Michelle Wolf invokes the Holocaust at correspondents’ dinner

A few days ago Michelle Wolf shared some jokes at the annual White House Correspondents’ dinner. The varied responses to her words – I think – aptly reflects our current political climate, as reviews have sharply varied from strong affirmations to ardent defamation. Personally, I thought her routine was funny – edgy, but, nonetheless, funny. In two specific jokes she invoked the Holocaust.

While making a joke about Donald Trump she said, “[Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend.’ Or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies’ man.’ Which isn’t really fair. He also likes plants.”

Wolf’s point here is that language and titles are coded or softened. She says white nationalists ought to be leveled with Nazis. Her comparison invokes the Holocaust because she levels the two terms on fact that they are both undergirded with racist ideology – Nazism synonymous with Jewish extermination in the Holocaust.

On Democrats she said, “Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything. People think you might flip the House and Senate this November, but you guys always find a way to mess it up. You’re somehow going to lose by 12 points to a guy named Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor.”

This joke references the success Republicans have had in certain races, despite having candidates like Roy Moore – the alleged child molestor. Here, Wolf connects the absurdity of Moore’s success to the prospect of a Nazi Doctor having successin an election. Using “Nazi Doctor,” I think, may be a reference to Josef Mengele.

I found this video and corresponding articles while scrolling through my facebook newsfeed.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/reliable-source/wp/2018/04/29/the-harshest-jokes-from-michelle-wolfs-correspondents-dinner-speech/?utm_term=.d57ed331dd56

Holocaust Joke in Popular New Netflix Stand-Up Special

In the new Netflix special The Honeymoon Stand-Up Special,  comedians Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher, a married couple, team up to poke fun at marriage and pregnancy. In the third part of the series, Natasha brings up how she converted to Judaism when she married Moshe, and the joke follows:

Natasha: Why do jews make it so hard for you to convert?

Moshe: I don’t know, we don’t want you.

Natasha: But you would think they would want more members since that membership drop-off that happened a while ago. [audience groans] … I’m Jewish, I can say that.

Moshe: Yeah, I’ll always remember that saying I was raised with, “Never forget that membership drop-off that happened a while ago.”

Since we’ve analyzed jokes in class before, and come up with the ideology that jokes about the Holocaust that reference the people who who murdered aren’t funny, I immediately disliked the joke. But the point brought up by Natasha is good one–she’s Jewish now, she can say it. Of course, she’s again pointing out that she wasn’t raised Jewish, she’s newly converted, and she’s aware of her place there. Her awareness that the joke is outside of her culture, and the fact that her Jewish husband had to agree to the joke beforehand, makes it, to me, slightly more bearable.

Natasha is known for her raunchy, uncomfortable comedy, and this isn’t the first time she’s made a Holocaust joke. On Jimmy Kimmel Live this January, Natasha made a reference to Hitler when discussing how nervous she was to see what kind of person her unborn baby would turn out to be, saying, “What if it sucks? Like, Hitler’s mom didn’t know. She was probably like, ‘I hope its a boy.'” Which is clearly less offensive joke than the prior. Analyzing both jokes together really demonstrates which context Holocaust related material can be funny or unfunny.

The Honeymoon Stand-Up Special is viewable here: https://www.netflix.com/watch/80213719?trackId=13752289&tctx=0%2C2%2Cbb676e4a-de79-4961-a501-7192e6d8d8af-150726189%2C%2C

The interview with Jimmy Kimmel is viewable here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_21l58rJnHk

 

Metal music and Hitler

Two members of the Swedish band Marduk have made headlines by purchasing significant amount of Nazi propoganda online.  The purchases were made from the Nordic Resistance Movement, a white supremacy group associated with neo Nazism and Holocaust denial.  They purchased books and official party programs along with 100’s of stickers which bore the phrase “However, Really Six Million?’  The purchases were made in May of 2016, though news has only broken through the Swedish website Inc.

The metal band has a lengthy discography which is littered with references to Nazism, and the history of WWII.  Northern Europe has been struggling with a resurgence in nationalist politics, reflected in culture and society in music and pop culture.  Music provides a common form of media for people with similar radical beliefs to bond over, and form community around.  While their music regularly conjure up images and themes from the Third Reich, if falls short of outright denial. Because of this, their music fall short of hate speech and anti Holocaust denial.

