The "okay" sign used to be the universal symbol of asking or saying that everything is all right. However, the gesture has gotten a darker meaning over the years and is now officially recognized as a hate symbol.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently declared that the symbol has officially changed its meaning and added it to the long-standing "Hate on Display" database of slogans and symbols extremists use. Many people will still likely recognize the sign as something positive, but the ADL said the alt-right has co-opted the gesture following a hoax 4chan post that claims it was linked to white supremacy.
According to UNILAD, a British internet media company and website that provides "social news" and entertainment, the post initially intended to trick people to believe that the fingers formed the letters "W" and "P" for "white power." It also hoped to encourage people with liberal mindsets or media to overreact—making them look ridiculous as they condemn the once inoffensive sign.
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However, the hoax grew to become a major issue, as white nationalists decided to adopt the new meaning this year. "At least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy," the ADL said in a report.
ADL president Jonathan Greenblatt further explained the importance of acknowledging the negative meanings behind certain signs.
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"Even as extremists continue to use symbols that may be years or decades old, they regularly create new symbols, memes, and slogans to express their hateful sentiments," he said.
Greenblatt added that everyone should be made aware of the implications of these images, which may serve as a warning sign about the presence of "haters" in a community.
The ADL cited Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant as an example of someone who used the symbol as a means to express his alt-right belief. UNILAD says Tarrant allegedly killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand this year and that he was pictured holding up the "okay" symbol in a courtroom appearance following his arrest.