Join 3,436 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Wal-Mart Sells T-Shirt with Nazi SS Logo
January 2, 2007 3:04 AM   Subscribe

Blogger goes to Wal-Mart and finds t-shirt with Nazi SS logo. Wal-Mart apologizes and promises to pull the shirts. But have they been doing a good job? [via] the consumerist
posted by paulinsanjuan (112 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was at a Super Wal-Mart at 4 am this morning Jan 2nd and found one lone Totenkopf t-shirt sitting on a bottom shelf. I tried to buy it but the register beeped saying SALE NOT ALLOWED or something like that. A supervisor came over and just shaked her head and said, "Yea, sometimes we get these. They don't tell us why. But we can't sell it to you." She explained that it was probably due to a recall.

But, there's always ebay.
posted by paulinsanjuan at 3:12 AM on January 2, 2007


Back in the pre-Web days, there was a story in Newsweek about how a commercial artist copied the setting and pose of a Hitler Youth recruiting poster to look like a cowboy in a poster marketing beef -- "America's Meat Roundup" was the snicker-inducing caption. When somebody recognized the image and found the original poster -- they're unmistakably similar in the way "My Sweet Lord" is a hell of a lot like "He's So Fine" -- the artist claimed he was working from a model. Thppbt.
posted by pax digita at 3:23 AM on January 2, 2007


Deutch's company, Orange Clothing Co, found the skull in a "European trend book."

Smooth move, all in all. Quite curious to see this European trend book they mention. Looks like I missed the boat on nazi-symbols being a cool trend with the kids.

All in all it's somply a series of mistakes, but quite disturbing/funny nonetheless.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:27 AM on January 2, 2007


Interesting to see what passes as cool from a designer's stand point. He thought the skull and cross bones was a no-brainer. How wrong he was.
posted by Acey at 3:52 AM on January 2, 2007


Cool is whatever I say is cool and the north pole.
posted by elpapacito at 4:04 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Funny clip about the SS symbol, from That Mitchell and Webb Look (funny English blokes): SS Officers Come To Starting Realization (html page with embedded flash)
posted by autodidact at 4:08 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is what happens when restrictive copyright makes it hard to get stylized images relevant to the here and now. Guy took a cool-looking (?) non-copyright image. Whoops!
posted by mobunited at 4:10 AM on January 2, 2007


Maybe the designer was just a Laibach fan?
posted by mkb at 4:11 AM on January 2, 2007


Incidentally, is it really necessary to have a daily update on the status of the withdrawal operation? Is it really that important, considering they are no longer for sale?
posted by Acey at 4:16 AM on January 2, 2007


As one of the posters on Rick's blog points out, I seriously doubt there was any thought involved in slapping the shirt art together. No-one mulled over whether the image was "cool" or not. Apparel design on this level is pretty much an assembly-line job. It's hourly work, and you have a quota of x-number of designs to churn out in any given week and you just do it. It's a process and industry that consumes found images like a sun consumes hydrogen.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:31 AM on January 2, 2007


This is totally faked. It is implausible that a blogger would go to a wal-mart. They are outside. They don't have wireless access points yet. Also there are no new game consoles coming out this week.

And buying a t shirt? Unrealistic. He would be shopping for pajamas.

Of course the stonehenge knock off on his header reveals his true allegience. He is clearly another ex-military part of the druid controlled liberal msm working with the jihadis to undermine our troops by interfering with their families' opportunities to stretch the generous combat pay by purchasing their foreign made fascist imagery at low cost senior employing big box retailers.
posted by srboisvert at 4:37 AM on January 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


Oh, and back in the day, I had a T-shirt I was successfully encouraged to auto-da-fé, "Adolf Hitler -- The European Tour," for which I just searched. (Hit Google image search; it's out there, but I understand hotlinking here is frowned upon.) That search turned up a Wikipedia page on "Nazi chic" y'all might find enlightening.

My other beer-drinking shirt was "Oedipus was a motherfucker."
posted by pax digita at 4:42 AM on January 2, 2007


Wasn't there a big stir a couple of years back about Wal-Mart selling The Protocols of the Elders of Zion? It'd make a great conspiracy theory that Wal-Mart is covertly pro-Nazi, but in all honesty it smells more like incompetence than malice.
posted by graymouser at 5:15 AM on January 2, 2007


Here in Hong Kong you can find tees and other items with Nazi swastikas.

We had that big flap with Izzue* selling clothing using a Nazi theme. Then we had Bar Pacific* decorated with Nazi photos.

And since I first mentioned it in 2004, no one has said a word about Hitler's likeness in wax being included in "The Hall of Great People" at Madame Tussaud's*.

It's clear that many folks here have no idea what the Nazis were all about.


*Anyone interested in reading more about these events can use the search box on the main page of my site.
posted by bwg at 5:25 AM on January 2, 2007


When I was living in Mexico, it wasn't unusual to see Nazi shirts at the chain stores... Here's a couple examples.
posted by glider at 5:42 AM on January 2, 2007


This makes me think of that sketch on The State where they have Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen as contestants on the $25,000 Pyramid and when "Nazis," is offered as a clue, Sid answers "People Who Dress Cool!"
posted by jonmc at 5:46 AM on January 2, 2007


Isn't this story two months old and resolved?
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:47 AM on January 2, 2007


Metafilter: All in all it's somply a series of mistakes, but quite disturbing/funny nonetheless.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:51 AM on January 2, 2007


I did not know that Hugo Boss started out making uniforms for the Wehrmacht.
posted by furtive at 5:53 AM on January 2, 2007


I am going to make T-shirts with the word "Godwin" in Gothic type. Look for it in the Projects section.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:55 AM on January 2, 2007


allen.spaulding

Not according to the link... apparently there are still sightings of the shirt at Wal marts across the country.
posted by eparchos at 5:58 AM on January 2, 2007


And since I first mentioned it in 2004, no one has said a word about Hitler's likeness in wax being included in "The Hall of Great People" at Madame Tussaud's*.

