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Crippen looks at the possible new symbol for the Disabled People's Movement / 4 October 2010

Crippen’s reworked black triangle symbol

Crippen's black triangle with text

Zoom in to this image and read text description

Leading the recent protest rally against the proposed Government welfare cuts were a large group of Disabled people. Wearing and carrying large black triangles, they were symbolizing the murder of thousands of Disabled people during the Holocaust; their aim being to embarrass Cameron and his government, who have repeatedly insisted that the most vulnerable will be protected from the impact of the cuts.

The use of this black triangle seems to have had an impact upon the general public, journalists and other non-disabled people at the protest which indicates that we may have found a symbol with which to carry our fight on into the future.

By re-owning the Black Triangle, it could become 'the' symbol of the Disabled People's Movement, a rallying cry for us all and something which articulates our demands in a more direct and recognizable manner.

Such a simple yet powerful symbol could be the very thing that we need to bring together the disabled artists, the mental health system survivors, people with HIV and AIDS, and the Deaf communities with all of the other Disabled people in the UK. This is something that we have struggled to do until now, and the powers that be have capitalized on divisions, continue to try to separate us into impairment groups and ensuring that we just fight our individual corner. 

Large corporations pay huge sums of money to image consultants and publicity specialists to come up with a symbol that the public recognizes and associates with just their company. Imagine just having to portray a Black Triangle in order for people to understand that it represents Disabled people who are working and fighting together for a just and accessible society united under the Social Model understanding and not part of the oppressive Medical or Charitable Model status quo.

I’m reminded of the immense power of the red ribbon cross adopted in support of those living with HIV and AIDS, and more recently the pink ribbon symbol which prompts us to think of those we love who live with breast cancer and those we have lost to that disease.

Envisage an MP opening an envelope in the future and a Black Triangle falls out. That is all we would need to do ... the symbolism alone would mean that we are watching him or her and expecting them to support our corner in an upcoming debate or vote. The Black Triangle could become the biggest symbol for change since the peace symbol of the 60's!

So, how about it, you articulate and feisty Crips out there? Let’s debate these issues and I promise to keep the ball rolling on this blog.

Change to original artwork following comments

Following comments regarding the use of an all black, upwards facing triangle, how about something like this (see illustration). It still retains the triangle shape but introduces a vibrant background of red with accessible white lettering depicting what it represents. What do you think ..?

Editor - You are invited to scroll down and leave your comments in the space provided below.

Keywords: black triangle,disability art,disability pride,disabled people's movement,disabled people's protest,history of disabled people,mental health,nazi party atrocities towards disabled people,politics,social model,survivor movement,user led organisations,young disabled people,


John McArdle

11 October 2010

I just want to further endorse everything in the argument Linda Burnip, Black Triangle's Equalities Officer, has so remarkably and powerfully stated in this blog, and to express my deep admiration for all the hard work and true service she continues to give to our disabled community.You are a very bright light shining in the darkness of our times.

Thank you Linda, from the bottom of my heart.


John McArdle

11 October 2010

Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disabled Claimants: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Black-Triangle-Anti-Defamation-Campaign-In-Defence-of-Disabled-Claimants/117145668332176?v=info

I am all for adopting the Black Triangle as it stands as the all-inclusive and unifying symbol for the UK Movement of People with Disabilities. To do so would honour all those who have gone before us and have suffered, and died, simply for reasons to do with the fact of their disability.

Let's UNITE! "Disabled People - We FIGHT BACK!!!"


John McArdle


Black Triangle

Anti-Defamation Campaign

In Defence of Disabled Claimants

Pink pjs / Lynn

9 October 2010

Wow! What a lot of interesting comments! And lots of info from John - it was lovely to meet you at the protest and well done to you and the many others who travelled such a long way to be there!

It was an amazing experience!

I think what this campaign has done is successfully bring together disabled people with all types of impairments, and as a mental distress survivor this makes me very happy - it was great to join with others on the day who also bore symbols of Mad Pride! And we all marched together with one voice in solidarity!

