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Did you know "88" means "Heil Hitler"? Neither did a buyer at Target.
August 27, 2002 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Did you know "88" means "Heil Hitler"? Neither did a buyer at Target. "August 27, 2002 -- Target, the nationwide department-store chain, said today it will pull shorts and baseball caps emblazoned with neo-Nazi hate symbols from its shelves." After dithering for a few weeks, Target responded to tolerance.org's campaign, but is now shooting themselves in the foot again by being less than accomodating of returns of the offending (and I do mean offending!) product. The link above is to the original story, the Aug. 27 update is linked at the bottom of that page. Howcum I never saw this on CNN? 8
posted by BGM (104 comments total)

 
I did not know that. And I'd be willing to bet that your average shopper doesn't either. I tend to believe that by raising concerns about this you lend power toward the symbol. Its just numbers. You could come up with anything. Are we to carefully check any combinations of numbers against the alphabet to make sure that they don't correspond with any names, terms, meanings, etc.?
posted by jbelshaw at 7:23 PM on August 27, 2002


Phew! It looks like our resident neo-nazi hasn't been all that active. Someone better deal with this horrible racist, too...
posted by skwm at 7:24 PM on August 27, 2002


It's not "just numbers" if they are meant to, and do, communicate something. I confess prior ignorance as well - I wouldn't have known that "88" was "meant" to mean anything at all, but apparently it is. That's the issue, and that's both why this group was right to press Target on it, and why Target was right in (belatedly) removing the items from their stores.
posted by yhbc at 7:28 PM on August 27, 2002


I have to admit reluctantly that the guy was right and Target needed to remove the product. "666" is "just numbers," but I don't think Target would consider a product line with "666" emblazoned on it.

(Reluctantly because I don't think "88" as hate speech is nearly as mainstream as "666". I would never have know "88" had any significance if I hadn't read this. What would Johnny Dee think?)
posted by RylandDotNet at 7:36 PM on August 27, 2002


If they are meant to communicate something, I seriously doubt that Target designed them with the 'Heil Hitler' association in mind., probably something more along the lines of "the humber 88 is cool". I find it somewhat suspect that the guy mentioned in the article only returned the items after he saw the special on VH1 which told him of the link between 88 and nazi youth. I have no problem with him returning them, nor do I really care all that much about Target's reputation (I've never shopped there, and probably never will), but I find the insinuation that the number 88 is forever tainted by Hitler Youth ridiculous.
posted by skwm at 7:40 PM on August 27, 2002


Apparently, actual racists agree, as does the ADL.

Anybody have any idea who manufactures this stuff? Assuming they know what it means themselves ....
posted by dhartung at 7:41 PM on August 27, 2002


I had read this week that sales were very briks in S. Calif for WWII style German helmuts, going at 50 bucks a helmut.

As for numbers, give me 69 everytime. It means something to some of us.
posted by Postroad at 7:42 PM on August 27, 2002


I always figured the popularity of 88 in not only Target, but also teen factories A&F, American Eagle, and Old Navy (Mostly on "Property of Athletic Dept." gear) was based on the sheer typographic beauty of the combination. Although I doubt the designer mischevously inserting racial slurs into clothing with a "muahahaha", I'm not throwing out the possibility. I think a more egregious design travesty is Michael Graves.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:51 PM on August 27, 2002


For future reference, some other undesirables (from dhartung's link)
What does "14" refer to?
14 refers to the fourteen words of David Lane, "We must secure the existence of our People and a future for White children."

What does "33/5" refer to?
The fraction "33/5" has special meaning to the Klan. It's meaning is considered a secret of Klankraft - to find it out, you should join the Klan or befriend a Klansman.

Where do these number come from?
Number-phrase pairs are submitted to and approved by the White Aryan Nationalist Board of Numerology, which meets in Geneva each spring.
Uh oh! We better stop those White Aryans before they co-opt any of more of our dwindling supply of two digit numbers! Please also refrain from using the numbers
posted by skwm at 7:52 PM on August 27, 2002


I suppose the "88" code is fairly unheard-of, but the notion of using this symbol as a secret message on clothes has been recognized before. I learned about it in a movie, so I imagine that it must be somewhat well known among the white power advocates and those who study hate groups.

Courtesy of IMDB's trivia page for American History X:
Seth wears a shirt during the basketball game featuring the number 88. This is a skinhead code for HH, or "Heil Hitler," H being the 8th letter of the alphabet.

(Can't resist - first post! Greetings, all.)
posted by Fourmyle at 7:54 PM on August 27, 2002


Its just numbers.

well, "heil hitler" is just letters... if '88' is well established as a code for white supremacy, it shouldn't be sold by non-racists. If people have some particular affinity for the number 88 and want to reclaim it for some reason, they could try to do so, but if they were selling '88' gear with no particular purpose and were then told that the number had hateful connotations, they oughta have pulled the line immediately.
posted by mdn at 7:54 PM on August 27, 2002


Also, personally when I hear 88, I automatically think "88 miles per hour" and 1.21 gigawatts.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:58 PM on August 27, 2002


...and as a service to future generations, here are some more numbers that should be avoided (complete with reasons!)

21, 6 and 29: It was on July 29th, 1921 that Hitler first became leader of the Nazis.

