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‘No Labels’? Try ‘No Originality’ Or ‘No Integrity’ Instead – Gothamist
Today Mayor Bloomberg, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and some other boldfaced political names got together to launch “No Labels,” an organization calling for a new era of non-partisan political change. The non-profit, according to Politics Daily, plans to “endorse and perhaps help finance candidates in party primaries but not in national elections.” Their slogan is “No Labels. Not Left. Not Right. Forward.” But considering how closely the group’s logo/design (Twitter!) resembles the work of graphic designer Thomas Porostocky, they might want to change the name to No Copyright.
Update: The No Labels designer says it’s just a coincidence that he and Porostocky must have used the same clip art file… but Porostocky tells us his animals are original. More below.
Update 2: Now the No Labels designer admits the animals are too similar!
Porostocky’s artwork, which also happens to be about expanding the two-party system, was chosen by Milton Glaser for a 2005 exhibit called “Design of Dissent,” which was later published in book form. It was also featured in Good magazine, and is used by More Party Animals, an “apolitically-political idea born out of a heartfelt disenchantment with the status quo.” As you can see, the designs look pretty similar, and Porostocky tells us he was never contacted about No Labels:
I just found about this a few minutes ago, so to be honest, I’m still a little stunned at the blatant plagiarism. I hadn’t been aware of No Labels prior to today, so needless to say they have definitely not reached out in any way. Considering the names they have on their speaker list (Bloomberg, Gillibrand et al), this clearly isn’t just a simple mom and pop operation, so there really is no excuse for this. There are plenty of politically aware artists out there who they could’ve reached out to in a legitimate (and well, legal) fashion to create something original. There was no need to make a trip down to the Canal Street of ideas.
And let’s be clear, they aren’t just suspiciously similar, they’re directly using elements from work that I created. For the most blatant example, reference this and this.
Update: Dave Warren, the designer who created the work for No Labels, sent us a statement (same as the one he gave Politico) and he chalks it up to a clip art coincidence:
FLY Communications created the animals for No Labels, we did not steal them. But we did start, like almost every ad agency these days, with clip art. In this case royalty free clip art available to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. Then we altered, colored, changed and molded the shapes into ones we liked. We did not see, use, or steal any other work. Since so many other firms have access to these same public files – and their are millions of these files – they can do the same thing we did. So if there are similar treatments as ours it only means they were dipping in the same file. Our original intention was to parody the classic red, white and blue donkey and elephant party designs that have been around for decades. So we really thought about how cool it would be to have a similarly colored buffalo, or snail, or pelican. It seems our thought process was similar to this other designer. And it is very apparent that we arrived at the same place conceptually as well as technically. In our designs, we show the animals both separately and together. Another crazy similarity. Ugh.
However, Porostocky tells us he did not use clip art – his animals were original. It’s also remarkable coincidence that many of the animals are in the exact same place – we took the No Labels t-shirt and overlaid Porostocky’s Party Animals over it – check it out yourself. We asked Warren if he could direct us to the clip art he used; he said his team was in the process of locating it.
Warren also spoke to City Room, “I do my own thinking, man. Feel free to come to one of my classes at Parsons… I have a long and storied history on Madison Avenue. I’m not stupid enough to steal anybody’s work; I have too much faith to come up with my own ideas,” and said of Porostocky, “Tell the other guy to Google my name.”
Update: We just spoke to Warren, who now feels “terrible.” He agrees that More Party Animals and No Labels’ animals are “too close” in design. Warren, who is the creative director at Fly, explained that after they worked on the concept of alternate animals in red and blue, another designer was tasked to work on it and came up with the above.
The designer came back with what we see above. Cut to today: When Warren asked him where he got the animals, the designer said it was clip art. One possibility is that Porostocky’s More Party Animals’ art was appropriated by a clip art source without credit, and that’s how No Labels’ design team came across it. Warren does now believe that the original source art was Porostocky’s but thinks his designer used clip art outlines. Warren added that the similarities were troubling and the last thing he wants to do is to be stealing art – or stealing from something that was stolen. So the mystery continues, until the clip art emerges.
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‘No Labels’: Political Correctness By A Different Name – Jonah Goldberg
I’ve been having a bit of fun on Twitter mocking this whole No Labels thing. For instance:
“Pupils formerly known as bullies celebrate label-liberation as they beat pupils formerly known as nerds into bloody stumps.”
“Animal formerly known as ‘cat’ still refuses to fetch, even though liberated from the ‘cat’ label.”
And after the Virginia court decision:
“Fear not liberals, ‘unconstitutional’ is only a label.”
And so on. But I would hate for my jocularity to mislead people. I’m deadly serious about how stupid and pernicious I think this whole thing is.
I think Stan Kurtz had it right. No Labels claims it wants to make it easier to talk about politics by making it more difficult for people it dislikes to talk about politics. It’s political correctness by a different name (and we all know how there are no labels in political correctness!).
I’ve been tuning in and out of the livecast of the NoLabelpalooza and it is so transparently obvious that this is a Trojan horse for a bunch of defeated liberal and moderate politicians to find some new rationale for their continued political relevance.
Is there “extreme” rhetoric on the Right and Left? Sure. But, there’s extremist rhetoric in the center, too. Centrists routinely demonize the people they think are extreme. Like everyone else, sometimes they make fair points, sometimes they don’t. But what the avowed centrists want to do is declare themselves the sole arbiters of reasonableness.
One of the myriad problems with this project is the idea that somehow the “center” is a more reasonable location than the Right or the Left, when all the center is—most of the time—is an average of the Left and Right’s positions. If you think the extreme Right is crazy and the extreme Left is crazy, why should it follow that splitting difference between the two is wise? It may be on some issues, but it just as easily may not be.
Oh, and the political spectrum is not binary. Libertarians reject statism in all its forms (or at least the good libertarians do!). Sometimes the Left agrees with the libertarians, sometimes the Right does. That’s why some libertarians have been trying to create a “libertarian center” with little success. You can get a glimpse into why that effort doesn’t work by simply contemplating the fact that the libertarian center and the David Gergen center look nothing alike.
Indeed, the irony is that what has passed for the center in one generation often seems extremist in the next. Official but “polite” racism was the mainstream centrist position not too long ago. Forced sterilizations, slavery, population control, Japanese internment, male-only suffrage, censorship, corporal punishment in schools, severe divorce laws, anti-sodomy laws, etc.—all of these things were for a time centrist but are now considered extreme or even unthinkable.
I can think of any number of things that are today considered extreme which I hope will one day be centrist and any number of things that are now centrist that I hope will one day be considered extreme. I am sure that pretty much every person who thinks seriously about politics and morality can do likewise, even if our lists may be different. What the No Labels crowd seeks to do is lock-in their definitions of reasonableness, to reify the bundle of establishment assumptions about the status quo into an inherently superior and moral worldview. To which we should all respond, Feh.
Some of the people involved in No Labels are very smart and very decent people who, as far as I can tell, have a deep patriotic love for America. What they seem to lack is sufficient respect for Americans and their ability to sort out these issues. They seem to think they are the Chosen People of politics with a unique insight into what is a legitimate point and what is an illegitimate one. They have contempt for the idea that there are sincere philosophical and political disagreements and so they try to belittle and dismiss those disagreements by waving them away as “labels” or name-calling (remember Barack Obama at the healthcare summit dismissing every inconvenient point as a “talking point”?).
Of course, the No Labelers are guilty of naked hypocrisy, employing labels (eek!) and hurling mean names (eek! Eek!) with abandon at the unreasonable unwashed, because they think that is their right and their calling.
Well, it’s not.
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