Every time I think American sports teams can’t get any dumber, they get dumber.
Last month the Philadelphia Flyers took down the statue of a woman who raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the Nazis because of a satirical song she sang in the 1930’s and now the Chicago Cubs are banning a fan for flashing the okay hand gesture during a live broadcast.
Really, I swear to God, this happened.
It all started on May 7th when Chicago Cubs sideline reporter Doug Glanville gave a report and a fan behind him, whose face we can’t see, flashed the peace sign and then followed it up with an okay sign.
Here’s a photo of that “incident.”
The Cubs have banned a fan for life for trying to make you look so he can punch you in the arm. The country has gone absolutely insane. pic.twitter.com/WVizOnwixX
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 9, 2019
We don’t know exactly what the motivations of the fan were here — so far he hasn’t been identified publicly — so it could be he wanted to play the make you look at the circle game — which is accompanied by a shoulder punch when you look — if you don’t know what this is, ask any man between the ages of 12 and 60 and he’s probably familiar with it — or it’s also possible this fan was mocking the media via an Internet meme that has gone viral over the past couple of years.
It’s also possible that he had friends at home and he was just, you know, letting them know that his seats were a-okay.
The point is we don’t know for sure, but what we do know for sure is the okay hand gesture, and this is significant, ISN’T RACIST AT ALL, it’s an internet meme designed to mock false accusations of racism.
The idea that the okay sign — which is used by people all over the world to signify that things are okay, celebrate three point shots, and also make you look if it’s flashed below the waist — is a symbol of white supremacists grew out of the dark corners of the Internet as a prank.
The prank has now become so successful that mainstream media organizations like MSNBC have now bought into the idea that the okay sign is a white supremacy sign and are, and I can’t believe this is real life, NOW BLURRING THE OKAY SIGN IN THEIR REPORTING.
Chicago Cubs fan, who appeared to flash a hand gesture that has become associated with white supremacy behind a black sports reporter while he was on air, has been banned from Wrigley Field. https://t.co/vD08WsDwlF
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 9, 2019
This is the exact point the Internet pranksters was making — the demand for racism in Donald Trump’s America has so vastly exceeded instances of actual racism in this country, that now everything is racist, including one of the most popular hand signs in the world. Now is it possible that racists use the okay sign? Sure. Just like racists drive cars and buy milk at the grocery store. But the gesture itself is not, and never has been, a sign of white supremacy.
It’s just, you know, a hand gesture, like the thumb’s up sign, which, guess what, is probably used by racists and non-racists alike too.
Now most of you are probably unaware of this Internet meme because most of you don’t spend your life on the Internet. Which means you probably aren’t familiar with the gleeful and absurd Internet pranks by the crew behind 4Chan. A couple of years ago these guys decided to mock the media’s obsession with racism by taking a totally innocuous common gesture — the okay sign — and turning it into a symbol of white power.
That is, they were satirizing the media’s obsession with calling everything racist by making something that is 100% not racist, racist as well.
If you doubt me, here is a long article from the Anti-Defamation League, which is an organization designed to combat actual hate, laying all of this out. (I’m linking the ADL here, but there are other left wing sites with similar articles. The fact that that this prank exists is well known and well sourced on the Internet. Only dumb people buy into this prank. Unfortunately dumb people feels like the majority of social media, which is how it has spread.)
I’m going to quote extensively from the ADL article because it’s helpful to demonstrate how dumb the Cubs were and how dumb many mainstream media are being with this story as well:
“The 4chan site is an anonymous discussion board with an outsized cultural impact on the internet. It has been responsible for everything from the “I can haz cheeseburger” cat meme to the concept of Rickrolling. There is little that 4channers like as much as a hoax, and in recent months, they have served up a number of fakeries with white supremacist themes to largely credulous online audiences.
The “OK” hand gesture originated as one of these hoaxes in February 2017 when an anonymous 4channer announced “Operation O-KKK,” telling other members that “we must flood Twitter and other social media websites…claiming that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy.” The user even provided a helpful graphic showing how the letters WP (for “white power”) could be traced within an “OK” gesture. The originator and others also suggested useful hashtags to help spread the hoax, such as #PowerHandPrivilege and #NotOkay. “Leftists have dug so deep down into their lunacy,” wrote the poster, “We must force [them] to dig more, until the rest of society ain’t going anywhere near that s***.”
