies than brutal thugs. And their songs, ultimately, are about resisting fascism and war. And love. They are raucous, wild, and confrontational, but they are about love. The visceral response is really understandable, but I promise a fuller context would very much put your mind at ease.

  2. carloscarlson says:

    I wonder how this sort of thing plays into the file sharing/fair use debates that are so popular on Boing Boing these days.

    Here’s an example of a business taking a person’s art, changing it, and using it for their own purposes.

    If it was going in the other direction, (meaning a band taking a corporate symbol, changing it slightly and using it for their purposes) Boing Boing writers would presumably be up in arms, talking about how ‘sampling’ is creativity, and it should be fair use.

    Trust me, I support the sentiment, I just want people to be more honest with the fair use debates.  Including (and especially) when it is people they don’t like using (and not paying for) things they do.  

    • halfsquirrel says:

      The issue isn’t fair use. The issue is that an unrelated third party has (successfully?) copyrighted the symbol as theirs, despite 35 years of prior use.

      • carloscarlson says:

        OK, that’s a fair point, it is absurd that someone could try to copyright something that already existed.  

        I’ll save my ‘honesty in art use debates’ rant for something else.  

        • Dear god. Did I just see somebody raise a fair but inaccurate point on the Internet, somebody else correct them politely, and then the first person issue a polite concession while agreeing to disagree?

          Lord, I will never ask you for another miracle again. I have seen the cosmos in all its radiant potential. I can die happy. 

          My day sucks less now. Both you guys go have a cookie. <3

          • Ian Anthony says:

            Yeah! Take your polite and well-written posts somewhere else, buster!

          • jeligula says:

            This is an example of moderation as a social dynamic.  Antinous has the readership trained in that most Boingers realize that crass behavior will not be tolerated. This is not the Yahoo! News comment boards and the moderators work hard to keep it that way.

      • Gyrofrog says:

        For years I figured it was a matter of time until someone copyrighted and/or trademarked the peace symbol.

  3. suburbanhick says:

    Speaking as a fellow designer, I hope he sues Hardware’s plagiaristic ass and makes some serious bank.

  4. Yeah, I was bating my breath on this one, but a word from the band or an associate was all I was waiting for. To hell with Hardware.

  5. Richrd Stinks says:

    Here’s a question… Does the fact that the band’s already used the logo for so many years supersede Hardware’s tiny change and registration? I would think so, since it’s decades of obvious widespread use over LPs, t-shirts, and whatnot. If that’s the case, it should be a fairly easy fight. 

    I would think that’d it even work despite the addition of a janky chain. I know i couldn’t throw a chain around the old Pepsi logo and call it mine, no way, no how.

    • halfsquirrel says:

      Agreed, though it is sad that lawyers have to get involved. That costs money.

      It’s very interesting, though, in light of recent counterculture rips. Marketers see the power of these enduring images. To some people, the Crass logo is their anti-authority Nike swoosh. 

      Fair use is fair play, but there should be some appropriate cultural critique when a business entity tries to co-opt radical imagery to sell “Whore Wear.”

  6. Tchoutoye says:

    Interesting article, but I wish Dave had addressed the following two  issues.

    First of all, for those who can’t get the association with a swastika out of their head, his choice of symbols, the serpent and cross, and what they and their juxtaposition represent for him. Was it, for instance, inspired by the Flamel/Alchemical Cross, or even Numbers 21:9?

    And secondly, his thoughts on litigation over Hardware’s appropriation/infringement, both in a practical sense and in the context of his radical anarchist ideas (at the time).

  7. Edamame says:

    The origin and meaning of the symbol is explained by Penny Rimbaud in this clip:
    (It’s at 37mins 12seconds in if this link does not jump to the right point)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LQ1CvwF7BQ&t=37m12s

  8. slowtiger says:

    Anybody noticed that *Hardware* doesn’t use the ripped logo on their website? http://hardwareldn.co.uk/aboutus.php shows an innocent logo based on the Union Jack cross. Was that their logo all the time?

