The upside-down American flag goes mainstream as a form of right-wing protest


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  hallux  •  one week ago  •  12 comments

By:    Emma Bowman - NPR

The upside-down American flag goes mainstream as a form of right-wing protest

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

After former President Donald Trump’s historic felony conviction, many of his supporters protested the verdict by posting images of an American flag flipped upside down on social media.

A Manhattan jury on Thursday   found Trump guilty   of falsifying business records in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. Soon after the verdict was read, right-wing politicians and pundits including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Fox News contributor Guy Benson and far-right conspiracy theorist Ali Alexander shared images of an inverted American flag on social media. Alexander, organizer of the “Stop the Steal” rally that pushed false claims about the 2020 election, posted the upside-down flag on Telegram with the message: “No one is coming to save us. We must.”

The phrases “RIP America” and “Civil War," which began trending on the social media platform X, were also seen alongside flipped flags and messages of outrage at the verdict.

A report from   The New York Times last month revealed   that an upside-down American flag flew outside the Virginia home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in January 2021. At that time, the flag had emerged as an   anti-Biden protest   symbol synonymous with the false claim that the election had been stolen from Trump. Earlier that month, rioters at the siege on the U.S. Capitol   carried the same flags . Justice   Alito has said   his wife is responsible for controversial flags flying outside their homes.

“When you have a Supreme Court justice or his family use it as a symbol of America being in distress, you know it's gone mainstream,” said Ken Paulson, director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University.

The upside-down American flag, originally an apolitical symbol used by sailors to signal that their ship was in trouble, has since been adopted by both the political left and right in protest. Across the political spectrum, it's been used to express dissent on a range of issues, including   gun violence , the   Flint water crisis   and the overturning of the   Roe v. Wade   ruling that protected the right to an abortion.

In recent years, however, the usage of the flipped U.S. flag has seen a partisan shift more frequently taken up by the extreme right.

“You are seeing this spike [of the flipped U.S. flag] being used less by the left and more by the right who has had this Trumpian history of ‘Make America Great Again because [they believe] it hasn't been great in some time,’ ” said Bethan Johnson, a postdoctoral scholar who researches political extremism with the Initiative to Study Hate at the University of California, Los Angeles.

From distress to outrage

Before it was used in protests, sailors stuck at sea are known to have flown the U.S. flag upside down as “the easiest way to signal distress without having any special flag,” Ted Kaye, secretary of the North American Vexillological Association,   told the Times .

The practice dates back to at least the 17th century, during the Anglo-Dutch wars, he said, and was documented appearing the following century on American lifeboats.

Such usage of the American flag was codified in the U.S. flag code,   first drafted in 1923, which set guidelines regarding the American flag, noted Paulson of the Free Speech Center. The code, which is not legally enforceable, says that the flag should never be displayed upside-down “except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

There’s a long history of American flag-flipping in political protest, too.

At an anti-slavery rally on July 4, 1854, in Massachusetts, abolitionist speakers William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth and Henry David Thoreau took to the stage under "an inverted U.S. flag draped with black crepe,"   according to   the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In the 1960s and '70s, the inverted U.S. flag emerged most prominently as a way to protest the Vietnam war.

A student’s display of a U.S. flag upside down with a peace sign taped to it — a protest of the   killing of four Vietnam protesters   by Ohio national guardsman at Kent State University — was the focus of a 1974   Supreme Court case   that ruled he had the constitutional right to do so.

In 1972, Vietnam veteran John Kerry was running for Congress when he faced backlash for having published a book with cover art showing veterans hoisting a U.S. flag upside down. His congressional campaign at the time   defended the image   as a display of the international signal of distress.

Justice Alito’s wife in 2021 also explained the upside-down flag on her lawn as “an international signal of distress,”   The Washington Post reported .

As a form of protest, the flag doesn't signal distress so much as anger at a perceived deterioration of promised American principles, according to political extremism researcher Johnson.

“We place a lot of description of this upside-down flag as being a symbol of distress,” she said. “What’s happened is it shifted from that to an expression of outrage — a signal to say, 'America has abrogated its own principles and values and I am sending a signal that I disagree' or 'I see this as a violation of American values.' ”

That’s how it’s been used in Black Lives Matter and abortion rights protests, she said.

A partisan shift

It wasn’t until the Obama administration that right-wing fringe groups started to visibly embrace the inverted American flag, according to Johnson. After President Obama’s reelection, conservative Tea Party advocates   expressed their disappointment by waving flipped flags .

“In a lot of these other protest movements, it's a one-off where a person will be carrying an upside-down flag to express their personal belief,” she said. “It's not as if you show up to a ‘pro-choice’ rally you're going to see hundreds of upside-down flags.”

Right-wing extremist movements, however, which have historically been invested in flag culture and symbology, have in recent years taken to using the upside-down flag in a more consistent fashion.

The white nationalist group Patriot Front, for example, is known for showing up to protests bearing the upside-down U.S. flags en masse.

Within the umbrella of the extreme right groups, Johnson said there’s a distinction between those who might turn their American flags upside down versus those who would not.

“There are people who [consider themselves] ultra-patriots — who think of themselves as defending American principles and institutions from corruption.   There are also those who seek to actually overthrow the U.S. democratic system entirely because they don't believe in democracy," she said. "That second sect don't typically use the upside-down flags, but the first sect who view themselves as ultra-patriots do.”


jrDiscussion - desc
PhD Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    one week ago

We'll catch up soon ... might be apropos in the Fall.


Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2  Trout Giggles    one week ago

Yeah....I don't like it. Flying it upside down should only be done in cases of "dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

Professor Principal
2.1  devangelical  replied to  Trout Giggles @2    one week ago

it seems mental distress is a good enough reason for maga...

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  devangelical @2.1    one week ago

I'm surprised they're not all on treatment for PTSD

Professor Quiet
2.2  Ozzwald  replied to  Trout Giggles @2    one week ago

Yeah....I don't like it. Flying it upside down should only be done in cases of "dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

Just another sign as to how unpatriotic MAGA is.

VFW Official Flag Etiquette

Do not fly flag upside down unless there is an emergency.


Do not use the flag as clothing.


Do not draw on, or otherwise mark the flag.


Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
3  Jeremy Retired in NC    one week ago
At that time, the flag had emerged as an      anti-Biden protest      symbol synonymous with the false claim that the election had been stolen from Trump.

All this stemming from a neighborhood tiff 3 years ago.  Justice Roberts also stated that they SCOTUS won't entertain Democrats about this.

PhD Principal
3.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @3    one week ago

A "neibourhood tiff" that broke out into a peaceful picnic ... okay!

Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
3.1.1  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Hallux @3.1    one week ago

Is it not how this all started?  A left wing idiot of Justice Alito's was offended by a flag.  From that we've seen the definition of the inverted flag changed and a few other tin foil hat level conspiracy theories and all to fit a narrative.  

All the problems in the country (illegals running rampant, inflation, billions of taxpayer money wasted, etc.) and you all are making a big deal out of this?.  And for what?  

PhD Principal
3.1.2  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @3.1.1    one week ago
Is it not how this all started?

I'm far more concerned with how it's ending. Seeing as the US is still the most powerful nation it would behoove y'all to stop with the petty partisan peccadillos before you are conquered by division.

Professor Guide
4  evilone    one week ago

They should have it tattooed it on their foreheads as an easy way for the rest of us to avoid them.

Professor Principal
4.1  devangelical  replied to  evilone @4    one week ago

meh, that can be lasered off. how about a branding iron? traditional and effective...

Professor Guide
4.1.1  evilone  replied to  devangelical @4.1    one week ago

Idk... maybe one, or two, might grow a couple of brain cells?


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