The July 29, 2016 edition of the Clinton Campaign Newsletter (aka New York Times) featured a story on Milton Glaser, the graphic designer who is responsible for the now-infamous Cooler-Warmer tourism logo that Gov. Raimondo commissioned and took a great deal of heat over earlier this year.
Glaser, who also is responsible for the I ♥ NY logo that has received a much different reaction worldwide, had the Grey Lady describe his Ocean State adventures this way:
Mr. Glaser’s touch has not always been so golden. When he tried to recapture the magic for the State of Rhode Island this year with the slogan “Warmer and Cooler,” people complained that the design was trite and overreaching, ultimately forcing the state’s chief marketing officer to resign. “There was an explosion of negativity on the internet,” Mr. Glaser said, still marveling at the depth of the rancor. “You wouldn’t believe all the things that I got on the internet: ‘Give the money back you son of a bitch,’ ‘You got $400,000 for that piece of crap?’ But it was very instructive. I’d never had that experience before, where the response was so powerfully negative.”
There are a few things worth discussing here that might be missed by the untrained eye.
First, Glaser’s failure in the Ocean State was rather typical of anyone who is so tone-deaf about the place that they would participate in a campaign that includes footage of Iceland standing in for the Ocean State. The Governor failed to tap into a wellspring of talent that was present locally and gave a job instead to a person with a track record.
But let’s honestly consider that track record. Here is the video content that corresponded with the Times story, including a section where Glaser explains the origins of his famous logo, as well as the copy describing those origins.
“The city was getting very dark,” Mr. Glaser said. “A lot of crime. Economic problems, for sure. And there were a tremendous amount of people leaving the city. There was the sense that life was not going to improve here.”
The decline and the exodus were just beginning. The Glasers left the East Village for West 67th Street when the old neighborhood started to feel unsafe.
The city in those years would be unrecognizable to anyone who has moved here in the last decade, except through the peculiar nostalgia of works like Garth Risk Hallberg’s novel “City on Fire” or HBO’s short-lived “Vinyl.” Instead of romanticizing the era’s bright side, these works luxuriate in the chaos: rampant crime, open-air drug markets, homeless encampments, the collapse of the school system, buildings abandoned or in flames.
“I tell people that, and they can’t believe this,” Mr. Glaser said. “We’d be sitting on 67th Street at dinner and I would say, let’s go out for a walk, and Shirley would say: ‘I’m afraid. There’ve been too many muggings in the neighborhood.’ People were literally afraid of walking the streets. Well, you can’t get much worse than that in the city.”
As New York spiraled toward bankruptcy, The Daily News produced one of the era’s greatest hits, in the form of an October 1975 front-page headline, “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Less than a year later, at Easter services at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Paul Moore Jr. delivered another. “Look over your city and weep,” Bishop Moore told the congregants, “for your city is dying.” (A third supposed hit, Howard Cosell’s 1977 on-air deadpan, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning,” has proved to be a mirage: Cosell never said the words.)
What Glaser is describing here is the same period that David Harvey describes when discussing the origins of the neoliberal epoch. Here is an excerpt from Harvey’s interview with Monthly Review when his history of the trend was published:
SL: A second example of the application of at least some of the ideas associated with neoliberalism came about in New York City in the mid-1970s which then provided lessons for neoliberalism. Tell us about New York City’s fiscal crisis and how it was resolved, as it were.
DH: In the New York case, the city was heavily indebted for a variety of reasons which are rather complicated to go into. And at a certain point in 1975, the investment bankers in the city decided not to roll over the debt, that is, they decided not to fund New York City debt any more.
Now, I don’t think this was an application of neoliberal theory; I think it was the way in which the investment bankers were beginning to think about the city. And it was a kind of major experiment, in which the investment bankers took over the budgetary structure of the city.
It was a financial coup as opposed to a military coup. And they then ran the city the way they wanted to do it and the principles they arrived at was that New York City revenues should be earmarked so that the bondholders were paid off first and then whatever was left over would go to the city budget.
The result of that was that the city had to lay off a lot workers, had to cut back on municipal expenditures, had to close schools and hospital services, and also had to make user charges on an institution like CUNY, which up until that point was tuition-free. What the bankers did was to discipline the city along ways which I think they didn’t have a full theory for, but they discovered neoliberalism through their practice. And after they had discovered it, they said, ah yes, this is the way in which we should go in general. And of course this then became the way that Reagan went and then it became, if you like, the standard way the International Monetary Fund starts to discipl[in]e countries that run into debt around the world. [Emphasis added]
Those are two radically different narratives from the same period in the same place. I do not know Glaser personally and I would not want to point fingers at him as a person.
