When young men in the military flash the OK sign, it's time to take the trolling 'joke' seriously
At some point, both reporters and public officials are going to have to stop playing dumb when young white men pull stunts like publicly flashing the “OK” sign before television cameras and dressing up at school in Ku Klux Klan uniforms. Of course it’s deliberately racist, behind transparently phony denials uttered with a cynical nihilism that doesn’t disguise itself. The people who are in real position to know better are responding with hapless befuddlement, as though they can’t really tell what these young men are up to.
The juvenile “irony” pose behind which they hide, allowing them a kind of plausible-deniability narrative in which they really are just harmless people “trolling” in order to make a point of some kind, wore out a long time ago. The distance (including over time) between an “ironic” racist and a seriously dedicated racist is simply negligible, especially in terms of the toxic effects of their vile contributions, as it were, to public discourse.
Yes, it’s just an OK sign. But anyone using it today is making clear that they just don’t care if they’re mistaken for the serious white-nationalists who flash it, mass murderers like the Christchurch killer. As I explained with the SPLC, it’s at best a sign of being a troll, who is only a better human being than an express bigot by a small degree.
Cadets certainly have been drummed out of the officers’ corps for less than the trio who flashed the white-power OK sign at the Army-Navy game earlier this week. Even if any were able to produce evidence of active anti-racism (unlikely as that may be), the harm they inflicted on the institutions they supposedly represent is incalculable.
Because now Americans around the world are wondering: Are we harboring closeted white supremacists in our military, particularly in its highest ranks? That’s not a question any patriotic American wants to be asking. Because of these clowns, we have to.
Particularly not with the news, first reported by Christopher Mathias at HuffPost, that the Senate had excised language intended to screen military enlistees for “white nationalism” from the annual National Defense Authorization Act.
The Senate’s version of the House-approved NDAA approved language intended to screen for “extremist and gang-related activity” that completely omitted the phrase “white nationalism,” a phrase pointedly inserted in the House after alarming reports in the media about the infiltration of military ranks by far-right white extremists.
There needs to be zero tolerance for this, not least because military training increases the likelihood of competence at terrorist action later, as the Timothy McVeigh example always reminds us. Prioritize screening both recruits and current ranks for this poison. And drum them out without hesitation. Nothing less than our national security is at stake here. It’s serious, and needs to be taken seriously.