Here we go again: D.C. firefighters made a hand gesture, outrage ensues


You would think that the perpetually outraged would have learned by now, but no. There is a new story out about a photograph of Washington DC Fire Department/EMS recruits that is now under investigation. The investigation is over a hand gesture made by a few of the recruits when the picture was taken – stop me if you’ve heard this story before.

The District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services opened an investigation into an ‘ok’ hand gesture that shows up in the photograph. Here we go again. The hand gesture is used in a game called the circle game. You may remember that less than a month ago, West Point cadets at the Army-Navy football game were investigated for the same thing. Social media reactions included the accusation that the cadets were intentionally flashing a hand gesture made by white supremacists.

The D.C. Fire Department/EMS photograph is of a graduating recruit class from back in March of 2019.

It is unclear why an investigation has been opened now and not at the time of the photograph.

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“The department has immediately initiated an interview review of the photograph, which may include interviews with everyone pictured in the photograph,” D.C. Fire and EMS chief communications officer Doug Buchanan said, according to WUAS9.

The local affiliate added that a viewer, who the network didn’t name, sent them the following message regarding the photo:

“As a district citizen, I don’t feel comfortable with DC fire recruits taking pictures while showing the white power symbol,” the message reportedly read. “They all just saw the fall back from the Navy midshipmen doing this online, yet they still decide to follow with the same racial antics. Whoever took this picture and posted it online, should be looked at as well.”

Perhaps the uncomfortable complainant is just now seeing the photo on social media, as the agency says it was made aware of it Wednesday. Maybe the photo was only recently uploaded to someone’s Facebook page. One little inconvenient fact of the story, as pointed out in the MRC story, is that the timing is off if the concern is that the recruits are mimicking the cadets. The cadets’ story, as I mentioned, took place in December, well after the recruits’ photograph last March.

The whole dumb white nationalist narrative about the ‘ok’ gesture was started on an alt-right website in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The Anti-Defamation League says on its website the “OK” hand gesture acquired a different significance in 2017 because of a hoax perpetuated on the online message board 4chan. The idea was to troll liberals by taking an innocent symbol and making them believe it was racist.

The hoax was so successful the symbol became a popular trolling tactic with right-leaning individuals and, ironically, some white supremacists, the ADL said.

It’s silly, of course, to assign guilt to everyone making the gesture. The ‘ok’ gesture usually just means ok. Sometimes a circle is just a circle, you know. The 4chan folks aren’t mainstream America. Why would anyone assume that first responders were casually flashing white power signs? The same was true for the cadets – those young men and women training to become leaders in the military. It’s just all too much.

One reporter tweeted that he was told the recruits played the circle game, it wasn’t a racial gesture.

I don’t think it is going out on a limb to say that I feel sure the recruits will be in the clear when the investigation is completed.

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