The Anti-Defamation League has added the thumb-and-forefinger “OK” hand symbol to its online “Hate on Display” database, where it sits alongside Klan robes, swastikas, and other inflammatory memes – just as 4chan intended.
The gesture – which the ADL claimed is a signal for “white power” – joined the group’s ever-lengthening list of hate symbols along with 35 other memes, including the bowl haircut sported by Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, the Jewish-stereotype cartoon of the “Happy Merchant,” and the slogan “It’s OK to be white.” The list has 214 entries, from the obvious (burning crosses) to the bizarre (over a dozen numbers including 12, 13, 14, 28, 109, and 110).
Explaining that OK is “used by many on the right – not just extremists – for the purpose of trolling liberals” as well as purportedly expressing support for white supremacy, the group warns would-be hate-hunters that “caution must be used in evaluating instances of this symbol’s use.” The ADL plans to distribute a brochure including the new symbols and their descriptions to law enforcement and school districts around the country.
The move represented a reversal for the ADL, which released a statement in 2017 explaining that the symbol was a “popular trolling gesture” with its origins in a prank devised by posters on the anonymous message board 4chan.
“Operation O-KKK” saw a legion of trolls flood social media and civil rights groups with claims the “OK” gesture was a symbol of white supremacy, complete with lines tracing how one could discern the letters W and P (for “white power”) in the gesture.
In order to stop the spread of hate, we must be able to identify it when we see it. Our Hate Symbols Database helps us all do just that. Watch ⬇️ and learn how common gestures can evolve into sincere expressions of hate. For all 179 symbols, click here: https://t.co/pGBgWG1Wwy pic.twitter.com/WhlRDnJz3d
— ADL (@ADL) September 26, 2019
Many were indignant at having the ubiquitous gesture classed as hateful.
“I use it often, never as a hate symbol, and I am not letting the ADL follow some pranksters on 4-Chan into making the OK hand sign some kind of secret Klan gang signal,” one Twitter user said.
“This decision by the ADL isn’t just dumb, it’s dangerous,” said another.
I’m not 👌with this. I use the gesture all the time. My kids use the hand gesture all the time. Just because a few use it for for nefarious purposes? Not 👌 with the the minority dictating to the majority here. OK’ is now a hate symbol, the ADL says – CNN https://t.co/jBtWoT7mfY
— Jeff Cortese (@jeffreycortese) September 26, 2019
Others suggested a slippery slope was imminent. “The idiots speak english, is that going to be the next thing labeled as a hate symbol? Stupid,” one pointed out.
“Why should the general public concede something as common as the ok hand symbol to racists? A lot of them wave American flags, too,” said another.
Others were resigned to the inevitable “canceling” of the gesture.
Now that the ADL has declared the 👌 hand symbol to be racist, it’s only a matter of time before the emoji will probably be banned or changed. Enjoy it while it lasts. 😔
— Alex the Chubby Pony (@AleximusPrime) September 26, 2019
Many people wondered why the US public still took their cue on what constitutes “hate” from a group that swallows 4-chan pranks hook, line, and sinker. “The folks at the ADL have just destroyed the remainder of their credibility with this nonsense,” one user tweeted.
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