Join 3,520 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


It's a Hawaiian Good Luck Sign
October 4, 2010 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Flipping Off the North Koreans, 1968. The crew deduced that the North Koreans didn’t know what the finger meant. In the subsequent propaganda photos of the crew, their middle fingers were firmly extended to the cameraman. When the North Koreans questioned, the crew described it as the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” (via Andrew Sullivan.)
posted by LarryC (33 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's another link with more about the story.

"Today the USS Pueblo still resides in North Korea , where it is celebrated as one of the county’s most popular tourist attractions."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:59 PM on October 4, 2010


My friends did this in our senior class picture -- the ones holding up the banner grasped it in such a way that the middle finger was the only one visible. You'd never notice it if you weren't looking, but someone squealed and told the office about it. So when the photo was released it had big black magic-marker censor bars across everybody's hands, including people who hadn't even made the sign.
posted by hermitosis at 1:00 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


...And then came the period of severe beatings and torture?
posted by katillathehun at 1:04 PM on October 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


The ruse went on unnoticed until October 1968, when Time magazine explained the mysterious gesture appearing in many photos as one of “obscene derisiveness and contempt.” This revelation infuriated the North Korean captors, bringing about a period of severe beatings and torture

Gee, thanks, Time magazine.
posted by palliser at 1:05 PM on October 4, 2010 [25 favorites]


Perhaps they were inspired by Don Stevenson's covert bird on Moby Grape's eponymous 1967 album cover.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 1:06 PM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


"...one of the county’s most popular tourist attractions."

It's okay, I guess. The highlight of the Pueblo visit, aside from seeing the bullet holes in the US Imperialist spy ship, is when they herd everybody into the old mess hall, and show you this incredibly bad, yet still somehow chilling propaganda video.

I mean, it's no Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, which is crowded with wrecked airplanes, every single one of which was shot down by the Korean People's Army while bombing a village or strafing an orphanage or something of the sort.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:07 PM on October 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Previously
posted by Burhanistan at 1:08 PM on October 4, 2010


Ties in nicely with this Sportsfilter post, particularly the video link.
posted by letitrain at 1:09 PM on October 4, 2010


the captive Crewman were lucky the North Korens did'nt chop off the Prisoners middle fingers. At their annual reunion, they should take a group picture of all of them hiding their middle finger, like it was chopped off. the pee-on should have been enough.
posted by tustinrick at 1:14 PM on October 4, 2010


Stay classy, Time magazine.

I mean really, who DOES that?! "Oh yes, they've been mocking you. Be sure to beat them harder. Thanks for the pictures!" Assmonkeys.
posted by sonika at 1:15 PM on October 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Direct link to Sullivan's post, for posterity.

Time Magazine:
* The War: The Impotence of Power - USS Pueblo captured (Feb. 02, 1968)
* North Korea: A New Belligerence - North Korean's attempt to assassinate South Korean President Chung Hee Park. The goal: "cut off Park's head and pitch it into the street." (Feb. 02, 1968)
* Nation: The Return of Pueblo's Crew - the article states "some of [the crewmen] said they had been beaten and tortured by their captors," though (in my quick review) there was no mention of why they were beaten (Jan. 03, 1969)

I couldn't find the digital version of that snippet of an article.

Possible location of the U.S.S. Pueblo today, as seen by Google Earth.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Possible location of the U.S.S. Pueblo today, as seen by Google Earth.

That's probably accurate. It's a museum now and is an obligatory stop on the "come see the glorious anti-imperialist paradise" tour that outside visitors get shuffled through.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2010


the captive Crewman were lucky the North Korens did'nt chop off the Prisoners middle fingers. At their annual reunion, they should take a group picture of all of them hiding their middle finger, like it was chopped off. the pee-on should have been enough.

Dream on, brother
posted by KokuRyu at 1:34 PM on October 4, 2010


Wow is that site a trove of historically compelling NSFW photos.
posted by oneironaut at 1:34 PM on October 4, 2010


the crew described it as the “Hawaiian good luck sign.”