It was nice that so many trade union people and others decided to join us, but they should have made more of an effort to keep up!

One thing many of us felt strongly about on the day was that although there were about 50 or so of us, we knew that individually we represented many others who couldn't be there.

Thanks Crippen for such brilliant and powerful cartoons which have perfectly expressed the strong views of so many, just sad that you got kicked off FB as a result... still, it indicates the power of images and social networking. Hope you come back soon xxxx


8 October 2010

Thanks for your comments John. I knew that the Black Triangle had been used for something that Linda was involved in during the demo but hadn't realised that you'd organised to the degree you have. You make some really useful comments about the symbol and its relevance to our continuing struggle. and the information you've shared has added greatly to this debate.

(Please could I ask you to post up the web site address for your campaign.)

Thanks to everyone for contributing to this debate, both here and on the BBC OUCH site. Along with these comments I've also received others from people who haven't wanted to go public with their feelings. The one thing that stands out though is, regardless of our impairment, we all feel the same outrage at this governments proposal to impose further sactions upon us. And the idea of using a symbol to unite us against this feels right. Whether it's the Black Triangle that John has kicked into play or something equally as powerful.

John McArdle

8 October 2010

Hello everybody!

I'm John McArdle. I started the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disabled Claimants on June 28th 2010 in response to the suicide of Paul Reekie - also from Edinburgh.

I have just stumbled on this discussion today 8th October. It has taken me by surprise.

I chose the Black Triangle for our campaign

because it specifically addresses the scapegoating under fascism of the mentally challenged and mentally ill as "Arbeitsccheu" - "Workshy".

"Workshy" is a label that had been consistently used in the Daily Express and Daily Mail (among others)to describe people like Paul who have enduring mental health difficulties and who are therefore viewed as being unproductive members of the socio-economic system. "Useless eaters" as the Nazis used to say.

The common denominator of all these groups classed under the Black Triangle is that of economic inactivity and other non-compliance/conformity with the totalitarian demands of fascist ideology. Hence, also included in the group were prostitutes, draft-dodgers, pacifists, alcoholics, the homeless and other "decadent elements" (e.g.intellectual/bohemian non-conformists).

In the years 1942/43 almost 6.000 out of 12.658 "asocial prisoners" died in concentration camps under the "extermination through work programme".

This extermination programme was also used for forensic psychiatry patients, if they had not already become victims of the "euthanasia" operation.


To quote further from the above document:

"Pursuant to the 1871 Penal Code, the German labor houses were designed to serve as a "correctional post-confinement" following a sentence on the grounds of beggary, vagabondage, "work shyness", laziness, homelessness or prostitution. The Nazis considerably increased this type of penalty. Pursuant to the "measures for security and improvement", effective from 1934, the confinement in a labor house (up to that time limited to two years) was principally unlimited, i.e. eventually for life. In the annual report of 1933, the direction was happy to notify that the numbers of the inmates of institution of Breitenau had shown a substantial increase "since the Nazi revolution, as a consequence of the effects of the measures taken against beggary". The number of "those to be corrected" had increased from 24 in 1932/33 to 125 in the years 1933/34. Part of those people had been arrested in September 1933 during a so-called "beggar's week", when a raid on homeless persons was. made. Within the scope of the "operation against work-shyness" of the year 1938, 11,000 so-called "work-shy" individuals were arrested by the Third Reich authorities and transferred to concentration camps for labor purposes. Since 1939, some of the Breitenau inmates were used in the prisoners camp Rodgau near Dieburg. A short while after the promulgation of the "Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Disease in Posterity" the Breitenau direction started to systematically screen Inmates for the"hereditarily diseased". Screening for "hereditary health" became a criterion for release. Many of those in confinement had to undergo forced sterilization."

In view of the above, I wish to make the following observations:

There are crystal clear parallels to be made with the labelling of people such as Paul who suffer from a debilitating depressive illness as "workshy" and "malingerers". The same labels are now being applied to individuals with more visible disabilities that would have been unthinkable not so long ago. The distinction which is made between physical and mental disability is therefore illusory, especially when looked at within the context of the "social model" of disability as it is to be hoped.

