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Update....

To the post below this. I linked to Fritz's fight with Discovery Channel and I have to say I made a mistake in not really looking at what I was linking to. Fritz sent out an email and asked for people to link to his story, I put it in my bookmarks and then linked to it when I was doing a link dump this morning (that sounds kind of gross, doesn't it?). Kevin says that the "hate symbol" Fritz is referring to is the Iron Cross, which is still in use in the Germany Air Force and not really a hate symbol at all. After some research, I discovered that the Iron Cross is only a hate symbol when worn together with a swastika. In fact, Wikepedia says: Since 1957, German law prohibits the wearing of an Iron Cross with a Swastika. Today's Luftwaffe uses a stylized Iron Cross as its symbol. If anyone else wants to shed some light on this subject, I'd be happy to hear about it.

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Triple H from the WWE has had the symbol as part of his attire for years now, and I've never seen a Nazi allusion to it for whatever that's worth.

If you check out the original posts, you'll see that the Iron Cross without the swastika has been co-opted by West Coast white supremicists, as a symbol not readily apparent as a hate symbol. It may be a little more difficult to walk around in America with a swatiska openly, I think. Without getting your ass kicked, that is. At least in NYC.

The problem with the Iron Cross is that white supremacist groups have been using it for a substitute for the swastika for a long time. By wearing the Iron Cross, they can identify themselves as neo-Nazis with a symbol that was worn by German Nazis. They can also provide an excuse for wearing it: "It's not a hate symbol, it pre-dates the Nazi era, it's still in use by the German Air Force, etc." In the context that it's being used by WCC and others, it's nothing more than a sanitized swastika. It's meant to shock and disturb.

Why do people want to wear this "biker chic" emblem? Because they think it makes them look badass. It conveys a message. The message is "Look at me, I'm dangerous. I look like a motorcycle gang member!"

Frankly, I'm repulsed by the Iron Cross. Thousands of American soldiers died fighting Nazis who were wearing those damned things. Millions of Jews were murdered by men who were subsequently awarded the Iron Cross to honor their "service" to Hitler. To me, it symbolizes evil.

Of course, if people want to wear t-shirts with the Iron Cross on it, fine. This is a free country. But I'm also free to voice my objection.

As far as I know, the Iron Cross is a non-political German military decoration. It pre-dates the Nazis by at least 100 years (It was in use by the Prussians during the Napoleanic wars, at least). In the sense that anything associated with Germany military history is offensive, I suppose he might have a point, but there is nothing specifically Nazi about the cross. The Nazis did put a small swastika in the middle of after Hitler came to power, but the Nazis did that to just about everything they touched.

The cross is in no way a hate symbol. I live in Germany, and see it used by the Luftwaffe, and indeed by many German groups, as a symbol of strength and overall German-ness.

Of course, whether or not symbols of German strength are good is another matter. But it's nothing to do with Nazis.

Michele,

Please believe me. I know what I'm talking about from personal experience. I know a lot about white supremacist symbols. I've been exposed to this kind of crap my entire life.

We're not talking about the Germans or anything currently going on in Germany. Germans can do whatever they want -- ignore the past, revise their history. I don't really care about that. I'm concerned about something going on right in my own backyard -- the United States of America.

If you don't believe what I have to say about the Iron Cross as it is used right here, right now in the U.S.A., please refer to what the ADL has to say:

"The Iron Cross without the swastika is also frequently used as a hate symbol in the same manner as the Nazi-era Iron Cross. It is sometimes used for shock effect as it conjures up images of Nazi Germany and its military without being explicitly Nazi itself. In this guise, it is often displayed on clothing and accessories."

I am getting tired of hearing arguments about what the Iron Cross means to Germans or to people who lived 200 years ago. It is the recent history and symbolism that matters.

The Iron Cross was banned in Germany until the late 1950s. At that time, the German government reissued the medals that once bore the swastika without the Nazi symbol so German veterans could wear their medals in public.

However, those medals -- whether they include a swastika or not -- were earned while in service to Adolph Hitler. Many of the medals were pinned on these soldiers by Hitler himself. To white supremacy groups, that gives the Iron Cross a certain level of prestige and a mystique. To them, it was Hitler's badge of honor.

Because of this, the neo-Nazis here in America and in Europe adopted the Iron Cross without the swastika as their own sanitized version of the Nazi medal of honor. It has been in use this way ever since.

Also, you will not hear a white supremacist admit to being one. They operate under a strict code of silence -- often called the "5 words" (I have nothing to say). So, don't expect an admission about the meaning of the Iron Cross or anything.