In the United States, neo-Nazi’s produced thousands of documents which were distributed among sympathizers with Germany.  George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party started  “Hatenanny Records” which produced several .45 records which featured racist lyrics.

Musicians often have an edge that makes them controversial as well as attractive to young people, and people that reject mainstream pop culture.  In Sweden, metal music is extremely popular, though not all metal is associated with racism or nationalism.  But while the community of racists may be small, it is growing with the help of musicians who provide a forum for fans to meet and organize.

Theatre asks attendents to wear Swastikas or Stars

A theater in Germany is under criticism for a controversial marketing ploy which they claim seeks to reignite conversation about fascism.  Attendants of the play “Mein Kampf,” a story about a young Adolf Hitler and a Jewish man who befriended him, were given the choice of wearing a Hitler swastika or a yellow Star of David.  Those willing to wear the Nazi armband were “rewarded” with free admission, while those who refused were charged full price.

The tactic garnered complaints from community members, but appears to be permissible under laws protecting artistic expression.  The armbands are collected by the theater following the play, as wearing Nazi symbols is generally prohibited.

The ploy has made news in Berlin, which makes it a successful marketing attempt for the producers.  But the question remains; does this add to the message of the play? Or is it just an attempt to make a splash in the headlines?  Perhaps this could be interpreted as a statement about the hidden incentives and rewards which push people towards conformity, even when they might disagree with the groups ethics or morals.  Many members of the community are not amused, and would like to see the tactic discontinued.

 

Roseanne Barr and celebrity comments

Many celebrities have spoken out regarding the Parkland students and the March for Our Lives organizers.  Roseanne Barr, star of the once again hit ABC primetime family comedy, opinion clear in two words: “NAZI SALUTE”

Roseanne was referring the image of David Hogg with his hand raised, not particularly close to a Nazi salute, but close enough for Roseanne.  It’s unclear what Roseanne and the thousands of followers who ‘liked’ her tweet are indicating, which is the part of the problem.  Are they actually concerned that these children are aspiring neo-Nazi’s, or are they they taking a cheap shot at someone whose politics they disagree with.

This is a reoccuring problem on the left and the right.  Dismissing opponents by attempting to connect them to Hitler or Nazis has become a common political tactic, one which is particularly effective on the internet.  Celebrities and content creators gather significant followings online, and their content is shared and viewed by millions of people, which goes unchecked or unchallenged by the mainstream.  In an online world where algorithims are designed to fill our feeds with media that reinforces our opinions, the ability to confront misleading information and agree upon a common set of facts is sorely missed.

 

Fraternity Expelled for Anti-Semitic Video

While scrolling through Facebook, one of my friends shared a link for an article posted by CNN on April 22nd. This article had received many shares, likes and comments. The article discussed a fraternity Theta Tau that has just been expelled from Syracuse University because the members took part in a anti-Semitic and racist “skit”. A video of this skit was obtained by the student newspaper on campus ‘The Daily Orange” which posted the video to their Facebook group. Soon after the video was posted, students rallied together and protested against the fraternity.

The video also included members saying racist things against African Americans and Hispanics. There were also comments made about women, those in the LGBTQ community, and mental disabled. There was also a reference to Jews being gassed during the Holocaust. Eighteen students are being investigated by the University for possible suspension and expulsion. The president released a statement that he is not investigating the entire Greek Life community at large.

This video was deeply disturbing and hard to watch. It was very hard to watch students at a prestigious university making such ignorant and cruel comments. It made me question if they have been educated not only in the history of the Holocaust, but if they any real education at all.

I have linked the article and video below.https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/21/us/syracuse-fraternity-theta-tau-expelled/index.html

Pug trained to do Nazi salute for viral YouTube video

While on Twitter, I came across a link for a Washington Post article published April 23rd. The article discussed a Scottish man, Mark Meechan, who posted a video of his girlfriends pug in 2016. The video has since been viewed over a million times, making it pop culture. The video shows a pug watching Hitler’s rally and raising its paw anytime Hitler says “Sieg Heil”. Meechan also questions the dog over and over again “Do you want to gas the Jews?” to which the dog will raise its paw and give a Nazi salute.

