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The Collective
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Michelle Malkin (and others) are up in arms about the following poster from the UNHCHR for The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The poster is as follows:

Michelle seems to think that because a Lego piece is being used, that the poster is a dig at the Danes for the Mohammed cartoon business. (Legos being a Danish product-and a darn fine one, too).

First, I would note that the Lego is the one being left out. If the goal was to attack the Danes, surely a bunch of Legos would be shunning a black puzzle piece. That would make more sense if the Legos are supposedly represenitng Danish intolerance, yes?

Second, and even more to the point, the bottom line is that the UN’s poster makers simply like Legos, having used them before in their posters for UNHCR’s campaign on refugees (click here to get the full-sized posters).

For example:


and

and

Indeed, you can see extensive use of Lego people on the UNCHR’s “How You Can Help” page.

So please, the UN deserves plenty of criticism, but let’s not overreact, especially based on rather scant evidence. And no, because one UN “Special Rapporteur” mentioned the Danish cartoons does not equal sufficient evidence that the poster is aimed at the Danes.

And again: if the Danes were the target, why is the Lego the piece being excluded?

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19 Comments

  1. That Malkin is a bit paranoid, huh? I am sure most people have no idea that legos are Danish.

    Comment by akdfjo — Tuesday, March 21, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

  2. Well I think given the situation (Mohammed drawings), there shall little to inflame the situation.

    But i do think the difference is that, in all previous comercials all pieces are lego.
    so thats fine with me.

    But this current poster only one peice is lego, now if the puzzle had been all lego (different color) too it would have been better. Now it can be seen 2 ways as Lego is the bad or Lego is the good.

    Personally my first impression was lego = Denmark and therefor was wiewed as bad in the current situation.

    But the more i Look i think, it can as easy be the other way around.

    But this poster is not very good in my eyes.

    Maybe it was exclued to show (the danes) are racsist and not villing to coorporate because of mohammed darwings and maybe it shovs thats danes are being target of hate/racism

    Comment by Lars — Tuesday, March 21, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

  3. I really see this as using toys symbolically to represent different people and exclusion.

    Clearly the Lego is the piece being excluded, so I can’t see that the poster is calling the Danes rascists since the piece that supposedly represents the Danes is the piece being excluded in the poster.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, March 21, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

  4. Reading the next article which was published on March 7, I think the red Lego stone was intended to point at the Danes.

    UN Higher Commissioner Louis Arbour’s special reporter Doudou Diene made harsh criticisms in his report about the Danish government and intellectuals along with the Danish daily Jyllands Posten, which published the blasphemous images first. The report stressed that “beliefs should not be humiliated under the veil of freedom of expression” as it dwelled on the importance of fighting against Islamophobia.

    Diene remarked that xenophobia and taking sides before Islam reached an “alarming” level in Denmark with the publication of the insulting images admitting that, “When political leaders do not fulfill their responsibility about xenophobia and insult to religion, Europe has entered a path, which will confirm the thesis of “clash of civilizations”. The reporter emphasized that Jyllands Posten daily attacked Muslim believers by “showing Islam equal to terrorism”, which is an old prejudice and it acted under the veil of auto-censorship and freedom of expression. “The cartoons are absolutely insulting” said the reporter as he directed his criticisms towards the Anders Fogh Rasmussen government, which did not fulfill its responsibility. Diene’s report highlighted the violation of international agreements by the Danish government guaranteeing freedom of expression and respect to thoughts and beliefs.

    The UN report said the Danish government had to make decisions against the cartoon crisis for its international responsibility and responsibility to 200,000 Muslims in the country. It also noted that the Danish Government’s lack to show sensitivity for insulting religions and Islamaphobia as it showed against anti-Semitism was dreary. Emphasizing the cartoon crisis arose in Denmark due to rising xenophobia, the UN report stated Jyllands Posten stands against tolerance and supports the clash of civilizations. The Senegalese reporter said “Their defense that freedom of speech is limitless contradicts international rules. There is a great need to establish a balance between freedom of speech and freedom of faith. This publication explicitly shows a lack of understanding and emotion for believers. The newspaper also helped Islam and terror to be likened.”

    Danish intellectuals were criticized in the report. The UN reporter emphasized that it was wrong to divide the world into two as secular and modern society on the one side and undeveloped Muslims on the other. The reporter addresses UN at the end of his report and called it to struggle against Islamaphobia and insulting religions. It also demanded repercussion for people who see Islam equal to terrorism.

    Comment by Miep — Tuesday, March 21, 2006 @ 3:44 pm

  5. Racism?

    That’s the poster the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is using to advertize the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Lovely. Our friend the Sandmonkey is none-to-pleased: There is something rotten in the U…

    Trackback by Solomonia — Tuesday, March 21, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

  6. [...] ontinues
    By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:45 pm

    Michelle Malkin was unimpressed with my interpretation of the UN Lego poster, noting: With all due respect, those giving the U.N. the benefit of th [...]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Legomania Continues — Tuesday, March 21, 2006 @ 10:47 pm

  7. I have wiewed it some more the poster

    We all know he danish Flag is red and white

    The Lego piece is red and the text is white, This seems a very very clear indication that it is about Denmark, there can be no doubt.

    Furthermore the half finished puzzle, looks exactly like the middle part of Jutland, you just need to put a few more puzzles in, then you can can easy see what the intention is.

