Sorry to be out here spewing flag all over the place, but a bunch of you both publicly and privately have asked me to comment on this TP.com request for fan photo/flag photo submissions dealio – so you’ve got no one to blame but yourselves for the following tome.
[Caveat lector: For the sake of covering my and everyone else’s asses, please let me remind all that I speak for no one but myself. I don’t speak for SC.net. I don’t speak for Giovanni or Eugenio. I don’t speak for Stewart. I don’t speak for any of you. Each of you must choose for yourself. Dig?]
Sorry folks but I never got the memo about not touching the fl– wait, hang on –
So who’d a thunk that that daft green gift of ours would turn into such a global conversation piece, eh? That naughty little monkey (not you, Stewart) just can’t keep itself out of a good ol’ fashion ballyhoo.
Starting with the upside . . .
That the flag has made such an incredible impact on so many (both inside and outside SC.net) and has become an integral part of The Police Tour completely blows my mind. People’s love for and experiences with that damn fool thing (not you, Stewart) have been an incredible bonus that no one could possibly have predicted. Thanks to the onstage antics of that damn fool thing (please don’t smite me, Stewart), folks from all over the world have come together in such a remarkable way that not even Tourzilla can deny it.
So do I jump and shout (as Giovanni suggested) to hear that Stewart is on official film talking about the flag? Absolutely. So long as he’s not filing any restraining orders, I think it’s lovely. Am I, as xyzman suggested, “pretty damned chuffed that an idea that sprang from this board has taken on a life of its own”? When that nasty little creature (not you, Stewart) isn’t giving me heartburn, yes. Absolutely. No question about it.
But will I personally be submitting photos to TP.com? No.
There are just so many issues tied together in this TP photo request that I can’t seem to talk about it without a dozen pages, multiple drafts, plaster tire tracks, foot prints, and 27 8x10 color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. But the way that I see it, there are two main issues that take precedence:
Big issue #1 that we’re talking about here is content. Free content. Generated by fans. Profiting a corporation. (Where’s that Norma Rae avatar?)
This topic has been pretty well explored already, so I’ll save you all my version of this speech. The one thing that I do want to mention, as it will affect the flag issue in particular, is that people are not annoyed merely because they are being asked to provide photos without compensation. Hell, these photos have been posted all over the net for free and will amount to little more than space filler on the DVD; they are not, after all, the main focus. But the larger and louder issue here -- whether rational or not -- that is tied into this seemingly innocuous little request is that the request is being made to generate pure, unadulterated profit for a huge and hateful Conglomerate of Suck. (Seriously, where’s that Norma Rae avatar?)
As Lynne mentioned, many will see their photos on an official DVD as compensation enough for their work. That is absolutely their right, and I respect anyone who so chooses. (In fact, I might encourage any struggling photographers out there to use this opportunity to bulk up their resumes.) As for me, TP.com can – and I mean this in the most legal sense -- bite me.
So how does the flag fit in? It starts off with the same main issue: it’s free content. Generated by fans. Profiting -- well . . .
Remember Stewart’s oft-used soundbite about how he and his musician friends stole punk from the younger kids that invented it? Someone else had done the ground-breaking, but they came along bigger and badder and co-opted it for themselves and profited from it.
As I see it, herein lies the big, bad, specifically flag-related issue. The reason that I think so many have had such a “visceral” (as Gina put it) reaction to TP.com’s request is that the flag isn’t a commodity to be sold. It’s a gift. And more specifically, it is *our* gift. *Our* gift to Stewart. *Our* gift from Stewart. Insert Daffy Duck yelling “Mine! Mine! All mine” if you like, but once you put all the many side issues together, the main, down-home, totally base irritations that a lot of folks are feeling are loyalty and territoriality.
And in our own daft and wanky way, that’s the lot of us showing that we care. Being over-the-top bugfuck over this kind of shit -- that's what this flag is all about. That there is Flag Love.
The problem is not that the flag is out there in the world: it has been there for months and has grown in popularity exponentially from the moment that Stewart got all googly-eyed and started waving around that happy trigger finger of his. (Ah, face it, Stewart: you love me. <ducks>) No amount of mainstream (if you will) publicity will upgrade this project from anything more than a grassroots operation held together by spit and fabric glue. (Only the best for you, Stewart.) It is what it is.
The problem is that, despite being a project that is in the public spotlight, the flag itself is not public domain. It is a private little project on a private little site sponsored and paid for by private individuals.
Let’s be honest here: love and support for Stewart alone do not keep this flag going. It takes time; it takes energy; and it takes money. I and dozens of other SC.net folks have dedicated their time, their resources, and their hard-earned cash to getting this flag around the world. Not one of us has asked for anything in return. Every flag photo, every flag story, every flag muling operation – they are our gifts to Stewart and our gifts to the community, all creating a long chain of generosity, selfless gestures, random acts of kindness, and all that fabulous, positive crap.
