Ban T-shirts: The Interview pt.1

by Andy on September 5, 2006

I recently sent some questions over to someone I know only as ‘the Dude’, sounds secretive, no?

Well, not really, he’s the person behind Ban T-shirts, a tee company ‘deconstructing society shirt by shirt’, and he’s got some pretty strong opinions:

1. At a time when liberalism is fashionable amongst the younger elements of American society, do you worry that your designs will be worn more of a popular fashion statement rather than as a means to express one’s political beliefs?

I think it’s important that people identify with issues and causes, as well as promote awareness of them. Wearing a political T-shirt can help with both those things. If people think they look cool then I see that as an advantage because it means they’re more likely to want to wear them.

2. Your feelings regarding George W. Bush are made plainly clear in your anti-Bush section, and whilst many of your shoppers will agree with you, do you feel that a t-shirt with a picture of a young Bush next to the slogan “I liked Bush when he was a smackhead” pushes things a bit too far? Especially considering there is no concrete evidence (that I could find readily on Google) of hard drug abuse, he has said that he will make no comment upon drug allegations fearing that it would encourage youth to indiscretion (which isn’t exactly a denial…). In a separate but related question, is it really a good idea to produce a t-shirt with a possible libellous slogan on it?

The whole idea with the smackhead shirt is really just that politicians, and particularly Bush, need to chill out a little more. There is a lot of hypocrisy regarding issues such as drug use and sex and I think it is unhealthy especially at a time when the religious right is gaining such a strong hold on American politics. Young people, in fact not just young people but probably many people of all ages, would appreciate a little honesty from politicians and for them to stop trying to come across as squeaky clean.

As far as the slogan being libelous goes, it would certainly take American politics to new heights of ridiculousness for the Bush administration to take a t-shirt vendor to court because they didn’t agree with the wording on a shirt. I’m sure it would help sales, though!

3. Jon Stewart has commented on the Daily Show that sometimes the comedy just writes itself, would you agree that the current Bush administration has given you a lot of ammunition for satire and slogans? Or would you have found just as much material during the Clinton administration?

I think that during this administration there has been a lot of brazen lying that has resulted in tragic consequences both for the US and other countries. I would like to see Jon Stewart’s comment in context, but I personally would not call what is going on in American politics comedy. The neo-cons have their own agenda which is not good for America or anybody else and there is a large segment of the American population that does not see that or which is feels so powerless that it does not care enough to do anything about it. To answer your question, though, yes, the Bush administration does provide me with plenty of ammunition for slogans because of its behavior. I think there certainly was material, and plenty of it, during the Clinton administration, but it was probably not in the public eye so much as what is going on now, mainly due to the Republican obsession with attacking Clinton’s character.

4. Do you feel that for your business to be successful it is necessary for George Bush to have low approval ratings and for policy to be dictated by hawkish neo-cons? If there was to be more bipartisanship within American government and an alignment (or at least compromise) between the Democrats and Republicans on key issues of policy, is it possible that there would be less interest in your brand, and sales would fall as a result?

I think that because of the internet people are now much more aware of issues than they were before, not just personalities. There are a lot of alternative news services out there now and lots of blogs giving non-mainstream opinions on current affairs, I don’t think it is so easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes as it was, say 20 years ago. People are fed up with the status quo in American politics and realize that there is next to no difference between a Republican administration and a Democrat one. Their lives are going to be pretty much the same whoever is in power. People are sick of the stalemate and they’re starting to demand real changes. So, I think that there is a significant number of people who are going to continue to buy our shirts, whoever is in power. That said, current events do have an effect on sales, it’s only natural that that is going to happen.

That should be about enough for now, check back in tomorrow for the conclusion of the interview, where I totally rip off one of Stephen Colbert’s favourite questions.

Find the concluding part of the interview here.

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