Ignorance is not the same as malice
By DON McINTOSH
As mistakes go, it’s a pretty embarrassing one. The national AFL-CIO, after its Executive Council denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, had placards printed with a dove superimposed over the Ukrainian flag, and on March 15 tweeted pictures of union leaders holding the placards to show solidarity. But its graphic designer mixed up the flag colors, putting yellow on top and blue on the bottom. [In case it helps to remember, the blue in Ukraine’s flag is said to represent sky, and the gold is said to represent the wheat the country is famous for.] At the Northwest Labor Press, we also published that graphic—in our March 18 issue—to accompany a story about international union efforts to help Ukrainians.
The United States is a big country, and most Americans don’t know much about other countries, can’t spot them on a map, don’t recognize their flags. I once saw Michael Moore use this fact to make a very funny point at a rally. He invited the smartest Americans and Canadians in the audience to come on stage, then asked them the same questions. All the Canadians could name the U.S. leader, capitol city, and even sing the first bars of the Star Spangled Banner. The Americans … well, let’s just say it didn’t go so well.
People who spotted the AFL-CIO’s Ukrainian flag mistake, and ours, were right to criticize and expect a correction. In a phone message to the Labor Press, one caller with a Slavic accent called the mistake shameful and demanded an apology.
To our readers, and particularly to that union member who called, we offer our sincere apologies, and we very much regret the mistake.
But ignorance is not the same as malice. When union haters use mistakes like this in bad faith to slam labor, it’s clear they’ve lost sight of the point.
Fox News was gleeful in pointing out the AFL-CIO’s flag mistake, and made its own mistake in its very first sentence. “The AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor union,” wrote reporter Jessica Chasmar, proving that there’s enough ignorance to go around. (The AFL-CIO is a federation of unions, not a union.)
Then the right wing Washington Free Beacon—tripping over itself to trash what it called the “union cartel” and “union conglomerate”—at one point referred to America’s 13-million member labor federation as the ALF-CIO, a mistake which is still up on its website two weeks later.
At the Northwest Labor Press, we take our commitment to accuracy very seriously. When we fail, we rely on alert readers to let us know. When we learn of an error, we will always correct our online edition immediately, and run corrections and clarifications in our print editions.