25 and 18, for on July 6th(6 was already banned, thank god), 1925, Mein Kampf was first published (as a safety measure, 4 and 5 should also be banned, as those are the number of letters in Mein Kampf.

33, 1 and 30, as it was on Januwary 30th, 1930 that Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany.

12 and 23: on March 23rd the first concentration camp was opened.

8, 19 and 35 are definately right out, as it was on August 19th 1935 that Hitler became the Fuhrer of Germany,

9 and 15 gotta go too, as it was September the 15 when German Jews were stripped of their rights by the Nuremburg Race Laws.

et cetera.
posted by skwm at 7:59 PM on August 27, 2002


we should destroy all albums from 311 as well, you know. the 11th letter of the alphabet is K. 3 of them gives you KKK.

destroy all your cds now, please.
posted by fore at 8:02 PM on August 27, 2002


Howcum I never saw this on CNN?...

Cool! Porn-speak on MeFi.
posted by Ayn Marx at 8:05 PM on August 27, 2002


This story, whatever your opinion on it is, is an interesting collision of two memes.

1. The old numeric secret code for "underground" or "outlaw" associations idea. For instance, the Hell's Angels offer support merchandise emblazoned with the number 81("HA"). Abbreviations and "secret" yet painfully easy to crack codes have proliferated in the white supremacist movement for years like"AYAK"(Are You a Klansman) and "AKIA"(A Klansman I Am).

2. The Radical Rights attempts at "image cleanup" over ther past few years, which have included attempts at "hep" merchandising, up to and including techno records by "DJ Adolf" White Power Doom games and yes cloting tie-ins. Some nimrod who came into my place of employment was wearing a black t-shirt which at first glance seemed like a collegiate t-shirt by the lettering and design, but when you actually looked at it, read: "KLANSMAN" with a Klan cross and "AKIA" beneath. The mind boggles. In a city that's roughly 30% non-white, I can only hope he got his butt kicked.


BTW, welcome, fourmyle and mdn-haven't seen you in a while, good to have you back.
posted by jonmc at 8:09 PM on August 27, 2002


Holy crap, someone had better warn Dale Jarrett and UPS.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:10 PM on August 27, 2002


skwm, I would tend to agree that playing numerology with our clothes is ludicrous were it not for the fact that on my side of town we all know that "88" IS neo-fuckhead codespeak, so I gotta agree w/ mdn.

"4:20", however, has overcome its association with Hitler's birthday and now means something much more benign.....

(On preview: I was gonna mention the 311 thing but they've done a pretty good job of fading into obscurity without any help from the numerologists....)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:11 PM on August 27, 2002


Before clicking on the link to the tolerance.org story, I was picturing a standard baby-t with the usual "Property of" faux team shirt typography and a unfortunate choice of numbering. After seeing what the merchandise actually looks like, I'm surprised that the buyer at Target didn't question the association between the (spelled out) numbers and skull combination -- let alone the gosh-awful tackiness of the items.
posted by mgtrott at 8:11 PM on August 27, 2002


I don't think that "88" meaning "Heil Hitler" is such obscure knowledge, but maybe that's my European perspective. Having said that, I don't think you can criticize a product for having that number on it unless it references Nazism in other ways (like specific fonts/colors, etc). I'm sure a bunch of athletes play with 88 on their jerseys, and I don't go around assuming they're Nazis because of it.
posted by edlundart at 8:17 PM on August 27, 2002


Sweet Jesus in heaven.

The number 88 existed long before the neo-nazis. This is the first time i've heard of it being co-opted by the skinheads as well.

So, will Target have to "give a penny, take a penny" if someone's total comes to $88 or $1.88?

There is such a thing as being too sensitive. And I am an absolute bleeding heart liberal saying this.

I don't consider usage of a co-opted number to be unacceptable. I'm not going to cancel my meeting at 4:20 just because some teenager is snickering. Likewise I doubt a state trooper has too much embarrassment to pull me over for "doing 69 in a 55 zone".

What about the poor wide-receivers in the NFL? I'm almost positive (but too lazy to look it up) that Lynn Swann was #88. Was he a nazi sympathizer too???

Too much.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:17 PM on August 27, 2002


I graduated high school in 1988...at least now I know why they made us goose-step across the stage to get our diplomas.
posted by contessa at 8:18 PM on August 27, 2002


"88" is also the year many friends of mine graduated. I guess they shouldn't wear their old letterman jackets now, or have their tassels hanging from their rearview mirror anymore?
posted by crankydoodle at 8:21 PM on August 27, 2002


contessa: class of 88 as well. Spooky. Well, maybe not spooky, but interesting coincidence (to me anyway)
posted by Ynoxas at 8:22 PM on August 27, 2002


Howcum I never saw this on CNN?...

Cool! Porn-speak on MeFi.


It's actually a super secret acronym. To find out what it means you'll have to "swallow" the "yellow stone" after "midnight".

65 234 474
posted by slipperywhenwet at 8:25 PM on August 27, 2002


How about this: Ohio has 88 counties.

Bastards. I always knew Ohio was up to something.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:30 PM on August 27, 2002


While researching 88 I came across these girly shirts from the Aryan Baby Drive.

