30 March 2010

I worship Satan (NOT) and the community must do so (again, NOT)

OK, I don't worship Satan, as I don't worship anything (I like to call me a knowledgeable atheist, someone who has a bit of knowledge before choosing his religious beliefs - or the lack of them), but as one of my photos was referenced in relation with Satanism in a recent flamewar on the ambassadors list, which nearly ended with one resignation (it was not my fault, I swear it!), I felt the need to put out my views on it.

This is the photo that started it all:


And the comment I left on Nelson's blog (at this very moment awaiting in the moderation queue until he is asleep):

I was busy in the last days, so when I saw the discussion on the mailing list didn't follow it (lacking the time) but since I am the photographer who did it, let me give some input.

First, let me say I am fully aware that *no matter what* body gesture you use in a photo, there will be at least one region of the world where it will be considered offensive, the world cultures are so diverse. As a consequence, in many cases the advertisers restrain themselves to "safe" but (IMO) boring pictures, where they don't show any gesture. I think this spoil a lot of the fun, but I am not a marketer, I don't sell anything, I am just an amateur photographer doing it for fun.

Now let me tell the story behind this photo: it was made at the Berlin FUDCon in 2009, when my Italian colleagues and friends wanted a group photo, so I took a series of shots where they behaved freely while having fun, it was not posed at all. From this series I choose one that came focused and framed best and put it online together with many other pictures from the event. Later, when Mairin formatted the one page release notes, she probably considered the photo illustrative for the fun we have doing Fedora and used a crop from it.

No one intended the picture as the horns sign and, honestly, it is not: it uses different fingers, as I can see it was already pointed on the list. I would hate a Fedora community where we watch over our every little gesture, afraid of offending someone (but at the same time, I am know for my habit of challenging the "political correctness" with my former webcomic and such).

PS: not that the comment on Nelson's blog I fired, I regret only letting out a small detail: I am an amateur photographer with a heavy (East) European bias.


  1. I think that arguing and resigning over a photo is the most stupid thing i've ever heard, if you can't look at a photo and realise that someone might not be from your country and is from somewhere that the sign means nothing more than, "yo i'm happy" then there is something wrong...

  2. We had recently quite a few dramas with resignations but I think I somewhat understand Nelson's point (even if I don't agree completely): he's not offended by the hand gesture, he's worried that some less enlightened people may be driven away. I guess that's what a marketer is supposed to do, he can't afford to say, like I can do, "I don't care about stupid people".

  3. Just an offshoot from your introduction: modern satanism is mostly a atheist or agnostic practice in that they're more spiritual and introvert than they are believing in a horned demon called Satan.

    This sort of LaVeyan Satanism probably has the highest organised membership, globally. There are several denominations, the first being The Church of Satan.

    I think most people would be quite surprised how compatible they are with The Church of Satan's mantras, statements and "sins".


  4. I really hope Fedora doesn't go down the road of being so politically correct that it stifles any fun and originality that the community share.

    While the OP's comments are perhaps mindful of people who don't have the knowledge or understanding of other cultures, or even the open-mindedness to accept them, I still feel that pandering to every single whim is a bad thing to do.

    I really hope those who take offence at something so clearly just people having fun learn to lighten up.

  5. I worship Satan (er, in my case, it's really spelled seitan) right along with you, Nicu, but I can't really bend my mind to read Samuele's gesture as being Satan horns. It's probably a 'hang loose' gesture, which is a very friendly Hawaiian greeting sign (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaka_sign) but with that photo I always thought it looked like a telephone gesture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phone_sign). I wiggle that gesture all the time at drivers who almost hit me in the crosswalk because they are talking on the cell phone!

    And heck yeah, I picked that photo for the release notes because it's a fun photo and those folks are happy! They represent Fedora well.

  6. On the other hand, I feel ignored, when I specifically use the horns signs in conjunction with Fedora, nobody complains about that.

    PS: I think they printed the photo and hanged in on a wall in their office, as at the time they worked together.

  7. Ms Duffy worships wheat gluten!? Awesome.. :)

  8. @Canoe: Wheat Gluten, Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Satan, Jesus Christ, are all the same, so why not? :D

    BTW, in my own language Satan is spelled as Satana or Dracul.

  9. Personally, I interpret that hand sign to mean "telephone".

  10. Nicu et all,

    The point isn't about going against no one, and specially not to place censorship about anything. I promote freedom at any levels. I don't care about religion, I was born a Roman Catholic and I walked away from it because according to some priest, my brother would be in Hell because he wasn't baptized (he died minutes after he was born). So I really don't.

    My point regarding Marketing comes in trying to tell people that we usually address to international cultures, as such we need to be careful with the contents.
    About the signs, try to imagine a silhouette of both of them in black and white or see it at 150m distance. Where is the difference? The problem isnt what I think about it, but what others might think. Providing free ammunition to people to be used against us, bad idea. People are free ignore or not ignore.

    In the past as an example:
    Mazda MR2 (France) : Mazda is shit (phonetics)
    Citroen Picasso (Brazil) : Citroen Homosexual
    Chevy Nova (Spain) : Chevey that doesn't go.

    As for symboly: Nike can a provide a good history on how a harmless logo raised all the Mouslin world against Nike (because it's flames logo resembled to the word "God" in arabic writting).

    Is this points are to be ignored and the problems they might bring... sure... I rest my case about it.

    My Ambassadorial withdraw, was not because of this, but because of something else. First I don't like people trying to scare me off being members of gangs.
    First it was never my intention to join Ambassadors, and only joined because I wanted to organize an event.

    As many other times, I've already warned about polemics, and if I am correct, some good steps were taken. For example I warned the marketing list about "13". Curiously one of the first press news about Fedora started exactly with an association of "bad luck".

    I try to see things "out of the box" and I will report situations that no one expects or that will be against most people's initial thoughts. Not because I'm negative, but because it's my job. In a corporate world, people loose millions everyday because of tiny things like symbology. We don't because we dont generate revenue from our products (Fedora Linux). But it might harm the brand.

    It is was me placing that association on a controlled environment. Imagine the same association made on specialized press. It would harm brand notoriety. If people don't want to understand that... cool, their problem, I did my share of task.

    I hold nothing against the photo. In fact I said everything was cool about the Release Notes, but if it was me, I would swap that photo because of the symbology which could lead to attacks. And tried to show why.

  11. A punctual reply about "13": if I had my way, I would have embraced "13" and "bad luck" and playing on it... I don't know, lucky clovers and stuff like that.