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Australian Media on Paganism

Figures of hate a code for bigots

October 29, 2000 The Age


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 of others.

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 symbology.

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 Prejudice.

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 in Australia.

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

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