On Friday, Microsoft and the government of Dubai released a new font called “Dubai,” and with it, an utterly disingenuous sales pitch.
“Expression knows no boundaries or limits. Expression is strength and freedom. It defines who you are. Now you have a new way to express yourself, your beliefs and your life experiences,” reads an advertisement for the font tweeted by Crown Prince of Dubai Hamdan bin Mohammad, with the hashtag #ExpressYou.
But a scathing write-up from The New York Times points out just how ludicrous the new font and its gimmicky tagline are, given that speaking out against the government or the royal families in the United Arab Emirates can land you in prison:
The United Arab Emirates has no democratically elected institutions and no formal commitment to free speech. It has been accused of systemic human rights abuses, including torture and the forced disappearance of government critics…What it does have is wealth, derived largely from its role as a global business hub. On Twitter, the crown prince described the new font as an important step toward elevating the country’s global business profile. He did not explain how exactly that would work.
— Hamdan bin Mohammed (@HamdanMohammed) April 30, 2017
While many other governments have commissioned fonts in order to tap into the history and culture of their country, Dubai’s new font and the surrounding PR strategy backfired. Neither a font–or a partnership with Microsoft–can erase years of serious human rights violations.