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Doing Justice to the Classics

Monsters from Greek Mythology Inspire White Supremacist Activists

“The Hundred Handers” is a network of white supremacists who post racist stickers in public places. It’s a strategy used by many racist groups, including those who use imagery taken from Greco-Roman antiquity. According to an interview with the network’s anonymous founder on an anti-government website, the goal of the Hundred Handers’ stickers is to reassure the “whole population who aren’t as plugged [into] social media and may feel alone against the tsunami of anti-white hatred that they face daily”  that “you’re not alone and there are others like you in close proximity.” The network takes its name from the many-headed and many-limbed monsters who, according to the Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony, helped Zeus and the Olympian gods defeat the Titans in the battle for control of the universe.

The Hundred Handers’ promotional materials (above) describe how the many-handed monsters from Greek mythology provide the inspiration for the anonymous structure of the group, in which participants work independently and anonymously as “hands” on behalf of the whole. It’s a strategy that the network’s founder, or “Head,” formulated “to get a message out into the real world while mitigating risk” of “violence and harassment” that he claims “people engaged in white advocacy” face. The idea is that “hands” can anonymously obtain approved stickers from “The Archive,” print them, and post them, thereby recruiting new members to the network and promoting white supremacist ideology in the real world, not just online.

In the interview quoted above the “Head” argued that the time had come to advocate for white supremacy “IRL,” because “chances are, if you’re online and open to our ideas you’ve found one of our content creators or thought leaders.” He then likened white supremacy’s supposed domination of the online space to ancient empire-building: “There’s a quote that’s attributed wrongly to Alexander the Great but I believe it applies to the online front in which we fight, ‘‘he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer‘.”  The network’s founder was not, however, content with white supremacy’s conquest of the online world. “The battlefield is broader,” he said. “We can shout all day into social media but our enemies are active in the real world and we must meet them there.” According to Aristotle Kallis, a historian of fascism, the spread of such “real world” activism “underline[s] how ill-prepared the mainstream is with dealing with this kind of threat.

Despite their real world focus, the Hundred Handers’ maintain a social media presence in the form of a telegram channel that  records the activities of “Hands” by sharing images of stickers posted in public places. The images come primarily from the United Kingdom and the United States, although the founder claims that the network is active “across the two white continents, Europe and North America, and a number of white outposts like South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.”

In recent months many of their stickers have used the Coronavirus Pandemic to promote xenophobia by claiming that immigration spreads COVID19, which even those on the political right know is false. Such stickers include messages such as “Open Borders Spread Disease” and “Closed Borders: The Best Vaccine.” Since the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Movement for Black Lives demonstrations that followed the network has distributed stickers propagating the racist lie that black people are more violent than others.

Other stickers promote the usual white supremacist message that white people face an existential threat both from immigration (“They Seek Conquest, Not Asylum”; “Mass Immigration is White Genocide”) and from supposedly anti-white governemnt policies (“Diversity: Designed to Fail, Built to Replace”; “Diversity Becomes Replacement”). Others promote a more basic message of white superiority (“Western Civilization is White Civilization”; “Import the Third World, Become the Third World.”). Hundred Handers have also posted stickers promoting the anti-Semitic work of “The Noticer,” which Pharos has documented, and more generalized anti-Semitism  (“Ask not what Jews can do for your country. Ask what your country can do for Jews”) as well as homophobia (“LGBT+: So oppressed they enjoy corporate sponsorship while being celebrated by our governments who push their agenda on our children”). The network’s stickers have attracted the attention of law enforcement: in April 2020 two men accused of posting Hundred Hander stickers in Sheffield, England were arrested for racially aggravated public order offenses, and in 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation of the organization after their stickers appeared in Troy, NY.

The name allows the Hundred Handers to see their struggle as one that is divinely sanctioned, true to the supposed ancient essence of the "white race," and destined to succeed

The most familiar monster from Greek myth is undoubtedly Medusa, whom Pharos has documented being invoked in support of violent misogyny. But in that case the monster is something to be slain and suppressed, whereas the Hundred Handers network has made the ancient monster a model for itself. The three “Hecatoncheires” (Greek for “Hundred Hands”, also called the “Centimanes”), whose names Hesiod gives as Cottus, Briareus, and Gyes, are appealing to white supremacists in various ways. First, they were suppressed and imprisoned by those in power, just as white supremacists argue white people are discriminated against. Second, they later were recruited by Zeus to join a rebellion against the ruling god Cronus, which white supremacists may see as a parallel to their own revolutionary action against a supposedly oppressive and “anti-White” society. This analogy is doubly appealing in that many white supremacists consider Zeus (and the Roman Jupiter) to be a symbol of the white, “Aryan spirit” and because the god that Zeus overthrew, Cronus (the Roman Saturn), has also been considered by anti-Semites to be a symbol of Jewish power. Finally, the Centimanes are appealing because their monstrous strength secured victory for Zeus. Thus the analogy allows members of the network to see their struggle to preserve white racial domination as one that is divinely sanctioned, true to the supposed ancient essence of the “white race,” and destined to succeed.

Hesiod’s monstrous hundred-handers have been used to represent the oppressed against the oppressor before: the blog Classics and Class has reported on a 1890 political cartoon from England in which dock and mine workers are represented as the Hundred Hander Briareus in their struggle for better working conditions. Crucially, as Classics and Class describes, this was not the symbol the labor activists adopted for themselves: it was imposed on them in a story ultimately unsympathetic to their cause. Briareus was powerful, yes, but fundamentally monstrous, terrifying, and destructive to the dominant order. So it is appropriate for a white supremacist group seeking to “[make] the world itself our platform” to model themselves after these monsters. They’re supposed to be scary. And they are.

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