The attack on alcoholics, drug addicts, unemployed poor and the homeless of those days also has crystal clear parallels with media and government propaganda today.

Being conscious of this, it can be seen that the Black Triangle is an inclusive symbol for the defence of all the marginalised of society and a sign that everybody deserves to be treated with love, empathy and compassion.

Not just certain of the members and groups to which the Nazis applied the symbol. In this way the symbol is even more powerful as a sign of radical resistance in the name of love and humanity.

Let us not allow ourselves to be divided into the "deserving" and the "un-deserving". All people deserve to have their human rights respected and upheld, without any exceptions.

In English law at least, one discriminates against a person if by one's words or behaviour one acts in such a way as to cause the disabled person to perceive discrimination.

This is what I assert in fact happened to Paul and is happening now to disabled people up and down the country as an intrinsic part of the process of undergoing a "work capability assessment".

It simply will not do for Government to try to make out that the tragedies that have and will happen were unforeseen; that they did not intend to discriminate or hound people to death or try suggesting anything else that they think might exonerate or exculpate them in the future.

As Linda Burnip has so clearly set out elsewhere in our campaign material for the demonstration, these cuts have already killed and will kill again. As a GP friend confided to me; in terms of this policy's "risk assessment" it is highly probable that many of those who are about to have their disability denied through the WCA and their benefits cut to £30 per week (£20 is needed to heat a room)will not pull through to reach an appeal 10 months later - assuming they have the support to be able to mount one in place.

I have been attacked by one individual for making a comparison with policies of the Final Solution and this is how I respond to that criticism:

The Talmud states: "He who destroys one soul, it is as though he has destroyed an entire world. He who saves a life, it is as though he has saved an entire world."

In Judaism, all the people who perished on the simple account of them being Jewish have died "Kiddush Hashem" (For the Sanctification of God's Name).

One sanctifies God's Name when one defends and affirms life. One acts in the opposite -"Chillul Hashem" (Desecration of God's Name)- manner when one commits murder or causes somebody to die or deliberately fails to intervene to prevent a death when it is within one's power to do so.

If our use of the Black Triangle symbol of Nazi oppression is able to focus minds sufficiently upon what is at stake here - the upholding and affirmation of life and love for the disabled person - like all human beings who are "made in the image and likeness of God" - then I submit that the use of this symbol of the past oppression of disabled people is "Kiddush Hashem".

The Black Triangle symbol stands to honour and sanctify the memory of the lives of those disabled people and others who perished in the Final Solution and can be transformed into our symbol of liberation and common humanity.

In that way, their suffering and sacrifice will have a redeeming quality in our own day that I wholeheartedly believe that those souls now in eternity will strongly approve of.

In similar vein, I would respectfully request that the symbol itself, pointing downwards, is left with its integrity intact exactly as it is displayed on the Black Triangle site. To do otherwise will rob the symbol of its power as a force for good and for transformation.

These are the main reasons why I chose Black Triangle as our campaign symbol. To change it would be to rob it of its meaning, its very symbolism, and would detract from the sacred memory of those who perished because they were deemed "unfit for communal life"

John McArdle


8 October 2010

copied from Facebook

Never Again

.by Ann Whitehurst on Thursday, 07 October 2010 at 22:24.

I wrote this for a comment earlier and was fearful of putting it because the appalling history of disabled people runs deep in our psyche but after the encouragement of Debbie & later listening to Ken Loach I decided to share my understanding.

