Figures of hate a code for bigots
October 29, 2000 The Age
By ANDREW MASTERSON
Hate has a language all its own, a deliberately opaque
collection of symbols, numbers and words intended to
speak to its sympathisers while avoiding the scrutiny
So how can you tell if someone - your child, perhaps
- has come under the influence of racist or extremist
groups? By learning the language. This has been made
easier this past week, with the Internet publication
of a database called Hate On Display. Compiled by the
US Anti-Defamation League, the database aims to provide
a comprehensive collection of racist and anti-Semitic
It contains reproductions of logos used by the US extremist
fringe, many of which have been appropriated or adapted
by hate groups in Australia. It also displays lists
of code words or numbers that can connote racist sympathies
to those in the know.
Context, however, is everything. Some of the symbols
are self-evidently racist, but others contain multiple
meanings - and could even be anti-racist, depending
on who is employing them. Most of the self-evident symbols
stem from Nazi roots, and incorporate swastikas or Iron
Crosses. Even in this area, however, confusion can arise.
For instance, the database includes the twin lightning
bolts used by the Nazi SS and adopted by many neo-Nazi
groups. However, the same symbol has long formed the
last two letters of the logo of the rock band Kiss,
whose members and fans would be horrified to be accused
of extremist sympathies.
Even more confusing is the so-called "crucified skinhead"
symbol (which is, thankfully, almost unknown in Australia).
The logo depicts a skinhead crucified on an arrow. According
to the Anti-Defamation League, the symbol is sometimes
used by neo-Nazi groups, but also identifies a non-racist
organisation called Sharps - Skin Heads Against Racial
A couple of the other symbols reflect the sensibilities
of American religious conservatives, rather than any
intrinsic racist views on the part of the symbol users.
These are the "A-in-a-circle" beloved by anarchists,
and the five-pointed star or pentagram used by pagans.
In Australia, at least, anarchist and pagan groups are
overwhelmingly - indeed, definitively - anti-racist.
It is when deciphering the code numbers and words used
by extremist groups that the league data base is most
interesting. These codes appear meaningless to outsiders,
but allow sympathisers to identify each other.
The word "rahowa", for instance, is short-hand for
"racial holy war". "Zog" stands for Zionist-Occupied
Government, and reflects anti-Semitic conspiracism.
"SWP" is short for "supreme white power"; "AB" stands
for Aryan Brotherhood; and "CI" indicates "Christian
Identity", a white supremacist church that has affiliates
Number symbols are popular with racist groups because
they rarely attract outside attention.
In the US, for instance, the numeral 5 can be an expression
of supremacist sympathies. It is sometimes employed
by hate groups as a code for the term "five words".
Those words are "I have nothing to say". This is the
phrase advocated by white supremacist Alex Curtis: a
code of silence defence to be used in court to defeat
prosecutions for hate crimes.
The number 311 is a favorite among members of the Ku
Klux Klan. Since K is the 11th letter of the alphabet,
311 stands for three-times-K, or KKK. (The fact that,
strictly speaking, it denotes K-cubed, and is thus meaningless
is lost on its admirers.) 33/6 is another numeric popular
with the Klan. The organisation considers itself to
be in its sixth era, and the 33 connotes three multiplied
by 11, as before.
The number 88 is used by neo-Nazi groups across the
world, including Australia. The eighth letter of the
alphabet is H, so 88 is HH, short for Heil Hitler. A
variation is 83, which translates to HC, Heil Christ,
increasingly popular among racists who use religion
to justify their views.
Complete copies of Hate On Display are available free
of charge at www.adl.org.