Everyone looking at this thread – indulging themselves when they should be out fighting racism, or defending the Republic – probably knows about the ‘monkeys and typewriters’ example, often used in popularizations of mathematics.
Namely, given a monkey sitting at a typewriter and hitting the keys randomly, and enough time, eventually the monkey will type out Hamlet. If you want to speed things up, make it a million, or a trillion, or any finite number of monkeys. And this goes for all works of literature, and all PhD theses, and all expressions of the laws of physics. The great Argentine author Jorge Borges wrote a short story along these lines about 80 years ago [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Library_of_Babel ]
Now … the same goes for straight lines set within a rectangular framework, an obvious set of constraints for someone trying to design an easily-copied symbol … or laying out paths on a stage.
You can try it yourself. If we restrict ourselves to a square, and straight lines (which can be thick but of uniform thickness, and of lengths which are equal or only fractional multiples of the length of the squares side, ie 1/2, 1/3, 2/3), and only right angles or 45 degrees to each other or the sides … plus some basic symmetry requirements… well, we can will get a finite number of abstract symbols.
We could program a computer to produce them all, and someone probably has. All the crosses will be there: the ‘plus’ sign, the Christian cross, the Cross of Lorraine, St Andrews Cross, the Swastica, the Odal, etc. Someone who is better at combinatorics than I am can probably make my constraints more thorough and work out how many possible designs there are.
If they’re all symmetric and all lengths have integer ratios to each other, we will probably find them pleasing to the eye.
If you has shown me the odal in the context of a neo-Nazi march, I would probably have vaguely associated it with fascism … that is, would have pulled up previous images of it in similar contexts … or maybe not, because it’s not that common, especially in the US where fascists are allowed to use the swastika. But show it to me out of context, as just an abstract symbol, and I wouldn’t have immediately said, ‘Oh, that’s a proxy for the swastika’. And I’m a political obsessive with fifty-five years of obsessing.
Now … it’s not totally implausible that the person at that agency that designed this stage layout for CPAC, playing around with various layouts, had seen this symbol being carried by Nazis at some point and without making the connection, pulled it up out of his memory. Or, even, that he did make the connection and as a good Progressive, decided deliberately to propose it the CPAC functionary and see what would happen, said functionary taking the bait.
(What is not plausible is a CPAC functionary thinking, “Hmmm… let’s use a Nazi-related symbol for our convention… that’ll increase our popularity!”)
Sneaking symbols into items for public consumption is not unknown in history. A brave Philippino engraver, commissioned to make the plates for the Japanese occupation currency during WWII, put the tiny letters ‘AACS’ in where it was printed along the edge of the banknotes in very small type. After the notes had been in circulation for a while, someone noticed the letters, and people began asking what they stood for. And then the ‘translation’ was given out: ‘AACS’ stood for ‘American Army Coming Soon’.