The tory aim is to have almost everybody who is unemployed on one, utter-poverty benefit not disability benefits - these take into account the extra costs in being disabled and allow a person to hope for a more fulfilled existence (we've fought long and hard to try to get this & equality legislation). Thus they continue the centuries old ploy of dividing the mass of the lower classes into the undeserving poor and a few deserving ones who act both as a distraction (via demeaning charity events) and a means of control - be a 'normal' and do as you're bidden or become the 'pathetic freak and abomination.' They define who is deserving and who not by using ATOS, the private company whose earnings increase the more folk they assess as able to work. The 'deserving poor,' who are assessed as being unable to work, get shoved back into this charity hell-hole where pity and abuse reign not rights and equality. Those defined as able to work (it doesn't matter that they've not got a cat in hells chance of getting a job in the capitalist system) will languish and die on the poverty benefit being constantly harried and despairing. Those not committing suicide will die from the effects of this poverty and constant terror. We, both those assessed as the proper cripple and those who are not, will become again the inhuman or "useless-eaters", as Hitler's fascists called us when in the 'killing hospitals' they first learned how to manage the bureaucracy of mass murder as they annihilated their disabled people. They'd vilified us to the populace beforehand by a publicity campaign about our cost using the media, film, even children's textbooks. Does it remind you of any recent hate campaign? They're in good company.. eh? I'd rather die than think I'd a quark of fascist tendency in my politics but there again I have faith in people not contempt for them. This time we will not be silent in this attempt to destroy us and our long battle to have a life worth living where we decide not those arrogant in their willful ignorance, the 'normals'


8 October 2010

to add to what Tina said an important part of the banner are the words 'Never Again'.

Also re colours Tina's badge had a black triangle on a yellow one.

Since the main message on Sunday was CUTS KILL a black triangle to symbolise those who have already been killed by cuts to benefits and services seemed appropriate.While I can't see there being another holocaust I can see disable dpeople being so frightened for their futures they are driven to suicide. This is not only happening but we have several messages from disable dpeople saying they are planning it and saving tablets etc. So there are more than one way to kill people off.

Dave the only problem I could see re badges with writign on is they would be more difficult to make but it could be used as a logo etc on letterheads etc without problems.


7 October 2010

Don't forget, Bob's started a further debate about this on the OUCH message board - http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/messageboards/F2322273?thread=7798976&latest=1#p101529505

Aggie Plantaganet

6 October 2010

How does the Black-Triangle FaceBook group feel?

How do holocaust survivors feel?

I think it's potentially powerful BUT a lot of people out there do not make the connection to the Final Solution.

It should point downwards in a campaign against cuts because it then also symbolises both a blade and the thumbs down gesture.

As many people as possible should be consulted.

And vis-vis MPs, perhaps some trials could be conducted....


6 October 2010

A few random jottings -

As Rich said "A symbol is a good way forward, grabs attention, but we need to know what to do with it".

The Black Triangle is a powerful and easily grasped Icon. Some see black as negative, but that is not the main issue.

There is already some confusion as historically there have been attempts, and partial successes, in the symbol/icon being used/reclaimed to represent Lesbian Feminism - Bisexuality - and also the Nazi history where it was used for many groups and not just the disabled. A-Social, Anti-social and even the Alien Abduction devotees claim the symbol. There is a lot of competition out there.

In the Nazi motif the triangle is always point down - so one possibility is to have it point up to symbolise turning historical attitudes on their heads!

If there is a link to be drawn from Nazi iconography, the change in orientation of the triangle from point down to point up must make sense. It must be easily communicated. "Turning Attitudes Upside Down!" - "Turning History Upside Down!".. etc.

But, as with all such Icons, it needs to be kept clear. The banner in the march worked because it kept the icon clear and the text separate. Good contrast between the triangle - background and text.

If such an icon is to work long term it needs to have a set of usage guidelines - brand guidelines. They also need to address disability-accessibility issues.

Companies don't pay big bucks for such guidelines for no reason. They work to make sure that the image they want to communicate is clear and stays that way - long term. When an Icon is set in the public mind it works on many levels and over long periods of time. Show the public a Brand Logo and they can tell you the name of the business - the image is that powerful. NO text required.

For example, as a scratch outline;

1) The Black Triangle has no text or other colour within it.

2) The background may have colour changed ( possible colours to represent differing disabilities ) - Guides for colour contrast and saturation would be needed.

3) Font to always be "Arial"

4) Clear space around the triangle to be maintained at 10% of base line dimension - nothing to touch or cross into the Black Triangle

5) if combined with other organisational logos, The Black Triangle is to be of equal size.

