Since last week's murderous terrorist attack in Charleston by racist suspect Dylann Storm Roof, a number of corporations are finally addressing the sale of the Confederate Battle Flag, argued to be a symbol of regional pride by many of the flag's supporters, but in historical fact, created and popularized by racists as a symbol of white supremacy. Unsurprisingly, Amazon, eBay, Sears, and Walmart recently announced plans to discontinue its sale.
In Linden Lab's official Second Life Marketplace, however, virtual versions of the flag like the bikini above are still widely available. (A Google search reveals about a dozen SL Marketplace listings of the flag.) This despite the fact that Second Life's own official Community Standards prohibit public displays of intolerance in SL:
Intolerance Combating intolerance is a cornerstone of Second Life's Community Standards. Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame individuals or groups inhibit the satisfying exchange of ideas and diminish the Second Life community as a whole. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life.
By comparison, a search for Nazi flags in the Second Life Marketplace turns up no results. [See update] Indeed, I know an educator who created a World War II simulation in Second Life for teaching purposes, but found herself penalized by the company for including the swastika within the historical scene. In any case, I've asked Linden Lab for an official statement on the sale of the Confederate flag in Second Life, and will update if I get one.
As I noted yesterday, the Confederate Flag's presence in Second Life was a key part of its birth back in 2003, as wargamers clashed against the rest of the SL Beta community:
[T]his political to and fro was basically trumped when WWIIOLer Syank Nomad went through his inventory of images, and began adding a symbol that totally changed the debate: the Confederate flag. (Or to be more exact, the Confederate battle flag, or even more precisely, the Confederate Naval Jack.)
None of these distinctions mattered to some Residents, who saw the flag as a symbol of racism and slavery. On the company website discussion board, an extended argument broke out, with several members arguing that Syank had thereby violated Linden Lab’s Terms of Service rules against "hate speech".
And so a recurring national controversy found its way into Second Life. It's worth pointing out a contrast in demographics: while the largest aggregate of Second Life players are from California, many if not most of the WWIIOLers were from the South.
"At the time I posted the Confederate Naval Jack," Nomad e-mailed me, "I honestly did not expect to stir up a heated political debate." In any case, he argues, "More slaves were held under the US flag than any other flag in our nation's history…[D]uring the [Civil] war, in states like Ohio, Indiana, and even Lincoln's own state of Illinois, blacks were entirely excluded from even settling within their borders." He says the symbol is, to Southerners, largely a race-neutral expression of regional pride ("I had neighbors in Florida," he says, "Black neighbors, who had the rebel flag on their trucks"), and he bristled at the idea that unfurling the stars and bars makes him into some kind of hatemonger. "I am not a bigot, or a racist, I am not living in the South anymore, I am half Hispanic, and part Native American." All this is mentioned by way of saying that on many issues, such as this one, Northerners and Southerners seem forever condemned to talk past each other, each assuming the worst.
Whatever role the Confederate flag had on their decision, if any, the Lindens stepped in, and set the Jessie wall to "No Build"— meaning that from then on, no one but the company would be able to attach anything to it. The surface was returned to its original state of blank, gray stone. And just like that, the war of the Jessie wall was over.
The repercussions, however, would continue long after.
... and twelve years later, as it tragically turns out, those repercussions yet continue.
Update, 4:00pm: While initial Markeplace searches turned up blank, NWN readers Jo Yardley and Ciaran Laval found some Nazi-related items, and on a subsequent search, so did I -- including a full-mesh Hitler.
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