Donald Trump’s umbrella company, The Trump Organisation, is being hectored and denounced on social media for selling a “nostalgic” baseball for $88 – an unusual price tag that uses a number often referenced on the far right to signal sympathy with Adolf Hitler.
The awkward attention to the ball’s price tag comes just after the president retweeted a video in which an elderly white man in Florida riding a golf cart shouts “white power” at anti-racism protesters.
Mr Trump originally captioned his retweet “Thank you to the great people of The Villages,” but has since deleted it.
In white supremacist and neo-Nazi circles, the number 88 serves as a code for the letters “HH” – an abbreviation of “heil Hitler”. The number 18 sometimes stands in for Hitler’s initials, while the number 14 refers to a widely known 14-word shibboleth: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”. The numbers are sometimes combined into 1488.
It was in the aftermath of the “white power” incident that social media users began drawing attention to the ball’s somewhat unusual price point.
While some pointed to the price with sarcasm or cynicism, others made the point that fascist and neo-Nazi groups use telltale shorthands like “88” precisely because they can be deployed in plain sight with plausible deniablity.
As Twitter user Emily Kahn pointed out: “Regular people will hop in the replies here to say ‘youre scared of numbers??’ Or ‘its just a random number!’ And not even realize they’re playing into it … Good dogwhistles can get random people to defend them.
“They start to see the opposing side as ‘crazy’ or ‘paranoid’ for “seeing random meanings in things where theres nothing” and they are then an effective tool of fascism by playing the moderate who only criticizes the anti-fash side, and thinks the fash side seem like ‘normal’ ppl,” she wrote.
Aside from Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and the Trump Organisation’s online store, Trump’s re-election campaign recently caused a storm with a series of Facebook ads featuring an inverted red triangle – a symbol used by Nazis to label political prisoners.
The campaign claimed that it was a symbol used by left-wing activists under the name “antifa”; there is no evidence this is true. Facebook removed more than 80 of the campaign ads that used the triangle, saying they violated its policy against “organised hate”.
The Independent has reached out to The Trump Organization for comment.
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