A week after an online controversy raged over GOP operative Zina Bash twice showing a hand gesture that many associate with white power during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, a Coast Guard member was removed from the Hurricane Florence response team for flashing the OK hand symbol to MSNBC cameras.
In the clip, which can be seen below, a Coast Guard official was discussing their response efforts as Florence made landfall. In the background, a crew member first looked directly at the camera and then held the gesture right next to his face. After a second, he casually pretended to scratch his face but it was apparent to anyone watching that he meant to do the OK sign.
After viewers took to Twitter to share video of the incident while expressing outrage over the display of “white power,” the Coast Guard released a statement saying they were aware of the “offensive” video and had removed the member from Florence duty. They did not identify the man.
We are aware of the offensive video on twitter – the Coast Guard has identified the member and removed him from the response. His actions do not reflect those of the United States Coast Guard.
— U.S. Coast Guard (@USCG) September 15, 2018
In its write-up of the situation, the Washington Post gave a good synopsis of how the gesture has become associated with white supremacy:
The idea that the hand sign is a secret symbol for white power owes its mainstream spread to a viral troll campaign aimed at making liberals and the media look gullible. In February 2017, 4chan’s /pol/ board discussed ongoing tactics to try to get the idea to go viral. “To any who haven’t seen the original thread, our goal is to convince people on twitter that the ‘ok’ hand sign has been co-opted by neo-nazis,” the original poster of the thread wrote.
As BuzzFeed has reported, the board was gleeful when the okay hand sign started to get mainstream traction. As the campaign spread, however, the symbol was simultaneously adopted by the alt-right — an umbrella term for those on the far right who embrace white nationalist views — and the pro-Trump Internet, both of whom seem to primarily use the gesture to “trigger” liberals who believed the hand sign was a decoder ring to detect secret Nazis.
Watch MSNBC’s video below.