Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, the Pepe the Frog meme became co-opted as a symbol of the alt-right. The Anti-Defamation League proclaimed it a hate symbol.
Now, another symbol with neutral origins may be going down the same route: the “okay” palm symbol.
The Outline put together a report of evidence that the sign is quickly becoming co-opted by white nationalists as Pepe was.
Prominent members of the alt-right movement have been seen making the gesture, such as Milo Yiannopoulos:
Richard Spencer collective a photo of him making the gesture the night of the election:
According to Forbes, “the air pinch with thumb and forefinger” also happens to be President Trump’s most recognized gesture.
Ryan Lenz, a senior investigative reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Outline that the meaning behind the symbol depends on the context. He said, “I don’t think anybody’s going to accuse any user of Facebook for posting a picture of their wifey or spouse after providing birth to a child and providing the OK symbol as propagating racist messaging.”
This can switch, however. If an overtly racist politician starts using the symbol, and it becomes a “rallying sob” for supporters, Lenz told The Outline, “then I think the symbol is lost.”
“Okay” received national prominence during the 1840 presidential election. “O.K.” stood for “Old Kinderhook,” a nickname for candidate Martin Van Buren, who was from Kinderhook, Fresh York.
Like Pepe the Frog — and the swastika before it — the symbol may be appropriated to be hateful despite different origins.
???????See Richard Spencer through the years
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