When the O.K. Sign Is No Longer O.K. – The New York Times

Posted By on December 20, 2019

The gesture is not the only symbol to have been appropriated and swiftly weaponized by alt-right internet trolls. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified memes featuring the hoax religion of Kek and the cartoon character Pepe the Frog, among others, as being at the forefront of white nationalists efforts to distract and infuriate liberals.

A number of high-profile figures on the far right have helped spread the gestures racist connotation by flashing it conspicuously in public, including Milo Yiannopolous, an outspoken former Breitbart editor, and Richard B. Spencer, one of the promoters of the white power rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 that resulted in the death of a 32-year-old woman.

The gesture was in the headlines again after Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser to President Trump, met with a group of white nationalists known as the Proud Boys in Salem, Ore., in 2018 and was photographed displaying it with them.

Critics expressed outrage when a former White House aide, Zina Bash, appeared to be flashing the sign as she sat behind Brett M. Kavanaugh during his televised Senate confirmation hearings for his appointment to the Supreme Court. Defenders of Ms. Bash insisted that she had not intended any racist connotation and was merely signaling O.K. to someone.

That the gesture has migrated beyond ironic trolling culture to become a sincere expression of white supremacy, according to the Anti-Defamation League, could be seen in March 2019 when Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist accused of killing 50 people in back-to-back mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, smiled and flashed the sign to reporters at a court hearing on his case.

Some people who have used the gesture publicly in a way that seemed to suggest support for racist views have faced consequences. In 2018, the United States Coast Guard suspended an officer who appeared to use the sign on camera during an MSNBC broadcast. Later that year, four police officers in Jasper, Ala., were suspended after a photo was published showing them flashing the sign below the waist. And over the summer, a baseball fan was barred indefinitely from Wrigley Field in Chicago after making the gesture behind the NBC sports commentator Doug Glanville during a broadcast of a Cubs game.

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When the O.K. Sign Is No Longer O.K. - The New York Times

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