08 October 2006

Our plastic identity

On the heels of the tourism bed sheet fiasco comes the new provincial tourism logo, being grossly oversold by Danny Williams as the answer to all our prayers.

Apparently, it is not merely a tourism logo but the one symbol by which one people will be known with one voice coming from one leader. (Check out the full page print ads running this week. Shades of Ein volk, Ein Reich... but I digress.)

Anyway, an astute Bond Papers reader discovered an odd similarity between Danny's Logo and the Irish tourism logo. The Irish one features the word "Ireland" surmounted by a lovely green shamrock.

Now the shamrock is an established Irish icon, much like the Irish harp featured as part of the official government visual identity. The pitcher plant is by no means as clearly identified with Newfoundland and Labrador as is the shamrock with Ireland. Nevertheless, Newfoundland is surmounted by a local three-headed substitute.

Take it a step further and you'll notice that there are - inexplicably - three beach ball/pods on the Newfoundland and Labrador word mark, although the pitcher plant does not, as a rule, grow more than one stem and flower. There's no obvious reason for there to be three beach balls if the new Newfoundland and Labrador tourism logo is supposed to represent the pitcher plant. But three are there.

So what does it represent? Put the question to the government publicity machine and they will spit back and answer: whatever they want it to mean. Biblical allusions might be accepted.

At the same time as you are pondering the curious number of rip-offs similarities between stuff Danny has been pumping out and other people's work, think about the way Danny Williams has oversold his own little logo as being the embodiment of everything under the sun to replace the 40-odd logos already out there.

Do an "audit" in Ireland and you'd likely find as many logos or more. In Ireland, the official government logo/visual ID continues to be the Irish harp. There would seem to be no overwhelming reason to change it just as there was no overwhelming reason to do away with the old provincial government visual ID. It may have needed some tweaking, but fundamentally it worked for its purpose. Now, we have replaced a symbol of authority with a cutesy child's drawing of some alien invaders as the visual symbol of a government.

In the Irish business development agency, there is a specific logo for the initiative itself (left). The government program the agency falls under has another logo (right) which incorporates the harp; that tells you it is a government initiative.

Now it should strike you as odd that Danny Williams has turned around and banished all but his own logo. That is, odd if the so-called Irish tiger has been as successful as it has been with all these logos and word marks, and Newfoundland and Labrador under Danny Williams is supposed to emulate the Irish model and thereby Ireland's success.

Well, the obvious answer is that the Danny-logo has nothing to do with anything he claimed.

We've noted that already.

On another level, this logo business is just another example of how some people treat our history and identity as something they can re-invent for their own personal purposes.

It is our plastic identity.

That phrase Bond Papers tossed out before - the Celtification of Newfoundland and Labrador - didn't just fall from the sky. It came originally from a character very closely associated with Danny Williams. It should come as no surprise that somewhere in Danny Williams' agenda, the stuff he manages to do best - or focus most on - are the things having to do with image and identity.

While its advocates say otherwise, at its heart, the image manipulation displays a fundamental contempt for the province, its people, their history and traditions. The image manipulators treat our own culture - supposedly their own culture - with the same contempt they displayed in the Canadian flag fiasco.

More than anything else though the energy expended on rearranging the symbols of identity is just a demonstration of the fundamental bankruptcy of the position these cynics put forward.

The more effort a government spends on playing with our plastic history or our plastic identity, the less work they are doing laying concrete foundations for our future.

That's the real image the Danny-logo represents.