Be careful making the OK symbol with your hands: it could be mistaken as a sign of solidarity with modern-day fascists.
Far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer have co-opted the use of the classic finger-and-thumb “OK” hand symbol to mean something sinister.
While nine out of ten people making the gesture will mean it as “everything’s alright” or “all good,” vicious trolls and political extremists seek the use the gesture as a “dog whistle.”
A dog whistle is a term that refers to speech or gestures that look innocent to someone who isn’t in the know but signal an extremist viewpoint to those who are.
The idea behind co-opting something as innocent and commonplace as the “OK” hand gesture is twofold. Firstly, those in the know will be able to spot fellow fascists without outing themselves to the respectable, non-bigoted people in everyday society. The second is to make media outlets look silly by condemning such an innocuous symbol.
The ADL, however, is pretty good at spotting hate groups and their various iconography and symbols. “At least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy,” the ADL stated in its recent report.
The term “alt-right” is the preferred language for a disparate and unorganized group of modern neo-Nazis. The groups, including Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and Vanguard America. The groups commonly form via shared cases of political grooming on anonymized sites like 4chan. Due to the anonymous nature of these groups, it is hard to ascertain the exact numbers of their members.
However, these groups are far from being “numerous.” In the last three years, whenever extremist groups have organized rallies, throngs of counter-protestors have outnumbered them. This was seen in Charlottesville in 2017, as well as several summer protests in Portland, Oregon.
Other hate images used by modern neo-Nazis include “Pepe the Frog,” the “mascot” of their movement, the “Happy Merchant” meme depicting an offensive caricature of a Jewish person, and the “Moon Man,” a strange meme using an 80’s-era McDonald’s advertisement character.