Also, for those curious on 33/5:

33/5 used primarily by people involved in a Klan organization. The 22 represents three times eleven, with eleven representing the eleventh letter in the alphabet, "K." The 5 stands for the 5th era of the Klan or today's Klan.


After some research, its clear that 88 as a racist term is far more widespread than commonly known. It spreads from music groups ("Chamber 88") to standard internet signatures like "88! - Bobby".

The more I look into it, the less ridiculous the notion seems. Target is justified removing the clothing in my opinion. Especially when the 88 is featured predominantly with flaming skulls.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:30 PM on August 27, 2002


"The 22 represents three times eleven"

Proving what we all know about racists.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:33 PM on August 27, 2002


Hmmm...
What if we all bought one item of the 'offending' clothing - sweatshirt, cap, whatever - and wore them? How would the power of their message be transmitted when most people wearing the items either were anti -fascist, or ignorant of the corrupted, pseudo-meaning? It would be devalued.

Whereas, with the scarcity and publicity generated by this Sturm in a Stein glasse...the terrorists have already won!!*
posted by dash_slot- at 8:34 PM on August 27, 2002


Easy solution -- we just have to popularize a meaning for 88 that will wimplicate the heilhounds... hmm... if you look at 88 juuuust right in an emoticon sort of way, it kinda looks like cute little butterfly wings. Or a 4-pack of boobs.

There. Not so tough no mo'.
posted by dakotadusk at 8:34 PM on August 27, 2002


*I've been dying to say that for ages!
posted by dash_slot- at 8:35 PM on August 27, 2002


I thought it was a bit much as well. But take a look at the pics with the shorts, there are two skulls with "eight eight" above them. Not "eighty eight" or even "88".
posted by tomplus2 at 8:36 PM on August 27, 2002


Especially when the 88 is featured predominantly with flaming skulls.

Ah, yes, Hitler and flaming skulls, like two peas in a pod. .
posted by skwm at 8:39 PM on August 27, 2002


88 is what you make it. If everyone who was not a white supremacist bought 88 merchandise at Target and started wearing it around, the supremacists wouldn't be able to use it anymore to signal each other!
posted by hitsman at 8:40 PM on August 27, 2002


Look to 42 for the answer.
posted by spungfoo at 8:40 PM on August 27, 2002


greasy lake is about a mile down the dark side of route 88, according to the boss. And yet heil springsteen just doesn't sound right. I don't know, maybe thunder road is secretly about the blitzkreig.
posted by condour75 at 8:49 PM on August 27, 2002


I had read this week that sales were very briks in S. Calif for WWII style German helmuts, going at 50 bucks a helmut.

Wow, they're auctioning off Germans for fifty bucks? (Can't resist... Helmut is a name; the headgear is a helmet.)

On the topic of 88, keep in mind that that's also the number of keys on a piano, where ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony... (well, unless you hit a say C and C# together, that's not very harmonious).
posted by kindall at 8:53 PM on August 27, 2002


I always set my central air to 69, because I know it's gonna get hot. . .
posted by plexi at 9:00 PM on August 27, 2002


Ah, yes, Hitler and flaming skulls, like two peas in a pod.

Skulls, the colors red and black, the 88 combination -- these all go hand in hand with Neo-Nazi imagery.

Take a look at the baseball cap on the Tolerance.org page and then look at this tattoo popular with a Neo-Nazi group and consider the connection.
posted by mgtrott at 9:02 PM on August 27, 2002


You folks with the oh-so-witty comments: do you really think it is inappropriate to remove these clothes? It looks to me like somebody (a designer) who knew exactly what he was doing pulled one over on Target. It could be a coincidence, but any designer street smart enough to know the general style/iconography he was trying to mimic (punk/biker/goth/skater, i.e. "alternative" imagery) would know damn well what 88 means. In the biker world, flaming skulls and hitler aren't quite as far apart as some of you seem to think...

Stupid things are done in the name of political correctness every day, but pulling these clothes is not one of them.
posted by chrisgrau at 9:03 PM on August 27, 2002


Perhaps the buyer was Chinese?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:09 PM on August 27, 2002


Word to chrisgrau.
posted by spilon at 9:15 PM on August 27, 2002


What about 867-5309?

And what is the hidden meaning of 25 or 6 to 4?

Where will the madness end?
posted by SPrintF at 9:25 PM on August 27, 2002


my initials are HH (HHH actually), feel free to wear this clothing in honor of me. anyone who thinks pulling these items from shelves is going to do anything more than generate a bit of busy work for target employees is a moron. way to give the white supremacist movement a bunch of free press.
posted by bizwank at 9:26 PM on August 27, 2002


Oh, well, it's all six of one to me.
posted by SPrintF at 9:27 PM on August 27, 2002


I understand that those numbers that have sponsored Sesame Street for years have been promoting some nasty shit, too.

::: rolls eyes :::
posted by rushmc at 9:46 PM on August 27, 2002


eight six seven five three oh ny-eeeeeeeeeee-ine!!!!!!!

*ahem* sorry. couldn't help myself.
posted by lotsofno at 9:48 PM on August 27, 2002


And to add on to what other's have already said...

