Amid the United States Postal Service’s slowdowns on August 13 2020, Twitter user Charlie Bonner shared the following “baller content” attributed to the American Postal Workers Union:
absolutely baller content from the postal workers union pic.twitter.com/GE8DsRzAEc
— Charlie Bonner (@CharlieKBonner) August 13, 2020
Against a black background and including a USPS logo, text read:
Nothing stops the mail.
A PDF on USPS.com, Postal Service Mission and “Motto,” explains the famous postal service’s creed, which was taken from Herodotus:
“Motto” of the Postal Service: Two Postal Tributes Chiseled in Stone
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
While the Postal Service has no official motto, the popular belief that it does is a tribute to America’s postal workers. The words above, thought to be the motto, are chiseled in gray granite over the entrance to the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue and come from Book 8, Paragraph 98, of The Persian Wars by Herodotus. During the wars between the Greeks and Persians (500-449 B.C.), the Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers who served with great fidelity.
The firm of McKim, Mead & White designed the New York General Post Office, which opened to the public on Labor Day in 1914. One of the firm’s architects, William Mitchell Kendall, was the son of a classics scholar and read Greek for pleasure. He selected the “Neither snow nor rain . . .” inscription, which he modified from a translation by Professor George Herbert Palmer of Harvard University, and the Post Office Department approved it.
The unofficial motto holding “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” has been associated with USPS workers for more than a century.
Context Around USPS Slowdowns in August 2020
In August 2020, social media discourse about USPS delays and the anticipated spike in mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic reached a fever pitch.
On August 13 2020, we examined multiple posts about rumors that USPS services were being slowed down or sabotaged:
On August 14 2020, we fact-checked a circulating post quoting Trump on funding USPS and voting by mail:
Images of locked mailboxes went viral across platforms:
And photographs of June 2020 protests were mislabeled as protests “demanding” mail-in voting:
At the same time, variations of the “snow, rain, heat, night, fascism” graphic circulated.
Did the APWU Post the Snow Rain Heat Night Fascism Graphic?
Yes! From the APWU pic.twitter.com/hKTA6TLRD3
— Metro NY Labor Comm (@MetroLaborNYC) August 13, 2020
— Antifa International (@antifaintl) August 13, 2020
But other posts indicated that the image did not originate with the APWU or USPS:
Took the tweet down because as 🔥 as this graphic is, it’s from reddit not the APWU. 😕 pic.twitter.com/sgGP5CabQi
— Jeremy Baiman (@jeremybaiman) August 13, 2020
The image was popular on Reddit too, including a popular r/politics post describing the graphic as popular and “very unofficial”:
Back on August 11 2020, a post to r/PoliticalHumor was shared by an individual claiming they created it:
The first iteration we found was from August 10 2020 on Twitter:
— Robin Winters (@RobinCantDance) August 11, 2020
Finally, news outlet AFP reached out to the APWU via email to ask about the viral image. A spokesperson said that APWU might agree with the message, but that they couldn’t use the USPS logo in that way:
Asked if the flyer was real, a spokesman for the postal union confirmed to AFP by email: “The answer is: NOPE. While we might agree with the message, our lawyers would have killed us if we stole the USPS logo.”
And San-Francisco-based graphic designer and small business owner Robin Winters told AFP via Twitter that she created the image on August 10, 2020, saying it was intended as a political cartoon.
“I made that meme!” she said, adding: “My company wouldn’t exist without USPS.”
While it may have been intended as political commentary, many users appear to have reshared it as official content from the postal workers union, including Mike Madrid, co-founder of a group run by dissident Republicans who have targeted Trump with slick TV ads.
Although the snow/rain/heat/night/fascism image was real and very popular, it was neither created nor shared by USPS nor the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). Graphic designer Robin Winters was the creator and first sharer of the image.