Seeing racism everywhere is not OK

Branding the OK symbol white supremacist merely gives racists attention.

Razi Ginzberg

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Topics Politics USA

Considering the amount of publicity they get, one could be forgiven for thinking that white supremacists are a major force on the political landscape. Their protests make international headlines, their leaders are well known, and now, without firing a single shot, they’ve managed to take over a symbol that has been used by people around the world for decades.

Yes, that’s right, the OK hand sign, that near-enough universal finger-and-thumb indication of affirmation or assent, has now been appropriated by racists. That is according to the Anti-Defamation League, a US-based NGO, which announced last week that the OK hand sign has become a ‘sincere expression of white supremacy’. The ADL says the OK symbol has become a ‘popular trolling tactic’ from ‘right-leaning individuals’, who post images of themselves, posing while making the gesture, on social media.

How have white supremacists, these merchants of hate, managed to reach such levels of prominence and power? Is it through great marketing? The promise of a fulfilling life burning crosses in the woods? Or perhaps their racist arguments now resonate with an ever-growing number of people?

If it were any of those reasons, we would be justified in seriously panicking. But the facts tell a different story.

The biggest white-supremacist protest in recent decades, in Charlottesville, Virginia, attracted only a few hundred people. Richard Spencer, the most prominent figure in the white supremacist movement, has 77,000 followers on Twitter (and presumably not all of them subscribe to his views). And the claim that the OK symbol is white supremacist started off as a joke, on an internet messageboard, intended to troll self-styled lefties.

So who is artificially inflating this movement’s strength? Who is empowering it? Oddly enough, it is the very people who are dedicated to opposing it.

Organisations such as the Anti-Defamation League, which are dedicated to monitoring and combating ‘hate speech’, need to point to instances of it in order to justify their existence. To be fair to the ADL, when adding the OK symbol to its Hate Symbols Database, it acknowledged that ‘[t]he overwhelming usage of the “okay” hand gesture today is still its traditional purpose as a gesture signifying assent or approval’. But this raises the question as to why a media blitz warning people of its other usage was necessary.

Campaigning organisations like the ADL will claim they are raising awareness of the far-right threat in our midst. But their headline-grabbing activity is having the opposite ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect. Moreover, by finding signs of racism everywhere, even in an innocuous hand gesture, they are bringing actual racists into the mainstream by proxy.

Does this mean that white supremacists don’t exist, or should be ignored? Of course not. The US Department of Homeland Security now considers domestic terrorism, in particular white-supremacist terrorism, as being as big a threat to the US as foreign terrorism. But those of us who truly oppose racism should go to great lengths to ensure that we are not giving its pathetic perpetrators free publicity. Or else there is a genuine risk that claiming white supremacists are on the rise will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Razi Ginzberg is director of the Ayn Rand Centre. Follow him on Twitter: @RaziGinzberg.

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Comments

C. S. P. Schofield

10th October 2019 at 4:49 am

The biggest danger I see in seeing ‘white supremacists’ everywhere you look is that it normalizes white supremacists. It’s like calling a mildly conservative Republican like George Bush, or a Huey Long style populist like Donald Trump ‘literally Hitler’. If they are like the despicable Austrian, then he is like them…and that diminishes the evil of the Nazi leader. If anybody who uses the ‘OK’ sign is a white supremacist, then white supremacy is normal…when in truth, white suoremacists tend to be violent pathetnoids.

Amelia Cantor

4th October 2019 at 11:43 am

How ironic that my reasonable comments — entirely free of obscenity, hate etc — on this article have been censored by the Powers That Be.

Censorship is good, of course. But not when it’s carried out for the wrong reasons.

Andrew Leonard

4th October 2019 at 2:23 pm

Certain words may trigger the automated moderating system.
I have had a post restored after requesting an explanation for it not appearing after more than a day.
There is no conspiracy.

Ven Oods

5th October 2019 at 11:47 pm

“Censorship is good, of course.”
That reads like you expect everyone to agree. Dream on.

