Companies Are Using Pride Month to Rainbow-Wash Bombs and Tasers

Raytheon, a military contractor with a business model that centers on making killing machines, changed its logo colors to a rainbow palette.

Jun 4 2021, 1:00pm

June is Pride Month, which means it’s  time for corporations that normally contribute to the deaths of marginalized people in the US and abroad to  show their solidarity by changing their logos to rainbows, offering new products, and (most importantly) changing their Twitter profiles.

Take Axon—a $9 billion company that manufactures Tasers, body cameras, and drones—and its June 1 rainbow rebrand in its profile picture and header, with the latter reading "Protect Love." 

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Axon's business model centers on offering panaceas that are supposed to stop police brutality, while in reality offering new avenues for said brutality as well as convenient cover. As Jonathan Ben-Menachem wroe for The Appeal, Axon products like Tasers "often serve as an excuse for police to abandon de-escalation attempts" because these tools are marketed as "less lethal" alternatives. And despite this designation, an investigation by USA TODAY and the Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism at Indiana University found that Tasers have helped kill at least 500 people since 2010

That police have and continue to brutalize LGBTQ+ people is just the icing on the cake; the presence of police at Pride parades as participants is an argument that comes up again and again

Axon is not the only company engaged in the charade of standing with solidarity with marginalized groups while profiting from marginalization. Take Raytheon, a major U.S. military contractor with a business model that centers on making killing machines to be used overseas on non-white people. 

In years past, Raytheon has marketed itself as inclusive. After all, its missiles are designed, built, and sold by a diverse team of humans, some of whom happen to be LGTBQ+. In years past, protesters have blocked Pride events sponsored by weapons manufacturers, as well as other corporations with business models intimately intertwined with exploitation. But that did not deter Raytheon from changing its logo colors to a rainbow palette in its Twitter avatar. Solidarity achieved!

British Petroleum and the American Petroleum Institute both made attempts at showing solidarity as well, by promising to publish more content later or by simply incorporating the rainbow into their designs for the month’s duration. Both entities are actively hurtling us towards an ecological disaster that would likely kill hundreds of millions if not billions of human beings. Apple, which this year launched two (two!)Pride-themed Apple Watch bands, continually offers new products that contribute to the e-waste problem due to its stranglehold on the repair market and will likely be built using a supply chain that flourishes in no small part because of child or slave labor

All of this is nothing new, from the desperate attempts to virtue-signal and attract new customers to the criticisms (like this one) of the hollow campaigns, but time is a flat circle in the deepest recesses of Hell and so here we are. As George Civeris asked in The Outline in 2019, "Who cares? There is an unspoken agreement that even savvy consumers who see through the bullshit will at least appreciate the effort required to produce it."

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Civeris mused about finding themselves "nostalgic for the simple evils of advertising-as-usual" and found a then-recent example in the NSA's 2019 move to light up headquarters in rainbow colors and add a pithy caption about how inclusive national security was. There were no videos of "NSA employees telling me how their jobs empowered them to live more authentically” nor was there “a poem about how mass surveillances falls under the BDSM umbrella and is therefore inherently queer." 

Those days are dead and gone, however. In the months leading up to June, we saw the Central Intelligence Army and U.S. Armed Forces launch ads or rebrands playing with that same language that went on to break the minds of commentators of all sorts of political persuasions. Despite the events of the past year—when police and their militarized equipment were turned loose on protesting citizens in a brutal display, when corporations profited handsomely during a devastating pandemic, when now more than ever we’re primed to see through this stuff—the fact that these companies are still intent on showing their Pride is indication enough that we aren’t even close to seeing the end of it.

Tagged:

army, Apple, Cia, bp, Raytheon, Pinkwashing, axon

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