That actually makes perfect sense, inasmuch as 'great' means 'of major significance or importance' or 'remarkable or out of the ordinary in degree or effect'.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:04 AM on January 2, 2007


The Miami Herald found the designer of Walmart's Nazi tshirts, a man of Jewish persuasion.
posted by phaedon at 6:10 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


The way The Consumerist has handled this story suggests that paying bloggers per post might not be the best way to get diverse, high-quality content.
posted by mendel at 6:14 AM on January 2, 2007


The only way to make sure a Walmart has no inventory of something is to put it on sale on Black Friday.
posted by smackfu at 6:21 AM on January 2, 2007


a man of Jewish persuasion.

that phrase is now running through my head to the tune of "A Man Of Constant Sorrow."

I kind of like it.
posted by jonmc at 6:24 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Money has no odor
posted by zouhair at 6:38 AM on January 2, 2007


I am going to make T-shirts with the word "Godwin" in Gothic type
How about

GODWIN
img of Hitler
DARWIN
posted by Joeforking at 6:49 AM on January 2, 2007


Wow. This was already boring when they first started daily nagging Walmart about this marginally relevant issue. I can't believe anyone still cares. Move on, sheesh.
posted by bunnycup at 6:52 AM on January 2, 2007


In Germany, it's supposed to be illegal to use the nazi S, which is why kiss albums have slightly different fonts than their us counterpart.
posted by nomisxid at 6:52 AM on January 2, 2007


This casts suspicious doubt on my entire Deadhead wardrobe.
posted by hal9k at 6:53 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was in Mexico (Mexico City mostly) in 2003 and I saw plenty of Mexican teenagers wearing mass produced t-shirts with the Nazi swastika and SS logos... I'm not sure they understood the implications or meanings.

Then again I saw cars which had "Tommy Hilfiger" painted down the side and a city bus with the words "Porn Star" in large vinyl letters... so... who knows?
posted by wfrgms at 6:57 AM on January 2, 2007


Oh, and back in the day, I had a T-shirt I was successfully encouraged to auto-da-fé, "Adolf Hitler -- The European Tour," for which I just searched.
posted by pax digita at 7:42 AM EST on January 2


I remember a kid in high school who used to wear that shirt. The London and Moscow gigs were stamped "CANCELLED". Ha ha. Hmm.

I sort of don't understand what the problem here is. There's free speech, right? That applies equally to indie clothing stores as well as to giant corporations. I do appreciate that the symbol is offensive, but there's a great deal out there that's offensive, and the usual advice is to ignore it and get over it.

Furthermore, this isn't a symbol that most people would identify as being Nazi related. When I read the front page post, I assumed the T-shirt would have the double-lightning bolt SS symbol. This thing looks like a poorly rendered version of the Jolly Roger.

Apparently the only people who recognized it as Nazi-related are people so obsessed with Nazis or with hating Nazis that they've studied every minute detail of Nazi culture so they can enrich their hatred with specifics.

At some point people are going to have to rob these symbols of their power by appropriating them for some ironic purpose - Put the swastika on a pink t-shirt with the caption "I am one of over a billion Hindus. Please stop perverting our culture. Kthxbye."
posted by Pastabagel at 7:01 AM on January 2, 2007


I can't believe that enough people could fail to identify the totenkopf as a symbol of the SS that this sort of thing would happen.
posted by smackwich at 7:06 AM on January 2, 2007


Pastabagel:

Well, I'd argue that fascist symbols (even "covert" fascist symbols) should not be robbed of their power. We shouldn't be trying to go over to a world where Nazi iconography is "acceptable," it should remain reprehensible as a reminder of the crimes of the Nazis. I don't think they should be singled out as super-historically evil, per se, but at the same time Nazi symbology shouldn't be sanitized and cleansed of historical content.
posted by graymouser at 7:08 AM on January 2, 2007


I special ordered one of these on a limited edition ringer tee made from human skin.
posted by The Straightener at 7:09 AM on January 2, 2007


I remember a kid in high school who used to wear that shirt. The London and Moscow gigs were stamped "CANCELLED". Ha ha.

I knew a kid in high school who did the same thing. I think every high school had that kid. He grew up and married that girl who likes to look at herself naked in the health club locker room mirror.
posted by jonmc at 7:11 AM on January 2, 2007


We shouldn't be trying to go over to a world where Nazi iconography is "acceptable," it should remain reprehensible as a reminder of the crimes of the Nazis.

Except, of course, as pastabagel pointed out, not a whole lot of people would recognize that logo as having any sort of connection to Nazism. I know that I didn't and I suspect that most of the people who bought and wore the t shirt, didn't either, and c'mon--how many people can that t shirt possibly offend if most people don't look at it as related to Nazis?
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:17 AM on January 2, 2007


I sort of don't understand what the problem here is. There's free speech, right?

It is perfectly reasonable for private citizens to discourage other private citizens (or legal persons, in the case of wal-mart) from engaging in speech they find offensive. Free speech becomes an issue when the government is doing the discouraging.

At some point people are going to have to rob these symbols of their power by appropriating them for some ironic purpose - Put the swastika on a pink t-shirt with the caption "I am one of over a billion Hindus. Please stop perverting our culture. Kthxbye."

Sure, and in 100 or 200 years, it will be just as unremarkable to be a fan of hitler's life and wars as it is now to be a fan of Napoleon. Today ethnic intolerance is still a world-wide issue, so I have a hard time buying that the rehabilitation of hitler and the nazis is a worthy effort.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:25 AM on January 2, 2007


leftcoastbob:

The thing is -- someone did recognize it as being a Nazi symbol. I don't think that it was a particularly malicious act on the part of the t-shirt manufacturer or anything, but I support people pointing out that it's a Nazi t-shirt and making it unacceptable for a Nazi t-shirt to be "just another t-shirt."
posted by graymouser at 7:29 AM on January 2, 2007


I for one recognised the insignia. And I would find it extremely offensive if i ever met someone wearing a t-shirt like that. If the person wearing it didnt know what was going on - that would be fun.
posted by FidelDonson at 7:29 AM on January 2, 2007


Along the lines of what Pastabagel's bringing up - who cares? I'm of the mindset that yes, it certainly is offensive and rude, but so are a lot of things, and I'm not going to vote for removing offensive things from shelves.
posted by odinsdream at 7:31 AM on January 2, 2007


I can't believe that enough people could fail to identify the totenkopf as a symbol of the SS that this sort of thing would happen.
posted by smackwich at 10:06 AM EST on January 2


I'm assuming this is sarcastic. Nazi propaganda was not a required course at my college. I can't really understand why anyone would know this, unless, as I said before, they are so obsessed with Nazis that they consume books and picture on the subject.