Looking closer at the pictures, this really isn't about "88" at all. On the shorts, it's "EIGHT EIGHT" and on the cap, there is a clear separation between the two digits with the bird icon. (8 bird 8)

Obviously, everybody realizes the ridiculousness of making the digits 88 or even 8 a racist connotation. That's the thing, it's the fact that the imagery (skull, a nazi-ish bird?, overall 'street' theme) and the decision to separate the 8s into "8 8" to more accurately reflect the '8th letter' and "H H" creates an overwhelming racist picture. Whether intended to or not, there's too much. If it was just "88" as in the "property of ath. dept." it would be fine.

Way too much going on to be an honest mistake.
posted by Stan Chin at 10:08 PM on August 27, 2002


Eric Lindros just couldnt buy any good luck could he.
posted by kremb at 10:20 PM on August 27, 2002


I always thought 88 was the metric equivalent of 69 ;-)

Seriously, I am surprised that this is so well known - I certainly had never heard of it. However, I am going to remove my usual anti-PC hat to say that Target made the right decision and should not have hesitated to see what the backlash was going to be like before removing these lines. Some things just don't justify even the slightest risk of showing support or credibility.
posted by dg at 10:33 PM on August 27, 2002


I agree with hitsman. A secret symbol of brotherhood is rendered absolutely useless if mass-marketed to people who don't know about it. It then becomes reverse-co-opted, which seems like a good thing to me. This would lead to --at worst-- what? Nazis sniggering behind their hands at each other? Like I care what a nazi thinks.

Also, speaking of evil initials, bizwank, you've already been co-opted.
posted by umberto at 10:42 PM on August 27, 2002


Hubert Horatio Humphrey is spinning in his grave...
posted by Vidiot at 10:48 PM on August 27, 2002


i always think of "eighty-eight fingers louie" from the flinstones...

ohhhhhhhhhhhh,
happy anniversary
happy anniversary
happy anniversary
haaapy anniversary!
posted by bwg at 11:08 PM on August 27, 2002


Gotta go with Stan Chin on this one, i hear eighty eight and i think of the Delorean with a Mr. Fusion mounted on the rear.

Come to think of it, this quote also comes to mind "It's an Eighty-Eight Magnum. It Shoots Through Schools." Which now that i think of it, may not be the most appropriate thing to bring up here.

Back OT.
posted by quin at 11:23 PM on August 27, 2002


Hmm. In Chinese culture, the number '8' is good luck. I can think of several businesses here in Honolulu that include '88' as otherwise random digits in their name.

Oddly enough, a coworker of mine had a daughter on August 8, and she was thrilled...

Given the context, I think Target made the right decision (albeit slowly). But I also agree with the idea that the unwashed masses could easily "dilute" the Nazi implications of '88' the same way 4-20 was. It could start with Dale Jarrett...
posted by pzarquon at 11:35 PM on August 27, 2002


Take the power back!

I've just decided that 88, or ** or, 8.8 are now all the symbols of the Novus Ordo Seclorum. It also will supplant the traditional 420 as new drugspeak for "time to smoke a joint".

We of the NOS, and the POE hereby declare war upon the infidel neo-nazis and we're going to do a lot of meth and then beat the crap out of them while wearing our official Target 88 matching shirts and caps and singing our fight song, which is "Rocket eighty-eight".

You have been warned!
posted by nyxxxx at 12:00 AM on August 28, 2002


Is there a possibility that, instead of diluting and disarming the code, it could increase acceptance and use of it and, by implication, give it credibility?

On preview and seeing nyaxxxx's comment - never mind.
posted by dg at 12:03 AM on August 28, 2002


The Washington Redskins won the Superbowl in 1988. THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING.
posted by owillis at 12:19 AM on August 28, 2002


a tasty little piece of pop cultcha from 1988: In the U2 Rattle and Hum album (And I suppose movie) Bono introduces Helter Skelter by saying "this is a song that Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. Now we're stealing it back."

Memetic war is often about who gets to appropriate what. Obviously the significance of the number 88 is pretty wishy washy. But if these psychos really do use it, its meaning is legitimate.

Chisgrau is right on that count. We shouldn't belittle this meaning; we should actively oppose it. Who are they to take our number? Target could take a big step in this direction. They should keep making hats with 88 on it, but make them powder blue, and festoon them with peace symbols, hippie dasies, stars of david, yinyangs, etc. Make them the opposite of those kids' nonsense. And groups chartered to oppose antisemitism, like the Jewish Antidefamation League, should adopt the number for their own purposes, with their own etymology for it.

The swastika was once a common design element across many cultures, and a symbol for well-being. Obviously Hitler ruined that for everyone in the West. It's not too late for this poor number though! Don't let the illinois nazis do to 88 what Amway did to Procter and Gamble.
posted by condour75 at 12:30 AM on August 28, 2002


Combat 18, a fascist organisation (UK only I think), is so called because the 1 and 8 represent A and H: Adolf Hitler.

Is anyone else not really surprised that neo-nazis can't come up with a more complicated code than substituting letters for numbers based on their position in the alphabet?
posted by saintsguy at 12:39 AM on August 28, 2002


"if you look at 88 juuuust right in an emoticon sort of way, it kinda looks like cute little butterfly wings."

8|8

There you go, a butterfly.

8/8 8\8 8/8

A dancing butterfly.

8!8


A butterfly with it's head down.

808

A chunky butterfly.


88|88

A dragonfly.

