The Army and Navy academies are looking into whether circle-hand symbols by cadets and midshipmen at a football game on Saturday were related to hate groups. Some three “signals” were spotted.
There are 4,389 Army cadets and 4,526 Navy Midshipmen. The odds any single one of them was involved is nearly one in 3,000. That’s about the same odds as being drafted into the NBA, or six times the odds of being born with 11 fingers or toes.
Despite those odds, the mass media thought it was a really big deal, pushing the military academies into classic defense mode and leading them to launch two official investigations.
On Sunday the Army also announced it had stripped the motto from a team spirit flag. Since the mid-1990s, the Army Black Knights football team at West Point has been using a flag with a skull and crossbones and a “G.F.B.D.” above the teeth, which stands for “God Forgives, Brothers Don’t,” the academy said.
The complaint was that the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT), a white supremacist prison gang, referred to one another as “brothers” and called their female associates “sisters.”
That conclusion didn’t agree with Anti-Defamation League (ADL) research. ABT doesn’t use a circle gesture.
ABT members frequently use single-hand hand signs with two fingers upraised and one finger upraised, separated by a non-raised finger. They may also use two-hand hand signs with one finger raised on one hand and two fingers raised on the other hand, ADL reported last year..
If the ABT connection sounds lame for areason, consider the circle signal’s actual history.
The circle hand gesture was a hoax campaign, started by members of the website 4chan – an anonymous discussion board that has been responsible for everything from the “I can haz cheeseburger” cat meme to the idea of Rickrolling. They have also produced a number of fakeries with white supremacist themes to trick largely credulous online audiences.
An anonymous 4channer announced “Operation O-KKK” in February 2017, telling other members that “we must flood Twitter and other social media websites…falsely claiming that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy.”
In September, last year, the ADL reported:
The 4channer provided a graphic showing how the letters WP (for “white power”) could be traced within an “OK” gesture. The originator and others also suggested useful hashtags to help spread the hoax, such as #PowerHandPrivilege and #NotOkay.
“Leftists have dug so deep down into their lunacy,” wrote the poster, “We must force [them] to dig more, until the rest of society ain’t going anywhere near that s***.”
Following the cues of the hoax’s originator, 4channers created fake e-mail and Twitter accounts and bombarded civil rights organizations, journalists, and others with messages furthering the “OK” hoax.
The original launch of “Operation O-KKK” sputtered after a few days, and it seemed that the hoax had run its course without spreading too far, but it picked up again in late April, 2018, and this time was far more successful in spreading across social media—and beyond, the ADL explained.
What happened to make an old gesture this year’s astronomical crime, punishable by investigations and accusation articles in the NY Times and elsewhere?
Enter the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which decided it didn’t like the gesture.
The SPLC surmised last year that white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen “have increasingly begun using the use of the symbol both to signal their presence to the like-minded, as well as to identify potentially sympathetic recruits among young trolling artists flashing it.”
This group has condemned everyone from Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) to the Family Research Council. Oddly, it doesn’t consider Antifa as terrorist, but despite a reputation as a very far-left advocacy group, popular media immediately reacts to SPLC’s messaging about the organizations or individuals it targets.
Touching the thumb and index finger to make a circle, with the remaining three fingers held outstretched, is a gesture that people around the world have made for centuries, mostly in positive contexts, according to the ADL explanation last year.:
It is used for several purposes in sign languages, and in yoga as a symbol to demonstrate inner perfection. It figures in an innocuous made-you-look game. Most of all, it has been commonly used for generations to signal “O.K.,” or all is well.
The Twitter reaction Sunday was brutal:
The gesture is also part of a juvenile prank popular in junior military ranks called the circle game.
Check out this video for a better explanation:
Although the ADL had thoroughly explained the gesture was a hoax and used for decades, even in sign language, when SPLC announced it was a “hate signal” this year, the ADL quickly turned on its heels and agreed.
Oddly, the SPLC itself was almost agreeing with ADL’s stance last year, reporting on September 19:
So what does it mean when someone flashes the OK sign? In the end, it can mean almost anything, but primarily it’s one of three things:
- It can be a harmless use of its traditional meaning that all’s well.
- It can be an ironic attempt to troll liberals with a symbol chosen to “trigger” their inner “SJWs.”
- It can be a surreptitious way of signaling your presence to other white supremacists.
Such uncertainty didn’t slow the headline writers at the New York Times on Sunday:
Military Investigating Suspected ‘White
Power’ Hand Gestures Flashed at Game
The Army and Naval academies said they were looking into
whether hand symbols by cadets and midshipmen at a
football game on Saturday were related to hate groups.
More Twitter reaction:
@SachaGilbert: These are officers in training and their conduct is unbecoming regardless of the minimizing excuses of “they’re just trolling the libs” or “it’s only the middle school game of Made You Look!” They know it’s offensive even if they eventually claim to disavow white supremacy.
@TenaciousEye: The ones doing it need to be expelled immediately.
@3ChicsPolitico: This was planned. And one flashed the white power sign after he touched the head of the Black cadet. This is what they think of him. Very disturbing and painful to the soul.
@NancyNoseYou: If the kid who did that is not punished and ousted, the Army has lost its way. But with a draft dodger in command, it’s no wonder it’s being poisoned and it’s dignity being stripped too. Join the club, regular Americans know the feeling.
@Brooksie458: I was one of eight children of a marine. If one of us did something like that then all of us were going to be disciplined. All of those who were amused by their buddies’ behavior need to find out what being part of team is about. That is not it.
@fishnbaja1: Simon Wiesenthal had to rely on old address books to hunt down nazis. Today, all he’d have to do is ask @ESPN for their football game footage. I feel sorry for our nation, and more immediately, for that brown skinned cadet.
@leslee105: Sad day for our country and whatever happened to good sportsmanship Especially from the man who is supposed to guide the freedom of our country
But no Twitter comment chain wouldn’t be complete without hate like the following:
@grnojne: WHAT TRUMP HAS EMPOWERED.