Following the cues of the hoax’s originator, 4channers created fake e-mail and Twitter accounts and bombarded civil rights organizations, journalists, and others with messages furthering the “OK” hoax….The original launch of “Operation O-KKK” sputtered after a few days and it seemed that the hoax had run its course without spreading too far, but it picked up again in late April and this time was far more successful in spreading across social media—and beyond.
Reaction to the “OK” symbol hoax was so widespread in the spring and summer of 2017 that a number of people on the far right began deliberately to use the gesture—typically making the sign while posing for photographs uploaded to social media—in order to continue the trolling and spread it further…Even though its usage has expanded and evolved, it still seems primarily intended to trigger or troll people on the left and cause them to react, although some white supremacists have also used it—generally jokingly—among themselves.
It is important to realize that the “OK” gesture is a nearly universal hand gesture and most usage of it is completely innocuous. Even when used as described here, the fact that white supremacists, the alt lite and many Trump supporters all use the symbol means that one cannot assume that anyone who poses with such a gesture is intending or exhibiting an association with white supremacy. Only if the gesture occurs in context with other clear indicators of white supremacy can one draw that conclusion.
The “OK” hoax was actually just one in a series of hoaxes in which 4channers (and members of other, similar places on the Internet such as 8chan and Reddit) have tried to take innocuous items, symbols or gestures and falsely attribute white supremacist meanings to them in order to fool liberals and get them to spread such false messages.
One 2017 4chan thread devoted itself to brainstorming the next such hoax. “We need to make some pics that are warning parents about what the dab really means and spread it around,” wrote one 4channer (the “dab” is a popular dance move). Another 4channer suggested spreading the notion that clapping was “anti-feminist.”
One of the more successful of these recent 4chan hoaxes, also originating in February 2017, was the concept that white supremacists were drinking milk to show “the superiority of the white race” and the “purity of white milk.” One hoaxer trying to convince the Anti-Defamation League “explained” that “they are chugging milk in front of people of color, quoting racist books and phrases and supposed statistics about people of color being lactose intolerant.” A number of media websites bought into the milk hoax.
Another such hoax was the attempt by 4channers to convince people that white supremacists had adopted a popular polar bear emoji from the messenger app Kik as a white supremacist symbol. In recent days, ADL has received e-mails from other would-be hoaxers attempting to claim that white supremacists had adopted symbols ranging from the rainbow flag to the iFunny chef (the mascot of humor website iFunny) as new hate symbols.
The fact that all of these hoaxes have emerged in 2017-2018 is not a coincidence; they are a reaction to the surge of media attention given to white supremacy, especially the alt right, in the wake of the 2016 election campaign.
They are also a response to the willingness of many on the left in the United States to believe that the Trump administration is full of hardcore white supremacists, a belief so powerful that recently a photo of White House staffer Stephen Miller adjusting his suit and tie before an interview went viral with the claim that Miller was actually using his hands to form an obscure white supremacist hand sign for “white power” as a secret signal to white supremacists who might be watching. It is this willingness to believe that 4channers have been trying to exploit.”
So the initial hoaxers on 4chan have created an Internet hoax that the mainstream media — and sports teams — are now taking so seriously that if a white person makes the okay sign in the vicinity of a black person it is now a sign of white supremacy.
This means that the mainstream media’s obsession with racism is now so far past the point of satire that satirizing the mainstream media’s obsession with racism is taken as evidence of racism.
And, again, this is assuming that the Cubs fan in question was even intending to do this. Because, again, the vast majority of people in America aren’t active on the Internet and they certainly aren’t plugged in with the hoaxes perpetrated on the Internet. It’s possible this guy was just playing the made you look punch a shoulder game. Or just on TV and trying to look cool by flashing hand gestures, like tons of people do all the time.
