This morning I was happy to wake up in the rain and learn something from my friend Fred Lepide’s wonderful website. One of his entries was about a long-ago episode in espionage, when the USS Pueblo, a spy ship, was captured by the North Koreans and the crew was held hostage for 11 months in 1968.
During their captivity, the crew was forced to watch many propaganda movies extolling the virtues of the great communist state. In one shot in London, a bus full of DPRK soccer players passes by a man who gives it the finger. Later on the same thing happens, Londoners flipping off the commies. The censors left these snips in the movies, demonstrating to the Pueblo crewmen that North Koreans had no idea what the erect middle finger meant.
From then on, every time the crew was photographed, one or more of the white uniformed men would give the camera the finger. Later on they were asked about it by their captors and they lied, telling them that it was the Hawaiian Good luck sign.
But Time magazine decided to run a photo and printed an explanation of the real meaning of the term, “a hand symbol of extreme derisiveness and contempt.”
The next day when the Koreans found out what it meant, the crewmen were tortured. “Thank you Time magazine,” wrote the crew.