My wife and I visited Indonesia in the early 1990s and did a lot of hiking to visit quite a number of old temples and ruins. We were quite shocked to encounter a huge number of swastikas adorning these temples in various forms.
We later learned that the swastika symbol has been in existence for 5,000 years and that the Sanskrit meaning of the word "swastika" is "it is good." The information channel from the creators of the temples thousands of years ago to my wife and me was so intensely corrupted by the Nazi's adoption of that symbol, that our first reactions assumed some sort of virulent antisemitism, hatred, violence, and murder.
The 13 year old girls believe that the message they're sending is something like, "hey, I can dress like the popular stars of the world." The message is intended only for other girls with which they associate. They have no idea what message they are sending to the slightly older boys.
The humorous part is that these same girls at 15 or 16 are often appalled and ashamed of how they had dressed when they were 13. At that point they understand how the message of their dress was received by many others (especially the boys) and they dress much, much more conservatively. And little sisters who are now 13 get quite a talking to by their older sisters when the younger ones start dressing like sluts - the older sisters often make mom look quite permissive! This is definitely an example of how the channel transmitting the information badly distorts the intended meaning on the receiving end.
Embarrassingly, I either never knew or had forgotten what a confederate flag looked like. Like the swastika above, it has extreme negative connotations, the topmost being extreme racism towards blacks, including being pro-slavery. Unlike those who adorned their temples with swastikas thousands of years ago and couldn't possibly guess that their sacred symbol would have horribly negative connotations in the distant future, someone who waves a symbol at a political rally doesn't have that excuse. The best defense is a fairly lame one, and is that like the naive 13-year old girls discussed above, he didn't understand how poorly the message of waving a confederate flag in front of the White House would be received by a substantial majority of the citizens of the United States, including both liberals and conservatives.
That does, indeed, seem to be the excuse. Here is an excerpt of something he's written about the event in response to the negative press coverage:
"You sit behind your laptop and type articles about people you don’t know. You sit there and think you know the true meaning of the confederate flag, but in truth you only know what people have told you.Did you know that the confederate flag was flown on the USS Columbia ( CL-56) during WWII.
"You would be surprised that the confederate flag is often used as a symbol for culture and to display love for one’s country. So to sit there and say you know me is a lie. I fought for my country, My family and my friends."And according to Wikipedia, that is all true. Nonetheless, by being oblivious to how the information channel would color and deliver his message, he managed to single-handedly paint the tea party, conservatives, marines specifically, and the military in general, as racist - at least in the minds of many liberals and conservatives.