I have been alarmed by the commercialized neo-Nazi gang symbol that is being marketed by West Coast Choppers for a long time.

The logo is more than just an Iron Cross. It also includes the typical gothic script that gang members use to display their territorial affiliation (Long Beach, CA). This makes the meaning obvious. The only gangs who use that symbol are neo-Nazis.

Other white supremacy emblems have been displayed on Monster Garage -- 666, which is an associated with the Aryan Brotherhood as part of their cloverleaf symbol.

It doesn't really matter if this is a serious attempt to market neo-Nazi symbols or if they are just trying to appeal to kids who think gangs are cool. The fact that an obvious hate symbol is being marketed to children is outrageous.

The Swastika was ripped off from the Norse Pagans. It is the symbol of Thor, to Asatruars, for over 5 thousand years. It's been bastardized beyond belief...

Fritz,
I with you up to a point, but the fact that white supremecists, or any other hate group, appropriates a symbol does not mean that all manifestations of that symbol represent solidarity with those groups. Especially if that symbol has other, well established, meanings that have at best a tangential association with the messages those groups are trying to spread. While symbols are important, ideas are even more important, and I think there are many more direct and intense hate messages being sent around this country right now that present grounds for greater concern (i.e., that spread by terrorist enabling groups like ANSWER and ISM) than this stuff. Just my thoughts.

Oh, one more point. The KKK made extensive use of the christian cross while perpetrating their hate crimes, but many people (by no means all) don't see a symbol of what the KKK stands for when they see a cross on a church.

So um, what's going to happen when some hate group decides the number four is their new symbol? Are we supposed to stop using it? This is stupid.

RC,
We have terrorists right here. Several of them stomped a retarded man to death and dumped his body in a marsh just a few miles from my house.

They're the Nazi Low Riders. They are committed to a life of crime and terror. They routinely go out looking for people of color, Jews, and gays TO KILL THEM! FOR SPORT!

What does the Iron Cross mean to them? They won't tell you because they're sworn to secrecy and they'll be killed by their own if they do.

The Iron Cross on a German airplane means one thing. An Iron Cross decked out to look like a gang symbol has only ONE meaning. This can't be refuted. Gang symbols are used to communicate specific affiliations and beliefs. Just ask a cop who works an anti-gang unit.

I repeat, I don't care about the meaning of the Iron Cross to Germans or to people who lived in the past. Is West Coast Choppers in Germany? Is Jesse James German? No and no.

We're dealing with the right here and now. We're talking about America not Germany. We're talking about an Iron Cross that is accompanied by gothic script used by criminal street gangs -- NOT just an Iron Cross alone.

Here's a similar example, the Gangster Disciples (or Black Gangster Disciples), a violent Black gang, uses the Star of David and the intitials "GD" as their symbol. It would be ridiculous for anyone to argue that the original meaning of the Star of David negates the meaning of the Gangster Disciples' symbol. It is the CONTEXT that matters.

If you see a Star of David inscribed with the script of crimianl gangs (GD = Gangster Disciples, BOS = Brothers of the Struggle, III - Third Disciple Nation), you can bet it doesn't mean a synagogue is nearby.

For more information about gangs, please visit http://www.knowgangs.com/.

Dave,

They do use numbers -- 88, 666, 14, 5, 311, 100%, etc.

Please don't use a typical red herring like, "Does that mean we have to stop using these numbers?"

Of course not. But, if these numbers are printed on t-shirts with a skull or other images favored by these gangs, or are painted on a synagogue, we should be concerned. Right?

If your child comes home with "88" tattooed on his arm, you can be certain that little Bobby has fallen in with the local neo-Nazi skinheads. It is really that simple.

Those who have taken the time to learn to recognize these gang symbols, have no doubt when they see them. As I wrote, I grew up seeing them. I know what they look like. Don't let your kids wear a neo-Nazi gang emblem!

Sorry, RC. You've pitched another big red herring about the KKK and a cross on a church.

It is a BURNING cross.

I don't think there are many people who do not think of the KKK when they see a burning cross. The same can be said about the pointed white hood. If you don't believe that these symbols have a lasting and specific meaning, just put on a white hood and light a cross on fire in your front yard tonight.

Again, it is all about context.

