Scrutiny for Extremist Symbols After Attacks in U.S.
The bowl-shaped haircut worn by the white supremacist who killed nine black worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, stands among the most disturbing and distinctive images that extremists have shared online. Others include letters drawn from the ancient runic alphabet — a particular favorite among neo-Nazis — or slogans like “Diversity=White genocide.”
They are among the many symbols, slogans and memes that white supremacists are deploying as propaganda and which are drawing more scrutiny amid a broader effort to curtail extremist violence in the United States.
The Anti-Defamation League is adding 36 entries to its long-standing online catalog of far-right symbols, many of which are built around racist stereotypes that have been spread about African Americans and Jews.
About 10 of them are the logos of extremist organizations. Several others are numeric codes that can carry hidden messages, like the numbers 109 or 110, anti-Semitic shorthand that claims that Jews have been expelled from 109 countries and that the United States should become the 110th.
Hate symbols have long historical roots. As with most aspects of the internet age, however, these insignia now emerge at an accelerated pace and reach a far wider audience, according to experts.
The uptick in propaganda is part of the overall spread of far-right ideology and its more public face in recent years. Experts and nongovernmental organizations say that people should be more aware of symbols possibly floating in their midst, whether on the web or in real life on protest posters or T-shirts.
The federal government, which has been criticized for playing down the threat from domestic white extremists, has seemed to alter its course in the wake of several recent mass shootings perpetrated by white extremists that have left dozens dead and many more wounded.
Kevin K. McAleenan, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said that the attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Poway, California, as well as earlier ones in Pittsburgh and Charleston, among others, demonstrated that a growing number of actors seek to harm society and to incite more disaffected youth to violence.
“White supremacist extremism is one of the most potent ideologies driving acts of targeted violence in this country,” he said in a keynote address.
American communities need better tools to understand such threats and to respond, McAleenan said, noting government statistics indicating that family members, friends or even bystanders had some inkling about a brewing attack in most cases.
One tool is recognizing symbols used by far-right groups.
文／Neil MacFarquhar 譯／莊蕙嘉