We shouldn't be trying to go over to a world where Nazi iconography is "acceptable," it should remain reprehensible as a reminder of the crimes of the Nazis.

The US government slaughtered native Americans. If they didn't do it to the scale and ruthless efficiency of the Nazis, it's because there weren't enough Indians and the US government has never been all that efficient. The Spanish wiped out civilizations in Mexico and Central America. You could play this game forever. Remember Carthage? No? Neither does anyone else after the Romans visited.

And yet it is perfectly acceptable to wear CCCP t-shirts emblazoned with the sickle and hammer logo. That's the symbol of tyranny, the oppression of billions, the murder of countless tens of millions, and the symbol of a country that brought the world to the brink of annihilation.

This is how a culture deals with the leftover tension from a past foe or threat. It takes the symbols of the enemy, and robs them of their power by using them for something that neither it nor the enemy would countenance while the threat was real. No one wore CCCP shirts ironically in the 80's (they did it for shock value) because it was not a small threat. People then believed that at some point the two powers would fight a nuclear war. Now that symbol has no power.

But the nazi symbols still have power because we aren't subsuming through ridicule into our culture. The nazis and their ideology were annihilated over half a century ago, and were are still running scared from them. Oh no, look, a Nazi symbol!

Less knee jerk reacting and more Mel Brooks, in my opinion.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:34 AM on January 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


And yet it is perfectly acceptable to wear CCCP t-shirts emblazoned with the sickle and hammer logo. That's the symbol of tyranny, the oppression of billions, the murder of countless tens of millions, and the symbol of a country that brought the world to the brink of annihilation.

I gotta admit, that kinda irks me as well, but what are you going to do ultimately.

(odd side note: swatstikas & SS lightning bolts seem to be off-limits, but the Iron Cross is still a popular accessory in patches and jewelery with punks and bikers/wannabes I encounter. There was even one (with the 'American Choppers' logo) on a free Zippo I got with 2 packs of cigarrettes awhile back. Interesting disjuncture)
posted by jonmc at 7:38 AM on January 2, 2007


and the symbol of a country that brought the world to the brink of annihilation.

and the symbol of a country that in conjunction with the USA brought the world to the brink of annihilation.

Fixed that for you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:38 AM on January 2, 2007


It is perfectly reasonable for private citizens to discourage other private citizens (or legal persons, in the case of wal-mart) from engaging in speech they find offensive.

Sure, it is not trampling on free speech for one private citizen, like Bill O'Reilly or Consumerist, to hang in effigy, harass, harangue and generally make all attempts to persuade another private entity, like Target or Walmart, from doing something offensive, like saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" or selling a shirt with imagery based on a symbol that was racist when used in a wholly different context....half a century ago. Good thing we have people like Ben Popken and the American Family Association to protect us from stuff that might sort of offend other really oversensitive people who can't live their lives knowing this is out there.

Or did I miss where this shirt was actually intended as a racist statement with a chance or likelihood of actually really hurting anyone or persuading the American Walmart shoping masses to think twice before discarding Nazism as the shameful terrible ideology it was? Because if that's the case and there is actually some kind of point here...well it's still boring because controlling the sale of offensive stuff is truly...not really...important.
posted by bunnycup at 7:39 AM on January 2, 2007


Just to cloud the issue further, there are some Luftwaffe unit insignia that are arguably distinctive enough to be T-shirt-worthy -- one of them's even the Condor Legion. (Guernica much?)

And for you US Army history buffs, there's always the celebrated pre-WW II emblem of the 45th Infantry Division.
posted by pax digita at 7:47 AM on January 2, 2007


I have a hard time buying that the rehabilitation of hitler and the nazis is a worthy effort.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:25 AM EST on January 2


That's not remotely what I said. I'm not saying you rehabilitate the Nazis - I'm saying the opposite. You render them impotent and ridiculous so no one can appropriate those symbols in the future for the purpose it originally symbolized.

More to the point, we started doing this with the Nazis at some point, and then it became unacceptable to do so. Hogan's Heroes, etc. That show depicted Nazis as entirely opposite of what they were. There was the chubby, genial, teddy bear guard who not accidentally knows and sees nothing, and the bumbling incompetence of the nazis increased as you moved up in each characters rank and from the regular german army to the gestappo. We beat them, now we get to rub it in. The same with Brooks' The Producers.

But at some point our national grandfather got a hold of us and told us that these Nazis were no joke. Yes, we know. We get it. But if we continue to peg the evil end of the spectrum at the Nazis, we are going to be blind to what a lot of tyrants are doing simply because they don't have the propaganda machine Hitler did. Ethnic cleansing is still going on in Sudan, elsewhere in Africa, and the Middle East. People are literally working to death in forced labor camps in North Korea and elsewhere. But they aren't aa dead empire from 60 years ago and don't have logos and scary leather coats, so I guess they aren't such a big deal - even though those tyrants are killing people as you read this.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:47 AM on January 2, 2007


There was even one (with the 'American Choppers' logo) on a free Zippo I got with 2 packs of cigarrettes awhile back. Interesting disjuncture)
posted by jonmc at 10:38 AM EST on January 2


I think that the Iron Cross predates the Nazis, going back to WWI, so it's okay by the standards of whoever it is that is saying that other things are not okay. I might be wrong though, and that wikipedia search box is waaaayy up there so I can't be bothered to check.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:52 AM on January 2, 2007


The US government slaughtered native Americans. If they didn't do it to the scale and ruthless efficiency of the Nazis, it's because there weren't enough Indians and the US government has never been all that efficient. The Spanish wiped out civilizations in Mexico and Central America.

Personally, I don't think that this is an argument for letting Nazi symbology become irrelevant; I find that in general Americans have a very short and very rose-tinted historical memory. In my opinion, we shouldn't have Columbus Day; we shouldn't have Andrew Jackson (among others) on our currency. And we should teach American and European history as a blood soaked tale of genocide and repression.

So the way I see it, at least with the Nazis there's something that won't go down the memory hole. Sure, there were worse; you can't even count the overall number of indigenous people killed by Europeans in the conquest of the Americas. But it's worth holding on to historical grudges in a country where people forget so much so easily.
posted by graymouser at 7:53 AM on January 2, 2007


And we should teach American and European history as a blood soaked tale of genocide and repression.

