Adventures in Research: Klan Signaling
Adventures in Research
Don’t Break Up a Set
An integral aspect of conscientiously preserving history, is not allowing its component parts to become detached from the source. To offer a variation on the well-known George Santayana quote (“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”), we observe that an organization’s signs and wonders, when they have drifted from their moorings, may condemn unwitting practitioners to charges of bigotry…possibly well-earned. Possibly the result of mere clumsiness.
Case in point: a google search of the term indicates many are not aware that the resurgent Klan of the 1920s called itself, “the invisible empire”. The phrase has a certain ring…but is not a rallying-cry the well-intended want to use.
The Ku Klux Klan was, in its night-riding heyday, a secretive, yet easily infiltrated (in the 20s by reporters, in the 1960s, by the FBI) organization, one that communicated via special coded language, hand-signs, and whistling calls.
The Oath of Loyalty
If you swear an oath of loyalty, you have delivered yourself into the hands of thugs. For one thing, the fact of it grows into a symbol in its own right. By even the least mention of The Oath, all sorts of dire threats can be implied towards those tempted to break it. These threats can further be reduced to a glyph, a squint, an object—such as a bible. In what is exactly the habit of secretive, thuggish organizations, things can be left in places where the targeted individual will see them.
The oath-taker obtains an excuse of his own for moral abdication. He may tell himself, “I can’t speak up. I’ve sworn my utmost fidelity…” Then he can stop thinking about the degree to which he is helping to cover up criminal activity, which amounts to disloyalty to America itself.
The fact is, in systems, a thing can’t be a category, if it belongs in a category. All entities within a nation are subject to the laws of the nation; none are above these, none can therefore direct members to ignore them. Any legitimate loyalty oath would have to contain a clause stating that the member will neither protect the perpetrator of a criminal act, nor help to conceal evidence of such an act, nor keep silent regarding his knowledge of the act. If the oath contains no such clause, the omission is for the protection and perpetuation of thuggery, not patriotism.
New York Tribune November 27, 1922, “Haywood to Organize City for Ku Klux Klan”
The Daily Admoreite, November 13, 1921, full page ad
“We have given fair warning. Beware.”
New York Tribune, November 27, 1922, “Haywood to Organize City for Ku Klux Klan”
“Eventually the Klan will itself stop all lynching all over the country.”
The Washington Times, September 19, 1921, “Secret Procedure at…Gatherings is Revealed”
“I would then interpret the instructions GASLW, give a slow long whistle.”
The Washington Times, September 18, 1921, “Ku Klux Klan Places Itself Above the Law”
“None but a moral idiot…”
The Indianapolis Journal, August 28, 1892, “The Famous Ku Klux Klan”
“A series of whistles imitative of some night bird.”
(2017, Stephanie Foster)