Monday, September 07, 2015

‘Red Peak’ raises a red flag

I hate that NZ politics has made me so suspicious and cynical, but it has, and I can't stop wondering why there's all this talk about the "Red Peak" flag (image above). The same questions pop into my head every time I see a news story or Facebook post about the design or the “campaign” to add it to the referendum. The questions boil down to, “why?”

Is someone promoting “red peak” flag behind the scenes? If so, who? And why THAT design and not any of the other 10,000 designs that didn't make the final four? It just feels like we're being manipulated, and every time I see yet another news story or a post on Facebook talking about the "Red Peak" flag and the "campaign" to add it to the referendum, those same questions pop into my head.

Stuff said the other day that the campaign began with Nelson-based venture capitalist Rowan Simpson, whose blog post on the “Red Peak” flag I read at the time. But Stuff also said that Simpson didn’t “set out to start a movement”, yet that’s what there is.

If Simpson isn’t promoting it, who is? It seems it may have become a genuinely organic campaign now, but it happened awfully fast, and a little tidier than we usually see with grassroots campaigns.

There’s a Facebook Page for it and a Tumblr that links to all sorts of high-resolution images of the flag free for the downloading (including the one above), along with the detailed story about the design (and nothing much at all about the designer). The Tumblr says “The Red Peak flag was intended to be a ‘new’ symbol that expressed our NZ identity while avoiding the use of Southern Cross, Koru, Kiwi, Fern motifs (that many others have explored),” yet the designer also did several other flag designs, some with the traditional motifs used by others, and some designs were abstract like Red Peak.

So, again, why THIS flag?

To be sure, much of what they say about “Red Peak” on its Tumblr are true about flag design principles generally (such as, it should be simple, it has to look good small, a child should be able to draw it, etc.). And, I don’t hate the design, so for me it’s not actually about the design itself.

It’s just that to me, the campaign for “Red Peak” doesn’t feel entirely genuine or transparent. Maybe it is, maybe it’s one of those rare times when an idea has caught the public imagination and just taken off—maybe, but I’m suspicious.

I don’t have any idea what will happen, but John Key has a history of doing an abrupt change of direction when the public is leading in a different direction than he wanted, so if this campaign and the several petitions about it continue, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him add it one way or another.

Whatever happens, though, I don't expect to see my questions answered.

Update: There's a brief update to this post (second item).

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