Thursday, February 21, 2008

Speaking of anniversaries: The peace sign turns 50

Here's the story:
Half a century ago, a British textile designer came up with an idea for protest signs for a march on a nuclear weapons facility: they would be the size and shape of an extra-large pizza bearing nothing more than a upside-down V with line through the middle, rendered white on black and mounted on wood laths.

These "lollypops," as the designer called them, would be lightweight and look great on TV, he said. Seen often enough, they would trumpet the message of nuclear disarmament without the need for cumbersome words.

Adopted with stunning speed by dozens of counterculture movements in the 1960s, its message expanded and now most people see it as a generic symbol of peace, adaptable to almost any pacifist cause.

"The peace symbol still radiates emotion, even if that emotion is detached from the original intent," says Isabel Pedersen, a professor of professional communication at Ryerson University.

Next month, the peace symbol returns to its roots. On Easter Monday, March 24, Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament hopes to have protesters carrying peace signs encircle the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire, west of London -- the site of Britain's first mass nuclear disarmament march on Easter Monday in 1958, where the peace sign was unveiled.

"The peace symbol continues to exert almost hypnotic appeal," writes Ken Kolsbun in Peace: The Biography of a Symbol, which will be released by National Geographic's publishing arm in April.

"It has become the rallying cry for almost any group working for social change."

h/t Earthside.

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