Comparisons of law makers to fascists and Nazis isn’t uncommon these days, but on Saturday the hashtag #Nazi was trending alongside mentions of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where former President Trump is set to speak on Sunday. This time it wasn’t Republican lawmakers who were compared to Nazis however, but rather it was the similarity of the stage to an ancient Norse symbol, which was more recently used by Nazis, which was noted by thousands of users on Twitter.
By Saturday afternoon there had been nearly 100,000 tweets that compared the CPAC stage to the ODAL Rune, which was used by a unit of the insidious Waffen SS, the initially named the SS-Volunteer Division Prinz Eugen (SS-Freiwilligen-Division “Prinz Eugen”) – later the 7th Volunteer Mountain Division. That unit was formed in 1941 and took part exclusively in action against the communist-led Yugoslavian partisans during the Second World War.
Many on Twitter shared images of the symbol along with photos of the CPAC stage:
However, it is important to note that the Odal rune, also known as the Othala rune, predates the Nazi movement and the Third Reich by centuries and it first appeared between the 3rd and 8th centuries. While it was in fact adopted by Nazi Germany, and has been used by various neo-Nazi groups in recent years, it seems dubious to think that the design was intention.
As of Saturday afternoon the fact check website Snopes.com could only suggest it was “unproven” that the stage at CPAC 2021 was intentionally designed to look like an early European rune.
However, many others suggested its design was done on purpose.
One user, Jack Andrew Giddes (@JackGiddes), even took the time to share a photo of his kitchen floor, adding, ” Here is part of my kitchen floor during the day, lit by natural light (L). If you stand in one spot with the ceiling lights on you get this (R), but I stress it’s undetectable unless you’re in a specific spot. My kitchen floor is a coincidence. CPAC’s stage? I have my doubts.”
Yet, some many users responded to the claims on social media, and suggested that too much was being read into the apparent symbolism.
Author Jim C. Hines (@jimchines) was among those who suggested that the choice of stage design likely didn’t mean to copy the infamous symbol, “Out of curiosity, has there been any pattern of Democrats ‘accidentally’ using Nazi symbolism and iconography? If that sort of thing is an innocent and unavoidable mistake, you’d expect it to happen regardless of political party, right?”
Another user, @Rasta1619, also questioned how commonly known this symbol actually is in the mainstream.
The Odal rune is now in the spotlight, just weeks after other eagle eyed users on Twitter noted that during President Joe Biden’s inauguration the “Betsy Ross” flag was seen. Former Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was among those who took notice of the flag. He addressed the issue directly from his Twitter account:
It was also a dozen years ago, in August 6, 2008 that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh compared the new healthcare logo used by the Obama administration to that of the Nazi eagle.
While that could be seen as a stretch, any visitor to Washington, D.C. is likely going to see a number of fascist symbols – and not those carried by protestors – but rather on the buildings.
At the Lincoln Memorial there are literally fasces, the bundle of rods bound by a leather thong. As The Washington Post previously reported, the very same symbol can also be seen in federal buildings throughout the nation’s capitol including the Justice Department. That particular symbol dates back even further than the Odal rune, and was used during the Roman Republic as a symbol of power and authority.
The idea is that a single stick may be weak, but bound together in unity there is strength. It is also is meant to evoke power, strength, authority and justice. The symbol was used throughout Washington, D.C. and a pair literally flanks the speaker’s podium in the House of Representatives. They are thus present during a presidential state of the union as well – but never is that symbol called out.
Likewise, the most infamous of Nazi icons, the swastika, was once a symbol of good luck and can be seen on countless buildings. Over the years some buildings have been also been called out for inadvertently resembling a swastika or other Nazi-esque symbol from above. In most cases it was a coincidence, and in the case of CPAC it should likely be chalked up to another unfortunate coincidence.