Procter & Gamble has issued an apology after its new campaign for Ariel laundry detergent in Germany does not suggests a powerfully whitening soap as much as a white power soap. The Ariel powder boxes featured a soccer jersey with a prominent “88.” The problem is that neo-Nazis use “88” to get around laws criminalizing the use of such phrases as Heil Hitler.” “H” is the eighth letter in the alphabet. The company has apologized for “any false connotations” and changed the exterior of the product. The number 88 for the company represented the number of loads that you can wash with one package. For others, any promise to make your “whites the whitest” had a more disturbing historical meaning.
To make matters worse, some Ariel bottles showed the number “18” which is used for A.H. or Adolph Hitler.
While I am certainly sympathetic to the Germans in seeking to end the scourge of fascism, I have long been a critic of the German laws prohibiting certain symbols and phrases, I view it as not just a violation of free speech but a futile effort to stamp but extremism by barring certain symbols. Instead, extremists have rallied around an underground culture and embraced symbols that closely resemble those banned by the government. I fail to see how arresting a man for a Hitler ringtone is achieving a meaningful level of deterrence, even if you ignore the free speech implications. The question is whether skin heads should now be responsible for banning the use of actual numbers.
Nevertheless, people were outraged by the use of the number and is now associated with neo-Nazis. Company spokeswoman Gabi Hassig stated the obvious: “We very much regret if there are any false associations and distance ourselves clearly from any far-right ideology.” All of the products with the numbers are being pulled from shelves — at least those not scooped up by fascists who delight in the notion of using a cleaning product with darker cleansing implications.
Source: USA Today