The Daily Moth 10-4-19

Report on Paris police killer; Analysis on “okay” hand gesture; LinkNYC partners with Purple/ZVRS to provide city-wide VRS service

[Transcript] Hello, welcome to The Daily Moth! It is Friday, October 4. Ready for news?


Report on Paris police killer

Here are updates on the Paris knife attack that killed three police officers and a police administrative employee. He has been identified as Mickael Harpon and is confirmed to be a deaf person.

Here is a report on him from Sandy Mercurio, a Deaf French journalist.


The man Mickael Harpon (sign name) was born on the island of Martinique, which is part of France. He has lived in Paris with a wife and two children. He worked in the police headquarters since 2003. He is hard of hearing and can sign and speak. The Deaf community is in shock because they viewed him as a good person who was sweet, friendly, and quiet. He was not popular or had previous incidents. Everything was normal. His neighbors and co-workers also expressed shock that he killed four people and injured one yesterday.

There are two possible reasons why. The first is on discriminiation. He has frequently asked his superior for an interpreter so he can undergo training to gain promotions, but was told that it was not needed, or that an interpreter was too expensive, or that he was “fine” because he could speak. Harpon told a woman, who shared it with me, that he felt frustrated at seeing new co-workers come in and get promoted after only a few years. But he remained at the same position for 20 years without a promotion. This was very frustrating for him. Maybe that’s what made him kill. But many others said it was hard to tell if it was discrimination because he was a very quiet person who kept to himself. He didn’t talk about his problems.

A second possible motive is religion. He recently converted to Islam and it has been more than a year. He chooses to not touch women. It is France’s way to give greetings with kisses, handshakes, or the like. Harpon has done this for years until his conversion to Islam. It caused confusion among female co-workers on why he changed. His boss called him to ask why he didn’t greet them and he said it was because of his conversion to Islam. After the killing, people suspected it was because of ISIS, but police investigators said they didn’t think it was because of ISIS, but another reason. Maybe it’s deaf-related discrimination? It’s a big issue for the Deaf community here. We’ll see what updates come on the news.


Thank you Sandy for the report.

Harpon was shot and killed by a police officer after he stabbed a total of five people. The fifth person is seriously injured.

BBC News reported today that the investigation has been handed over to terrorism specialists based on new information, but it is not known to the public what this new information is.

Harpon’s wife is detained but has not been charged.

There was a moment of silence this morning outside of the police headquarters to honor the four staff who died.


Analysis on “okay” hand gesture

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish-based group that tracks and fights against anti-Semitism and hate groups, added the “okay” hand gesture to their “Hate on Display ™ Hate Symbols Database.”

The hand gesture has been used by hateful people to display a “white power” symbol.

Naturally there was a reaction from some in the Deaf community who felt like this was something that threatened our ASL signs that have either the “F” or the “9” handshapes.

I will admit I had that initial reaction as well, I thought the ADL was inconsiderate of deaf people and ASL users, that it felt like an infringement on our language.

But after reading the ADL’s explanation on the gesture, it’s clear that they acknowledge that the gesture is an important part of ASL, as well as Hindu and Buddhist worlds, and yoga.

The ADL said the okay symbol in “most contexts is entirely innocuous and harmless.”

The ADL explained that in 2017, members of the website 4chan tried to start a hoax by promoting the “okay” hand gesture as a representation of “wp,” short for “white power.” They were successful because actual white supremacists or far-right individuals would flash the “okay” gesture, possibly to troll people or to actually express their views.

The symbol gained worldwide attention after the New Zealand terrorism suspect flashed the “okay” gesture in a court appearance in March. There were enough instances of people using the “okay” gesture in a hateful way that prompted the ADL to add it to their database.

The ADL said the overwhelming usage of the ‘okay’ hand gesture today is still its traditional purpose as a gesture of approval, so if there’s someone using the symbol, they cannot be assumed as trying to troll or showing support for white supremacy. The ADL encouraged people to not jump to conclusions.

I reached out to Dr. Julie A. Hochgesang, who is an Associate Professor at Gallaudet’s Department of Linguistics, to give some perspectives. She said context is key and explained that forms themselves — the written shape, the sound, or the part of a sign — have no meaning. The symbolic meaning comes from the people and their intentions. She said the Deaf community should feel confident with using the “okay” gesture because we have never viewed it as something hateful. Of course, if a Deaf person purposefully used the “okay” gesture in a hateful way, then the meaning of the gesture changes.

Thank you, Dr. Hochgesang for the analysis. So we see that the usage of the “okay” handshape is fine as long as the intent is within its normal use and not hateful.

Now, in related news, an actor at Universal Orlando who was dressed as a character from “Despicable Me” was fired on Wednesday because he made the “okay” gesture and placed it on the shoulder of a biracial girl during a photo opportunity. A video shows the actor asking the girl to stand near him, then purposefully placing the “okay” gesture on her shoulder.

[Video clip]

A Universal spokesman said what the actor did is unacceptable. The photo was taken in March but the family did not realize it until recently.


LinkNYC partners with Purple/ZVRS to provide city-wide VRS service

Last week LinkNYC, a communications network that provides free WiFi and phone calls in kiosks placed across New York City, announced a partnership with Purple Communications to provide videophone/VRS calling capability using tablets in the kiosks.

There was a viral video on Facebook by Tony Wooden Jr., who works with the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, that showed himself using a kiosk to place a videophone call. He said in the post that there will be a total of 7,500 LinkNYC kiosks all over NYC and that all of them will have videophone/VRS capability.

The Daily Moth reached out to Purple/ZVRS. We asked them what motivated them to pursue this concept. Here is their response.

“Communication access within our home and workplace is undeniably a necessity, but equally important is accessibility outside of these parameters especially-anytime, anywhere and anyplace. Access to communication across the city is a powerful step for the Deaf and hard of hearing community and even more for those who do not have access to the internet and basic services necessary to make calls that are vital in their daily lives.

Purple/ZVRS saw this as an exemplary method for the city to promote greater accessibility for all Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The availability of this access demonstrates how a municipality can provide greater access for everyone, including the Deaf and hard of hearing directly from the streets.”

I asked them if it was required to have a Purple/ZVRS account to make a call. They said no, that any eligible deaf and hard of hearing users may place calls to communicate in ASL.

Nice service for those of you who live in New York City. Maybe this concept can carry over to other cities.

LinkNYC Announcement:

Tony Wooden Video:

Purple/ZVRS CEO:


That is all for this week. Thank you for watching “The Daily Moth.” Have a wonderful weekend and stay with the light!


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