- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2019

Bad news for fans of Mr. Spock, John Denver and Howard Wolowitz of “The Big Bang Theory”: The nerdy but lovable bowl haircut is now a symbol of hate, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The human rights group announced Thursday the addition of 36 items to its “Hate on Display” database, including the “OK” hand symbol, anti-antifa logos and the “bowlcut,” bringing the total number of “calling cards of hate” to 214.

Why the bowl cut? The Anti-Defamation League said an image of the hairstyle “worn by white supremacist mass killer Dylann Roof,” who fatally shot nine black worshippers at a church, has become popular with white supremacists.

“Those who use the bowlcut image or other ‘bowl’ references admire Roof and call for others to emulate his 2015 mass shooting attack at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina,” the Anti-Defamation League said in its press release.

Many of the symbols and slogans on the hate list are obviously offensive, such as “burning Neo-Nazi symbols” and an anti-Semitic drawing called the “Happy Merchant,” which shows a Jewish man with “heavily stereotypical facial features” rubbing his hands together.

But the addition of seemingly innocuous symbols such as the “OK” hand sign prompted pushback from those who described the ever-growing list of unacceptable images and phrases as an example of the outrage culture run amok.

Social media mavens were quick to point out that “OK” is a safety signal used in scuba diving and that even former President Barack Obama has placed his thumb and pointer finger together in public on numerous occasions.

“If a handful of white nationalists use the OK hand sign to troll the media, who cares?” said David Marcus, a correspondent for the right-of-center online magazine The Federalist. “Are we really going to give them the power to destroy a sign that has been used for hundreds of years and which is used presumably millions of times a day with no harmful intent?”

Critics noted that adding any symbol used by racists on websites such as 4chan, 8chan and Reddit has no limiting principle, meaning the list could easily grow to encompass any number of now-innocuous signs including “thumbs up” or “hang 10.”

“Ceding common hand gestures like the ‘ok’ symbol to white supremacists sends its own message,” said Ashe Schow, a correspondent for the conservative news site The Daily Wire. “It gives the racists the power to co-opt ordinary behaviors and allows the media and politicians to label innocent people as racists.”

Using the “OK” symbol to signify racism began as a hoax on the 4chan, but by this year, “the symbol was being used in some circles as a sincere expression of white supremacy,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

“Even as extremists continue to use symbols that may be years or decades old, they regularly create new symbols, memes and slogans to express their hateful sentiments,” said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, a former Obama special assistant. “We believe law enforcement and the public needs to be fully informed about the meaning of these images, which can serve as a first warning sign to the presence of haters in a community or school.”

Also added to the list is the “Moon Man,” a crescent moon in sunglasses image used by McDonald’s in the 1980s to promote its late-night hours. It has been “appropriated by white supremacists, especially from the alt right, who attach it to racist songs, language and imagery,” said the Anti-Defamation League.

In a disclaimer, the Anti-Defamation League said the symbols “must be evaluated in the context in which they appear. Few symbols represent just one idea or are used exclusively by one group.”

Anti-Defamation League spokesman Jake Hyman said that “context is key, so we are in no way suggesting that everyone who uses/wears these is guilty of promoting white supremacy.”

“Because of the traditional meaning of the hand gesture, as well as other usages unrelated to white supremacy, particular care must be taken not to jump to conclusions about the intent behind someone who has used the gesture,” Mr. Hyman said in an email.

Such conclusion-jumping already has begun. During the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh last year, former Kavanaugh law clerk Zina Bash was accused by some leftists of flashing an OK “white power” sign as she rested her hand on her arm. Her husband, U.S. Attorney John Bash, described the interpretation as “repulsive.”

He pointed out that his wife is “Mexican on her mother’s side and Jewish on her father’s side. She was born in Mexico. Her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. We of course have nothing to do with hate groups.”

“The idiocy of this is that people making the gesture in completely unrelated contexts can still be accused of being racists and have their lives ruined,” said Alexander Hall, a staff writer at the Media Research Center.

Indeed, most Americans are probably using symbols from the “Hate on Display” list in their everyday lives without realizing it. Among the hate images are a bevy of numbers, including 1-11, 100%, 9%, 12, 13, 14, 18, 28, 38, 43, 83, 88, 311, 318, 511 and 737.

Another symbol of hate: an anti-antifa image of the black-and-red anti-fascist flag with a line drawn through it, which may come as a surprise to critics of the left-wing protest group that repeatedly has come under fire for stoking violence.

“‘Anti-Antifa’ images are white supremacist symbols and memes directed against antifa activists,” said the Anti-Defamation League. “Antifa (short for ‘anti-fascist’) are left-wing and anarchist activists who focus on directly confronting white supremacists.”

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana introduced a resolution in July calling for antifa to be labeled a domestic terrorist group after masked, black-clad activists attacked Portland conservative journalist Andy Ngo, who sustained a brain injury that sent him to a hospital.

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