The Business of Flag Burning


It seems like on a daily basis, a handful of news networks will always spend at least a brief moment talking about protests happening around the world. More times than not, these protests are in North Africa, the Middle East, or Asia and involve the burning of American flags. The question I’ve posed before is, where do they get all these flags? Sure, some are probably hand-made, but given the massive volume that are burned on a daily basis, there must be an American flag shop somewhere. Well, it turns out I was right: flag burning has turned into a massive business.

For an anti-American protester, no image sends a stronger message than when they are holding Old Glory as it goes up in flames. This act is apparently so satisfying that protesters and religious groups will go to great lengths to get a large amount of flags. Enter businessmen like Naveed Haider, a Pakistani man who owns a print shop. When huge protests erupt, such as the outrage caused by an anti-Islam film and cartoon last September, Pakistani flag producers such as Haider report their profits going up ten-fold.

The flags, which are often crudely made and definitely aren’t perfect copies, sell for between $1.25 and $16 depending on the quality. And by the quality, I mean how easily they catch on fire while cameras are rolling. At the peak of recent protests, shopkeepers have been producing and selling as many as 500 flags every hour. Don’t worry though – Israeli and Indian flags are also hot sellers, so the US isn’t the only kid on the block that everybody hates.

As far as the moral implications of selling the flags, many of the shopkeepers are indifferent. When asked if he had ever burned a flag, one of the businessmen answered “No – I protest against the United States by casting my vote in every election.” They also reported a sudden spike in sales after President Obama was re-elected in November. Let’s face it though; these guys were going to be buying flags just because it was a Wednesday and the United States was still around. The most ironic part? The businessman that produce and sell the flags are really just satisfying demand, a principle of capitalism that happens to be a very American ideal.

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