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dog whistles

Fascists try to hide in plain sight on social media by using dog whistles.

In terms of political ideologies, none receive the same kind of hatred that fascism receives. The hatred is more than deserved, of course, since the repercussions of such an ideology are still fresh in our minds. However, these fringe groups develop means to communicate and identify one another through dog whistles.

The rhetorical device is used as a coded message in order to signal one’s political stance. Fringe political groups, such as fascists, use the messages to publicly identify their political ideology without anyone outside their party understanding exactly what they’re saying.

In order to give a little context, it’s important to define fascism. Popular belief may claim that fascism promotes ethnic cleansing, which isn’t entirely true, and the malicious ideology does not present itself as such. In reality, fascism’s main tenant surrounds an ethno-nationalist worldview. Fascists believe that if countries became completely homogenized, it could lead to solving all the world’s problems.

It’s interesting that fascists often point out the ends of their goals without specifying the means. I suppose telling everyone you’re down to murder millions of people, either through mass displacement or genocide just doesn’t fly off the tongue like “we need to preserve Western culture.”

Now, before I get too heated in the midst of writing this article, I should move on to what I’m really here to write about. If you’ve seen any social media profiles of fascists, such as Richard Spencer’s, you can see that the emoji in their Twitter names change every so often.

For a while, Spencer had the okay hand gesture emoji between his first and last name as a symbol of white power. Since Trump’s recent attacks on Syria, however, Spenser has changed the emoji to Syria’s national flag in protest against Trump’s airstrike.

The OK hand gesture isn’t the only emoji that fascists have ruined for the rest of smartphone users; they’ve also taken it upon themselves to adopt both the milk and frog emojis along with it.

The frog is meant to represent Pepe the Frog, a popular character in a series of comics by Matt Furie, who’s been appropriated by internet hate groups as a symbol of their movement. The milk emoji is also meant to represent white nationalism and white pride in general.

Not only do these people use modern symbols for their dog whistles, but they also utilize ancient Viking runes as a means to identify their political ideology. One such symbol is the Odal rune, meaning “heritage.”

Another is the Tyr rune, which means “warrior.” Not unlike how the Nazis appropriated the swastika, modern fascists wish to appropriate ancient symbols to represent their own political movement.

In the case of the runes, however, things start to become very complicated. The symbols have been around far longer than fascism, and many neo-pagan groups use these runes to proclaim their religious beliefs.

So, to be clear, just because someone uses the OK hand gesture emoji or doodles Viking runes in the margins of their birth charts doesn’t make them a fascist. To really know if someone is part of that ideology, people need to conduct more research.

The dog whistles used by fascists don’t stop at symbols, however. Members of the fringe political group also use punctuation to try and get their points across. One example lies in their use of parentheses, particularly when presented as “((( ))).”

They use the typographical tactic, known as echoing, in conjunction with a person’s name, such as “((( Mel Brooks ))),” to indicate that the writer understands this person to be Jewish. This particular dog-whistle shows up a lot in online, anti-semitic rhetoric.

When Twitter users put triple parentheses around a person’s name, they are denoting that they believe the person is Jewish (Image via New Statesman)

Another prominent hate-symbol comes in the form of “14/88” or “8814.” Each number in this numeric dog whistle represents two specific facets of the fascist agenda. The number 14 represents their 14-word slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The number 88 is code for “heil Hitler” since the letter H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

Irony also plays a large role in fascist dog whistling, notably through the form of sarcastic jokes. One popular meme that went around for a while was the phrase “Hitler did nothing wrong.” In fact, Mountain Dew once set up an online poll to find a title for their new soft-drink, and the aforementioned user-nominated phrase rested at the top of the list.

That said, insensitive jokes not only trivialize the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, but they can also elicit facetious responses in the forms of dog whistles.

One coded message that can be a reply to this “sarcastic” meme is a claim that those who suffered through the horrors of the Holocaust were free of lice. This facetious comment isn’t just an edgy joke for the alt-right.

Rather, it’s a dog whistle that holocaust deniers use to identify one another. Those who believe the holocaust never happened take on the notion that the gas-chambers were meant to rid the prisoners of lice and not meant for mass murder.

Dog whistles are, in nature, difficult to discern. The phrases and symbols constantly change as more and more people start to understand their true meanings. It takes constant vigilance and determination to keep up with the encoded terminology of modern fascists.

Let it be known that this kind of political leaning only reveals its sinister nature when it’s already too late. Keep an eye out for any and all encoded hate speech so that you too can identify fascists and, subsequently, put them in their place.

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Cason Ragland

UNC - Greensboro

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