No sooner had white supremacy and hate groups claimed ownership of the “OK” hand sign than another common symbol joined the fray: Your vehicle’s Check Engine Light, or CEL. Often shaped like an old engine, the CEL has been universally recognized since On-Board Diagnostics, or OBD, were perfected in the mid-1990s. Some version of the CEL are more ominous, including a lightning bolt shaped vaguely like the Nazi SS logo.
What began as a satirical joke on internet car forums like VWVortex and Hondatech quickly spread to established white nationalist sites like FrontStorm, quickly turning from a gag into a serious movement.
“We were just joking around that ‘What if hate groups started taking over other normal symbols?’ and the entire thread was full of lulz,” according to Hondatech moderator B18C_roolz. “We seriously looked at how the swastika got corrupted, then all the stuff about removing Confederate flags, but most of all the OK symbol,” he writes. “That one was just nuts.”
The Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, known most prominently for identifying and cataloging anti-Semitic and other hate groups, issued their official statement on their website Tuesday afternoon.
“We cannot accept the infiltration of our vehicles by hate groups. Even in the form of unintentional, passive ‘dog whistles’ like this, such symbols can encourage and embolden latent hatred in people who are exposed to them,” says Saul Mendez, the ADL’s West Coast US Regional President.
“Of course this was intentional. Ever since OBD first came out, we’ve been working hard to make sure the CEL would strike fear into people,” claims FrontStorm founder Kurt Johnson. “People would wonder ‘Is my car going to explode? Should I stop? Keep driving?’ The symbol has created terror and chaos from Day 1, just as we intended,” adding a rhetorical “Who’s down with OBD? Every last honky.”
Nationwide automotive parts retailers such as AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts have vowed to join the fight, offering Free Hate Readings for any customers. According to O’Reilly Auto’s website, “Any of our 900 locations will gladly identify the hatred in your car, turn the light off, and recommend solutions to prevent the hate from returning.”
B18C_roolz claims he uses simple black electrical tape to cover his CEL. “Bro, I got open headers, no cat[alytic converter], and would never pass smog anywhere. My CEL isn’t gonna go away. Maybe yours won’t, either. We all have a CEL just waiting to show up. We just have to learn to ignore it.”
Although FrontStorm’s constituents are a small minority of car owners, Kurt Johnson is undeterred in his mission. “We had to start small, but this is a multi-generational thing to us,” concluding “We rolled out the CEL message mostly through VW, for obvious reasons. But as cars get more complicated, just you wait. They will be everywhere.”
When asked whether FrontStorm was prepared for a future with more Electric Vehicles that lack a CEL, Johnson was very clear: “Our guy in South Africa has been working on this for years. The secret logo is a big dagger shaped like a ‘T’ – which means ‘Time to get out of town.’”
If all else fails, Johnson insists, the entire movement will simply start over on Mars one day.