Ebony & Ivory: Did Microsoft Appeal to Poland’s Notoriety for Potential Racism?

bill-gates-jolson

The image below is a screenshot taken from Microsoft.com.  It is the default front page for a section intended to help with business productivity and infrastructure optimization.  You may be asking yourself why we give a shit about this at all or, better yet, why you should.  Don’t worry, the content isn’t as important as the imagery and this will quickly be taken into the directions that you’ve grown to expect from MonsterFresh.com: shockingly offensive racism and shit talking about those that are more financially sound than we are.

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I recently received a tweet from my friend JayFerris that read “Haha! Check it quick before MSFT takes them down! RT @kristy: Spot the difference:

After that were two links to Microsoft web pages.  The first was a link to the page with the screen shot above and the second was to the Polish text version of the same web page.  Let’s see if you can tell the difference.

English Page

Microsoft-business-black-guy
VIA

Polish Page

Microsoft-business-white-replacement
VIA

Obviously, one of them is in Polish, but that’s not what I’m referring to.  If you didn’t catch it, take one more look.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.  Take as much time as you need, it’s the internet.

Okay, good… you noticed.  The second page has the man in the center’s head replaced with that of a less frightening Caucasian man.  Apparently, Polish people aren’t afraid of black hands, because that part hasn’t been altered.

First off, I’d like to express my distaste for this second photo’s poor photoshop work.  This is for a site by the computer power house Microsoft, so you would think that they could pull their shit together a little better.  If not, I’m looking for a job and I already live in Seattle, so hook it up.  I can put white heads on people all day, if needed.  Kick me some loot and stock options;  I’m down.

What I like the most about the contrast between the two images, is the blatant contradictions in marketing.  The first promotes the diversity of the market place by utilizing imagery from 3 different minorities: Women, Asian Americans, and African Americans.  The casting was clearly intentional and such overt attention to diversity is prevalent in marketing these days.  I’m aware that a lot of people don’t notice the attention to racial variety in every ad, as I do, but, by viewing the alternate image, it gets a nice spotlight shined on it here.

By photoshopping the second image, it shows a clear intention to present the exact opposite message than the first because, in that case, it displays just as much about what Microsoft doesn’t want in their ads, as much as what they did in the first.

Is Microsoft racist?!  Probably not, but it’s still funny.  Plus, how can a company or institution be racist, anyway?  Oh yeah, the Aryan Nation, W.A.R. Skins, KKK, etc… forgot about them.   But a company?  The point is that the Government and corporations aren’t your friends.  They just want to sell you shit and, after that, you can go fuck yourself.  It’s just simple capitalism and marketing.  Surveys are conducted and demographics are researched, etc.  Somewhere along the line, Microsoft was alerted to information that lead them to believe that it would be counterproductive for them to promote products, which featured Black people in the advertisements, in Poland.  “Not into the black guy?  No problem!  Me neither, actually; I just work here.  Now let’s get that business optimized, shall we?

Is Poland, the subject of endless racially prejudice punchlines, actually a racist country?  The following 2007 BBC report about racist soccer hooligans helped to fuel this belief.

[Unrelated question: Didn’t the Nazi‘s invade and try to wipe out Poland?  What the fuck is going on here?]

Obviously, many Poles think that this report of “racism” is bullshit and that the BBC was irresponsible by reporting otherwise.  This raises the question about where the racism line begins.  Is it racist to imply that a particular race is racist?  Isn’t that a prejudice and unfair grouped judgment in it’s own right?  Then again, I’ve actually seen newly manufactured, racist “Sambo” figurines for sale at Tennessee gas stations, within this decade.  That shit wouldn’t fly in other parts of the country.  This brings us to the real subject behind this entire post; advertising and ethics.

During WWII, the Coca-Cola corporation fell victim to the trading bans imposed with Germany.  The solution was to create another product from within Germany that they could sell and present as a different product.  The result was Fanta, created by Coca-Cola‘s head of German operations.  “Mmm, that zing that you’re tasting is one of purity and superiority”  Ironically enough, Fanta has become a product with a marketing campaign centered around racial diversity through booty shorts.