Yeah, I tried that line on my boss.

He's clearly more aware of what Hawaiian good luck signs are and aren't.
posted by quin at 1:39 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reminded me of this (soldier vs HRC). Snopes mentions the Pueblo in the article.
posted by drowsy at 1:46 PM on October 4, 2010


Maybe they were fans of Billy Martin and Charles Radbourn?
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:11 PM on October 4, 2010


Gee, thanks, Time magazine.

It is possible that the magazine's editors did not expect the North Koreans to see it. The fact that the magazine's editorial staff didn't apologize to the families of the crew when their screwup became apparent is pretty galling, though.
posted by zarq at 2:54 PM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow is that site a trove of historically compelling NSFW photos.

Just a warning to those surfing the site from work, there's a link on the sidebar to page with images of a naked/topless ten year old Brooke Shields. The images might constitute child pornography in some jurisdictions. The link / page is not labeled NSFW.
posted by zarq at 2:59 PM on October 4, 2010


NFLer Larry Csonka showed who was number one way back in 1972.
posted by digsrus at 3:27 PM on October 4, 2010


Being awesome is sometimes worth a severe beating or two.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:30 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


IIRC, Daniel Pearl did something similar. According to his wife, anyway (couldn't find the pictures...)
posted by chavenet at 3:32 PM on October 4, 2010


Yeah, Time should have apologized to the crewmen and their families later. But for the caption, they were probably thinking about the angry letters and calls to cancel subscriptions from parents whose children would have been forever traumatized by seeing that gesture.

Not publishing for the public at all would I suppose be the way to go.
posted by rewil at 3:35 PM on October 4, 2010


Looks like someone was watching the Titans game yesterday too.
posted by deezil at 3:41 PM on October 4, 2010


rewil: "But for the caption, they were probably thinking about the angry letters and calls to cancel subscriptions from parents whose children would have been forever traumatized by seeing that gesture.

Not publishing for the public at all would I suppose be the way to go.
"

It's a funny problem. The whole point of publishing the pictures is to show the real story, that the prisoners haven't really defected. Printing the pictures without telling the real story would be weird.

Before they were in Time, how public were the photos? Even in the pre-Internet world, it's hard for me to imagine keeping the middle finger a secret from North Korea for very long.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:47 PM on October 4, 2010


I assume the cast of the TV show BONANZA was similarly beaten after their masters discovered this on their kid's ViewMaster reels...
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:11 PM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sailors: "It's a Hawaiian good luck sign, so here's two of them, brah."
posted by bwg at 5:47 PM on October 4, 2010


This is a pretty cool site. Thanks for the link.
posted by Allan Gordon at 6:32 PM on October 4, 2010


Metafilter turns out to be a veritable brain trust on this topic!
posted by LarryC at 9:30 PM on October 4, 2010


There is something deeply romantic about the fact the Pueblo is still considered to be on active duty - it's listed as a comissioned ship. Apparently in 1999, the US missed a chance to recapture it.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:16 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing this dramatized for TV in 1973. The TV movie made a big deal about them flipping off the cameras, and my 9 year old self was scandalized and amazed that they actually showed people flipping the bird on prime time TV.
posted by TedW at 5:06 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


And as long as we are giving folks the finger, remember Johnny Cash (although he wasn't very subtle about it). I particularly liked it when he used that photo in an ad in Variety after one of his later records got almost no airplay despite widespread critical acclaim.
posted by TedW at 5:17 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I'm not mistaken, the Vice Guide to Travel takes a trip through the USS Pueblo.

I know Vice gets a lot of flak for their content, but their travelogue of North Korea is bizarre, unsettling, and fascinating. It's worth your time.
posted by Turkey Glue at 10:28 AM on October 5, 2010


« Older One Song to the Tune of Another...  |  Squishy Circuits:... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments