Right Wing extremists and organizations seek to define "Patriotism" and co-opt our Flag to camouflage a Nationalist, authoritarian and racist agenda
Progressives use our Flag to unite while extremists use our flag to divide.
Extremist politicians such as Donald Trump, the modern GOP, Right Wing political organizations (super-PACs) and White Nationalists - manipulate Americans by co-opting American "Patriotism" and the symbolism of our Flag.
These groups heavily use our Flag and the words of "patriotic" and "patriotism" to deceptively brand and superficially make palatable their Nationalist and often anti-American agendas.
Their agendas are in reality often counter to the "Liberty and justice for all" ideals that define the true values embedded in our Flag. Look at the intense "branding" with use of imagery of the Flag by these organizations as highlighted on this page.
They do so by:
1 - Willful deception - willfully substituting "Patriotism" instead of "Nationalism" and by choosing to define "Patriotic" meaning to blindly follow the will of politicians (rather than the good of the Nation). They also fetishize the flag itself - rather than the "Liberty and Justice for All" values it purely and ideally represents.
2 - Falsely claiming to be the rightful arbiters of what our Flag represents and defining who is a "Patriot"- in most cases a uniformly narrow, restrictive exclusionary definition.
3 - Branding and energizing themselves as "real Americans" and "Patriots" with their "ownership" of the Flag to "prove it"; falsely linking their often anti-American (exclusionary) values and policies as rooted in "history" and falsely as "American values".
Claiming "rightful" ownership of our Flag has two significant consequences:
a) They are more easily and broadly perceived as "Patriotic" Americans representing "American values" to uninformed/undecided voters
b) They create an instant disadvantage for anyone who opposes them being associated as "anti/un-American"; which is an inherently weakened (and false) position.
It is not a coincidence that Donald J. Trump has woven his anti-democratic philosophy of Nationalism and degradation of American norms into his vision of the Flag; further denigrating it's values of Liberty and Justice for All. Rather than create his own logo he usurps it's value and meaning. His support is based heavily on the image of the Flag.
We counted a remarkably excessive 79 images of our Flag at Donald J. Trump's RNC Convention acceptance speech 2016 (see slideshow above).
The Flag and it's colors may not "work on" perception in obvious ways but doing so taps in to widespread patriotic feelings - something deeper as most Americans feel an allegiance to our Nation and are often swayed, self-identify and vote - by emotion not thought or facts. The Flag unites and but it can also divide.