Yeah, I’ll admit it. I got hooked on the History Channel competition series Forged in Fire a few years ago. If you haven’t seen the show, think of it as Chopped with bladesmiths. Contestants are challenged to make specific types of knives in a short period of time, and then after the knives are tested (and sometimes broken), two remaining contestants are tasked to forge a recreated weapon from history, which is also tested and examined. The winner receives a check for $10,000, and then the show ends.
Last Wednesday, the series returned for its 8th season. I was curious as to how the program would operate with the new COVID-19 guidelines. Apparently there were some adjustments made – the three judges now sit at tables that are separated six feet apart; there is a new host (he seems okay, kinda like the previous one, though), and there is still a crew of competitive bladesmiths out there who are willing to match their skills against each other.
I also follow the Forged in Fire show through the social media platform reddit (yes, long-time readers of this blog know that I have a love-hate relationship with reddit). Normally the r/forgedinfireshow subreddit has some discussions of the episodes, some fan art, a few memes based on some of the show’s catchphrases (one of the judges will often say, in his thick Filipino accent, of a blade, “It will kill,” but it sounds more like “It will KEAL,” which was later described as an acronym for “Keep Everyone Alive”).
Because, apparently, one of the contestants on last Wednesday’s show, a bladesmith named Brandon, had a very visible neck tattoo.
Here’s a photo of Brandon on the show.
On the side of his neck is the word “Waffen,” which is a word associated with Nazi’s. He also sports SS lightning tattoos on the other side of his head, and during the final round of competition, he also wanted to add lightning bolts to his competition final sword, and demonstrated the blade’s strength by cutting through a tiki torch.
Brandon may have covered up the tattoo with a neck gaiter during the taping, but there were moments when the tattoo was very visible during the broadcast.
Now it’s not like producers haven’t noticed tattoos before. In the Forged in Fire subreddit, a former contestant stated that the producers specifically asked him about tattoos, whether they were “TV safe” or if there were any copyrighted logos or artwork as part of those tats. So it’s very possible that someone missed those tattoos – perhaps they were covered by a mask during the interview process, which can happen, but still…
There’s another argument that says, “Well, maybe he WAS previously in a neo-Nazi group, but he changed his ways and no longer follows those beliefs.” Okay, and there are now tattoo removal places that can laser off tattoos. There are also tattoo parlors that can cover up offensive tattoos or “tattoo regret” tattoos.
Probably the most egregious issue with this guy and his neo-Nazi tattoos is that he participated in an episode that was a salute to Veteran’s Day, and that in the initial round, he was tasked to recreate a knife that was designed by a soldier. Yeah, that’s the kind of optics I’m not interested in.
So what happens from here?
I’d say first of all, pull the episode off the air. We don’t need to see neo-Nazi symbols in a show like this. We don’t.
Next, a statement should be released by The History Channel acknowledging that this happened, that someone messed up, and that going forward, the program will be more scrupulous about their contestants and such.
Because when you see a person who clearly has neo-Nazi neck tattoos, and he appears on a popular television show and nothing is said, then it’s the equivalent of permitting normalcy.
And neo-Nazis should never be considered part of normal, acceptable culture.