I can't get the antennas to line up right, but using \/ over the heads makes it look better. And the dragonfly should have the arrows on either end, again, it causes an foulup.
posted by SuzySmith at 1:04 AM on August 28, 2002 [1 favorite]


I'm astonished that no one has mentioned that "88" is a icon commonly used by Team Banzai. I mean, seriously, that's what BTTF was making a knowing reference to when they did the whole 88 MPH thing.
posted by webmutant at 1:44 AM on August 28, 2002


some background on combat 18. if people playing the numbers game above read it, they may gain an insight into why some of us find the clothing, and the firms attitude disturbing.

people's comments of "i didn't know what 88 meant, so it's not a problem" are, well........
posted by quarsan at 1:58 AM on August 28, 2002


chrisgrau and, belatedly, Stan Chin get it. The person who drew up those images knew exactly what they were doing, although I'm just as equally convinced that Target's buyer did not.

(BTW, is anyone else embarrassed by those ADL pages on "imagery frequently used by racists"? Stupidity in a good cause is no less stupid...They remind me of the "anti-cult/anti-satanism" pamphlets that used to circulate among the intel desks of various credulous smalltown PDs, the ones that averred Dead Kennedys logos and suchlike were evil sigils and clear signs of cultic activity?)
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:33 AM on August 28, 2002


Damnit webmutant, i was going to make a Buckaroo Banzai reference, but i though i had gone obscure enough.

Props to you.

And yes, the whole 88 thing is well used pop-culture fodder, screw these fascists assholes, i want my obscure references back without feeling like a racist for employing them.
posted by quin at 3:13 AM on August 28, 2002


Owillis: The Washington Redskins won the Superbowl in 1988. *memo to HQ: Owillis knows too much, must be silenced before he blows the whole deal.* My two sports heroes as a kid were O.J. Simpson and No. 88 Lynn Swann. "I don't believe in nothing no more, I'm going to law school."
My football jersey number was 18, which only now do I realize are Hitler's initials.
BTW, you should have seen my Mom's reaction when she came to Japan and first came across a swastika (a ubiquitous buddhist symbol). A survivor of nazi occupation of Denmark, she flipped out until I could explain that Hitler had only co-opted an ancient symbol temporarily.
posted by planetkyoto at 3:45 AM on August 28, 2002


Damn. Another co-opted phrase.

"88" used to mean "Hugs & Kisses," when sent as part of a telegraph message. It carried over into the parlance of ham radio operators, as did "73" ("Best Regards").

Oh, well... there was a day when "gay" meant "happy" in most instances, but that usage is now deprecated.
posted by willconsult4food at 4:39 AM on August 28, 2002


Thank goodness there wasn't 88 red balloons.....

88 doesn't mean anything negative to me..... People are way too sensitive and should take a chill pill.
posted by LinemanBear at 5:08 AM on August 28, 2002


you should have seen my Mom's reaction when she came to Japan and first came across a swastika

My favorite story along those lines is when a newcomer to Korea who was driving down the highway turned to us and said "Don't look now, but there's a bus full of Nazis behind us." "No no," we reassured him. "It's just Buddhists." He gave us a look of disbelief and said "Buddhist Nazis?"

Seriously, the 88 issue is interesting and a difficult question. Obviously it is in the best interest of Target to get rid of the merchandise before someone hungry for media attention seizes on the issue and starts picketing the store. On the other hand, Thelemites have been using the number 93 as a symbol since Crowley received the Book of the Law. If mainstream Americans discovered that 93 was linked to the use of sex magick, should they be able to ban similar merchandise?
posted by norm29 at 5:54 AM on August 28, 2002


Okay, if the "Eight Eight" wasn't intended as an expression of solidarity with racists and it's all just a joke, what was the designer intending? These are not athletic jerseys, where there's clearly another reasonable explanation for the number. If this isn't just coincidence -- if the designer was a racist, or simply appropriated racist markings without knowing what they meant -- how is Target wrong for removing these items? If the 88 doesn't symbolize anything else, what's it doing on the clothes in the first place?
posted by UnReality at 6:00 AM on August 28, 2002


i always think of "eighty-eight fingers louie" from the flintstones...

*sniff*

I love you, man.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:22 AM on August 28, 2002


The swastika was once a common design element across many cultures, and a symbol for well-being. Obviously Hitler ruined that for everyone in the West.

Only if we let him. I have no problem with squiggly lines. I save my ire for vile philosophies.
posted by rushmc at 7:20 AM on August 28, 2002


When I first saw this link, I thought the 88/Nazi link was because of Rommel's famous improvisation with the 'flak 88' antiaircraft cannon. [see about halfway down the page, "The 88 Ambush", and the paragraph just above.]

I suspect most of positive integers below 100 have seen more than one use over the years.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:28 AM on August 28, 2002


heh, stavros... did you spend your lunchtimes growing up watching the flintstones on the box as i did?

let's ride with the family down the street
through the courtesy of fred's two feet...

posted by bwg at 7:31 AM on August 28, 2002


This is what I want to know: Why do neo-Nazis use Arabic numerals? Shouldn't they be using Nordic runes or something like that?
posted by moonbiter at 7:50 AM on August 28, 2002


What? No one thinks of 88 lines about 44 women?

