WordPress Bloggers React to the Rainbow Banner

WordPress.com celebrated the US Supreme Court decision (that same-sex couples can marry nationwide) by posting a Rainbow Banner (the LGBT Flag) across the top of every WordPress bloggers ‘My Sites’ and ‘Reader Page’. These are the first pages WordPress bloggers see when they log onto their site. While only they can see it (not their readers), every WordPress.com blogger in the world was presumably seeing the same Rainbow flag.

503-wp-blue-bgThe response from the WordPress blogging community was immediate, with questions being posted to the WordPress forum: How can I remove this!?

An early response from a WordPress Member was “The rainbow master bar was added in support of the Supreme Court of the United States ruling on same-sex marriage today… However, as this is a polarized issue and the community support forums are not the place to hold such discussions we are closing threads related to the mastbar.”

With that, they closed the topic. As further requests came in, WordPress repeatedly closed each topic after responding with “The banner is temporary. It will eventually be removed. Threads are being closed as the public WordPress.com forum is not the place for these discussions.” In some of the requests, the user simply said the banner was offensive, just as a Swastika banner would be offensive. Others said they would prefer to have an option as to what appeared on the top of those pages. Others weren’t aware of what the banner meant, and though they liked rainbows, they didn’t want one there. Others asked, how long is ‘eventually’?

At this point, I thought the Rainbow banner was one design decision that WordPress hadn’t thought out very carefully. They chose to impose their support, and an implied solidarity, onto every WordPress.com blogger. Many of these bloggers were quick to object to that kind of forced compliance and rightfully so.

One forum moderator responded to the bloggers objections by saying, they thought everyone who posted a protest on the forum was a hater. Hater? Everyone? I object to the banner, but I’m not a hater. I simply object to not having a choice as to whether I want to fly a particular flag. There are lots of flags and graphics I would object to – not out of hate – just a desire to have  control of the design in the ‘living room’ of my blog. I think WordPress made two errors – one in their disrespect for their user base by posting the banner, and the other in the way they responded to the users when they objected.

What do you think?

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19 comments

  1. I don’t think any organization should show their corporate support of any group or action by ‘forcing’ a ‘visual enhancement’ (of any kind) on its members, users or employees. Its one thing to issue a press release or post a message on the home page of the corporate site or post a tweet that says ‘As a company, WordPress celebrates and supports …’ but to push that down onto others who may not feel the same way was disrespectful and irresponsible. They definitely should have thought twice about it and as soon as questions and objections starting pouring in, they should have removed it!

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  2. I agree with Margo. They could have posted on the corporate site and, although I don’t find the Rainbow Banner offensive, it was disrespectful to assume that everyone would embrace it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Freedom cuts both ways. I suppose WP should have let people opt in or out of having the banner and maybe used it on their admin pages. I didn’t see it and I would not have objected to it (especially if only I was the one seeing it, not my readers). It’s like the blasted snow flakes around the holidays. They slow the loading of pages on most browsers. Sure they are pretty, but I don’t want them. Others do. WP gives us the choice. They probably should have given us the choice this time, too. But they were caught up in a moment of civil liberties history making and wanted to mark the occasion. I can see their side, too.

    For a WP moderator to call a person a “hater” for objecting to the flag, well, that’s harsh. But that’s one person who was probably frustrated. I don’t feel it’s proper to use inflammatory rhetoric in any social media, especially when you are representing an entity like WP. They have standards for our comments and they should uphold those standards for theirs. Still, humans make mistakes. I know I do.

    This reminds me of what must have happened when the Civil Rights Act was passed into law, although we didn’t have social media to broadcast the sentiments. I would guess a quiet majority breathed a sigh of relief that the moral thing was done to honor the “equality” part of our nation’s credo. The more boisterous supporters and freedom fighters celebrated overtly and there those who were bitterly disappointed and thought that nothing but problems would result from such a misguided law. I’m sure the same contingents exist now. The difference is that all these contingents have a different way of expressing their views–a more broad, immediate and visible way.

    Maybe because we can just type something and push a button, we have lost some of that ability to be measured and thoughtful in our responses. Maybe this form of communication has tapped into an honesty we never dared show. I don’t know.

    I wish social issues such as freedom, equality, censorship, and the like were simple and clear. They are not. Why? Because they involve humans and anything that involves humans interacting with other humans is, by necessity, complex. Can you tell I am a trained sociologist? 😐 I can sit on the fence with the best of them (which only means that I can analyze both sides of an argument, knowing that there is validity in both).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Lorna. Same sex marriage has been legal here in Canada for ten years, so we know from experience that the opposing sides can eventually find a middle ground that both can live with.

      Knowingly antagonizing a worldwide, captive audience is not, however, a good way to move towards mutual respect and understanding.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree. I am the least confrontational person I know. I would never try to aggravate anyone. I come from the perspective that most people don’t try to ruffle each other’s feathers, either. Maybe that’s naive, but I’d rather think that than be more cynical.

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  4. Your post is in no way inferior to mine! The whole Rainbow Banner debate has raised an interesting question about who owns what on this site – is each blogger responsible for creating their own site with their own identity, or do we all only have a limited space within which to define ourselves, because all we’re doing is representing the many faces of WordPress? I’d not thought about that difference before, but now I’m terrified my attempts to be unique and interesting on the Internet are only giving ammo to a corporate PR department somewhere.

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    • Interesting questions. According to the WordPress Terms of Service, we are each entirely responsible for the content of our blog. We grant WordPress (Automattic) a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license only to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing, and promoting our blog.)

      WordPress certainly has demonstrated time and time again that they control the software that we use, but they say they do not control how we choose to use it, (unless we breach their user guidelines which includes their belief in freedom of speech.) They also recognize they have a vast audience spread across many cultures, countries and backgrounds with varying values. They say their service is designed to let users ‘freely express any ideas and opinions and WordPress will not censor or endorse them’… which they kind of ignored when they posted the banner…

      I don’t think you have to be concerned about giving their Corporate PR department ammo, as I sometimes wonder if they have a PR department. If they did, this whole thing would not have played out this way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • WordPress Sucks, Let’s Party!

        Still I can’t really hate them for providing this platform in the first place – organising a free service on this kind of scale is gonna lead to a few cracks in the surface here and there.

        And I should totally apply to be the entirety of their PR dept. Take that, unemployable english degree!

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        • They are looking for staff, apparently!
          You are already working for them, really. Even if you are not paying them anything, you blog is because they put ads on every one of the posts.

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            • I’ve read that the ads would mostly only appear to non-WordPress Users. If you do not want these ads to appear at all, that is an upgrade that costs $39 CAD a year. (Not sure what that is in your currency.) That would make me think that WordPress perhaps makes about $39 a year in ad revenue?!

              Some WordPress bloggers do monetize their ads, but apparently they are blogs on WordPress.org, not WordPress.com, and they have to meet certain requirements.

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  5. I must have missed something. I actually didn’t see the banner (or maybe there are so many of them around it just seemed ‘normal’ to me). But I agree – it’s all about an individual’s choice and it should stay that way.

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  6. How disheartening that anyone who disagrees or questions this should be labeled a hater. This kind of mentality shuts down debate and honest inquiry. It seems to happen more and more, especially in the political realm here in the U.S.

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    • I don’t really know how far a person would have to wander down the hate path before they would no longer be protected by free speech!

      In the interests of world peace, however, WordPress should consider very carefully what ‘message’ they want to impose on the dashboards of their worldwide users.

      It seems like many of the American States feel the same way about the US federal government – too many top down directives.

      Like

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