Blog: Twitter storm on 'Keep Calm' T-shirt about rape

6:53 PM, Mar 3, 2013   |    comments
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The Worcester, Massachusetts-based company pulled a T-shirt it had listed on Amazon with the slogan "Keep Calm and Rape On" after a Twitter protest blew up the Twitter world on Saturday.

The company -- Solid Gold Bomb -- also removed a T-shirt with the slogan "Keep Calm and Hit Her," apologizing and saying the slogans were computer-generated.

This company, founded and owned by Michael Fowler, said it was never the company's intention to promulgate either offensive slogan, both of which seem to promote domestic violence against women.

The company said it had received death threats and its Twitter account was bombarded with scores of angry messages, many of which said: "Rape is not a joke."

It closed its Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts Saturday morning.

Well, I would say that what happened was a "solid gold bomb" of another kind.

On the company's website, Fowler posted a message, which included that he was "extremely sorry" and "We simply do not produce poor humor or offensive products."

"... it was one year ago when this parody series was released in response to the outcry on the "Keep Calm" trademark issue and the fact that its trademark was accepted in both the EU and USA. My response to this was to create a large scale release of parodies (something t-shirt companies often do) and relied on both computer based dictionaries and online educational resources..."

Fowler says the slogans were started a year ago as a parody of the British wartime slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On," which was intended to encourage Britons to keep up their spirits.

Well, it would have been a bit less disingenuous if the apology had been more prominently displayed on the Solid Gold Bomb website instead of down at the bottom of the page.

And guess what?

The T-shirts were never actually printed yet but could have been printed "on demand" by the customers. They first went on sale in Germany early Saturday and it was only a matter of a few hours before Twitter exploded with outrage.

Media outlets like CNN and Huffington Post then picked up on the story.

I went and browsed the Solid Gold Site for other T-shirts and was not surprised to find some other offensive T-shirts that, apparently, are "OK." One reads "No Fat Chicks." Yeah, like that's OK?

But in the "Keep Calm" line, I browsed all 68 pages -- yes, I do my research -- and found many cleverly sloganed shirts, like "Keep Calm and Leave the Shire," Keep Calm and Lepre Chaun," "Keep Calm and Eat Bacon" and Keep Calm and Call Batman."

So, we are to believe that no one noticed these other offensive slogans available for the T-shirts until the Twitter world blew up Saturday?

And there was more vitriole aimed at Amazon than at Solid Gold Bomb.

Late Saturday, Amazon's British spokesman Ben Howes gave a statement to CNN, saying, "I can confirm that those items are not available for sale."

And Amazon is not entirely blameless for this expression of bad taste in the past.

Its U.S. operation faced criticism for briefly selling a book in November 2010 that was described as a pedophile's guide. In 2008, Amazon pulled T-shirts it was selling that praised Nazi leaders.

In this world of instant communication and "computer-generated" ideas for sales items, I am not surprised that something like this happened.

Still, some human being should have checked the verbs used for the computer-generated algorithm first.

Follow me on Twitter @KimWendel


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