But seriously, I agree with those who see white supremacist imagery here. Context is everything. The numbers on these clothes aren't generic integers such as a sports number or a date. As far as I can see from the pictures, the design clearly emphasizes in bold caps two individual numbers: Eight Eight, not "eighty-eight." The bloody skulls meanwhile communicate--even if ironically--something violent, or fearsome, or dominating. I can't prove it, of course, but I think whoever designed the shirt knew what they were referencing. Now whether the designers / manufacturers were actually advocating white supremacy, or merely ripping off imagery they thought would appeal to a testosterone-laden demographic is another question. Either way, it's something Target and Tolerance.org should investigate.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:57 AM on August 28, 2002


This would lead to --at worst-- what? Nazis sniggering behind their hands at each other? Like I care what a nazi thinks.

It would lead anyone who knew the significance of the number to think you were a racist - people who are and who aren't racists themselves. It would boost the confidence of racists and worry non-racists to see so many neo-nazis. Like I said above, and like Unreality said, what was the purpose of a line of clothes with skulls on fire and 8 8? It seems obvious to me that the clothes were meant to communicate racism, though very likely that only some sneaky designer somewhere knew that.

I like that idea of the powder blue hippie reclaim, and the 88 ivory & ebony thing should definitely be exploited. But this line deserved to be pulled, if for nothing else to reduce the designer's profit.
posted by mdn at 8:07 AM on August 28, 2002


geez, I guess that makes Eric Lindros a bad person.

puh-leez. what a bunch of idiots. don't these people have real work to do?

why don't we ban number 13, we are scaring all the triskadekaphobes. but then again, that might offend Wilt Chamberlain fans. &alt;g&get;
posted by paulschreiber at 8:31 AM on August 28, 2002


octobersurprise is right. Context is everything, and the context of this merchandise is far from innocent. It's fine to try and co-opt imagery like this, but this stuff isn't co-opting it, it's playing into the negative connotations for the sake of "cool." If it was my store, I'd be justifiably horrified if I found I had unwittingly provided the tools for the spread of hatred.
posted by dreadmuffin at 8:58 AM on August 28, 2002


88 is what you make it. If everyone who was not a white supremacist bought 88 merchandise at Target and started wearing it around, the supremacists wouldn't be able to use it anymore to signal each other!

Not that this is related (but not too off-topic), but I always get a laugh when I see white suburban kids wearing FUBU clothing. After all, FUBU is a clothing line created by Daymond John ostensibly for "African Americans." FUBU stands for "For Us, By Us."

As for the 88 clothing, I am glad that Tar-jzay decided to pull these clothes, but as it has been said in the above quote (and by others) the meaning can be diluted.

While I am rambling, I am reminded of a bumper sticker I once saw that read "Threes and Eights to you!" To figure out what it means -- those with 10 fingers at least -- open your hands (palms up) and count from your left to right starting with your thumb on your left hand. :)
posted by terrapin at 9:00 AM on August 28, 2002


My old friend Greg's football jersey number was 88 (he was a wide receiver), and he was certainly not a racist.
posted by jasonbondshow at 9:02 AM on August 28, 2002


Why do neo-Nazis use Arabic numerals? Shouldn't they be using Nordic runes or something like that?

Hear hear, moonbiter. Come to think of it, weren't the Aryans from India?
posted by Vidiot at 9:02 AM on August 28, 2002


Not that this is related (but not too off-topic), but I always get a laugh when I see white suburban kids wearing FUBU clothing.

I laugh too. It's pretty funny to think that a designer can dictate who should wear his clothes.
posted by kindall at 9:28 AM on August 28, 2002


Jeez, I thought the colors looked wrong to mean “Yay! Bubba Franks!

Target was right to pull them, not only for the reason we’re discussing but also because that line is u-g-l-y uglay. Not at all up to their usual cheap flair. Excuse me now, I have to go remove the high school mortarboard tassle from my car...
posted by mimi at 9:39 AM on August 28, 2002


Definitely all about context. Dhartung's link to Stormfront's "What is 88?" page nails it (stormfront.org is a very well-known white supremacist site; emphasis is mine):
88 is a code number representing "HH," as "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet. HH, in turn, means "Heil Hitler!". I've also heard that "88" used to mean "Hugs and Kisses" when used by ham radio operators; evaluate it within context.
Soooo basically the Neanderthal who wrote that for Stormfront is able to employ subjective common sense in a way that some in this thread can't or won't. That's almost more depressing than that Target was selling the stuff in the first place...

I admire the sentiments of those of you who want to Take Back The 88, and good luck with that, but I sure hope you have better luck with it than non-racist Southerners have had with "taking back" the Confederate flag. ---not to stir up a shitstorm on one of MeFi's favorite second-string flamewar topics, but only to say that the communicative value of a symbol is generally in the viewer's understanding of the message, not in the intentions (however well-meant) of the person sporting said symbol.