6) Black Triangle always to be equilateral

7) Black Triangle always to be point up - base horizontal

8)... etc, etc, etc.

Just as the ribbon icon was adapted by many (and often very poorly so that message and idea was lost or very confused) the Black Triangle should from the outset have a clear purpose and set of rules to keep it clear, keep the message clear and provide a clear long term future so that it's message spreads in a coherent way and is not lost.

One thing would be to make sure that a Wheelchair Logo is never combined with the Black Triangle. Yikkes!

Wheelchair is seen by joe public as addressing access - the Black Triangle is about denial of access. Combine the two and you have one hell of a confused and mixed message that would just be a mess!

There is no doubt that someone will attempt to stick a wheelchair on the triangle - so it needs to be resisted! That image would be futile - but very powerful for all the wrong reasons!

As they say "The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions". ... and also it's 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration! Great idea - but it then needs long term hard work to make it work.

There is also the advantage too that the Black Triangle is also an established Unicode character which allows access via web pages - and other text based documents. - http://tinyurl.com/34h5gfl

Then there is the question about how to refer to the symbol/icon in text.

Is it "Black Triangle" or "Black-Triangle"?

The hyphen takes the two words and makes then a unique entity. That also allows for it to be picked up by lexicographers and dictionaries and made a Unique and Highly Symbolic word group. Never underestimate the power of a dictionary definition to give you a place in the world!

Also a baseline for the Black-Triangle could be set via the net - and the domains "EquilateralImage" is up for grabs.

Equi = equal - equality

Lateral = change - in new ways - sideways - out from under

Image = what people decide to be seen as!

It also plays nicely on the Triangle as the central motif! Again - there is funding up for grabs to do this!

A cooperative central clearing house for the Icon - and a default place for people to access it!

Just a few ideas - let the debate rage on! ;^)

6 October 2010

I agree with Bob about the dangers of using the triangle as a collective symbol but its potential usefulness in context with the NOW. I think the importance of "nothing about us without us" needs emphasis in any universal symbol for the disabled peoples movement.

The triangle has represented power since Egyptian times. With the apex pointing upwards it represents the power of a lasting force. It is power of three - based on a firm and lasting foundation - but it also represents hierarchy - which has put a lot of disabled people off from taking part in the movement in the past. The triangle with the apex pointing down represents the power of destructive forces. It is power taken from that sense of having nothing to lose. Again, it's all about context!

Helen B

5 October 2010

I'm ashamed to say I didn't know abiut the black triangle - ashamed because I'm always telling people we were 'the first to go' in the Holocaust.

I like the black triangle idea, it's strong and powerful. And yesn the point should be up! Maybe we can spike a few people on the way! ; )


5 October 2010

I had to look that one up Alison! here's the link to explain what a scalene triangle is: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/ScaleneTriangle.html

Alison Wilde

5 October 2010

If a triangle is a useful logo for the DPM, and I'm not sure it is, perhaps a scalene or right triangle might have more symbolic value?

Bob Williams-Findlay

5 October 2010

That remains me of the famous quotation from Bertolt Brecht who responded to the criticism of the East German state: "Why don't they desolve the people and elect another?"

I don't go looking for trouble, I simply believe in "Nothing about us, without us" and that includes our own ranks. This debate should attempt to include all disabled people who might wish to have a view; not simply those in the "know". I'd be interested to what have I 'hi-jacked' and from whom? But this should not detract from the main debate.


5 October 2010

ha ha ... you can't keep out of trouble can you Bob?! Already had a message asking why I'd allowed you to hijack the BT symbol debate and take it somewhere else!

I'd be happy for you to write something along those lines about the 'movement' and I'd try and create a cartoon to go with it.

Nothing like a bit of healthy debate to get the grey matter stirring. Better than sitting on our collective bums and moaning about the good old days eh?!


Bob Williams-Findlay

5 October 2010

I took the liberty of directing them here as well as suggesting they hold an in-house debate. My reasoning was two-fold:

Firstly, I believe these types of debates require the widest possible audience

Secondly, Ouch has seen heated debates about the comparisons between Germany after WW1 and the current climate in the UK. I felt people there ought to share their views here.