You're not wrong, but lets be fair: the history of the entire human race is a blood soaked tale of genocide and repression. Europeans and Americans were just more proficient at it.
posted by jonmc at 7:56 AM on January 2, 2007


Put the swastika on a pink t-shirt with the caption "I am one of over a billion Hindus. Please stop perverting our culture. Kthxbye."

Actually I saw an indian dude in a local supermarket wearing a casual button up shirt with a swastica pattern I don't know if it was the "left" or "right" form, but there it was on his shirt. Quite shocking. I'm sure the shirt and it's owner had no intention of referencing the Nazis.
posted by delmoi at 8:00 AM on January 2, 2007


You're not wrong, but lets be fair: the history of the entire human race is a blood soaked tale of genocide and repression. Europeans and Americans were just more proficient at it.

Absolutely, but as I said -- I think that Americans, especially today, need to have a much longer memory about these things before there can be much progress made. Glossing over Nazi bullshit isn't moving forward IMO. In other words, I think we aren't in the kind of world where Pastabagel's approach is valid.
posted by graymouser at 8:01 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Personally, I don't think that this is an argument for letting Nazi symbology become irrelevant; I find that in general Americans have a very short and very rose-tinted historical memory.

Or we could all accept that the world is not now and never has been run by 5-year olds. Everybody screws everyone else over if there's treasure to be had. The more people subordinate their individuality to some collective identity - race, nationality, etc. - the more likely "screw over" involves killing, torturing, etc.

I'm not suggesting that the Nazis weren't as bad as you think s we should lighten up. I'm suggesting that everyone else is worse than you think and it's odd and silly to single out Nazis for doing on camera and with a bureaucracy what everyone else in the world had been doing over and over for centuries before the invention of bureaucracies and cameras.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:04 AM on January 2, 2007


In other words, I think we aren't in the kind of world where Pastabagel's approach is valid.

Well, I think his "more Mel Brooks" idea has some merit, since well-aimed satire at the brilliant level Brooks does it has the power to deflate the pomposity and grandiosity that's a big part of the tyrannical mindset.

Another 10 cent observation: German/Nazi symbols and styles mainly found their way into popular culture in America via the outlaw biker subculture. The irony is that most of the original 1%er bikers of the 50's and 60's were WWII vets who wore them as war trophies, not symbols of anti-semitism.
posted by jonmc at 8:09 AM on January 2, 2007


Pastabagel:

The Nazis are a good example because it wasn't some "backward" country that was doing this. Germany was the pinnacle of European economic and cultural development, and yet it was capable of acts of massive savagery. It's a reminder of how low a "great" nation can sink, and something that should be kept acutely in mind in the US (although I am not for crying "OMG Fascism" at every turn). I'm not for singling out the Nazis as uniquely evil, as I said at the start of this, but I do think there's value to pointing out their crimes. Like I said above, I would support removing Jackson from the $20 bill, etc.
posted by graymouser at 8:14 AM on January 2, 2007


I've been curious about this since I got to the UK. They are constantly running WWII documentaries and there are countless museums and such. They have reenactments and the like where I have even seen the French resistance represented.

What is it like for Germans?
posted by srboisvert at 8:19 AM on January 2, 2007


Ethnic cleansing is still going on in Sudan, elsewhere in Africa, and the Middle East. People are literally working to death in forced labor camps in North Korea and elsewhere. But they aren't aa dead empire from 60 years ago and don't have logos and scary leather coats, so I guess they aren't such a big deal - even though those tyrants are killing people as you read this.

This is really the most important point. Genocide is going on today, but it is far easier to discuss Nazi graphic design than to end the senseless slaughter of human beings.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:22 AM on January 2, 2007


I thought the point of ironically wearing the CCCP t-shirts is to illustrate how, as it turns out, Russia wasn't that big a threat to us in the end and probably hadn't been for decades.

It was robbed of its power in people's minds, and THEN became part of pop-culture. Russia had ALREADY become a punchline, which then became acceptable to repeat.

What you're trying to argue as happening here with nazi stuff is the opposite. The power of nazism to horrify is alive and well. And may never cease to do so.

Intentionally TRYING to desensitize people to that is doing a disservice to the world.

And contrary to Pastabagel's claims, some horrors are remembered for all time. Maybe people don't remember Carthage, but they certainly remember Caligula. And Nero. Or, how about the name of Benedict Arnold? EVERY American knows it's synonymous with "traitor," even though the vast majority couldn't tell you the actual circumstances.

I might even point out the Trojan War which, (assuming it happened, which it probably did in some form) would be a *three thousand* year old tragedy that STILL serves as a powerful warning about the deadly allure of war.

I have no doubt - NONE - that the travesties of the Nazis will remain in this special list of horrors to be remembered for all time.
posted by InnocentBystander at 8:23 AM on January 2, 2007


I thought the point of ironically wearing the CCCP t-shirts is to illustrate how, as it turns out, Russia wasn't that big a threat to us in the end and probably hadn't been for decades.

They were, of course, a huge threat to their own citizens. which kind of makes it less funny.
posted by jonmc at 8:25 AM on January 2, 2007


Go anywhere in the Cinque Terra of Italy & you'll be surprised to see just how much apparent call there is for branding wine with Hitler, Mussolini, Che Guevera & Stalin labels. Seriously, they're EVERYWHERE. Only a few shops display the wines with signs saying they're for "entertainment purposes only" or something like that, most of the time they're just alongside the specialty wines.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:26 AM on January 2, 2007


None the less, jonmc, you cannot argue that "Soviet Russia" ISN'T a punchline in America, deservedly or not.

If anything, the fact that it really shouldn't be further underlines the dangers of allowing ourselves to be desensitized to symbols of evil. Every time someone borrows Yakov Smirnof's "In Soviet Russia..." schtick, someone forgets a little more of the horrible things the Russian people lived through.

(I'll also mention that I'm sure part of this trend is the increasing evidence that Russia really isn't doing better since the fall of communism, but that's another flamewar for another time)
posted by InnocentBystander at 8:33 AM on January 2, 2007


The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?
posted by paulinsanjuan at 8:42 AM on January 2, 2007


Pastabagel, if few people even know what the symbol signifies, how is it a deflation of its power to wear it on some faux-vintage T-shirt? I agree that the majority of wearers and viewers won't know what's being signified. So, the design is not goofing on the symbol -- it's actually doing something much more distasteful, completely decontextualizing it, turning it into yet another empty vapid symbol signifying nothing.

