The Internet Never Forgets

You may remember a few months ago a story that I covered concerning two North Carolina high school students, who were photographed waving Confederate flags while on a class trip to Gettysburg. I offered my thoughts in a series of posts that included why my own students were cautioned about purchasing flags in the gift shop during a tour that I led this past March. And I even invited the father of one of the two North Carolina students to share his perspective.

From the beginning my concerns came down to the need on the part of all parties involved, especially educators, to think carefully about how they utilize Confederate flags in the classroom and in public. The photograph of the two girls that was innocently uploaded to social media caused a great deal of misunderstanding and mistrust in their own community, which I suspect the local school board is still dealing with.

Of course, the bigger problem is that the photograph is now permanently available online and can be used by anyone to advance their cause. Earlier today a reader passed on the image below advertising a Confederate heritage rally in Mississippi earlier this month.

North Carolina Students, Confederate FlagSee anything familiar? With a little understanding of Photshop our two students went from walking the fields of Gettysburg on a class trip to campaigning to prevent an elected official in Mississippi from moving forward on changing his state’s flag. The sky is the limit as to what other agendas these two students might find themselves supporting.

With everything that has taken place this summer let’s hope that educators are more careful about how they employ Confederate iconography in the classroom and on class trips.

11 comments add yours

      • Their entire story is a lesson for students. Two students posted a picture that seemed innocent and it received a backlash reactions. The students who posted what they believed to be an innocent photograph, had to defend themselves against accusations of racism. Then, a year later, their picture resurfaced being used in a manner that is against their wishes, against their intent, and will result in them reliving the incident.

        Someone should contact the girls and ask them if they’d like to put together their own presentation about this. Students tend to listen to their peers more than us.

        • I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how to introduce the subject of the history and memory of the flag in the classroom. I can easily see using this as a case study as a way to approach the question of competing interpretations. Lots of possibility.

      • Conceivably, this is a picture that could haunt them for years to come. Unfortunately, people who post things on Facebook and Twitter do not always think of the consequences of what they post or are a little impulsive in posting them.

    • There may be some legal issues here, but the this is the Internet we are talking about. The Magnolia State Heritage Campaign has no idea who these ladies are. Instead, and I’m pretty sure this is how it happened, they just did a Google Image Search. The image is not copyrighted, like most personal photos on the web, which means it is a murky legal area. I’m sure one could sue for slander/libel(?) but that would probably be expensive and more than likely not result in a victory for these ladies. This is why it is so important to stress to students to not be foolish when posting anything on the internet. Once you hit submit, it is out there forever.

      • There’s no murkiness about copyright. It *is* copyrighted by whoever took the picture. That they do not have a copyright note on the picture only limits the damages they can ask for for infringement, not whether it’s copyright or not.

  1. I would like to point out the organizers of that particular rally have ties with the racist League of the South. Bill Flowers, the VP of the Georgia League of the South, was a featured speaker at the rally. You can see an interview conducted at the rally with Mr. Flowers at the link below.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdKlx4vhZj8

    Another speaker at that rally was Jeppie Barbour, former mayor of Yazoo City, who is a well-known bigot here in Mississippi. You can learn more about him at this link:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/20/jeppie-brother-haley-barbour-brother_n_799441.html

    Jeppie also heads the “Coalition to Save the Mississippi Flag”.

  2. Edit:
    I should point out that “Bill” Flowers is actually William Flowers (his given name).

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