On a slightly different note, will Crippen be re-opening the debate on what the phrase "UK Disabled People's Movement" actually means these days with NCIL, RADAR and the DA being engaged in a marriage of convenience?


5 October 2010

Oh I see ... it's an OUCH discussion site. Hadn't realised that this was going on elsewhere!


5 October 2010

Nice one Bob. Can you cut and paste these comments across as well?

Bob Williams-Findlay

5 October 2010

I think this needs the widest possible debate so I started this:


Let's keep the debate going ...


5 October 2010

I'm in favour of a Black Triangle symbol. I'm not sure about the red in the middle. What about a white centre with black lettering?


5 October 2010

Thanks for the feedback folks. Hopefully this amended image will nudge Bob off the fence and allow Sarah P to feel more comfortable? I still think the black triangle outline works but is perhaps stronger with the vibrant red and the white lettering.

I could see this symbol being added to 'groups of' letterheads etc ... what say you?


5 October 2010

It should point upwards.

Pointing downwards is negative, and it looks too like a pubic hair triangle.

It would therefore be too easy to be abused in cartoons, etc.

As Rich put it earlier;

"the only way is up."

Bob Williams-Findlay

5 October 2010

I'm slightly on the fence with this issue of the 'black triangle' for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, I don't believe anyone could argue against the view that the Nazis took the hatred of 'difference' to its ultimate conclusion. They were fascist, and whilst capitalism kills thousands of disabled people globally each year, I believe it too be both dangerous and wrong to equate the two.

Symbolism is a difficult area to articulate and control. We want a powerful message; one that is taken seriously and acknowledged.

On its own I believe the BT might lead to attacks on the grounds that it is scaremongering, being emotive on the backs of "real victims", (Similar to attacks on Zionists who use the Holocaust) and it is politically naive or dishonest.

This said, I was taken by the words used by Tina "No Demonising - No Scapegoating" which gave it an immediate connection with the NOW. We need both a link AND break with history in order to make any 'symbol' our own. I wouldn't be happy with just the BT - I would feel very uncomfortable 'reclaiming' it on its own.


5 October 2010

I like it- the colour black symbolises strength. It is solid and simple. I also like the triange as a fin showing the sharks circling the politicians!


5 October 2010

i like the black triangle

i wish i knew what it had meant earlier

2 questions though

1) which way should it point. I would say point it up as the only way is up. Don't go left don't go right and don't go down.

2) we have always been careful in the movement not to pinch the ideas, slogans and colours of other civil rights movements. is the black triangle too close to the pink triangle of the LGBT movement?

I would also agree with the idea that its more representative of most of us than the wheelchair logo

And well done to tina for spotting the scapegoating and demonising. A symbol is a good way forward,grabs attention, but we need to know what to do with it

sarah p

5 October 2010

I agree with the idea of a symbol for all disabled people but my aesthetic and positive self reacts badly to the idea of it being a black triangle - not that I think it should be pink and fluffy but that I'd prefer to see something with as much impact but less doomy looking and not necessarily linked to the holocaust - but perhaps I'm just being a weak and woolly liberal?


5 October 2010

black suits their policies, black are our futures, if we don't fight back... how dare they force us into such days of darkness, a dark age; when we are already fighting tough battles with bodies which try to do the same? it's beyond inhumane.

go pick on someone your own size, bullies.


4 October 2010

Our black triangle banner at the protest created a lot of interest & people immediately grasped the significance of the symbol.

We also wrote "No Demonising No Scapegoating" under the triangle.

I think it is a powerful symbol that we should continue to use.

Cheers Dave


4 October 2010

I like it Mr C. At last a symbol with it's own distinct meaning and an alternative to that bloody wheelchair sign that we've been given to represent us. I'm sure that the Disabled people who were forced to wear the black triangle during the last world war would be fully behind our re-owning of it as a symbol of hope and empowerment. I for one will wear my black triangle with pride.