Sunday, June 27, 2004

They had themselves a party at the point of a gun

This is just wrong. Al Gore may have yet again jumped the shark into further political irrelevance and absurdity with his over-the-top hyperbole comparing right-wing bloggers to Nazis, but I think this is one of those things that can't really be turned around to rebound on the accuser. He's already discredited himself by any reasonable standard; smarmily appropriating his term of "digital brownshirts" as some sort of badge of's neither clever nor amusing. Which is to say, I believe the author's defense gets it wrong: Welcome Metafilter handwringers! Upset with Nazi imagery used for purposes of satire? Take two episodes of Hogan's Heroes and call your shrink in the morning. And please remember that when Al Gore said what he said he meant it. This is a may not think it funny....but it is a joke. There's a difference between 'laughing at' and 'laughing with.' Holding Nazis up for purposes of ridicule is proper and healthy; all the better to continually point out the many evils and failings of a movement that claimed itself to be overlords of all creation. Hogan's Heroes, The Producers' play-within-a-play Springtime for Hitler, P.G. Wodehouse's "Black Shorts" - all are laughing at fascists of various stripes, portraying them as contemptible fools when not as contemptible brutes. Black humour, satire in that fashion, can be amusing precisely because it never forgets the 'otherness' of such a movement. They're not like us, it says. On the other hand, proudly taking up "digital brownshirts" as a redirected jibe, in the manner of reclaiming epithets such as "nigger" or "faggot" - I just don't think it can work. It's laughing with the hypothetical Nazis; See, we're not so bad, if Al Gore can confuse us with you. Even compared to its most closely related meme, the "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy," it's nothing alike. Most can agree that that phrase was hyperbole, but silly in context, and reflecting worse upon the Clinton administration than its declared enemies. The difference is that there is and was no such conspiracy. There certainly were brownshirts, and blackshirts, and sympathizers galore, for an uncomfortable part of the last century. There's something indecent about self-identifying with the worst monsters history has ever seen, even in jest. Lileks had it right, I think. A pox on all those who would abuse the very notion of Nazism for political ends. Last week, I went out to dinner with friends, and while talking about the election, one kept joking about the supposed evil of the Conservatives with the phrase "Heil Harper." It made me furious. It is not funny and not right to call your opponents Nazis, unless they actually are. It is similarly neither amusing nor appropriate to mockingly call oneself a Nazi, under any circumstances. Could we not agree on that, at least?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am as acquainted with what real brownshirts were as much as the next person.

I am not laughing with Nazis. I am laughing at Al Gore.

It really is that simple.

Walsingham @ Jessicas'w Well

6/27/2004 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Denton said...

That's as may be. I'm of the opinion that it's a serious and profoundly unfunny charge, one which makes a good case for condemning and shunning Gore - not one that demands one-upping his hyperbole with a similarly tasteless joke.

Moreover, as a purely practical matter, it cannot help the credibility of anyone, no matter their ideology, to be thought of as any variety of Nazi. Too many are likely to either miss the joke, or consider it as obscene as I.

6/27/2004 06:07:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home