Match Book Advertising & Free Speech: Period of the Late ’60’s Up to the Modern Day and Their Use During The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Match Book Advertising and Free Speech

Student Hippies facing off against the National Guard
Student Hippies facing off against the National Guard

Just like any printed matter, match book advertising qualifies as a form of free speech in America. Therefore, making the circumstances under which the wording of a matchbook advertisement might be deemed to be an element of a crime very narrow under the First Amendment.

Nevertheless, there have been cases where matchbook advertising/propaganda has been known to test the limits of the law. For example, during the politically charged antiwar era of the late 1960’s/early ’70’s matchbooks printed with the message “EOW” were distributed at Bloomfield State College in West Virginia. These letters stood as the acronym for “End of Week”. The secret message behind these letters was passed along by the students encouraging them to burn the campus if the demands of certain student groups were not met by the end of the week.[1]

During this tumultuous period in our country’s history; when our country was experiencing rampant (and deadly) college student protests against the Vietnam War and a series of riots fueled by rage in response to the news of the assassination of M.L.K. that resulted in the destruction of many major cities, match advertising was also used by “The Man” as a means to “counter” the “counterculture”. “The Man” in this case was a Dallas Police Officer who decided to design and distribute his own matchbooks as propaganda to advertise his support for his fellow patrolmen with apparent success. So as the story goes, during the late ’60’s and early ’70’s members of the angry Hippie counterculture referred to Law Enforcement Officers as “Pigs.” This Dallas Policeman, decided to take the sting out of the counterculture’s disrespectful use of the word “Pig” by acknowledging it and to repurpose it in his own personal public relations campaign by distributing matchbooks along his beat that he had printed with the message “Leonard Edge: Pig and Proud!”.[2]

The use of match book advertising by Law Enforcement didn’t end after the ’70’s. Since then, local Police Departments and the FBI have used printed advertising matches as a method to aid in the capture of wanted fugitives, to advertise local D.A.R.E. anti-drug programs, as well as local “Cop Shot” Tips Hotline reward programs. Furthermore, back in 1995 -6 years PRIOR to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which lead to our engagement in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the CIA and the local authorities in Pakistan had successfully distributed wanted posters along and MATCHBOOKS as a medium for advertising a $2 Million reward for the capture of wanted international terrorists such as Mir Amal Kansi who was wanted in the brutal attack outside CIA headquarters in 1993 in which two people were killed and three other people were permanently injured.[3]

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[1] James v. West Virginia Bd. Of Regents, 322 F.Supp. 217 (S.D. W.Va., 1971), aff’d 448 F.2d 785 (4th Cir. 1971).

[2]  Minor v. State, 469 S.W.2d 579 (Tex. Crim. App. 1971); Minor v. State, 476 S.W.2d 694 (Tex. Crim. App. 1972).

[3] CONG.REC.H10167 (daily ed.Oct.8,1998)(remarks of Rep. Gilman);see also United States Department of State, Daily Press Briefing (October 2,1995) GoTo> (visited 10 August 1999).[End page 84]