Turning this into the Upright Prudes vs. Mel Brooks is the wrong binary. The story, especially given Wal-Mart's foot-dragging over actually removing the shirt once the issue was brought to light, is that the biggest retail entity in the US routinely refuses to sell items with explicit sexual or blasphemous content, but fails to police Nazi shit off its shelves. And not for the first time, either. It's legitimate to ask just why they are so diligent about ensuring the morality of most of the products that they sell, except in this and like instances.
posted by melissa may at 8:55 AM on January 2, 2007


It's legitimate to ask just why they are so diligent about ensuring the morality of most of the products that they sell, except in this and like instances.

Beacuse they are actually Wal-Macht!
posted by jonmc at 8:59 AM on January 2, 2007


If I saw someone wearing anything relating to the Waffen SS, I would kick his ass if I thought that I could get away with it (not get seriously hurt myself or get arrested). It's basically a mop-up battle of WWII if you do that.

I would seriously love to put a Nazi in a walker.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:16 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


InnocentBystander writes "Nero"

Don't be hatin' on Nero, he just got a bad press from the Christians.

• There is no evidence that Christians were ever thrown to the lions in Rome*
• Nero ordered the burning of the slums adjoining the forum as a last ditch attempt to stem the spread of disease
• Nero played the lute (not the violin) and would regale visitors to his house with music and poetry of his own devising
• Nero was very likely what we have come to call a 'genius', a man of many talents, a rennaisance man

*However Nero, being something of an inventive sort, did cover them in wax and set fire to them as they perched atop the columns that surrounded his arena which was located where you will now find St Peter's Basilica. They provided the light so that the citizens of Rome may see the entertainment that had been provided them.

I think that melissa may has hit on the crux of this totenkopf issue, which is the questionable morality of Wal-Marts trading policies. Family store?

Plus, it's an ugly-ass design.
posted by asok at 9:19 AM on January 2, 2007


"I think that the Iron Cross predates the Nazis"

so does the swastika.
posted by drstein at 9:22 AM on January 2, 2007


Not lute, lyre
posted by asok at 9:23 AM on January 2, 2007


A supervisor came over and just shaked her head...
Had she taked your money it would have maked her look even worse.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:23 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


So I know the swastika, despite being much older than the Nazis, is off limits... But I didn't know, the totenkopf, "use of which as a military insignia began with the cavalry of the Prussian army under Frederick the Great" was off limits too.

Is everything the Nazi's appropiated now off limits? Should I burn my Wagner CDs? Stop using the Roman alphabet? Please let me know where the current PC yardstick tells me I should be, so I can continue not to care.
posted by keswick at 9:23 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I saw someone wearing anything relating to the Waffen SS,

*makes note: don't wear Motorhead t-shirt around the Mayor*
posted by jonmc at 9:24 AM on January 2, 2007


Is everything the Nazi's appropiated now off limits? Should I burn my Wagner CDs? Stop using the Roman alphabet? Please let me know where the current PC yardstick tells me I should be, so I can continue not to care.

All of the above. Bands with umlauts in their names are off limits, too.
posted by jonmc at 9:25 AM on January 2, 2007


Even Spinal Tap?

*sobs*
posted by InnocentBystander at 9:30 AM on January 2, 2007


I tend to swoon when you start with the Nazi ass-kicking talk, Mayor Curley.

Me, though, I wouldn't want to put a Nazi in a walker, given that modern specimens tend to be of the breed that lives for the day that they can legitimately collect disability. I'd rather hog-tie them and cover all their gothic script tats with stars of David and large devotional portraits of Barbra Streisand in her Yentl get-up. You have to think these things through, darling.
posted by melissa may at 9:34 AM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the blog: [...] that looked remarkably like something related to Nazis.

Mmm, synthetic outrage.
posted by cillit bang at 9:50 AM on January 2, 2007


anyone know of any literature examining Nazi/Hitler in contexts of modern desensitization through image overuse, or perhaps examining/deconstruction on the predominance of nazism as the archetypal representation of genocide to the near exclusion of other such acts in other parts of the world?
posted by edgeways at 10:04 AM on January 2, 2007


I thought the point of ironically wearing the CCCP t-shirts is to illustrate how, as it turns out, Russia wasn't that big a threat to us in the end and probably hadn't been for decades.

What? Those SS-20s weren't make believe. The Soviet Union effectively occupied half of Europe, and in 1979 they invaded Afghanistan in a push to get access to a warm water port through which they could sell oil, and become as much an economic power as a military one. We didn't know then what we know now (which we learned post-1991) about the soviets, and we would not have learned it but for the hard lines the US took in the 80's. In 1975, the US left Vietnam in utter defeat. It was reasonable for Americans to conclude then that if htey couldn't defeat the Vietnamese, the Soviets would be a tougher fight.

Pastabagel, if few people even know what the symbol signifies, how is it a deflation of its power to wear it on some faux-vintage T-shirt? I agree that the majority of wearers and viewers won't know what's being signified. So, the design is not goofing on the symbol -- it's actually doing something much more distasteful, completely decontextualizing it, turning it into yet another empty vapid symbol signifying nothing. - melissa may

It's a deflation of its power because those who see it as having power will also immediately see it as having lost it. Those who see Nazism as a source of power (i.e. neonazis) will be forced to see it, as you said, decontextualized and made to look ridiculous. The message doing this sends to the contemporary flagbearer is that their ideology is laughable, absurd, and impotent.

See, the thing is that these symbols are empty. They are just pictures. The past isn't real - it's a remembered thing. What you are basically doing is what fundamentalist Christians do with respect to Satan - you are holding Nazi symbols up as a kind of "sacred evil", to be feared and not tampered with. Mocking Satan, to some Christians, is blasphemous because it implies that he isn't real (and if Satan's not real, then what about Jesus etc?)