C. S. P. Schofield

10th October 2019 at 4:44 am

Censorship is seldom good, no matter what the motive.

Neil McCaughan

4th October 2019 at 9:30 am

What is the ‘OK hand gesture’? The silhouette at the head of the article is surely a rabbit?

Jerry Owen

3rd October 2019 at 4:50 pm

Gee .. it’s so decent of the ADL to acknowledge that most people use the sign in the traditional way . Phew !
Thumbs up to that one .. err ..or will the thumbs up sign in acknowledgment to the okay sign become subliminally racist in itself.. perhaps a more sinister form of racism ?

Puddy Cat

3rd October 2019 at 11:38 am

We are in a round of ‘Winterva’l interference where woke white people are taking it upon themselves to premeditate offence and in so doing regarding anything as possibly offensive. Therefore, leaving no stone un-turned in anticipating it. This is leading to exclusivity. Rather than allowing the people they seek to protect any expectation of normality they pile the burden of exception upon them at every turn and make integration ever more difficult.

The rush to show your credentials is becoming manic. Not an advert passes without conscious endeavour to show your consciousness of an issue that should not be an issue, which is made unnatural by the emphasis it induces. In my society there is not a single individual talking the racist talk. I believe there are two reasons behind this. The first is that my chums are all educated, busy people who regard for intelligence and amiability no matter who represents those inclinations. The second reason is that despite half a century of speaking openly and frankly they have become conscious of the secret police state of auxiliaries prepared to jump on innocent pronouncement (they themselves running scared of guilt by association).

With the Brexit ruling and this racial thing in the background who can deny that this is not a free democratic society? The harassing of a football player having an in-joke with his friend, and despite his friend being in on it, is symptomatic of how far the intrusion has now gone and how we are creating our own Stasi. This footballer has a European studies degree, his is not the stuff of ignorance. He is the stuff of openness and honesty defusing racial tension by talking about it and his mate agrees.

This is the Puritan age repeated. The standards that individuals are now asked to maintain are in the possession of those seeking to be purer and more focused on minutia, laws that are so beyond the actual law that they are capable of wrong-footing anyone outside the tribe and keep on reinventing. It will not end happily. People of good conscience will not want to live here for fear of having themselves defiled.

The coloured community should start to address the question to because if they do not rather than being infiltrated naturally into this society they will find themselves ostracised and belittled. Ostracised because people will be so cautious of what to say in mixed company that they will choose not to mix. Belittled because there is nothing no egregious as being infantilised and talked to in baby language avoiding truth or one’s own evolution, have your thoughts embodied by those of other ethnicity, predisposition, framed by those ingratiating themselves.

If to be a friend of coloured person you cannot confront them; if relationships are formulas there is no hope for the concept of one people only dispiriting woke sentiments and the passing of social hierarchy from those with ideas and energy to the primacy of those who constantly would set traps and obstacles, that which precludes welcome and diversity and shuns exception.

Jerry Owen

3rd October 2019 at 5:02 pm

Puddy Cat
Coloured people are more resilient to the pc crap us white folk have to endure and succumb to because of our white privilege, whatever that means. Being black gives them a certain protection .. such as the black UKIP candidate in London last year , how do the left attack him as a racist for his stance on immigration ?
Douglas Murray as a gay white man can say far more about gay issues than a straight white man, if he were attacked he could play the anti gay card so they have to be wary.
The left have a hierarchy of victimhood status, albeit a daily changing one.
I particularly liked the one a few years back at a Labour conference where women’s equality was top of the agenda along with Islamophobia . I watched as the Muslim men went into the room on one side and the women on the other side of the room. It looked to me that equality was lacking for one identity group that day.
Always fun to watch the changing double standards of the left .. as they say , if the left didn’t have double standards they wouldn’t have any !

Andrew Leonard

4th October 2019 at 12:09 am

“Not an advert passes without conscious endeavour to show your consciousness of an issue that should not be an issue, which is made unnatural by the emphasis it induces.”