Which is why Target was right to finally pull this stuff off the shelves. The article said it was already on summer clearance racks, so probably most of it had been sold... I feel bad thinking about some poor little black kid who's gonna start school next week and be greeted with the fiery-skull-and-88 design on the spiffy new Target-brand teeshirt of some clueless classmate who just thought the skull would make him look like a badass.
posted by Sapphireblue at 10:15 AM on August 28, 2002


"knock one done, pass it around, 87 bottles of beer on the wall"

lets see, probably made in China, not their fault, they just make it. cant be Target because, well we would like to think they are not stupid, BUT, i never knew 88 was a symbol. So some small ass desighning firm picks it up and sells it unwittingly to Target?-probable. Now the clincher is this, the desighner cannot claim ignorance, why you ask, the skulls my good watson. That shows intention.
and Target needs to protect itself, yes return the hate but some fruitloop may decide that the recently purchased copy of the 'Sound Of Music glorifies'...nazis. and we know meek is the bane of retail.

"about some poor little black kid who's gonna start school next week and be greeted with the fiery-skull-and-88 " yes, and when at playground, they try and harmonize, the NWA t-shirts are always an issue.
posted by clavdivs at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2002


I say we stop discussion right now, as the next comment will be the 88th in the thread.
posted by Trampas at 12:13 PM on August 28, 2002


Mefi, mefi, uber alles.
posted by crunchland at 12:20 PM on August 28, 2002


Mefi, mefi, uber alles

That's great! If we had .sigs I'd make that mine.
posted by nyxxxx at 12:36 PM on August 28, 2002


Mefi, mefi, uber alles

lets blame Hayden? i relize that was a joke but the german nat'l anthem was around before hitler. The original score was "The Kaiser" yes?

the kaiser, good god what have i said.

"MEH-FEEE, MEH-HA-FEEE, "
posted by clavdivs at 1:10 PM on August 28, 2002


Apparently 88 in China is considered cool or a symbol of good luck. The recently shut down Film88.com site was an example.
posted by jasonshellen at 5:12 PM on August 28, 2002


Banning this stuff was the WORST course of action that could be taken in my opinion. We should have flooded the marketplace with stuff with 88's printed on it. We should have had women, children, gays, blacks, hispanics, orientals, liberals, conservatives - damn it - EVERYONE wearing something with an 88 on it! Because if everyone wore something with an 88 on it and 98% of us DIDN'T accept this pathetic association it would mean something entirely different: an integer a bit larger than 87 and a bit smaller than 89. By banning these items they have now legitimized this stupid association and now it DOES have meaning.

Yesterday I could just laugh at these poor, stupid assholes and tell them they were idiots - now they can say that society has accepted their code as valid and I have to agree with them...
posted by RevGreg at 5:21 PM on August 28, 2002


RevGreg, just because until yesterday YOU were unaware of the meaning does not mean that the same was true of the rest of society. Apparently it was quite well established and a number of people would have been affected by seeing the code around them. Not everyone knows the connotations of 69 or 42 but they are still meaningful to a significant group of people (probably most around here -)
posted by mdn at 5:34 PM on August 28, 2002


...I have no problem with squiggly lines. I save my ire for vile philosophies.

I couldn't agree more. Forget the fact that Target bought some clothes with '88' on them. These clothes are just plain ugly, and anyone who bought them should be more ashamed of bad taste than some vaguely implied neo-nazi code. The clothes should ABSOLUTELY have been pulled from the shelves so that I do not have to look at them.
posted by katy_ at 6:16 PM on August 28, 2002


As it happens, I was in a bar in L.A. last week, the 'Fisting Fireman' I think it was, when who should walk in, deep in conversation and arm in arm, but George Michael & Elton John. No, really!
George ordered a Diet Coke and a large plate of nachos before swiftly nipping over to check out the loos. Elton, absently toying with his admittedly short forelocks, tutted knowingly at his ageing protege, and wistfully recalled the old days...
A new and [for him] almost original thought, having gestated in the 10 minutes since George left on his quest, slipped from Elton's lips when WhamBoy returned - smiling enigmatically, and lightly flushed in the face - and this is what I heard:

Elton: "Know what, love? That cute blonde over there with the number 88 on his cap..."

George: "Elton, sweetie, darling, just cos he's got that new 'Aryan' look..."

Elton: "I know, as you keep telling me, doesn't mean he's queer... "

George: "...or Nazi. Everyone's wearing that, it's *so* common..."

Elton: "... Fings ain't what they used to be..."

George: "... You used to have hair..."

Elton: "...You used to be straight..."
posted by dash_slot- at 6:59 PM on August 28, 2002


RevGreg, no one banned anything. Target voluntarily pulled a few articles of clothing off their shelves (or rather, their clearance racks) after (very belatedly) becoming aware of their underground associations. That's hardly akin to banning. Everyone's still legally free to produce "88" merchandise if they wish. And who is this "we" that should flood the marketplace? I mean, I would, but my clothing manufacturing plant was shut down by a rash of unexplained urinary track infections among the line workers.
posted by dreadmuffin at 6:41 AM on August 29, 2002


I can't understand why so many posters are condeming Target for banning the number 88 when that's clearly the one thing the store did not do. To repeat: there is nothing wrong with the number 88. Return to your homes. 88's will continue to be available to you in a wide variety of pleasing shapes and colors. Target pulled clothes which associated the numbers 88 (spelled out in the pictures linked as EIGHT EIGHT) with other design elements in ways which evoke current white supremacist imagery. Was this intentional? We don't know. But the fundamental question for Target is: What sort of meanings do we want to sell our customers? Target concluded that the total design of these clothes currently signifies aggressive racism to a large enough number of people and that they did not wish to endorse such meanings either explicitly or implicitly.