Symbols should never be given this kind of power because that keeps alive in the original context the very thing they symbolize. That doesn't mean Nazisim should be forgotten, it simply means that NAzism is not a sacred thing, it is precisely the kind of thing that in it's modern form we should be mocking.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:34 AM on January 2, 2007


Deutch's company, Orange Clothing Co, found the skull in a "European trend book."

Death in June have been using the SS skull on their shirts for 20+ years - maybe one was in the "trend book"?
posted by ryanshepard at 10:37 AM on January 2, 2007


Is it true that Wal-mart is replacing them with "Lonsdale" shirts?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:37 AM on January 2, 2007


The story, especially given Wal-Mart's foot-dragging over actually removing the shirt once the issue was brought to light, is that the biggest retail entity in the US routinely refuses to sell items with explicit sexual or blasphemous content, but fails to police Nazi shit off its shelves. And not for the first time, either. It's legitimate to ask just why they are so diligent about ensuring the morality of most of the products that they sell, except in this and like instances.
posted by melissa may at 11:55 AM EST on January 2


I think I see what you're getting at. WalMart excludes those kinds of things (sexual or blasphemous)for a lot of reasons, probably, some subtle, some overt. For the purposes of this discussion, the reason they do it is because their customers want them excluded. The reason for this is that these customers claim to be Christian or religious or moral or whatever, it's how they define themselves. They don't want their families exposed to anything contrary to that - not because it threatens Christianity (which has survived far worse than a few salacious album covers), it's because it threatens them, the customers, and their power to control what their families see and think.

A nazi symbol on a t-shirt doesn't do this, because (a) they aren't likely to recognize the reference in the first place, (b) if they do, they are likely to "get" the irony of it, given that it's a stupid t-shirt from a stupid Walmart, and (c) the symbol isn't really a threat to their power in their family.

A lot of these same Walmart shoppers supported using the confederate flag as the state flag of mississippi. Remember that controversy? Was that about the confederacy as a symbol of slavery? To you (a northerner, let's say) it is, because that's your only context for it. For a southerner, it is not at all about slavery - there has never been slavery in their lifetimes, and for people under 35, no legal segregation either. To them, the "stars and bars" symbolizes their identity as Southerners, in contrast to hyperactive, rude northerners or flashy, wacky, liberal, Westerners.

I guess that was a tangent, but my point is that if the symbol doesn't challenge the customer's own identity in the here and now, at worst its going to raise some abstract intellectual question about whether "they should be selling stuff like that". It may get a frown but that's it.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:47 AM on January 2, 2007


So, Pastabagel, are you saying that the DoD and the CIA *didn't* massively inflate the USSR's danger to us in the 70s and especially the 80s?

'Cause, you know, I'm pretty sure there's documentation of that. A lot of it.

By the time the 80s rolled around, the Soviet Union was already dead on its feet. But the government kept pushing the "OMG TOTAL FEAR!" angle right up until the point that it was universally clear the Evil Empire was no more. And in retrospect, the invocation of the Soviet Union as being just as much a threat in 1984 as it was in 1964 is pretty darn absurd.

And the disaffected folk wearing those shirts are - guess what! - children of that time frame when the USSR *was* far more phantom threat than real.

And you cannot say, as I pointed out to jonmc, that the Soviet Union hasn't become a universal punchline in America, for better or worse. You can bandy "In Soviet Russia..." jokes in polite company without being considered anything other than geeky.

But the sequence is this - first the power of a symbol has to be removed, and THEN it can be co-oped by pop culture. Not the other way around. Never.

Trying to force it to happen is, at best futile and at worst destructive.

Because what's the "jokificiation" of the Soviet Union gotten us? No one in the US really cares what's going on in Russia any more. (except, apparently, the RIAA) No one notices that the average life expectancy of a Russian citizen has DECREASED since the Fall. No one cares that Putin is rapidly consolidating the power that the government had given up, what hasn't already been consolidated by the mafia. Russia is very much backsliding into what it was. If not an even worse version.

But no one in the US cares about these things any more. Because Russia is a JOKE to us now.

Yet people still care about the Jews, and take pains to make sure new resurgances of anti-semitism are stopped before they can become a threat.

I wonder why that is . . .
posted by InnocentBystander at 10:53 AM on January 2, 2007


Also, WHERE'S OBAMA?
posted by analogue at 11:00 AM on January 2, 2007


If you're outraged about this shirt maybe you should tell this reporter about it; he might care, look at his name. While you're at it you can explain that the pirates were all Nazis, including those from Pittsburgh.
posted by davy at 11:04 AM on January 2, 2007


InnocentBystander-

First of all, most of the Nazis victims were not jews. And Nazism was not primarily about antisemitism as much as it was about Aryan (German) supremacy. Ask the southern and eastern Europeans. Maybe that is the explanation for this:

But the sequence is this - first the power of a symbol has to be removed, and THEN it can be co-oped by pop culture. Not the other way around. Never.

Trying to force it to happen is, at best futile and at worst destructive.


In most people's minds, the power has already been removed. You seem to suggest that in Jews' minds, it hasn't, but Brooks (and his success) seems to run counter to that.

So, Pastabagel, are you saying that the DoD and the CIA *didn't* massively inflate the USSR's danger to us in the 70s and especially the 80s?

There's evidence that they deliberately and knowingly distorted the picture? I would like to see evidence of this. Keep in mind that we lost in Vietnam. In 1975, the threat didn't have to be that large to be real. I think the documents probably show that they got their intelligence wrong, but that's different.

In any case, you are forgetting the Solidarity movement in Poland. Those people took real risks to stand up to the USSR, and to suggest that the USSR was a hollow shell of its former might is to diminish their achievement.

Because what's the "jokificiation" of the Soviet Union gotten us? No one in the US really cares what's going on in Russia any more. (except, apparently, the RIAA) No one notices that the average life expectancy of a Russian citizen has DECREASED since the Fall. No one cares that Putin is rapidly consolidating the power that the government had given up, what hasn't already been consolidated by the mafia. Russia is very much backsliding into what it was. If not an even worse version.

Why should we care about Russia any more than anywhere else? Not to be harsh, but so what if Russia is in decline? They lost the war. Those are the breaks.

And you can't have it both ways. Russia is backsliding into what it was, which is what? A military imperial force, as I'm suggesting, or a country dead on it's feet by the 80's, as you are suggesting?

