Will Bodine hadn’t given his redesign of the Massachusetts state flag much thought in a while.
Two summers ago, he whipped up the image in “upwards of 10 minutes” on his computer. The concept was simple: a blue shield emblazoned with the official state flower — the mayflower — encircled by six blue stars, all splashed against a white backdrop.
Bodine, who lives in Pittsfield, showed it to a few friends and shared it on Facebook. He also uploaded it to Imgur, an image-hosting website, where, until recently, it had only been viewed a few times.
“Not officially or anything,” he wrote. “I just think the current one [expletive] so I made this one featuring the state flower.”
So on Tuesday, it came as a complete surprise when Bodine learned his reimagined design was embroiled in the national controversy involving Venezuelan migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard unannounced last week.
Before nearly 50 migrants arrived from Texas on planes chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, lawyers said they were handed brochures containing erroneous information about cash assistance and other benefits they would receive in Massachusetts.
While it remains unclear who created the pamphlets, they included a rudimentary map of the state, a picture of a lighthouse, a photo of a sign reading “Massachusetts Welcomes You” — and Bodine’s obscure reimagining of the state flag, rather than the real one.
!!! a fake brochure promising eight months cash assistance, food, job training/placement, help with housing + more was given to migrants who were lured by @GovRonDeSantis into boarding a flight to martha’s vineyard. @JuddLegum obtained a copy: https://t.co/nSIwWOE6Zh pic.twitter.com/RLtqoeLPC8— Marisa Kabas (@MarisaKabas) September 19, 2022
The situation has left him completely vexed.
“How did this happen? How did this image that I posted two years ago that no one saw end up on anyone’s radar?” Bodine, 34, said in a telephone interview. “Like, people know what the Massachusetts flag is. It comes right up when you Google it.”
Indeed, a Google Image search for “Massachusetts state flag” produces dozens of images of the state’s well-known design, which features a controversial depiction of a Native American figure standing beneath a broadsword. (In May, a special commission voted to recommend replacing the state seal and motto, which would ultimately change the flag).
Mixed in with the Google results are a few mockups of alternative designs, dreamed up by hobbyists and activists opposed to the original.
But none of them are Bodine’s.
As far as he is concerned, whoever downloaded the flag for the pamphlets would have spotted it on Imgur, a perplexing place to search for a widely available image.
“No one had seen this flag until some idiot staffer for DeSantis or whoever” stumbled across it, he said. “I cannot fathom why they would use the wrong one.”
Bodine said he had seen images of the brochure on social media earlier this week but hadn’t noticed his own inadvertent contribution until someone pointed it out in a comment on his Imgur post from 2020.
“Bro,” they wrote. “they used you [sic] design on the fake brochures to lure immigrants.”
Now, as news organizations and social media commenters dissect the mysterious and misleading document, he’s seeing his handiwork everywhere.
“‘Look, my flag is in the news! It’s on CNN!,’” a shocked Bodine has told family and friends. As of Wednesday, more than 3,000 people had looked at it on Imgur.
Bodine admits he didn’t put much effort into the design. He used PowerPoint, the software best known for creating digital slideshows for business meetings.
The shield he used came directly from the Massachusetts flag, and its most distinctive feature, the white mayflower, he swiped it from another mockup of an alternative state flag he found online.
For Bodine, it’s surreal to think that his long-forgotten project may now be used as evidence, since the brochures have been included in lawsuits and ongoing investigations into whether the migrants were lured to Massachusetts illegally.
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, which is representing a number of the migrants, said this week that the error-filled brochures provided “additional proof that our clients were defrauded and deceived.”
Bodine, who hasn’t been contacted by lawyers or investigators, is still trying to wrap his head around it all.
“This is all hilarious, although at the same time deeply sad, because the real story is asylum seekers being exploited and human trafficked,” he said. “I cannot believe that I’m a part of this in any way, shape, or form.”