Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
from Sky Davis
Please distribute widely—
On December 2nd and 4th I witnessed a commercial being aired on WWLP-TV22. The commercial depicted the US Cavalry's use of cellular phones to better defeat the Indigenous Peoples whose lives were already the prime target of extermination by the US Government in a claymation format. The commercial is distributed by Wireless Zone, a nationwide business of cellular phone services.
The television station was initially contacted by myself and numerous other individuals. I was told by Mr. Bill Pepin, the General Manager, that I had four minutes to state my case as to why I found this advertisement for genocide to be offensive. When I had used my four minutes he told me that he would speak with the sales department but would not guarantee that they would even do anything about it.
Corporate Prostitution at its best.
I initially contacted Verizon Wireless about the commercial and after a lengthy investigation by their company (they were very helpful), I was told the commercial was distributed by one of their vendors, that being Wireless Zone.
I have attempted to contact Wireless Zone both by phone and email. I sent them copies of pictures of what the effects of the Indian Wars were....numerous dead Indians, left where they had fallen or dumped into mass graves. I received an email response from Mr. Mark Asnes. He evidently does not understand or does not care about the horrific ordeals Indigenous Peoples went through at the hands of the US Cavalry. He tells me that his ad is based on a factual event. Somehow this is supposed to be okay.
At the bottom of this email is a copy of the email sent to me. If the commercial is running in your area, please contact your local television station to let them know you will not stand for advertisements promoting the eradication of an entire culture.
Please take the time to contact Mr. Asnes, as he feels that because there was initially only the one complaint from myself, that its okay. He feels that because the commercial was test marketed before a focus group and no one objected, that the commercial is acceptable. Because it is seen by millions of people in 13 states and he has only received my objection, that it is fine to continue to run his campaign of humorous slaughter.
If you would be interested in participating in a protest in Western Massachusetts please contact me at email@example.com or 413-529-9423.
Mark Asnes, Executive VP and General Manager 860-613-0393, firstname.lastname@example.org
General information: email@example.com
Company President: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Pepin, General Manager 413-786-2200
The response from Wireless Zone
----- Original Message -----
From: Mark Asnes
Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2003 5:39 PM
Dear Ms. Davis
First off I would like to say I am sorry you feel offended by our TV commercial. It is never our intention to make any group feel they are being targeted or made fun of. The commercial you are referring has been running for almost 2 years in 13 states and has been seen by millions of people. The concept was only to show how things in history could have been different had their been wireless technology. This is the first time we have received a complaint. The commercial was based on a factual event as is the other spot regarding Paul Revere. Both spots were test marketed before focus groups well in advance of thier airing.
We take your opinion very seriously and we will consider it when producing additional spots in the future. Thank you again for your feedback.
Executive VP and General Manager
Automotive Technolgies, Inc.
Update from Davis (12/4/03)
I wrote yesterday nominating Verizon Wireless and WWLP-TV22 (Springfield, Massachusetts).
I must correct this. The distributor of the commercial advertisement is actually Wireless Zone, a franchise of Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless does not endorse the commercials.
WWLP-TV22 refuses to pull the commercial, nor do they have a problem with it.
Another Native protests commercial
From: "Mike Two Horses" <email@example.com>
To: <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>
Dear Mr. Asnes,
Having read your dismissive reply to a friend -- Sky [firstname.lastname@example.org] -- it's apparent that you believe that Sky is the only American Indian who objects to your commercials falsely representing the reality of the intentional genocide on the part of European colonizers that overtook and nearly annihilated our peoples. Perhaps you think that the version of US History you were taught is somehow humorous -- that the annihilation of approximately 125 millions of indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere is some kind of proper joke in the media -- and that it is somehow appropriate to simply walk over those corpses who make your "modern, civilized" life possible with no respect whatsoever.
We disagree, and I think you're about to find out how much. Such callous stupidity must be exposed, and I guarantee you that every news venue -- both in the Springfield area, and across America -- possible will be barraged with calls, faxes, emails, and other communications to express the outrage that American Indian people feel. We have targeted not only the local station, but your company as the producer, and Verizon Wireless overall for a boycott campaign. You stated to Sky that the commercial had run numerous times prior to its detection -- more the shame on you, Mr. Asnes; such braggartry only inflames our rage at this thoughtless racist outrage.
Below is the letter I sent to Verizon Wireless; I guarantee you that I and many other of their customers -- it's the twenty-first century, Mr. Asnes, and Indians are educated and use cell phones extensively -- will be boycotting not only your company but your carrier, Verizon Wireless as well. I'm sure that will go down well with them. At the end of my letter to Verizon, there is a request for an apology from the responsible party; that is now a demand, and it must be national in scope -- I don't particularly care what zone your particular company covers, this is now a national issue -- and made in such a way as [to] reflect both a sense of the different version of history you are sure to be taught by the many American Indians who you will be hearing from, and a sincere regret for having presented such a callous joking reference to the millions of American Indians dead at the hands of the colonizers. The letter to Verizon follows:
Verizon Wireless Customer Service,
I was stunned, literally stunned, to find out that Verizon Wireless had run a television commercial that depicted a member of the "US cavalry" using a Verizon cell phone because he was under attack by "Sioux Indians." I would have thought it inconceivable that something of this nature would even be considered as appropriate in the 21st century; I was angered enough to write to you to express my outrage that in 2003, you would run an such an atrocious commercial that used vicious and spurious stereotypes of MY ancestors -- I am of Lakota and Dakota (what you call Sioux) heritage -- considering the kind of genocidal treatment we went through in the defense of OUR HOMELANDS at the hands of the United States, both its military and its civilians. I cannot say enough in protest of this odious miscasting of the realities of what really happened on the northern plains, and the kind of callous misrepresentation Verizon made of Indian people in your commercial.
I am simply astonished that Verizon would be party to such a commercial and would run it. You should be deeply ashamed of yourselves, and you owe the Native peoples of this land, particularly the "Sioux," the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakoda, a sincere apology.
I am considering the option of discontinuing my service with Verizon for cause should no public apology for this abhorrent and vicious attack on a people who were cheated, starved, and murdered, whose treaties were violated by the US before the ink was even dry, and whose culture was nearly annihilated by the US in the name of "civilization."
Prof. Mike Two Horses
American Indian Studies
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
344 Lane Hall (Mail Stop 0227)
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0227
(540)231-8779 Fax: 231-7013
That Nazis killed millions of Jews is a "factual event." Would Wireless Zone run a commerical showing a Jew calling frantically on his cellphone before being gassed? Or might that not be an appropriate subject for a sales pitch?
If that isn't appropriate, why is the onslaught against Indians appropriate?
The above scenario isn't even a parallelism, since Indians were the victims of genocide, just like Jews. Wireless Zone's commercial portrays Indians as the villains, not the victims. What would a good parallel be: a Nazi calling for reinforcements on his cellphone to prevent an uprising of Jews?
Wow, what a fun commercial that would be. And I'm sure we could find "factual" documentation for it. Nazi soldiers must've needed reinforcements many times.
It's 2003 but, incredibly, we're still talking about "Indians on the warpath." That notion was supposed to die out with John Wayne and the racist Westerns of the mid-20th century. But here we are, dealing with bad Indians vs. good cowboys once again.
Hello, Wireless Zone? Did you miss Dances With Wolves and Pocahontas? If so, check 'em out on DVD. Indians are no longer the bad guys.
Sure, Indians attacked the US Army during the so-called Indian Wars. But the Americans were the aggressors in these wars; the Indians were only defending themselves. The Indians attacked only after the Americans attacked them first, or provoked them by occupying their territory.
The commercial is misleading because it offers no explanation or context. It merely reiterates the age-old stereotype that Indians were violent, savage, and warlike. But that's not the real story.
If you were fighting for your life against an invading force, one with a record of never honoring its agreements, you might abandon your peaceful and benevolent ways. You might become violent, savage, and warlike too. That's the real story this commercial misses.
More on Wireless Zone's commercial
CTA Wireless Zone Profiting on American Indian Genocide
Native vs. non-Native Americans: a summary
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