If you approach Omaha from the west on I-80, one of the first landmarks to greet you is a fortress with a large tower sporting a logo for 88 Tactical, a gun boner megacenter that offers a suite of classes, activities, and products for police and wannabe police. And if you can’t quite muster a gun boner, no worries–they also for some reason run 88 Med, which gives testosterone shots to trigger-happy men who just aren’t feeling alpha enough. (Who knows, it could be medically necessary if you shoot your balls off at their range, but maybe not necessary if you just blow a hole in your hand).
Nebraskans Against Gun Violence and other concerned residents have been sounding the alarm about this business for quite a while, and usually an employee or fan of 88 Tactical will indignantly respond that the name comes from a local Omaha police code meaning “situation secure.” Because if it has a precedent in OPD code it couldn’t possibly mean anything Nazi-ish. Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, how dare you accuse them of embedding a white supremacist code in their name, why they never, et cetera.
Where to even begin with this 88 Tactical nonsense? Let’s just start by Googling. Do me a favor and go Google “88.” If your results were similar to mine and the half dozen other people I polled, one of the top hits is the Anti-Defamation League’s explanation of this hate symbol, and another top hit is Wikipedia, which explains its significance as a Chinese good luck number, a ham radio code for “love and kisses,” and its history as a Nazi reference.
Okay, so suppose you decided to invest millions of dollars into a facility and somehow never Googled or market-tested your name. Maybe you could innocently overlook the fact that many people will associate your name with actual Nazis.
Except the owner of 88 Tactical, Shea Degan, has been calling various enterprises this-or-that “88” for many years, and has been getting WTF responses all along, even from his own people. Back in 2012, for example, when a doomsday prepper show featured his business–still years away from constructing the fortress–discussion forums for preppers and gun owners lit up with WTF queries about the name.
So to be clear–these are survivalist preppers and AR-15 devotees all wondering why in the hell someone would name their business 88 Tactical because of the Nazi implications, and the business acknowledging as far back as 2012 that they had gotten several questions about it just in the past few days. I mean, when the armed bunkerfolk are uncomfortable with your white nationalism, maybe that is a sign to rethink the brand.
And guess who else noticed the name? Actual Nazis on Stormfront:
Even on the other side of the planet people were reading all of this as Nazi code. A New Zealand columnist referred to Degan as “a neo-Nazi whose biggest fear appears to be not having a bunker” before conceding, “there’s a chance that last guy might not be a neo-Nazi. But he does rock a skinhead, his urban survival company is called 88 Tactical and its logo is a blood red imperial eagle.”
But even after they couldn’t possibly be unaware of the connotations, they still went with 88 Tactical as the name of their fortress.
As the New Zealand journalist and the literal Nazis pointed out, Degan chose a logo that looks like a Reichsadler. I assume 88 Tactical would tell you the bird is a phoenix or pigeon or refers to Gryffindor House.
Side note: I now know that technically this is a “parteiadler,” representing the Nazi Party, because it faces right. Thanks for making me waste neurons on that, 88 Tactical.
Okay, so back to our scenario. You have some business ventures called something 88, your Prepper McPewPew compatriots say that you are coming across as a little too Nazi for their comfort, the Nazis are Naziing about you online, and New Zealand assumes you’re a Nazi, but you plow ahead with the 88 fortress anyway and stick something that looks remarkably like a Nazi Parteiadler on the building. You then hire a designer to bling up your interior and they come up with this:
Oops, the designer somehow coincidentally decorated your wall with a topographical map that says “1488,” the common Nazi code referring to their stupid “14 words” shit and “Heil Hitler.” Oh, and this map does not even make sense as a map, by the way, because it marks the peak as 1488 (feet? meters?) even though the markings on the map indicate the peak is between 1500 and 1520.
Damn it, don’t you hate it when that happens?
Then how is this for luck? You, the owner of this unfairly smeared definitely-not-Nazi company accidentally name your Doberman “Panzer,” which surely only coincidentally is the name of the tanks the actual Nazis used in WWII.
And as your shit luck would have it, the coffee you chose to spotlight on Instagram just happened to prominently feature “SS” on the bag.
This sure is a lot of accidental Nazi to befall one definitely not Nazi company that has for some reason stuck with the 88 as it expanded to the ‘roid biz and has built a facility with the same logo in Ohio, where the local 88 origin story does not even apply.
More important than all this, though, is the bullshit they have sponsored. In 2017, 88 Tactical, together with a bogus “Global Faith Institute,” sponsored a notorious Islamophobe to train Omaha residents on how to spot and defend themselves against supposed Muslim Brotherhood infiltrators in the area. The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about the event, explaining that the speaker, John Guandolo, “promotes himself as a former FBI agent and an expert on terrorism who can help law enforcement and others uncover the “secret” terrorist cells in their area, but in reality Guandolo’s trainings are little more than anti-Muslim witch-hunts. What he doesn’t tell you is that he left the Bureau in disgrace for a number of ethical breaches and bizarre conduct… Since his departure, Guandolo has devoted himself to a rabid brand of anti-Muslim activism, working closely with some of the most powerful and influential anti-Muslim groups in the U.S., on a flurry of accusations against government officials Guandolo says have ties to terrorist organizations.”
The fact that all of this white nationalist bullshit is so knitted into law enforcement and police training should be sounding alarm bells, not providing respectability cover for the business.
Most recently, 88 Tactical has announced they are raising money for Lincoln gun victim Mario Herrera’s family after the officer was shot by an unsecured firearm stolen out of a Lincoln home (where the city council refused to pass an ordinance requiring guns to be secured). How are they raising money? By auctioning off a semi-automatic rifle with a magazine sporting the killed officer’s badge and the signature of Donald Trump, Jr. Yes, let’s put a gun designed for mass murder into the community to raise money for someone killed by gun violence.
The blurring of white supremacy, police training, vigilantism, and our impeached fascist nepotist president’s family should not be providing plausible cover for this business. It should raise alarms. And we should all be ashamed that this facility is the first thing many people see when entering our state’s largest city.
Author’s note: Please send all angry white gun dude complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. Angry white gun dude complaints are to me what testosterone injections are to angry white gun dudes.