  9. Aaron Kuehn says:

    Not entirely dissimilar from my Wealth Inequality ($ Not Equal) symbol: http://aarline.info/Not_Equal.pdf

  10. sean says:

    Whether it was based on a swastika- nazi, Amerindian, or whatever- isn’t the point. The point is that Hardonware is stealing it. Wouldn’t matter if it was a pic of a bum with a stick up it impaling a baby’s eye. It’s stealing.

  11. cdincanada says:

    The irony is that Hardware’s misappropriation of the symbol is truly crass commercialism…

  12. Paul Chapman says:

    As far as HardwareLDN are concerned, have no concerns. Thanks to a few of us oldies on Facebook and via the Southern forum, we hassled, threatened, promised and made the so-called-but-not-very creative director spend a weekend on her houseboat coming up with another logo.  The dialogues between us all were precious, with the cd stating “We are all fans of The Crass”…haha, yeah right…once it was explained that Penis Envy and “whorewear” could never be considered compatible, they finally gave in.  Alison at Southern did receive some dialogue from their distributor with some veiled threats I believe, but the logo was changed within 48 hours…

  13. Gyrofrog says:

    When I opened this in a new tab, Gmail automagically opened up, with a new tab for each mail folder.

    Bravo/That was very foolish of you, Crass Symbol!

  14. Gyrofrog says:

    “And what happens to the counter-culture, now that everything can be appropriated and sold back to a world hungry for authenticity?”

    Hello, young bad-ass, may I interest you in a Che Guevara t-shirt?

    EDIT: How ’bout a belt to hold up them trousers while we’re at it

  15. Hilariously, they’ve altered their original appropriation of the logo to incorporate elements of the Union Jack. How clever.

  16. How can they get away with it – the documents in history are there for all to see? Who vamped this design ? Yeah the chains say it all – Yeah Ironic – They might not know what they have done but their creativity does. Can you not do anything David ?

  17. olshep says:

    As Penny Rimbaud’s explanation in Edamame’s link makes clear, the intent behind the Crass Symbol was very much to allude to fascism and its mutations. Crass was (and is) about confrontation. One of its successor bands was named “Conflict” after all. Of course, with the special history of the swastika in Germany, it is reasonable to assume that many Germans might be somewhat taken aback at first glance. However, if you are an adult, in Germany, in 2012, and you cannot tell the difference between an anarcho-punk and a neo-Nazi, all the sensitive graphic design in the world is not going to help you. Also, any German who is confused merely needs to cross the border into Austria to see all the swastika tchotchkes they might like to see, and more besides.

    Relatedly, there is a well-known case of censorship on the part of the German security apparat around the anarcho-punk crust band Doom’s record cover for “Police Bastard”. The image features an obviously derogatory image of a bobby, flipping off the camera, with a swastika drawn on his helmet. As the rest of the image and the content of the record make clear, this is in no way designed to glorify Nazism, but it was still seized under the anti-swastika laws.

    The overall point should be, I think, that part of the meaning of the Crass symbol is that contemporary manifestations of neo-Nazism and other forms of fascism are not magically negated by the banning of a certain symbol or set of symbols. For those who aim to attack and disrupt fascist organizing in their own communities, open eyes are critically important. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending that we can blot out the continuing threat of fascism simply by acts of state censorship or middle-class disapproval is a sure recipe for disaster.

  18. Peej Maybe says:

    Every time I see that logo, particularly in its more colourful form, it reminds me of the Captain Scarlet / Spectrum logo: http://mateengreenway.com/anderson/speclogo.gif

    According to your article the Crass logo was design in 1977. The Spectrum logo predates it by about 10 years in that case then (it aired on ATV in september 1967). 

  19. kevin says:

    This is the facebook page , the ripped logo is still on here and on the blog.
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hardware-LDN/142721022454406

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