On Monday, a sheriff gave Meechan a fine of $1,100 dollars because he was found guilty of a hate crime, because the video was found to be both racist and Anti-Semitic. Meechan claims that he was just trying to annoy his girlfriend because she was constantly saying how cute her dog was, and he wanted the dog to become the least cute thing possible, a Nazi.

The video has created a lot of controversy. Many claiming that the video is Anti-Semitic and extremely offensive. Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities was deeply offended and claimed he felt “sorry for the dog”. Comedians Ricky Gervais and David Baddiel claimed that Meechan has the right to make jokes like he did because he has a right to free speech. Meechan agrees and says he feels like he did nothing wrong and that he has a rights for freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

            I found this offensive. I do not think anyone should be training an animal to respond to the words of Hitler especially with Meechan constantly repeating over and over again “Do you want to gas the Jews?” I do not think it was an okay thing to do just to get a lot of views on YouTube. I also found it upsetting that he did not understand why anyone would be upset by his actions. I think things like this are hard to judge however because people respond to comedy in very different ways. I, however, did find it offensive.

I have attached a link for the article and video here. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2018/04/23/he-trained-a-pug-to-do-a-nazi-salute-for-a-youtube-video-now-hes-been-fined-for-a-hate-crime/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d073a6d606d2

 

Guerrilla Holocaust Memorials Outside Right-Wing Politicians’ Homes

An art collective in Germany has completed a piece where they transported 24 concretes slabs to create an faux Holocaust memorial outside of the home of a right-wing German politician. Their actions are in response to Björn Höcke’s comments that the Berlin Holocaust museum was a “memorial to shame”. The group has also evoked German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s act of falling to his knees in humility at the sight of the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The group is attempting to stimulate a similar response as opposed to the the German right’s attitude that the past has passed and there is no sense dwelling on the misguided actions of the past. While their intentions may be in the right place, creating a shame memorial is highly problematic. The idea of a memorial is maintain and foster the connection to the past and to those lost. These slabs of concrete are meaningless. They have no connection or significance to the millions of people killed during the Holocaust.

How an Art Collective Is Mercilessly Pranking Germany’s Far-Right Politicians With Guerrilla Works

Award Winning Song Featuring Auschitwz Reference

I recently came across a Washington Post article that talks about the recent Echo awards in Germany. At the awards ceremony, two German rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang received an award for their record that has a song that features a line where one of the artists brags that “my body more defined than Auschwitz inmates’.” The presentation of the award was quickly criticized by Jewish communities throughout Germany and said that this type of behavior is indicative of a greater problem of rising antisemitism. Given the prevalence of music in modern culture and the cultural weight that it has on young people, it is especially worrisome that acts of antisemitism can be excused by some under the guise of freedom of artistic expression. And given the startling statistics that we have seen in class about the underwhelming about of Holocaust education that so many young people have, it is a potential risk that artists could utilize that gap in information about the Holocaust and capitalize on it with incorporating evocations about the conditions of human beings in concentration camps.

Documentary on Brazil’s Military Rule being Compared to Hitler

I recently came across an Atlantic article that talked about how a newly planned Netflix documentary series was to dramatize the military government rule that was present in Brazil up until the 1980s. Politicians in Brazil have been quick to criticize the series for the unfavorable and biased angle that the series would have. Brazil’s former president Dilma Rousseff released a statement where she likened the series to “a movie where Winston Churchill makes a deal with Adolf Hitler to attack the United States.” Obviously, this is a truly problematic statement. The idea of evoking the Holocaust and Hitler as a way to ratchet up an argument is something that we have talked about a great deal in class. However, this does not help Rousseff’s argument as the idea of using Nazism as the ultimate evil for the purposes of comparison is useless. If you are creating a pinnacle that cannot be recreated, then by drawing comparisons between a bad political dramatization with Nazism; you are degrading the scale and scope of the atrocity that was the Holocaust and the Nazi regime.