{The image above is via wwww.Swastika-Info.com and is posted with the following information:
In 1925 Coca Cola made a lucky watch fob in the shape of a swastika with the slogan, “Drink Coca Cola five cents in bottles.” At that time, the Swastika was still a symbol of ‘Good Luck’. “}

There is a huge difference between being “prejudice” and being “racist”, although, both are extremely loaded terms.  Obviously, racism is exclusive to ethnicity and/or origin, while being prejudicial has no barriers.  I, for one, believe that everyone is prejudice and that it’s actually necessary to be so.  Almost everything that we do is based off of some sort of assumption.  However, some are more educated assumptions than others.  Why do people seem to make the same mistakes over and over?  The answer is because they are unable to recognize patterns and prejudge scenarios to prevent them from occurring all over again.

The last time that I touched a red hot stove burner, I burned the shit out of myself.  Maybe, this time it will be a different story“.  If you touch that stove you deserve exactly what you get; 3rd degree burns.  In reality, becoming prejudice is just the by-product of learning.  Then again, there is always a margin for error and exceptions to every situation.  It’s called being alive and it prevents us from being eaten by crocodiles and getting gang raped, when possible.

Newport soul brotherOne day I chose to stop bumming out cigarettes to young black people around downtown Seattle.  That might make me racist, but I just wasn’t going to do it anymore.  Every time that I would hand one out, the person taking it would bitch and complain about how it wasn’t a menthol.  I would give them-a stranger-something of mine and then I would watch them toss it after a drag or two.  Fuck that!  After seeing it happen too many times, I put the kaibosh on that interaction.  When I used to smoke American Spirit Periques (aka: Blacks), I stopped bumming them to anyone.  Those things were expensive and everybody would toss them, claiming that they were too harsh.  These are patterns that I became aware of and didn’t feel like dealing with.  It doesn’t make you a good and trusting person if you’ve been stabbed eleven times, but continue to establish personal relationships with inmates.  It makes you a fucking idiot.

It’s important to realize that the barriers between society and marketing can bleed into each other and dissipate as they effect each other.  The Dave Chappelle Show once featured a fake quiz show skit called “I Know Black People“.  One of the questions on the show was about why black people smoke menthols and the “correct” answer presented was that nobody actually knows.  The truth is that Newport actually targeted urban populations as an untapped resource, so marketing actually directly affected a community as well as a stereotype.

The following excerpt, taken from Sourcewatch.org, is from a post entitled “Kent and Newport Cigarettes Reaching the Black Community“:

This 1971, 6-page marketing document from Lorillard proposes marketing strategies to increase sales of Newport cigarettes to lower income African Americans. One strategy was to create a Black advertising character called “Bold Soul”:

…complete with dashiki and natural, the Bold Soul is intended to create a relevancy that associates Newport with modern Black pride and individuality. The Bold Soul was also used to project an image of masculinity. Headline, short copy and language…tended to concentrate of the blue collar aspect, as well as the lower-middle to lower income levels accounting for 83% of the Black population.

Whatever the case is with the Microsoft corporation, they felt that it was necessary to alter the image of a Black man to make their campaign more successful.  I started writing this article yesterday, before heading out to band practice, and, by the time that I returned home a few short hours later, the image on the Polish page had been changed back to match that of the original.  For them to change it back, they must know that the imaging adjustment was noticed.  Hey, Microsoft!  You have more money than god, why didn’t you just take a different, less noticeable photo to mask your shady tactics. It would have been so much easier and cheaper in the long run.

The apologies and back peddling will come soon enough.  I miss the days of Denny’s putting their feet in their mouths and fucking up over and over again.  I’m surprised that there isn’t a “Jive Turkey Club” on their menu next to the Super Bird, by now.  Unfortunately, Bill Gates and company are pretty intelligent and they will probably clean everything up smoothly.  Now if McDonalds could do something about for those “urban” commercials that are run exclusively on BET and if Tyler Perry would apologize for his entire career, things will finally begin to become right again.

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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  • Justin

    This will be like Dennys. Tyler Perry will never apologize for his career. His new movie will just embolden it. Wow. I love the two photos. They need to hire a new photoshop person. Whoever did this photoshoping obviously was in a rush and did not care about details. Or maybe they like black hands/white face in Poland. Did you ever get your Hitler stamps?

  • Yeah, the photos are ridiculous. The substitute head isn’t even the right size. I figured that I could half-ass my Bill Gates Jazz Singer for this article too, because it’s about poor photo shop skills anyway.

    Yep, I have a sheet of Hitler stamps, all right. I was thinking about them today, because they were actually from Poland.

  • Ra’Bia

    Monster,
    Check out the documentary about Mardi Gras, called, “The Order of Myths”.