As to reclaiming negative signifiers by emptying them of their meaning through wide circulation or positive associations, well, yes and no. That's much more effective if the negative word or image signifies you than if it signifies someone else. Maybe I can take back cracker or queer, or nigga if I can make it a positive assertion of my own identity and experience, but to the extent I'm speaking about something foreign to me, I'm more likely to reinforce--maybe just in different ways--the negative associations. The whole point of this being, one, the number 88 by itself isn't in any danger, so there's no need to "reclaim" it; and two, there are probably more effective ways to fight white supremacy than by adopting their imagery
posted by octobersurprise at 7:31 AM on August 29, 2002


People can talk about reclaiming the number 88 all they want (because it stood for... what? halfway between 87 and 89 before? that really doesn't give it much meaning to reclaim), but fact is, you start wearing stuff marked 88 and people will assume you're a white supremacist. You may have people who feel the same way they've been led to believe you feel giving you the Roman salute (what? you thought the Germans made that up?).

Think of how you would react to, say, a guy in a nazi armband, with white-laced combat boots, suspenders, and a shaved head walking down the street. People will look at you in the same way, and I can't imagine many stopping to listen to you explain how you're reclaiming the number.
No more than most would listen to him explain how he's trying to take back the swastika.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:55 AM on August 29, 2002


Think of how you would react to, say, a guy in a nazi armband, with white-laced combat boots, suspenders, and a shaved head walking down the street. People will look at you in the same way

That is an absurd claim. It's like suggesting that if you wear large shoes, people will view you the same as if you had worn a full clown outfit, red nose and fright wig included. You may well be correct that some (a distinct minority of) people will view you with some suspicion if you wear the number 88, and that they may assume the worst of you--but what of it? Why should we get worked up over the ignorant opinions of strangers who leap to erroneous conclusions? If they want to know what the number means to you, if anything, let them ask and find out.
posted by rushmc at 10:43 AM on August 29, 2002


You may have people who feel the same way they've been led to believe you feel giving you the Roman salute (what? you thought the Germans made that up?).

My, my. Aren't we arrogant? What no discourse on the history of the swastika including it's use in Hebrew mysticism?

Think of how you would react to, say, a guy in a nazi armband, with white-laced combat boots, suspenders, and a shaved head walking down the street. People will look at you in the same way, and I can't imagine many stopping to listen to you explain how you're reclaiming the number.
No more than most would listen to him explain how he's trying to take back the swastika.


I don't wear white laced combat boots. My German tanker boots are much more comfortable than any standard combat model I've ever found - and they don't have laces so I guess I'm out of luck. What you aren't getting is that by walking down the street in my normal clothes with my normal hair (which is about 22+ inches past regulation for skinhead) and casually wearing a shirt with "88" on it, I won't look like one of them - and neither would most anyone else. I also don't think like them, don't talk like them and don't spew the ignorance that drives their beliefs. This dilutes their "message", if there ever was one, by putting it on thousands who do not share their twisted beliefs. It then ceases to be used as a code and becomes public domain again. Simple. Instead, we have placed a stigma on clothing with 88's which therefor empowers their moronic association and gives it meaning. A person wearing an 88 is MORE suspect under the situation you are supporting than under the one I espouse - there's no way around it.

Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.

Frankly, I doubt more than a handful of people even knew what these buttheads used the code "88" for prior to this incident. I personally use it all the time when chatting, since "88" is an old ham radio code for "hugs and kisses", which I bet those jackbooted halfwits didn't know when they picked it. When I sign off CU-88 I sure as hell mean "see you - hugs and kisses", "see you - Heil Hitler"...and not one of my friends has ever questioned my usage.

No more than most would listen to him explain how he's trying to take back the swastika.

Could you find a less absurd example? There is just a tad bit more history and emotion behind the swastika, which most people instantly recognize, and "88" which most people need explained to them. "88" uses mundane, everyday symbols. Maybe we shoud just ban eights in favor of some more acceptable number. Or move "h" to somewhere else in the alphabet...you can't be too careful!
posted by RevGreg at 4:05 PM on August 29, 2002


Hmm, thinking about it a bit I'd say that "h" should NOT be assigned a permanent spot in the alphabet but should be inserted randomly to avoid this just moving another number...and three days suspension and mandatory re-education for the parents of a pre-schooler who repeats the alphabet twice in a row with the "h" in the same place, who knows what sort of chaos THAT could lead to!
posted by RevGreg at 4:08 PM on August 29, 2002


So, does anyone see a pattern here? Anyone?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:26 PM on August 29, 2002


Aside from you and few other posters here, RevGreg, I don't think anyone's even talking about banning the number 88 or banning clothing with generic 88s written on them. But perhaps we're reading different stories.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:37 PM on August 29, 2002


Aaargh, and me with my new user name. I was somehow blissfully unaware of this meaning -- I just liked 88 for its aesthetics.

Even if Target's buyer was equally blissfully unaware -- which I presume was the case -- the company's certainly not just being reactionary and PC now that it knows 88 is a standard, easily recognized code among a small but repulsive segment of society. (Can I change my name now?)
posted by 88robots at 8:48 AM on September 3, 2002


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