Fritz,
Well, I'm a little confused about the initial concern here. I'm certainly not going to disagree with you about the criminal activities of gangs and white supremecist groups. I don't know enough about the subject of West Coast Choppers or Jesse James to comment on neo-Nazi connections either, so, just for the sake of discussion, I'll concede that as well. My point was not that these groups don't exist or that obvious hate speach and symbology should just be dismissed as pop-culture.

My point was that I disagree with the obvious inference, on your web-site, that the "German Iron Cross" was, in and of itself, a Nazi symbol. As I pointed out before, it simply isn't so. That terrible people may be using a form of it as way to evoke memories of the atrocities the Nazis committed during WWII and to announce their support for those atrocities may well be the case. But to imply that because of this, the German Iron Cross is a well known hate symbol is not accurate. You are clearly using that to connect West Coast Choppers with neo-Nazi ideology, and you may be correct for all I know. But, since the connection is extremely weak, it comes off a bit shrill. I think that rather than focusing on the weak link symbology here, your time would be better spent directly targeting hate groups and their sponsers by exposing the actual crimes and hate they are dealing in.

"Sorry, RC. You've pitched another big red herring about the KKK and a cross on a church.

It is a BURNING cross. "

Uh, no, you've gotta get these things right, or your argument loses steam. They used non-burning crosses very prominently in their ceremonies, banners and clothing.

Again, Fritz, I'm not disagreeing about the power of symbology, and I also agree with you about context being important. I'm simply saying you've over-reached in associating this particular symbol with Nazi ideology, and I think it's hurting your argument.

I think Fritz needs to spend a little more time with his buddies at the ADL so he can get his arguments against the iron cross symbol straightened out. Is he against bikers, neo-Nazis, WWI veterans, WWII-era Nazis, or what? It's difficult to tell, because he's all over the place and has no real grounding for any of his complaints to begin with.

It would also help Fritz if he could learn what a history book is, as well as the correct way to spell Adolf Hitler's given name. It ends with a F, bud.

Why do you want TDC to stop selling West Coast Choppers' shirts, wouldn't a objection against red and blue clothing be more productive.

Pretty soon you'll see where people are trying to get sports team clothing banned because that is used in gangs also. Then it will be certain foods and drinks. Then quite possilby air.

And yet another good debate topic is lost in snarkiness and over-the-top statements.

Fritz merely pointed out a thought-provoking connection and now he's being attacked.

In an effort to contribute to the goal of informed discussion, I'm going to point out that the symbol in question would be more accurately described as a "cross pattée". The "Iron Cross" was a piece of metal formed into the shape of a cross pattée and handed out to soldiers and such.

That being said, people can do their own google searches and draw their own conclusions. For me, it's not cut and dry either way.

guess I stirred up a s**tstorm. Sorry about that.

Perhaps a better way of saying is it's has no inherent Nazi relevance, except to say that it's been co-opted by both Nazis and neo-Nazis who assign it a different meaning.

I have always associated the Iron Cross with Germany and Germans. Most Nazis were Germans and many of them wore that symbol. That symbol has been used by the Germans both long before and long after the Nazi era. It is not a Nazi symbol in and of itself.

Aimee: He did more than point out a connection; he suggested a campaign to get products (products for a non-neo-nazi company, sold by a non-neo-nazi company, to (generally, at least) non-neo-nazis) removed from the marketplace.

I sympathise with his disgust for the neo-nazis he lives near, but I don't really sympathise much with his specific reaction or suggested course of action. Non-Nazi bikers have been using pre-Nazi German imagery for years (remember bike helmets with the spikes, like the Kaiser's Pikelhauben?), and the fact that the neo-nazi scum have attached themselves to that doesn't make a $ West Coast Choppers T-shirt evil.

Christ, guys. No symbol is evil outside of a specific set of contexts (which is why a swastika isn't something people look at twice in India; the Nazi context is effectively absent, and the traditional context of the image is overwhelmingly present), and the "neo-nazi" context simply isn't there for teh shirt. Yeah, red, white, and black. So?

The colors do look visually striking together, and did before the Nazis (Indeed, they were good enough for the Kaiser, right?), and will continue to forever. This dog just won't hunt.

Since I actually, ya know, watch Monster Garage, I'd just like to throw in that I very strongly doubt that Jesse James is any kind of racist. Given the Long Beach location there are frequently blacks and Hispanics on the build team, and Jewish folks are not unheard of either. In no case have I seen Jesse treat anyone disrespectfully - even when they screw up, it's still pretty good natured.

He may act differently off-camera, but I strongly suspect there would've been some indication in the media by now if that were true (or a team member quitting mid-show, since each show covers a full week).

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