The Sofitel Hotel in midtown Manhattan is no longer flying a French flag. CNN reports this as protecting the safety and security of staffers at the hotels. Seriously.
They fear American street riots or other retaliation for their being French. While Americans may not think highly of the French generally (Tom Palmer once appeared on ABC News referring to the country derisely as an amusement park, Franceland, where there are castles to see and cheese to eat but no innovation), and even less now that they are standing in the way of U.S. action against Iraq, this hardly seems a realistic threat.
It may make good business sense, though. Immediately after 9/11, the lcal Chinese restaurant that I order from started sending me chopsticks with pro-U.S. statements on the wrappers. Since these are mass-produced wrappers, I assume the phenomena was widespread. Similarly, I saw tons of American flags in the windows of ethnic restaurants of every variety.
It makes some sense for businesses offering a taste of a foreign land to go to lengths to remind consumers just how much like them the businesses really are. And it can even be good for business! My local Afghan restaurant seems to be doing quite well these days, no doubt helped by all of the American interest in Afghanistan!