Aside from Jeb Bush silently devouring an entire sleeve of saltines while watching Antique Roadshow in a windowless room, there are few things more fundamentally innocuous than milk. For chrissake, the stuff is classically associated with birth and purity in countless cultures.
But now, there's word going around that milk has been nefariously co-opted and transformed into the preeminent symbol of both Neo-Nazis and the "alt-right". Earlier this month, a group of white nationalists—many of whom bore tattoos with Nazi iconography—made headlines after they paraded around shirtless and drank one-gallon jugs of milk in front of He Will Not Divide Us, Shia LaBeouf's now-defunct livestream art installation at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City.
The puzzling move left many wondering what the fuck was going on and caused publications like Mic to state that "Milk is the new, creamy symbol of white racial purity in Donald Trump's America." Mic's article alleges that certain white supremacists believe milk to be a symbol of Caucasian superiority and that ethnicities with large rates of lactose intolerance are somehow inferior.
— ? Memes for Tay (@MemesForTay) February 12, 2017
As example of this belief, Mic points to a 4chan thread titled "Enter the Milk Zone," in which a poster repurposes graphs of global "lactose hotspots" from a study titled "Lactose tolerance in a Slavic population." Additionally, the thread is filled with racist diatribes about industrial schemes to purposefully taint the purity of milk as well as poems relating to milk, including one that reads: "Roses are red, Barack is half-black, if you can't drink milk, you have to go back."
When someone in the thread chimes in claiming to be an African-American man who is not lactose intolerant, a user responds by saying "American Negroids are part White."
When internet entertainer Paperboy Prince confronted the white nationalist trolls about their racist milk drinking, some allegedly claimed that their move was in fact not racist, but a stance against the "vegan agenda." Alt-right trolls have constantly targeted vegans as a perceived easy target, but Mic alleges "vegan agenda" is in fact a potential code word for talking about Zionist conspiracies.
— Immer ? (@DadbodyImmer) February 13, 2017
It's not clear whether or not this is the case, but members of the alt-right community like the website Age Of Shitlords have ridiculed the assertion, claiming that the media has simply fallen for classic 4chan trolling. That said, you can pretty easily find threads online asserting that veganism is some sort of shadowy Jewish attempt to take over the world.
One poster in a thread from 2014—long before LaBeouf's Museum of the Moving Image project ever took place—wrote the following: "Veganism is a fucking jewish agenda! The kikes invented it long ago and now they use it to push their rotten marxist ideology and to victimize the gentile people."
— Neil Kekson Knt MP (@markandfriendz) February 15, 2017
Since the debacle at the Museum of the Moving Image, White Nationalist provocateurs like Richard Spencer have ditched Pepe the Frog emojis in their Twitter handles in favor of glasses of milk. Spencer's Twitter profile now states "I'm very tolerant… lactose tolerant!" while Milo Yiannopoulos' old manager, Tim Treadstone, has also adopted the milk glass emoji and added "#MilkTwitter" to his bio.
This is by no means the first time that Nazism has been connected to milk on the Internet. Back in 2011, an image began to surface on the Internet of a white woman soaking her feet in a tub of milk as another woman poured more milk into the tub. The photo quickly began to circulate leading to widespread confusion about the supposed practice, which resulted in numerous forum posts asking "Why do Nazi women soak their feet in milk?"
— Lucky Ace (@gamblerjoe2) February 12, 2017
The thing is, the 2011 photo in question was, in fact, nothing more than one part of a tongue-in-cheek art project. The image in question was created as part of photographer and graphic designer Dany Peschl's "Disturbation" photo series. Peschl says that the image was a comment on the uncertainty of what people do behind closed doors: "The photos capture different people during various intimate situations in a "caught in the act way." Peschl also told Lamono Magazine, "Maybe it sounds unbelievable, but also Nazi [sic] can love warm cow's milk, they don't even require it from racially pure Tyrol pastures."
— Wife With A Purpose (@apurposefulwife) February 21, 2017
No matter how these milk-related images and events originated—and even if classic internet trolls were spreading them simply because that's what they do—it seems that both White Nationalists and the alt-right are now co-opting that most milquetoast of beverages and making it a symbol of hatred.
Is nothing sacred? You may never look at a glass of two-percent the same way again.