After all, would a racist really decide to flash a racist sign on television right after the peace sign? Wouldn’t it feel a bit incongruous if Osama bin Laden had ended one of his jihadist videos by throwing up the peace sign? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Aryan Brotherhood are big global peace guys.
That is, the context of this is all wrong. And the ability to understand the use of words and symbols in context is the test of a reasonably intelligent mind. We do this all day long every day. Hell, the word fuck means something entirely different based on its usage and context. There’s a huge difference between yelling “Fuck you!” in anger at someone and describing a TV show as “fucking brilliant.”
Part of becoming an adult is growing to contextualize all behavior.
(This doesn’t even consider this question — in this Internet age would any fan really make racist hand signals in public stadiums on live television behind a black guy? Your job, your career, and your life are basically over if you do this in today’s media society. Every single person knows this. Remember, the fan doesn’t know if his face is on TV or not, he’s not seeing the return feed monitor. We only saw his hands, but for all he knew his entire body and face were on television.)
Even if we assume the absolute worst here — that this guy is throwing out the okay sign as part of an Internet prank — essentially the Cubs are banning a guy for life from attending their games for sharing the crying Jordan meme.
Worse, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, a smart man who should know better, is grabbing his pearls and falling on his fainting couch in response to this incident. Epstein said this yesterday in announcing the fan’s lifetime ban: “The incident last night is truly disgusting. It gave me shivers to watch that, to see that take place at Wrigley Field. Appropriately, we’ve made clear how egregious and unacceptable that behavior is, and there’s no place for that in society, in baseball, and Wrigley Field. The person responsible for that gesture will never be welcomed back at Wrigley Field.”
So you can’t flash the okay sign any more in Wrigley Field?
Is no one in the Cubs organization capable of doing a basic Internet search?
Thank God the Cubs don’t shoot three pointers. There would be no fans left. Or players.
Leaving aside the absurdity of banning someone for life for a hand gesture — have the Cubs ever banned a fan for life for extending a middle finger in the direction of the camera, something that everyone would agree is 100% intended to be an offensive gesture? — this statement from Epstein came on the same day the Cubs recalled Addison Russell from the minor leagues.
You might remember that Addison Russell was suspended forty games for beating his girlfriend.
So the Cubs are fine with employing a baseball player — and paying him millions of dollars — despite the fact that he beat a woman, but they draw the line at Internet prank hand gestures from fans?
I mean, is this real life?
I’d love to hear Theo Epstein explain why an Internet meme hand gesture designed to mock the stupidity of the media in this country was “truly disgusting” and “gave him shivers” and was “egregious and unacceptable… there’s no place for that in society, in baseball, and Wrigley Field,” but yet employing a wife beater and paying him millions of dollars is perfectly fine?
I mean, if you had to decide which behavior the Cubs should ban someone for life for, wouldn’t wife beating be substantially worse than flashing the okay sign during a TV broadcast? Is there even a single person in the country who thinks this hand gesture is worse? In other words, if you knew your kid was going to grow up and flash an Internet meme hand sign on television or beat his wife, is there anyone alive picking beat his wife?
Yet the Cubs chose to take a stand on this fan’s behavior and excuse their player’s much worse behavior.
This is just the height of absurdity.
Yet hardly anyone in the media is pointing this hypocrisy out. They’re all too busy covering a fake racism story.
I often feel like America has gone insane and I’m the last sane person in our country.
But America’s obsession with banning words and excusing actions has passed the point of cultural insanity. The Cubs should be ashamed of their stupidity, but many in the media will praise them. In a time when I’d hoped sports could lead us out of the cultural division social media has created, unfortunately, sports are making us dumber instead of smarter, making things worse instead of better.
Theo Epstein and the Cubs should know better.
But the fact that our society is quicker — and more severe — when it comes to punishing fake racism than we are to punish actual violence, is a perfect snapshot of our broken media and our broken cultural discourse. It’s the exact absurdity the okay hand sign was designed to satirize and mock.
Addison Russell beat up a woman and is set to make millions; meanwhile a Cubs fan flashed a popular hand sign on TV and is banned from Wrigley Field for life.
Doesn’t it seem like it should be the exact opposite?
Welcome to America in 2019.