Poland on the other hand, is becoming the new manufacturing center of Europe and is rapidly becoming one of its largest economies. The former Czech Republic is booming as well. This rapid success in the ten years since the collapse is proof that Soviet oppression was real.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:13 AM on January 2, 2007


I predict pirate symbols to be the next thought crime. Hysteria always snowballs the absurdity of similarity, as some sort of internal justification of the abuse. Thought policing isn't related to any substance, but merely what you can get away with.
posted by Brian B. at 11:17 AM on January 2, 2007


Sorry to filibuster, but I missed this the first time around:

Yet people still care about the Jews, and take pains to make sure new resurgances of anti-semitism are stopped before they can become a threat.

I wonder why that is . . .
posted by InnocentBystander at 1:53 PM EST on January 2


Antisemitism is legal. And trying to stop some imagined resurgence of it is the wrong way to deal with it. If there really is some resurgence of it, and you keep suppressing it and driving it underground, it will harden them and serve to justify their hatred (because they are, in all reality, being kept down).

The way to cure bad speech is with more speech. If antisemitism is asinine, then antisemites will inevitably make asses of themselves. Give them the opportunity to do so. Those kinds of people do more to discourage others from joining with them than any kind of organized opposition could ever hope.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:19 AM on January 2, 2007


jonmc: The Iron Cross never was a Nazi symbol. It was and still is a German army symbol...
posted by Skeptic at 11:23 AM on January 2, 2007


Hey Pastabagel, the FORMER Czech Republic? Did anyone tell THEM?
posted by davy at 11:28 AM on January 2, 2007


I might even point out the Trojan War which, (assuming it happened, which it probably did in some form) would be a *three thousand* year old tragedy that STILL serves as a powerful warning about the deadly allure of war.
Yeah. So deadly serious that we named condoms after it. Maybe in another hundred years we'll have "Fuhrer Brand Condoms" with that stiff-armed salute as the logo...
posted by verb at 11:32 AM on January 2, 2007


OK, Pastabagel, forget it.

With this line:

And you can't have it both ways. Russia is backsliding into what it was, which is what? A military imperial force, as I'm suggesting, or a country dead on it's feet by the 80's, as you are suggesting?

You have very adequately shown that not only do you have no interest in what I have to say, you're not even bothering to read my posts. Or at least parse them in some meaningful way.

AT NO POINT, in any of my posts, did I deny the USSR was at one time a threat. I have specifically, in multiple places, made clear I'm only referring to Russia at the end of its communist life.

Yet multiple times now, you've attempted to pin that false dichotomy on me and then attack THAT rather than what I actually said. And since there are multiple instances of you misconstruing what I said plainly, with that just being the most aggregious, I'm inclinded to think it's deliberate.

So, if you want to attack a straw man, you can do it without my help. Good day.
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:34 AM on January 2, 2007


"There's evidence that they deliberately and knowingly distorted the picture? I would like to see evidence of this."

Actually, from my recent class on Russia's political transitions, the US had no real idea what the hell was going on in Russia, mostly due to poor analysis and spotty intelligence. I mean, people spent reams of paper on what the arrangment of Kremlin bureaucrats was at parades, essentially trying to read entrails to figure out what was up. The signs were all there (like the rise of Gorby, and the collapse of farm planning), but in large part, the political structure benefitted from the analysis that the Russians were still dangerous, and there were very few people with the info to argue against that.
posted by klangklangston at 11:51 AM on January 2, 2007


AT NO POINT, in any of my posts, did I deny the USSR was at one time a threat. I have specifically, in multiple places, made clear I'm only referring to Russia at the end of its communist life.

I'm sorry if you're not understanding what I'm saying. In 1979, the USSR invaded and conquered Afghanistan. The Soviet Air Force shot down a passenger airplane, killing a US congressman, in 1983. Throughout the 80's they were building a nuclear arsenal. We were trying to catch up to them. This is the period I am talking about. Not 1965, when antiwar protesters in the US routinely waved the soviet banner at rallies be it was the hip counterculture thing to do. I'm talking about the 1980's when the Soviet Union was the "evil empire", when American's endorsed this view by overwhelmingly re-electing Reagan and electing Bush, and when nuclear holocaust was perceived to be all but inevitable.

It's during this time that the symbols of Soviet power took on their meaning as "evil". That's the point, not that they were against the US, but that they had transcended that in the minds of Americans and became the absolute epitome of what Americans feared.

So relax.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:04 PM on January 2, 2007


See, the thing is that these symbols are empty. They are just pictures. The past isn't real - it's a remembered thing.

Well, to take this "synthetic" issue and push it into a personal tangent, I reject this notion with all my heart. Symbols, especially in our highly visual culture, are being perpetually fractured, their weight ignored, their history misunderstood or forgotten. So many great writers of the 20th century -- George Orwell, Cynthia Ozick, IB Singer leap to mind, but there are scores -- artistically draw the link between ahistorical thinking and loss of cultural memory and fascism. I truly think that the fractured images and soundbites that are our daily cultural diet have had incalculable impact on our ability to understand a damn thing that's going on around us, much less to make intelligent and ethical cultural decisions.

So you have this earnest, historically minded blogger encountering this jarring symbol at Wal-Mart. He writes a careful post demonstrating how it's a replica of a totenkopf. Some people react with disgust, but many more react with reflexive cynicism and boredom. When symbols mean nothing, all outrage and disgust starts to look manufactured. But symbols are not and will never be meaningless, and it will never simply be a matter of mere personal choice how you interpret them. Wal-Mart's made a calculated decision based on their assumptions of our ignorance, as opposed to any sense of civic responsibility. And that, more than anything, is where the root of my disgust lies. In the absence of symbolic meaning, the sleek capitalists step in to make a buck, and our shared history gets a little more watery, and the meaning of things gets a little more obscured.

I see jackboot wannabes all over the place -- a lot of angry, ill-educated, and lost people looking for power -- and a lot of cultural amnesia that leaves dark corners for them to squirm around. So yeah, another day, another piece of tawdry shit for them to go buy and enrich people who don't give a damn if what they sell trades on some of the nastiest parts of human history. I'm convinced that lack of mindfulness makes it that much easier to ignore the nasty history we are currently making.
posted by melissa may at 12:06 PM on January 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe in another hundred years we'll have "Fuhrer Brand Condoms" with that stiff-armed salute as the logo...

