zw2.03: reign czech

Intrepid journalist Hank Talbot continues his exposé of the disturbing political agenda behind the zoo world facebook propaganda blitz.

It is time to begin connecting the dots. I will begin with the humble piece of playground equipment colloquially known as the “merry-go-round,” which belongs properly to the class of apparati known as “carousels.” Although the earliest known depiction of a carousel, a Byzantine bas-relief (relieved some 1500 years ago), features guys hanging out in baskets, the carousel is historically equine in composition. According to legend, European crusaders brought the idea back home in the twelfth-century after witnessing the cavalry training and combat exercises of Turkish and Arabian horsemen. By the 1600s the French had refined the crude battle game into an opulent “horse ballet,” something like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade travelling in a big circle. Except without the Macy’s part. Or the Thanksgiving part.


reign czech: habsburg–lorraine mulligan

part 3

It is time to begin connecting the dots. I will begin with the humble piece of playground equipment colloquially known as the “merry-go-round,” which belongs properly to the class of apparati known as “carousels.” Although the earliest known depiction of a carousel, a Byzantine bas-relief (relieved some 1500 years ago), features guys hanging out in baskets, the carousel is historically equine in composition. According to legend, European crusaders brought the idea back home in the twelfth-century after witnessing the cavalry training and combat exercises of Turkish and Arabian horsemen. By the 1600s the French had refined the crude battle game into an opulent “horse ballet,” something like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade travelling in a big circle. Except without the Macy’s part. Or the Thanksgiving part.

Horse ballets are all well and good if you’re Louis XIV . . . but word of a more practical incarnation of the carousel came west from the Ottoman Empire. Closer akin to the amusement-park variety we now know and love so well, these carousels were all the rage with folks who weren’t ridiculously wealthy monarchs. Somewhere along the way someone invented steam-powered engines, a figurative transition from the regular horse to the iron horse. Horses were still involved, of course; they were made of wood however, and eventually had vertical poles stuck through them.

gustav the great

History changed forever when Gustav Dentzel, son of wagon-maker-turned-carousel-craftsman Michael Dentzel, made his own mayflower-like voyage to the new world, packing a genuine Dentzel carousel into the ship’s cargo hold. Gustav’s gamble paid off big: America quickly fell in love with the carousel. It was not long before the Gustav’s carousel and cabinetry shop in Germantown, PA became headquarters for one of America’s greatest carousel-making families. {I’m not sure how well the cabinet-making thing turned out. But this post isn’t about cabinets . . . at least not yet . . . }

Today, the electric carousel is the quintessential icon of amusement park Americana. Imbued with a bit of old-fashioned nostalgia, it represents the carefree prosperity, the “good, clean fun,” enjoyed by earlier generations–back before life got so damn complicated. Although it developed from military roots, and tickled the fancy of a few fancy-pants aristocrats along the way, it was the son of a hard-working German wagon-maker who bravely brought the carousel to the American people. The American carousel, my friends, is powered not by horses, steam engine, or electric motor, but by the entrepreneurial spirit of Gustav Dentzel. He bravely travelled to the land of opportunity, carrying with him only an idea and a two-ton carousel. This timeless tale, the story of the hard-working immigrant whose ingenuity and effort yielded great riches in the American marketplace–this is the American dream. This is capitalism at its finest. And that, my friends, is what the carousel represents.

All of that history, however, belongs properly to the “carousel;” while a merry-go-round is a type of carousel, it would be misleading to treat the two terms equivocally. Most folks I know tend to associate the word “merry-go-round” with the piece of playground equipment, not the horses-with-vertical-poles-stuck-through-them amusement-park ride. Our zoo world ad, I believe, capitalises on this cultural interpretation of the term. Thus, in our subconscious, the beautiful ferris wheel behind young franz joseph II towers in glorious superiority over the small contraption that made us sick at recess in second grade when kenny davis refused to stop spinning it even though we told him we wanted to get off. Cultural interpretation and second-grade memories fuel the propaganda machine of rhetoric, culminating in the seemingly-simple question, “Why have a Merry-Go-Round . . . ”

If the amusement park carousel represents capitalism, what, you may ask, does the piece of playground equipment (the merry-go-round) stand for?

Excluding personal histories, which tend to assign disproportionate significance to events like kennydavisgate, the largest historical impact of the playground merry-go-round was on the people of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In the 1970s and 1980s, a comprehensive program of “urban culture” was enacted by the soviet government, a central feature of which was a planned preponderance of playgrounds–produced by the populace. Not only did this program promise to benefit the youngfolk, it created a demand for playground equipment. When the government runs the factories that make playground equipment, a new program calling for a bunch of playground equipment sounds pretty damn good.

not-so-merry-go-round

The soviets went crazy, cranking out playgrounds like nobody’s business (because, in the soviet union in the late 70’s, plagrounds were EVERYBODY’S business). A common fixture in these playgrounds: the merry-go-round. A simple metal apparatus, these merry-go-rounds, or “soviet carousels,” were found in every corner park and back yard in major cities across the great USSR. Unlike the extravangant American carousel, a symbol of capitalism, the soviet carousel was made by the people, for the people. It represents the industrious spirit and widespread social equality of the soviet people. In other words, the playground merry-go-round is a symbol of communism.

Regrettably, when the wheels came off the USSR a few years later, the people turned on the very symbols they had created, pillaging playgrounds far and wide for scrap metal. Nevertheless, the merry-go-round can still be found across the former USSR. It might be because they were harder to loot than the other playground equipment. It might be because they made so damn many of them. But more likely than not, it’s because the merry-go-round is such a potent, such a pure symbol of the indomitable communist spirit, it can never be completely removed from the land.

Heavy-handed symbolism is the hallmark of great propaganda. If the ad asks us to choose between the “Merry-Go-Round” and the “Ferris Wheel,” our choice implies an allegiance to one ideology over the other. The casual observer of history might simply treat “Merry-Go-Round” as “carousel” and interpret capitalism into the ad’s query. But the educated reader (that’s you, my friend! (if you’ve managed to make it this far into this post)) recalls the history of the sad soviet carousel, and sees how communism deserves consideration when doling out symbolic [de]merits.

In my next post, we’ll look at the ferris wheel, and finally uncover the dastardly design of the reign czech ad.


read more about:

the history of the carousel

playgrounds in the soviet union

the dentzels today — now specialising in environmentally-friendly solar carousels

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