How’d You Like The Show, Mrs. Lincoln?
“When Fascism comes to America, it will (be in the name of/come under the guise of/be called) anti-Fascism!” said Huey Long,
the populist governor of and senator from Louisiana, in 1935. He is
also to have said that Fascism will come wrapped in an American flag.
That could also mean, an American President.

Past American presidents are always being invoked in the name of patriotism. George Washington was the symbol of the Nazi German American Bund prior to World War II along with other national and mythic heroic manifestations (as well as using the Swastika).

At the tail end of the Reagan eighties an ABC mini-series, Amerika, starring Kris Kristofferson, posited a Soviet occupation of USA (not unlike Red Dawn,
Starring Patrick Swayze). The former United States of America had been
broken up into ten or so “administrative regions,” groupings of states
that would become separate countries (i.e., California and Nevada
comprised the “California Special District”; Kentucky, Tennessee and
West Virginia comprised “Appalachia”). The design of the flags for
these regions was a dark blue field with a centered golden-yellow map
of the states in the region with the name of the region towards the
bottom in gold letters. There were also ceremonial flags depicting
pictures of Lincoln and Lenin (above), featured in a “Lincoln Week”
parade in Omaha, Nebraska – shades of heroic realism.

Today, Glenn Beck’s mass ‘Restoring Honor” rally in the Washington Mall at the site of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream
speech is awash with Abe Lincoln. From the podium on the steps of the
Lincoln Memorial to the rally poster of the famous Lincoln statue
(below), it is all-Lincoln all-the-time.

The symbols of American patriotism rarely change. Presidents are
effective ready-made symbols. But one does need a guidebook to keep
straight who is using what symbol.


Daily Heller, Imprint: Print Magazine's Design Blog

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.