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Who owns a symbol?

I was recently drawn into a couple of online discussions about symbols, specifically hate symbols.

First, someone posted a picture of a key fob they made using the symbol of The Punisher. I don't know or care about most comic book characters, but apparently The Punisher is some kind of anti-hero that has recently been promoted as sharing the values and philosophies of white supremacist groups. This person was warned that using this symbol might not be appropriate.

Second, someone was called out as a white supremacist only because their user name contained the number 88. It came as news to me that 88 was being used as a symbol by anyone, let alone as a white supremacist symbol. "H" being the 8th letter of the alphabet, "88" is apparently equivalent to "Heil Hitler." I found it shocking that low-grade numerology was being accepted by the general public to justify the vilification of anyone using the number 88. Numerology? Really? Does nobody understand how username recommendations work when your preferred name is taken? Just in case, what happens is that systems have traditionally offered to add a number to the end. That's how you get Joel459, and, yes, Fred88. What's next, renaming the 14th floor to 15 because 14 = AH = Adolf Hitler?

Here is where I got into trouble. My claim is that both symbols and, in fact, most symbols in use by white supremacists are stolen and should therefore have no power outside their own communities. In other words, just because I say this thing means that, doesn't mean you have to roll over and accept it.

The common response to that is that "we" can't use those things for benign purposes because, by definition, those things don't have, or no longer have, a benign purpose.

Canadians are currently struggling with the meaning of the Canadian flag. Some groups, mostly associated with the recent Trucker Convoy, have been making copious use of the Canadian flag. It has reached the point at which many Canadians are choosing to not display the flag for fear of being associated with these groups. And I don't get it. Since when does anyone get to redefine a symbol? Why do we let them get away with it?

I'm guessing it's far too late to attempt to rehabilitate the swastika, once a religious symbol and a cultural symbol representing good luck, but let's not knuckle under to the knuckle draggers. Fly the Canadian flag proudly if that's your thing, go ahead and write 14 word sentences, and continue to drive 60 mph (88 fps).

Resources

Hate Symbols

Swastika

#Society #Symbols

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