February 25, 2004

The not-see symbol

Lately the computer has been getting urgent messages from Microsoft to install a critical update. The update involves a font which was "found to contain unacceptable symbols."

So I wondered, what does that mean, unacceptable symbols? Like, symbols that the computer can't display properly? Oh, no. It means swastikas.

I'm of the position that if you don't want swastikas to appear in your documents...you could just not use the swastika. Most fonts also contain the letters S, W, A, T, I and K, and people don't seem too upset about that. But if it bothers you enough that you don't want the font on your system, then sure, remove the font.

Oh...but lots of people with computers don't know how to remove fonts, so Microsoft has to baby them all. (I can't wait for the day when everyone who owns a computer actually pretty much knows how to use it.) And Microsoft has to do that with an update whose description makes it sound like your computer will explode if you don't install it, without actually explaining the reason the update exists. Nice.

I guess I should say I don't begrudge people who are actively deciding, you know what, having the swastika symbol in this font kinda creeps me out, I want a version of the font that doesn't include it; what bugs me is Microsoft making the decision for everyone and not explaining it.

The Star of David also appeared in the font, and was removed. The logic behind this amuses me:

PC Magazine staffers ran a standard "diff" check on the Bookshelf Symbol 7 font pack, using Microsoft Word, before and after installing the update from Microsoft and found that in addition to the removal of the swastikas from the font set, the Star of David had also been removed.

Microsoft Office product manager Simon Marks also confirmed in an interview with PC Magazine that the Star of David was removed from the font set because, he says, the physical proximity of the Star of David to the swastikas in the font set upset some users.

"If you went in a font tool to look at how the font was laid out -- a character map -- the Star of David was within one or two characters of the swastikas," he says. "We already ship the Star of David within other fonts we make available so we didn't want to cause any more potential offense."

But...if you were taking the swastikas out, then there wouldn't be any swastikas for the Star of David to be near. So that's just silly.

Posted by Francis at 03:32 AM