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The Economy of Hate: How Online Retailers Profit Off of Right-Wing Extremists

Social media giants’ toleration of the alt-right is fairly well known. Less so is the presence of far-right merchandise on some of the Internet’s biggest retail sites. While a few websites cleansed themselves of ISIS propaganda, seemingly little is being done by retailers to likewise rid themselves of far-right extremism.  

The sale of hardcore right-wing merchandise does not take place in the seedy corners of the Dark Web, but openly on major sites like Amazon, Zazzle, Redbubble, Teespring, and TeePublic. Often using jargon, in-jokes, and irony, these retail items communicate antisemitism, celebrate fascism, hype dangerous conspiracy theories, and call for violence.

The sale of hardcore right-wing merchandise does not take place in the seedy corners of the Dark Web, but openly on major sites.

The examples abound. Online retailer Redbubble sells a T-shirt featuring a helicopter bearing a Kek color scheme throwing out avatars for communists, Black Lives Matter activists, Muslims, and feminists. Among the far-right, the “helicopter rides” meme admiringly recalls the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s practice of throwing his leftist opponents from helicopters. 

Another T-shirt for sale on Amazon declares that, “Pinochet did nothing wrong.” A similar one was worn by a demonstrator involved in assaults at a far-right rally in Portland, Oregon, two years ago. When previously criticized for selling analogous items, Amazon removed them. Their current presence indicates little is being done to keep them off.

Another far-right meme in circulation references Rhodesia. Now called Zimbabwe, Rhodesia is beloved by the far-right because of its apartheid government’s open embrace of white supremacy. Dylann Roof, who murdered nine people at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015, was known to wear the Rhodesian flag and published his hate manifesto on a website called “Last Rhodesian.”

Clothing celebrating Rhodesia can currently be purchased on Amazon and Zazzle.

In 1960, Otoya Yamaguchi publicly assassinated Japanese Socialist Party politician Inejiro Asanuma with a sword. A photo of this event won the Pulitzer Prize, and is now displayed on shirts readily available on Amazon and Redbubble. This incident continues to serve as an inspiration for violent far-right figures today. 

A good example is Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, who at a 2018 event where he deliberately evoked Yamaguchi, was filmed swinging a fake katana (a type of Japanese sword) at counter-protesters according to a report by Jane Coaston in Vox. Prosecutors charged ten members of the group, though not McInnes, who claims to have distanced himself from the organization. Two others were sentenced in October to four-year prison terms.

Despite being called out for selling Proud Boys merchandise before, Amazon still has shirts available. These come up readily when searching with the acronym POYB (proud of your boy), a Proud Boys…


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