May 20, 2005
Indra Nooyi: Meet the USS Pueblo and Digitus Impudicus
So what’s all the fuss about Indra Nooyi’s Columbia speech. . . and the digitus impudicus? Images are important. Symbolism is powerful. Look to the story about the USS Pueblo and the crew’s defiant use of the “impudent finger.”
Captured Crew Members,
In January 1968, the North Koreans captured the USS Pueblo. One crew member was killed when the ship was captured and the remaining crew of 82 were held prisoner for 11 months.
The North Koreans released photos of the captured crew as propaganda. . . with middle fingers extended. The brave and inventive crew told the North Koreans it was “The Hawaiian Good Luck Sign.”
To their credit, The New York Times and The Washington Post published the photo without comment. But the October 18, 1968 issue of Time magazine (hello, Newsweek) published this foolish caption:
The North Koreans are having a hard time proving to the world that the captive crewmen of the USS Pueblo are a contrite and cooperative lot. Last week Pyongyang’s flacks tried again — and lost to the US Navy. In this class-reunion picture, three of the crewmen have managed to use the medium for a message, furtively getting off the U.S. hand signal of obscene derisiveness and contempt.
Embarrassed, the North Koreans tortured the crew. They suffered through what the survivors dubbed “Hell Week.”
Images are important. Symbolism is powerful.
The great irony of Nooyi challenging her audience to greater cultural sensitivity, while flagrantly violating that principle herself is staggering. In fact, she says in her latest apology that “Regrettably, I’ve proven my own point.”
Despite the apology, Hugh Hewitt observes that it still appears that no one at PepsiCo “understands why people are outraged.”
Brave men were tortured for that impudent finger, that’s why.
The USS Pueblo is a popular tourist attraction on the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea
LINKS (updating throughout the day):
There’s a new Pepsi boycott page here.
And more from Donald Sensing: “if it’s true that “the personal is political,” it’s also true at Ms. Nooyi’s rarefied altitude that the personal is the corporate.”
And Corante, with a discussion of brand management, suggesting that Pepsi start a blog as an outlet for “engaging with the enraged community of Pepsi drinkers.”
Michelle Malkin weighs in. . .
Hugh Hewitt follows the story and links to two parody sites: Curt Jester and Huffington’s Toast — both have developed illustrations for Nooyi’s talk. When I read her speech, one of my first thoughts was that this kind of parody pictures would be in production quickly. Pepsi should have known it, too.
Thanks, Greyhawk, for Open Post at Mudville Gazette. . .
More at The Write Wing Conspiracy
UPDATE April 7, 2007 from an Alert Reader at Little Green Footballs on British vs American captive sailors.