But what we have here is a discussion of a set of policies and behaviors that were in application viciously racist and classist. New York City, for all its flaws, and there were many back then, had become a vibrant social democracy, a miniature welfare state akin to one in Western Europe. Glaser’s advertising campaign on behalf of the city was commissioned by these financial and real estate interests simultaneous with the application of neoliberal shock therapy to their economy. That is very important to understand when considering what the failed Cooler-Warmer campaign was meant to replicate.
It would also be worthwhile to discuss in detail another major strike that happened around this time, the 1968 New York teachers strike. Historians cite this as one of the key moments when the American Jewish and African American communities broke ranks. It pitted a predominantly Jewish public employees union against a predominantly black and brown student body over a concept called ‘community control’ and sowed the class division that would later allow for the financial coup Harvey describes.
Was their white supremacy within the ranks of the union? Undeniably, that element went back to the development of the Jewish neoconservative faction, clustered around Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, and the end of structural antisemitism in American society and government following World War II. Jewish war veterans, like their goyim counterparts, were able to take advantage of the GI Bill of Rights to create the Baby Boomer middle class while black and brown vets were barred from these benefits, creating a generational income gap that continues to impact both communities. In simpler terms, when American Jews ceased to experience segregation in education, labor markets, and housing, they ascended to a higher tax bracket and “became white”.
Now it is also true that public sector unions and especially unionized teachers are not by default racists, quite the opposite. But the inter-communal antagonism was present and further aggravated by proto-neoclassical economic foundations. Eric Draitser of Stop Imperialism has produced a set of materials that touches on this topic in the form of a slideshow presentation I highly recommend reviewing. Here is just a selection dealing with his analysis of the 1968 strike:
But indeed this is part and parcel of any historical materialist analysis of these phenomena. The Cooler-Warmer logo is what Louis Althusser described as an “ideological state apparatus”. He wrote:
…I shall say that the reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order, i.e. a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology for the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression, so that they, too, will provide for the domination of the ruling class ‘in words’.
In other words, the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches ‘know-how’, but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its ‘practice’…
I shall call Ideological State Apparatuses a certain number of realities which present themselves to the immediate observer in the form of distinct and specialized institutions. I propose an empirical list of these which will obviously have to be examined in detail, tested, corrected and re-organized. With all the reservations implied by this requirement, we can for the moment regard the following institutions as Ideological State Apparatuses (the order in which I have listed them has no particular significance):
-the religious ISA (the system of the different churches),
-the educational ISA (the system of the different public and private ‘schools’),
-the family ISA,
-the legal ISA,
-the political ISA (the political system, including the different parties),
-the trade-union ISA,
-the communications ISA (press, radio and television, etc.),
-the cultural ISA (literature, the arts, sports, etc.).
I have said that the ISAs must not be confused with the (Repressive) State Apparatus. What constitutes the difference?
As a first moment, it is clear that while there is one (Repressive) State Apparatus, there is a plurality of Ideological State Apparatuses. Even presupposing that it exists, the unity that constitutes this plurality of ISAs as a body is not immediately visible.
As a second moment, it is clear that whereas the unified – (Repressive) State Apparatus belongs entirely to the public domain, much the larger part of the Ideological State Apparatuses (in their apparent dispersion) are part, on the contrary, of the private domain. Churches, Parties, Trade Unions, families, some schools, most newspapers, cultural ventures, etc., etc., are private.
What Cooler-Warmer actually signified was Gina Raimondo’s efforts to attract the same sort of predatory capitalist investment from Wall Street that beset New York when Mr. Glaser designed the I ♥ NY logo. Cooler-Warmer is a linguistic signifier of a neoliberal effort to pillage Rhode Island’s public capital and flood Wall Street banks with our tax dollars. Rather than coming like the Vikings did with marauders, they come in banker suits and use debt to do their dirty work.
Rather than invest locally and build our economy, Raimondo wants to widen a pipeline she installed in the Treasury to include more people. Her recent attraction of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program is meant to take important business away from local community banks and credit unions by ensnaring small business owners in predatory debt bondage. Ten years ago, Goldman created a housing bubble through predatory lending by its duplicitous proxies in the real estate industry and their subprime mortgages. Economist Michael Hudson aptly describes their behavior as akin to a parasite, killing the host (borrower) so to expand and grow their presence while creating a neo-feudal rentier economy with the support of the government. Now they are just cutting the middleman out and targeting the public directly.
Should we be calling this cool or warm?