As quickly as the coronavirus spread across the world, white supremacist merchandising companies seized the opportunity to profit from it. Companies in the United States and Europe are marketing coronavirus-related wares from clothing to facemasks to stickers, many adorned with white supremacist related symbols or codes.
The German-based white supremacist merchandising company Druck18 (the 18 in this case likely stands for the numeric reference to the letters “A” and “H” for Adolf Hitler) sells a wide variety of white supremacist merchandise, from clothing to jewelry, drinks to music and more. One t-shirt currently for sale plays off the phrase Rock Against Communism, a longstanding euphemism for types of white power music, with the phrase “Rock Against Coronavirus.” The image features an Asian rice paddy hat on a skull, presumably a reference to the virus’ Asian origins.
American online white supremacist merchandising company Panzer Street Wear recently began selling a t-shirt with the words “Social Distancing 1-2-3-4 I don’t like you!” printed on the front. The white supremacist link is subtle, but it is found in the script letter “S” in the word “Social.” That “S” in the shield and the eagle is the logo for the British white power band Skrewdriver. Panzer Street Wear is selling anther shirt with “We need jobs – not handouts!” with a cartoon of Uncle Sam giving a woman her stimulus check and the woman wondering, “Which rights do I lose for this?”
Another German online seller of white supremacist merchandise, Ostfront Versand (Eastern Front Ship>ping), is profiting from sales of a (non-racist) t-shirt with the words, “So viele Arschlöcher und kein Papier” (translated: “So many assholes and no paper”).
With many countries encouraging citizens to wear facemasks while out in public, these same companies are also selling masks with white supremacist messaging. It’s illegal in Germany to display the swastika symbol, so German companies are finding alternative ways to convey their messages.
Ostfront Versand is selling facemasks with subtle white supremacist imagery at a price familiar to white supremacists: €14.88. This popular numeric code is a combination of 14 and 88 for the 14 Words and 88 for “Heil Hitler.” One mask, called “Reichsadler” (translated: Imperial Eagle) has the Nazi eagle (sans the swastika). They sell another mask called “Black Sun” featuring a fiery Sonnenrad, an ancient symbol appropriated by Nazi and modern white supremacists.
Druck18 has a line of at least 14 masks to choose from, including one with a smiley-face Hitler and the words “Don’t worry – Be Happy” emblazoned on it. Another, in red, white and black, shows the Nazi eagle holding an Iron Cross rather than a swastika with “Deutschland – Meine Heimat” (translated: Germany – My Homeland) printed on it. These are selling for €14.88 each.
Other masks sold by Druck18 that include white supremacist codes or sayings:
- “88:” shorthand for Heil Hitler
- “Deutschland” (Germany) with the Nazi Eagle
- “AW Since 2017” and “18:” “AW” stands for Aryan Warrior and “18” is shorthand for Adolf Hitler
- “Symbole kann man verbieten unsere Ideale nicht!,” which translates to “You can forbid our symbol but not our ideals!” This is a reference to the fact that it’s illegal in Germany to display the swastika symbol.
- An image of a German soldier with the phrase “Sie waren die besten Soldaten der Welt”– translates to “You were the best soldiers in the world.”
Druck18 has also started selling products (stickers and shirts) printed with “Gib Gates keine chance. Don’t pay the Bill,” which translates as: “Don’t give [Bill] Gates a chance …”) accompanied by a cartoon image of a hypodermic needle filled with green poison. This is in reference to one of the many conspiracy theories arguing that Bill Gates is responsible for the creation of the coronavirus.
This array of coronavirus-related white supremacist merchandise underscores the extent to which extremists are poised to capitalize – in this case, quite literally – on the divisions and fear that often emerge during crises.