A little bit too “edgy”

In a way, there’s nothing surprising about this: Target Yanks ‘Neo-Nazi’ Clothing Off Shelves. If I were a retailer I wouldn’t want to sell things with coded Nazi slogans on them either. Still, the story has some oddities:

  1. The description of the clothing and the picture are a little alarming. Joseph Rodriguez, a man in his 50s who flagged the problem, is quoted by Reuters as saying that until he saw the “88”s he thought it was “cool.” Why?
  2. The story speaks of “experts on retail branding and on racism.” What is an expert on racism? I’ve written a few things on antiracism as a system of thought and feeling and there’s not much else out there on the subject. Does that make me one of the world’s leading experts on antiracism?
  3. One of the experts on retail branding says “At a minimum, the retailer will need to be far more vigorous in screening the merchandise it sells.” How can they catch esoteric meanings? Which ones should they avoid? Things suggesting satanism like skulls and the color red? Should they hire Morris Dees to screen everything for them?
  4. Why is it that selling things with communist symbols is completely different? There haven’t been any Nazis to speak of for better than half a century, yet somehow they remain obsessively fascinating and demonically threatening. It seems to me the reason is that liberal ideology rejects as immoral essential aspects of human life, those that depend on particular loyalties, and the conflict between moral demands and human nature creates a perpetual need to demonize and scapegoat. Unfortunately, that’s about as abstract as an explanation can be. Some cultural historian with a secure livelihood should do a study on the history, development and function of the Nazi as a symbol, and of related symbols like the Racist and the Holocaust.

2 thoughts on “A little bit too “edgy””

  1. The reporter claims to have
    The reporter claims to have come up 808,000 hits in a Google search for the term “white power 88.” That seemed like a lot of hits for an obscure neo-nazi code, so I checked it out.

    It’s likely that anyone reading this will understand how a Google search works so I won’t waste space going into that here. But for the sake of clarity, I’m going to put exactly what I typed into the search engine in square brackets. So if I searched for websites with articles containing Jim Kalb and monarchism I would write [“Jim Kalb” monarchism].

    The reporter puts the entire search phrase in quotes in the article, so I typed [“white power 88”] into Google. It came up with a whopping 78 hits. What’s more Google deemed only 39 of these hits different enough to display them.

    To expand my search I decided to only to put the phrase “white power” inside the quotes, searching for [“white power” 88]. This delivered 4,060 hits. Of the first ten listed, six are anti-nazi websites, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

    The only way I could come even close to the reported number of hits was to delink every term in the search, meaning that Google would come back with every website it discovered having the words “white” and “power and the number “88” regardless of their order or relationship. Searching for [white power 88]delivered 833,000 hits. To be sure, there were a number of neonazi websites. But are also plenty of hits completely unrelated to neonazism, including one selling comforters with the following details: “Full/Queen (88″ x 90″) Filled with 31 ounces of 575 fill power White Goose Down.” Other hits dealt with football, Apple computers and great white sharks.

    The reporter seriously inflates the presence of neonazis by claiming to have found to over 800,000 hits. This is not an incidental distortion. It informs the fun house mirror moral priorities of nearly everyone involved in the article.


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