The situation reminds me of a famous Alfred North Whitehead quote:

“Civilisation advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.”

In the world we now live in, the equivalent quote would be:

“Woke civilisation progresses by extending the number of social behaviours which we cannot perform without thinking of them in political terms.”

Amelia Cantor

3rd October 2019 at 11:36 am

Organisations such as the Anti-Defamation League, which are dedicated to monitoring and combating ‘hate speech’, need to point to instances of it in order to justify their existence.

That is a disgusting and unforgivable thing to say. The core purpose of the ADL is to fight antisemitism on a global basis. It “justifies its existence” by protecting vulnerable Jewish communities and by fighting to end the toxic scourge of so-called “free speech”.

I have reported Spiked to the ADL for antisemitism, although I’m confident that the ADL and its British equivalent, the Community Security Trust, already have a bulging dossier on this hive of hate-criminals and their hatemongering.

Andrew Leonard

4th October 2019 at 2:33 pm

“the toxic scourge of so-called “free speech”” is a notion the Chinese Communist Party agrees with.
Like yourself, they also believe in protecting vulnerable communities. For example, they send vulnerable Muslims to “reeducation camps”. No doubt if you leftopians had your way, anyone with skin whiter than the average Egyptian’s, would also qualify for some extra “training”.
Can’t have the free speech fascists getting in the way of that, can we Amelia?

Jim Lawrie

3rd October 2019 at 11:22 am

The largest groupings of racists are among those who view white people as a problem, and are hostile to any sign of white people organising in their own interests. They label any such action as supremacism, extremism, and criminal.

Jim Lawrie

3rd October 2019 at 11:13 am

Mr Ginsberg tells us not to big up white terrorism, then refers us to Homeland Security’s response “the department is trying to project a new vigilance about violent white nationalism, beating back criticism that the agency has spent a decade playing down the issue.” So, for Homeland Security, it is a PR problem, created by the Mr Ginsbergs of this world. Such is the paucity of white domestic terrorist incidents in the USA that Homeland Security have to cite the Christchurch shooting, overlooking the fact that Christchurch is in New Zealand.

One of the biggest deterrents to terrorist attacks in the USA is citizens with guns. The legally held ones are mainly in the hands of white people.

Jim Lawrie

3rd October 2019 at 11:14 am

Pardon the spelling error, Mr Ginzberg.

Linda Payne

3rd October 2019 at 11:13 am

Shame they cant see anti white racism which was a factor in me being sacked from my career, my income is now 200 a month benefits due to mental illness and bigotry and prejudice because no one wants to employ a middle aged nutter; no one ever talks about that unless it involves someone rich or in the media

Christopher Beattie

3rd October 2019 at 10:01 am

I used to do scuba diving in my youth (many years ago). I was always told that the OK sign was the divers’ internationally recognised signal for, just that – I am OK. Now I realise that we were actually being trained to be white supremacists! Even worse, our wet suits were all of black neoprene, so we were also guilty of “blacking-up”! Oh, the shame.

Thomas Swift

3rd October 2019 at 7:57 am

The ADL is vile gang of shakedown artists and blackmailers. They ought to be shut down.

Philip Humphrey

3rd October 2019 at 7:33 am

I agree, some of the biggest racists of all among the so-called anti-racists, “wokes” or “progressives”. By seeing everything in terms of race (and gender/sexuality) they are trying to construct a world ever divided by race and origin, a world of conflicting factions. In reality they and the few old fashioned racists are two sides of the same coin. They’re both trying to create division and tension and exploit it to gain power.

Whatever happened to the dream of one humanity when race/physical appearance didn’t matter?

Andrew Leonard

3rd October 2019 at 9:02 am

The dream had to die because it was making the left redundant

A Game

3rd October 2019 at 6:32 am

Okey, dokey. We’ve been warned. Thankfully. I’d hate to have lost my friends on social media by stepping out and showing my hidden racism via a hand sign.

How they love control.

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