The only entity that has ever made a dime off the flag is the Leroy Coolbreeze Fund.
TP.com has never lifted a finger or contributed a cent to this flag project. But we and Stewart have inadvertently created a little B-story for this Tourzilla soap opera, and so -- whether by nefarious design or not – TP.com wants to take advantage of something that has created buzz.
I think it's typical, I think it’s cheap, and I think it’s tacky.
Are we being over-protective of the flag, of Stewart, and of SC.net? Absolutely. But that’s because we’re pretty damn proud of this land, its king, and its standard. I am all for publicity and extra screen time for Stewart, and were we celebrating that -- Holy Mother of Crap -- somewhere on the official Police DVD is a feature on Stewart and his flag, I'd have probably spent the last 12 hours in a drunken fog. But that’s not what this is. To SC.net the flag is a way to sound a barbaric yawp that “I am proud to be playing for Team Copeland.” To TP.com, the flag is little more than a minor, random, promotional tie-in.
That’s why people are ticked.
I can speak for no one else, but I personally will be damned if I’m going to help UltraStar co-opt and commodify our hard work, our generosity, and our support for Stewart and package it as a Legacy perk, no matter how small. Not even if Stewart himself asked me to.
Please see previous comment about biting.
However, I could not be more proud or more excited by the opportunity to share photos – both those with and those without the flag – with Giovanni and Eugenio for their newly announced book project. I know their situation; I know their intentions; I know their purpose; and I know their hearts. I know that both Giovanni and Eugenio have dedicated tons of their time, energy, and money to keeping this website running and keeping that flag flying. I know that the profits from their book will go toward keeping the site and the community that they built alive.
It is their website that bore the flag. It is their community that built the flag. And it is their kinetic hero that made the flag into the psychotic krypton nightmare that it is today. Legally, the flag itself belongs to me, the chick who used Stewart's logo without permission. (Sorry, Stewart.) But theoretically, hypothetically, emotionally, or whatever metaphysical adverb is appropriate in this situation:
The flag does not belong to The Police. The flag does not belong to TP.com.
The flag belongs to Stewart. The flag belongs to SC.net.
When UltraStar starts kicking back some profits to Giovanni and Eugenio or to the Leroy Coolbreeze Fund, then I’ll consider helping out. Short of that (Giovanni is going to be oh-so-proud of his Ambassador in a moment), screw ‘em. I paid my fan club dues; those bitches work for me. I can't stop them from jumping onto the flagwagon, but I don’t have to help them either. I owe them nothing. And just like everyone else here, I intend (close your eyes, Stewart) to bootleg the bejebus out of that damn DVD if for no other reason (she says with a smile on her lips and a twinkle in her eye) than pure, unadulterated spite. (Damn it, where’s that Norma Rae avatar?)
But no matter the issues, that Legacy DVD is not our gift to Stewart: that DVD is corporate bullshit dressed up as fandom and does not have a gong-damned thing to do with what we've built here.
Our gift to Stewart is right now lounging luxuriously across my kitchen table after a hard couple of weeks in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii. (Not you, Stewart.)
Our gift to Stewart is having done everything humanly possible to drag that green POS to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii. And South America. And North America. And Europe.
Our gift to Stewart is helping him appear oooohmysterious to 99% of the audience who wonder wtf is giving that nutso drummer such jollies that his arms keep shooting into the air.
Our gift to Stewart is showing him that no matter where he goes in the world, there’s someone in the audience who wants to show him some love.
And bloody hell, while we’ve been at it, we’ve even raised a bit of money for melanoma. Because we are just that fucking good.
And all the while we’ve been collecting all those photos that TP.com is requesting and providing them for free to any and all who wish to witness the krazy journey of The Little Flag That Could:
(Hell, even our smugmug account has been donated to this project free of charge.)
So when UltraStar gets off its lazy ass and does some flag muling and cheerleading and shares some of the windfall with those who deserve it, then I’ll consider donating some photos. Until that pig flies, my photos are going to Eugenio, my flag is going to Stewart, and my ass is getting out of here before I start rattling the bars and yelling about Attica.
Thanks for listening, everyone. Take it all with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila, and make your own decision based on your own feelings. And give yourself a pat on the back for making it through to the end.
Thanks to Giovanni and Eugenio, especially the former who encouraged me to come out here and spew even though he knows that he is a waaaay nicer person than I am.
And thanks to Stewart. Just cuz. Please do drop in and say hello at some point -- by now your family must be sick to death of having you constantly underfoot.
Your humble if verbose flagmistress,
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