Some time ago the FBI’s Militia Violent Extremism list was leaked. It caused a lot of uproar. The list showed a number of symbols with information on how they had been used by militia groups. The general uproar I heard, especially from veterans, was that by using these symbols, the FBI would consider you part of a milia group. As a law enforcement officer, I found this highly implausible. So, I read the document. The fact is the document does not label an individual or company a militia member simply because they choose to display these images/logos. It very clearly lays out how these symbols might be an indicator because militia groups have used these images.
Simply stated, whether people like it or not, groups reappropriate symbols and images for their own purposes. Street gangs have long used sports teams to represent their gang affiliation, for which agencies have very similar lists documenting these trends. These types of lists are very clear that displaying these types of symbols does not make you affiliated with these gangs/militia groups, but that you might be. It is just one piece of a puzzle. It does not give an officer the ability to take enforcement action alone, it must be coupled with other indicators. Companies may not like their images being reappropriated any more than sports teams, but that is the unfortunate state of affairs.
The Nazis’ reappropriated the SPQR eagle from the Roman Empire. They took the swastika, a symbol held throughout the world that represented things like peace and unity, and forever tarnished it. The 45th Infantry Division, prior to WWII, actually had the swastika as their unit patch to represent the native heritage of the state. The military has a rich history of reappropriating symbols to create unit patches or distinctive unit insignias (DUIs). I must look no further than the 75th Ranger Regiment DUI. The Marine Forces Special Operations Command patch was hotly contested during its creation due to this very issue.
Companies throughout the world do the very same thing. Veterans are notorious for doing it. Ranger veterans have used the Ranger Diamond from WWII in their photography, roofing, clothing, and other companies. One very outspoken veteran regarding the FBI’s list himself used a Vietnam War patch from his unit’s lineage for his company.
The history of symbols, their origins, and their reappropriation has been a long-held interest of mine. You can learn a lot through such an endeavor. For better or worse, groups reappropriate symbols. More importantly… read shit before you blast enraged social media rants.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.