Who could have predicted that the unassuming, iconic NPS arrowhead emblem — ostensibly innocuous, familiar, and dear to so many of us who frequent the National Park Service system — would become the earliest symbol of conscious rebellion against U.S. government censorship under the presidency of reality television star Donald Trump?1 It seems like the stuff of fiction. Yet, it appears to be exactly what has happened in the past week.
By now, just about everyone knows the story of how the Badlands National Park Service tweeted out climate change information in direct defiance of an order from the Trump administration banning the NPS from posting about such things on Twitter. (The ban followed two NPS retweets: one of a photo that compared Trump’s inauguration crowd size to that of President Obama’s and one pointing out that references to climate change had been removed from the official White House website when Obama left office.)2
These rogue tweets appeared the same day that Trump also ordered the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop issuing press releases or posting on social media. The tweets were removed pretty quickly from the Badlands NPS Twitter account, and a former employee was blamed for having posted them; however, an idea had been born and quickly spread.
@AltNatParkSer was probably the first “alternative Twitter account” to pop up soon after the Badlands tweets were removed. The Alt-NPS Twitter account began by reposting the Badlands NPS tweets that had been deleted. Its bio reads, “The Unofficial
#Resistance team of U.S. National Park Service. Not taxpayer subsidized! Come for rugged scenery, facts & 89 million acres of landscape.” Several other “alt” Twitter accounts soon followed — @RogueNASA, @AcutalEPAFacts, @AltForestService — each with similar explanations in their bios. The idea behind each of these accounts seems to be that employees can tweet out facts and information anonymously that they would be banned from sharing on the official accounts. And people are following these accounts! As of 25 January 2017, the @AltNatParkSer account had almost 2X more followers than the official NPS account.
As of this writing, over 50 such “alt” accounts have popped up on Twitter. Of course, it’s important to note that there’s no way of knowing what individuals are actually behind any of these “alt” accounts. Time will tell how many of them are benevolent superheroes seeking any means to keep America educated and how many may turn out to be attention-seeking imposters or nefarious predators. In any event, we think it’s all worth watching and learning.
The good news it that no one needs to try to follow each of the “alt” accounts on Twitter individually in order to keep up with them, thanks to Alice Stollmeyer. She has been curating a public list that she calls Twistance (a play on resistance and Twitter, of course). Instead of following each individual account, Twitter users can subscribe to Alice’s list to check out all of the tweets from the various alternative accounts.
In the meantime, it seems as if the National Park Service may want to update its History of NPS Visual Identity page to note that the humble arrowhead emblem has swiftly become a new logo of resistance against oppression, and a welcome reminder that some things are worth fighting for.
- This Forbes article from 25 January 2017 does a nice job delving into the sticky business of trademark and use of official logos/emblems on social media. Be sure to check out the update at the end of the article. ↩
- In a somewhat bizarre twist on this story, it seems that Trump himself called the head of the National Park Service in response to the offending NPS account retweets about his inauguration and climate change. ↩