EIGHT DAYS INTO 2018, at eighteen minutes past eight, [I made that last part up] and the first #HotPotatoGate of the year has already been served up!
#HotPotatoGate is my personal hashtag for spontaneous hot news that mainstream media blows onto us at gale force 8, only for it to suddenly die down to a gentle breeze as life goes on. I call it #HotPotatoGate, because as any good cook knows, hot potatoes don’t make themselves, and if you are consistently getting burnt by these hot potatoes, know that it’s not by accident! [conspiracy conspiracy]
H&M a Swedish multinational clothing-retail company, became the first in 2018 to trigger the now infamous advertising strategy that relies on what has become known on the streets of Sunny Saaaf London as: #BlackLash.
BlackLash is the guaranteed chorus of backlash, by people of colour in the UK (and elsewhere) following any kind of perceived racism or race-baiting, perpetrated by the mainstream players in white society in general. This Blacklash response is so recurrent and reliable, that some brainiac in some swanky advertising company somewhere, has obviously cottoned on to the idea, that this BlackLash can actually be used as a productive commodity. Hence, “Article Hoody” of said race-bait strategy, has now been triggered, and I can imagine the H&M offices full of hideously-white bosses, sat in their big comfy chairs around the usual huge operations table, complete with little models of the various black factions, all being put through the grinder, while rubbing their hands with glee at this, their: “first catch of the day!” [Ahem]
As you can no doubt see from the image at the top, and just in case you’ve been living on Mars for the last few days, I’ll explain. Someone at H&M thought it’d be a good idea to place a young black male in a hoody-top, that read: “The coolest monkey in the Jungle”. Then said person ran it by the Advertising Department, who sent it to the Photographic Department, who got a photographer to do a photo-shoot and produced the picture which has now gone viral. AT NO POINT IN THIS PROCESS DID ANYONE THINK SOMETHING MIGHT NOT BE RIGHT!… That is what H&M and all those involved in #BlackLash advertising wants us to think! What do you expect them to say?… This of course is totally wrong! This is a KNOWN advertising strategy which works, and works very well.
The name of the game is #MonetizingBlackRage. This is a multi-pronged, supremely targeted, well rehearsed advertising campaign designed to be triggered by something controllable, and inevitable. That thing, as I’ve said, is our rage. We know well, the individual stages of this type of campaign strategy by now; we’ve seen it many times, and from many a huge corporation over the decades.
The first stage is the “shock stage”, and it is designed to get everyone’s attention, Just like with #DoveGate, [another unintended (ahem) triggering of said strategy] a few months back, where a Dove soap advert literally triggered a #BlackLash of monumental proportions (TEN on the wreck-it scale) via the age-old formula of a black woman being turned white after using their product (apparently the soap industry have a long history of this).
This is followed by the Second stage; the heated reaction (BlackLash). This heated fire-storm-of-a-follow-up can be 100% guaranteed and relied upon from members of the UK Black community, which is why we are ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS the focus, or “trigger” in these campaigns!
Then comes the third stage: The well-prepared, well-worded, well-reported apology from the offending company, that is designed to smoothly prepare the way for whatever was the REAL reason for the campaign being pressed into service in the first place; the fourth stage… and from what I’m seeing today, it seems the real objective of the H&M campaign was their planned, and well executed January Sales pitch, a whopping 70% off, which they’ve just announced on the coat-tails of this well designed, and orchestrated debacle… Job done missus! Kerching! Kerching!…
The problem for me as a black person, is that we always seem to fall into the trick-bag, irrespectively. This is because at the summit of ones externally-triggered rage, which is all too easy for some of us to reach, we always end up missing the point. Emotion clouds our judgement, and we are immobilised from responding properly. H&M, or Dove, or Nivea, or Pepsi, or Bennetton’s… use of this modern-day race-baiting advertising strategy, is clearly racist, however in the moment of flummox, anger, confusion and apportioning blame we are distracted from attempting to get to the crux.
In this H&M campaign, our focus should not specifically on the fact black people are being likened to being Monkeys… and in the #DoveGate campaign, our focus should not be on the fact advertisers depicted a black person being turned into a white person after using their soap… or in the Benneton Ads [there are so many of them I won’t bother]… of course these things are the facts that led to specific BlackLashes, but these specifics are NOT the basis of BlackLash Strategy which is common to, and responsible for, ALL BlackLashes! This is what we should be focussed on!
What makes this strategy, a Strategy, and one that is completely repeatable, and can be rolled out with impunity time and time again, is the fact that the advertisers are searching to find, and will use ANYTHING they can, that will facilitate an enraged backlash response out of us! It’s race-baiting at it’s finest [If there’s such a concept], so every incidence of it, is subtly different from the last.
So while we remain stuck arguing over the points of specific campaigns, apportioning blame, as to who is at fault, we are not linking the campaigns over the decades, and the Corporations can swiftly move on in the knowledge that they have us completely on tap; #MonetizingBlackRage on tap!
Here’s an interesting scenario: Question: How do you catch a Monkey? you place something, usually food, that the monkey likes in a narrow-necked glass jar, and leave it where the monkey will find it. The monkey will put it’s hand into the jar, through the narrow neck in attempt to reach the food. Monkey will grab the food, but with it’s hand in a balled-fist full of food, monkey will not be able to retrieve the booty or it’s hand! Feeling trapped the monkey works itself into a frightened panic. As panic turns to frantic rage, the monkey will not be able to think through the problem; the monkey actually traps it’s own self! All the monkey has to do to get free, is to calm down, be cool, and let go of the food… Simples.
Ironically, I reckon that is what H&M were referring to with their worded race-bait hoody-top: “The coolest monkey in the jungle!” For my money, the coolest monkey in the jungle outsmarts the Corporations every-time, and can not be cornered by them! Advertiser and corporations have to run from such monkeys, because they are dangerous to humankind! Think King Kong [I know he’s a gorilla, but actually he’s not!… but that’s another story]
So instead of blowing a head-gasket every time the “race-bait” monkey-trap money-trap is primed and triggered, we need to be cool in order for this consistent race-baiting sales-strategy to become ineffective in 2018. We need to be cool in order to be able to assess the situation, and ask the right questions; probing questions like: “How many of those race-baiting hoody-tops did you really print up? who printed them, and where are they now?” If H&M doesn’t respond, or can’t produce those hoody-tops, then someone is lying!
We need to be cool so that we can unify around an obvious common enemy, the Corporations and their advertising departments, who make millions off us every day. We need to encourage them, so that they will think twice before pulling stunts like this with us, the same way they rationalise not-going-there with other more-progressive groups for obvious financial-loss reasons… and finally, we need to be cool so that we can determine the best way for our empire to Strike Black, so that we can Demonetize this Black Rage, once and for all, and make it work for us instead. It’s funny how we can turn a message around, if we only but try.
Lastly; there appears to be a fifth stage, in the strategy of #monetizingBlackRage, and that is the rationalisation of engagement stage. This is where the black person involved, (or in this case their parent), suddenly comes out of obscurity at the height of the online BlackLash, and attempts to use the mainstream channels at their disposal, to try to justify and defend their decision to take part in what they’ll claim is just an innocent project on behalf of the huge Corporation. The reason I say this “appears” to be a fifth stage, is because I can not make up my mind whether this intervention has been previously planned between the black participant, and said corporation, or if it’s just because the black person suddenly feels very foolish after reading some of the harsh criticisms washing up at their virtual door everyday, and so try desperately to claw some fragment of dignity out of what was actually a very bad decision on their part… I’ll leave that for you to decide.