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American Flags on Websites?

Our good friend and occasional field reporter DaveJ commented on a news story with a question about using an animated .gif American flag on a website.

The U.S. Flag Code is a unique document: an official detailed users’ handbook of rules that were gathered together and codified in the early 1920s, at the request of and largely by the American Legion (chartered in 1919). The code has been a federal statute since 1942, and updated periodically since then.

“Cyberspace” existed long before the early 1990s, but that’s when the World Wide Web enabled ordinary mortals a rocket ride into cyberspace. How could the U.S. Flag Code have anticipated what we have now? Animated gifs! (graphics interchange format) … a colorful little image appearing on the computer screen. Specifically: a waving American Flag.

Can we search the handbook and apply the same rules of the U.S. Flag Code to something we can all see, but can’t touch? Yes. By applying the code with the same diligence as we would to a real flag—with respect and honor.

The newspaper that was “flying” the American flag at its on-line paper was not doing it to advertise the paper. It was flying the flag in front of its place of business, or in this case, on the mast head, which is what newspapers call their title bar. The similarity to a ship’s mast and a flag pole is not an accident. It’s where the banner or colors are flown. And I trust that at the physical site of the newspaper office, a “real” flag is flying and that it is treated properly. I think the little flag’s animation is lacking, but that is a present limitation of technology, not a failure of honor or respect.

An early problem that Larry and I encountered during the planning stages for Flags Bay, was how to sell flags without using flags to advertise that we were selling flags. We agreed that splashing around a lot of red, white, and blue would be a detraction from the star of the show. We decided to use one photo of a flag … or two flags actually. Our first banner photo was of the US and Texas flags that were flying on poles in front of the new Galveston County complex. Real flags. Eventually Larry took a photo of our own flag flying from the elevated deck at our house, which is what we use now.

We’ve been working on the design of an advertising logo (for over a year!) that says who we are, but does not use the flag. That’s harder than you’d think. But we are satisfied with it now and it will debut soon on this website. After that, the only images of the flags will be in the flag store, or within the context of articles as we write about flags at The Daily Flag.

In the medium of cyberspace, I believe it is possible to apply the same concepts of dignity, honor, and respect to the flag that are annotated in the U.S. Flag Code.

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