America’s far right usually shares a common goal: a quest for white power. But it is not a unified movement. It’s filled with cliques and factions that have slightly different ideologies and inspirations, and which often signal their allegiances or send messages using flags, symbols, codes and Internet memes.
Most people are familiar with the swastika of Nazi Germany and the battle flag of America’s Confederacy. But here are some of the other symbols that were seen when far-right groups descended on Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.
The tiki torch
The Ku Klux Klan had torches. The new far-right has tiki torches — which, like many other contemporary far-right symbols, is a somewhat ironic play on old imagery.
“We’ve really gotten into the tiki torch nationalism, we’ve embraced it, I love it,” Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist, said in a video. Spencer believes in a separate nation for white people, and he says the movement is “about our spirit and soul, I think these torchlight marches are fantastic to express that — it’s very evocative and mystical.” A similar demonstration in Charlottesville in May also included tiki torches, “to keep the parasites at bay,” Spencer’s site AltRight.com said.
After white nationalists with tiki torches marched through the University of Virginia campus on Friday night, the company behind the torches, TIKI Brand, said it was “deeply saddened and disappointed” by the display, adding, “We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way.”
The Southern nationalist flag (turned into a shield)
In Charlottesville, some far-right ralliers arrived with white shields adorned with a black X — the symbol of the League of the South, a far-right Southern nationalist group. The group’s website says it “is not a ‘neo-Confederate’ or ‘Southern heritage’ organization,” but “a movement to promote the survival, well being, and independence of … Southerners of European descent who are committed to preserving the traditional culture of the South.”
A blogger by the name of Marcus Cicero wrote at Occidental Dissent that he was “one of the shield-men” and that “I was, still am, and will always be, honored to have been given the chance to stand and fight with men who proved that they represent the best part of the White Race in the struggle against beasts that fill their unholy prayers with calls for our destruction.”
A symbol of fascism: A bundle of rods, tied to an ax
The European-style fascist group Vanguard America gained notoriety in Charlottesville when James Alex Fields Jr. — the Ohio man accused of driving his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters — was photographed carrying one of their shields. (Vanguard America denied that Fields was a member.)
On that shield: a logo of white axes with the handles wrapped in bundles. “Strength through unity is the universal motto for Fascists throughout history, which is why their traditional symbol is a Roman fasces; a bundle of rods bound to an axe,” Vanguard America’s site says.
Vanguard America is fascist, adopting an old Nazi slogan, “blood and soil,” as its Internet URL and as its anti-globalist ethos. According to its manifesto, “A multicultural nation is no nation at all, but a collection of smaller ethnic nations ruled over by an overbearing tyrannical state. Our America is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed.”
The ‘dragon’s eye’ triangle of Identity Evropa
It’s not a cross, or an old Roman eagle -- just a triangle with three lines inside. It’s the symbol of the Identity Evropa, which was founded by California-based white nationalist Nathan Damigo. The group describes itself on its website as “a generation of awakened Europeans who have discovered that we are part of the great peoples, history, and civilization that flowed from the European continent.”
The logo “is that of an ancient European design, the Dragon’s Eye,” the group’s site says. “The triangle represents the threat that we as a people are facing. The ‘y’ inside represents the choice that we have to make between good and evil. It is a symbol of protection that will grant us succor against the ongoing evil that seeks to destroy truth.”
One of the white nationalists who was photographed wearing a shirt with Identity Evropa’s “dragon’s eye” logo, Peter Cvjetanovic, 20, of Nevada, was heavily criticized after the Friday march on the University of Virginia campus. “I understand the photo has a very negative connotation. But I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo,” Cvjetanovic told a Nevada TV station.
However, he added, “We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture.”
Follow me on Twitter: @mattdpearce