    Personally I am very upset over that UN mark thier racsim day, but making racsim.
    I shows me that UN have droped the ball completely and they need a new adminstration sooner than later, if not then to be closed and a new organisation buildt up.

    UN has been under presure from ME a long time and now they have fallen for that pressure is that the UN we want?

    The UN dos not Unite anymore, they Divide.

    Comment by Lars — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 2:33 am

  8. “Clearly the Lego is the piece being excluded, so I can’t see that the poster is calling the Danes rascists since the piece that supposedly represents the Danes is the piece being excluded in the poster.”

    The puzzle pieces are black, and joined in “unity”. The red Lego doesn’t fit into the black puzzle, it is not “being left out” it is leaving *itself* out, not joining in the larger grand colorless, well, except black, schema.

    It’s pretty obvious. When talking about racism, in terms that the UN speaks, the interlocking jigsaw pieces are in the higher, better state, not the red lego.

    Red Danish flag, Lego??? SInking in yet, Dr.?

    Comment by benrand — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 5:25 am

  9. Lego and Denmark are tied closely together.

    The UN poster shows that lego is the current shape of racism.

    The cartoons were made in a Danish newspaper.

    The UN poster is suggesting, through symbols, that the Danes are racist.

    Pure. And. Simple.

    Comment by Steven — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 8:21 am

  10. [...] movement at the UN (the following is based on a comment I left at Elephants in Academia). The previous posters, and the usage of Lego characters on the UNHCR web site prove that the poster-making folk [...]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » One More Lego Comment (Or, Please Explain the Other Legos) — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 9:32 am

  11. It reminds me of the hysteria on the part of Michelle and other bloggers I admire over the “Crescent of Embrace” grove of trees that was part of the Flight 93 Memorial design.

    Comment by Sissy Willis — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 10:01 am

  12. Well…if it was not racist why did the UN remove it? Just to please a “bit paranoid” blogger? come on!

    Comment by Roberto Pera — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 11:41 am

  13. It is a poor poster. It CAN (and probably was ment to) say that Denmark is racist and by implication that the LEGO company is racist. (no evidence of either) The irony is the poster is communicating a racist position against the Danes! If the UN wanted to they should have taken the high road on the poster.

    The poster is also poor because no matter how hard the lego piece tries it could never work with the puzzle pieces. (or visa versa) If you think about it the lego piece isn’t a different piece but a whole different species!

    They should have replaced the lego piece with a blue (or some other colored) puzzle piece. Then the puzzle piece could have a chance of fitting in. Sure it would have a different exterior color, but that is okay. Isn’t the point we are all human and even though we may have some differences (eg skin color is an easy to spot difference) we should not exclude or discriminate. By making the other piece blue it would be difficult to say that the blue piece was representative of a particular human race. (If it was yellow, or white, or brown, or red someone might interperate that the poster was about a particular race.) People would concentrate on the simple idea that yes, that blue piece could be included in the whole puzzle and it should be. There wouldn’t be any potentially “hidden agenda” and the message could come across more effectively.

    I’m an engineer not a graphic designer or marketing person. If I could think of it then there is no reason that the UN’s highly paid marketing people and graphic designers couldn’t have thought of it and used it. In my mind that clinches it. In my mind that is evidence that they had a not so hidden agenda against the Danes.

    The UN is SUPPOSED to take the high road and be a powerful diplomatic force. All I have seen is that they are rife with corruption and nepotism. Time to stop wasting funds on the UN.

    Comment by scubajim — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 11:41 am

  14. “And again: if the Danes were the target, why is the Lego the piece being excluded?”

    It is not being excluded. The message is that racism takes the well known and easily identified shapes we are all familiar with(the puzzle pieces that all easily fit together), but can also manifest in shapes that to do not fit together with what we could normally recognize as racism. Reading a message about Denmark into this is certainly possible, but it seems a bit of a stretch to me.

    Comment by Will — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 11:51 am

  15. [...] mpersand, Alas, a Blog: “Do they really believe that abortion is murder?” Dr. Steven Taylor, PoliBlog, “Hypersensitivity (Lego Edition)” (Also known as “Proof that Ma [...]

    Pingback by The Mahablog » Bloggy Goodness — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 11:57 am

  16. I’m sorry, has there been a lot of racism against Danes lately? I could have sworn the Danes were in the news recently. But for some reason I thought the Danes were being accused of racism. But maybe you’re right. Maybe it is counterintuitively arguing not to be racist towards Danes at a time when Danes are being widely accused of being racist. Coincidence!

    Comment by dorkafork — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 1:21 pm

  17. uble in LEGOland…

    It’s hard out here for a red LEGO, when everybody but you fits in…

    Trackback by ReidBlog — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 2:48 pm

  18. So what do you see in the mirror?

    Some bloggers love being provocateurs, meaning that they provoke intense feelings of false devotion and heighten senses of disorientation and delusion. And who is better for delivering your daily dose of provocations than Malkin, who, while being overw…

    Trackback by AlienSphere — Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 5:05 pm

  19. So maybe the message is that it ain’t only “white anglo-saxon protestants” that are racists, that racists can also be *black* and *Muslim*….shapes of racism less acknowledged by society-and-media-at-large.

    Comment by furelise — Thursday, March 23, 2006 @ 2:47 am

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