Co-opting the Media: White-supremacist code printed nationwide

The white supremacist who is accused of shooting an African-American man at the US Holocaust Museum on June 10 has taken advantage of journalists' normal reporting practices to publish a white-supremacist code praising Adolf Hitler in every newspaper in the country.

As every media outlet dutifully reported, the suspect, James von Brunn, is 88 years old. Of course, it is standard practice when identifying a criminal suspect for reporters to find out, and publish, the suspect's age. But his age is no accident. (And he really is 88, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.)

Because von Brunn is 88, in printing that otherwise innocuous piece of information, news organizations around the world have printed and broadcast what white supremacists know is a numeric code meaning "Heil Hitler." The letter "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and hatemongers around the world have long used "88" to mean "HH," or "Heil Hitler," honoring the leading historical icon of hate and intolerance, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Von Brunn himself knew and used this code often. He signed many of his Web postings "James von Brunn 88" - which, eerily, differs only by a comma from how most newspapers and online news sites identified him after the shooting: "James von Brunn, 88."

White supremacists, including von Brunn himself, must be dancing with glee that - among other prestigious news outlets - the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have, effectively, printed "Heil Hitler" in their pages.

Von Brunn clearly wanted to make a statement - a longtime white supremacist, he allegedly shot an African-American man at a museum honoring the memory of the millions of Jews slaughtered by Hitler's policies in World War II.

What's more, it turns out that von Brunn was not going to be 88 much longer - his birthday is in mid-July. He was running out of time to make his statement with full effect. And, tragically, he decided to seize the moment.


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