Friday, August 28, 2009

Microsoft: Not Very PC

This is a Mac:

And apparently, this is a PC:

Microsoft's advertising woes just hit an ugly and embarrassing new low: the company changed the race of a man in one of its ads on the company website. Quick synopsis: the ad originally featured a black man but the grand wizards of Microsoft's ad team replaced him with a white man. Of course, not that the situation could get any worse, but the "geniuses" behind the Photoshop switcheroo only swapped out the head; look closely and you can see that the white man pictured has a black hand.

Why the switch? Some reports are rushing in to "fix" the situation, explaining that Poland, where the ad is featured, is an ethnically homogeneous country. Hmmmmm, that's interesting: last time we checked, Microsoft was an American company, one that seemingly embraced a diverse consumer base, regardless of where the consumers lived. And isn't one of the other people in the ad... Asian? Why'd they leave that one un(re)touched?

This pathetic attempt at a normalizing narrative doesn't begin to wash the stench of racism from the ad. Let's say that the "ethnically homogeneous" excuse really is the actual reason for the photo tinkering; this means that Microsoft didn't want to offend or alienate or anger any Poles by subjecting them to the horror of having to look at a Black man's face. It means that Microsoft understood the "need" to "protect" Polish sensibilities from the vulgarity of Blackness. And it means that Microsoft will gladly participate in apartheid if it means selling a few extra copies of Windows.

Expect heads to roll in the company's web-design department, just enough to make a show of outrage and apology. And then, back to business as usual.

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