Now with Nonoxynol-9 for Sperm Genocide! Your Final Solution to unwanted pregnancy!
posted by jonmc at 12:12 PM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hey melissa may, to quote another great writer of the 20th century, "meet the new boss."
posted by davy at 12:20 PM on January 2, 2007


The nazis and their ideology were annihilated over half a century ago

I've met some wonderful gentlemen in Finland who would probably disagree with this point. The swastika tattoos they sport are not exactly 'claiming it back' for the hindus.

Fascism (or fascistic ideologies) is more popular in Western democratic countries than communism, unfortunately. As is taking offense to what they represent in the collective mind. Draw your own conclusions on why that is.

But then again I say this only with the three countries I know as a data-point (Finland, England and the US). There are quite a few places on this planet where I know not to wear my CCCP t-shirt. I wear the t-shirt to remind myself that the people behind the symbol, who tried to invade my home country), and their ideology has been reduced to a fucking hipster t-shirt design. Why this isn't true for a swastika is presumably to do with where I grew up. Cultural differences on viewing historical events and all that.
posted by slimepuppy at 12:58 PM on January 2, 2007


Because Wal-Mart is all hip and street and cool like that! Yo. I think I need to stop by the SuperWal-Mart and update my goth wardrobe. Have they gotten the new neo-faux-quasi-leatherette capes in yet?
posted by fenriq at 2:25 PM on January 2, 2007


Sure, and in 100 or 200 years, it will be just as unremarkable to be a fan of hitler's life and wars as it is now to be a fan of Napoleon

Right now, I'd say the swastika is most likely to mean "good luck" and/or "temple here" to the numerical majority of human beings on this planet. Really, it will be totally unremarkable to be a Hitler fan in another 100 to 200 years, because world culture is becoming more globalized, and most cultures simply do not share our massive hang-up about the Nazis. I don't doubt that the Western world will continue to treat the entire subject with the traditional double-knee-jerk, at least in the near future, but I think that the time for reasoned discussion about fascism & Nazism is rapidly approaching, whether we like it or not.

slimepuppy has it -- those of you who think that fascist ideas have gone away are living in a fantasy world. Better to deal with these ideas openly and honestly, because every time we meet fascism with an automatic "we don't talk about that" denial, we lend it greater strength.
posted by vorfeed at 2:42 PM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


The shirt did not picture a swastika. I suppose the Vikings might concur with your point, but given their current standing re: the numerical majority of the planet, it may take a bit of time for them to pipe up.

Really, it will be totally unremarkable to be a Hitler fan in another 100 to 200 years because world culture is becoming more globalized, and most cultures simply do not share our massive hang-up about the Nazis.

Yes, that massive Nazi hang-up we daffy Westerners cling to! I suppose this means the Portland chapter of the Amigos of Idi Amin should be going gangbusters by 2107, to say nothing of the Kim Jong-il Kissing Klub and the Pals of Pinochet. Ok, cryogenesis: I'm finally sold.
posted by melissa may at 3:26 PM on January 2, 2007


The shirt did not picture a swastika

My point was that the swastika, a far more Nazi-identified symbol than the death's-head, is ALREADY something perfectly comfortable and commonplace for most human beings. I don't know quite what you're getting at with the Vikings, but go to India, China, Japan, and other Buddhist countries (you know, in Asia, where the numerical majority of human beings live) and show someone a swastika. See if they're offended.

In short, the idea that symbols like the death's-head are always going to be -- dare I say it -- verboten everywhere doesn't really play out. History doesn't support the idea that one culture's big scary bogeyman will be feared by all cultures, or even by the same culture a few centuries later.

I suppose this means the Portland chapter of the Amigos of Idi Amin should be going gangbusters by 2107, to say nothing of the Kim Jong-il Kissing Klub and the Pals of Pinochet.

You can already find people who are supportive of each of these dictators, right now, TODAY, even far from the locations of their respective regimes. I've heard quite a few people laud Pinochet for putting down the Reds, for example. So yes, I find it quite likely that, given 100 years of breathing room, some people will still admire them.

Yes, that massive Nazi hang-up we daffy Westerners cling to!

YES, that massive Nazi hang-up we daffy Westerners cling to! Look up-thread: there are actually people here who believe that fascism has been "annihilated"! And this while the world's most powerful country is both militaristic and nationalist, with a vigorous anti-liberal and anti-Communist culture and a strong link between corporations and the state! But there's no need to discuss the matter, since everyone knows that fascism can only come wrapped in Nazi uniforms. On top of that, there are quite a few not-just-fascists-but-actual-National-Socialists in the world, and they exist in growing numbers... but since we all know how silly that idea is, them being annihilated and all, we had better put our heads back down in the sand, right?

Our myopia about fascism is likely to get us into some major trouble. It is not good to have a culture in which certain political ideologies are off-limits to serious discussion, especially when those ideologies are still finding converts world-wide. Right now, this applies to both communism and fascism. Pulling t-shirts off the shelves (or wearing them ironically, in the case of communism) and going on about genocide and evil does nothing to change the central ideas of these ideologies -- ideas which are simply not going away, no matter how hard we try to pretend otherwise.
posted by vorfeed at 4:08 PM on January 2, 2007


That actually makes perfect sense, inasmuch as 'great' means 'of major significance or importance' or 'remarkable or out of the ordinary in degree or effect'.

Perhaps, but that's not what most people think when they refer to someone as a 'great' person.

I find it incredible that Hitler is in the same gallery as Gandhi.
posted by bwg at 4:52 PM on January 2, 2007


I’m glad someone is finally taking a stand against the Nazis. Hey, man, those guys were out of line.
I think Gandhi would beat the crap out of Hitler in a fight. He’s wiry. And say what you will about Stalin, he had great hair.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:45 PM on January 2, 2007


And yet it is perfectly acceptable to wear CCCP t-shirts emblazoned with the sickle and hammer logo. That's the symbol of tyranny, the oppression of billions, the murder of countless tens of millions, and the symbol of a country that brought the world to the brink of annihilation.

Oh give me a break. Having been to Russia, I found every Russian I met remembering the Soviet Union with fondness. The vast majority of that "tyranny" and "oppression" you are referring to was Stalin, who, might I add, also won World War II for the Allies. If you study your history, you would realize that the US was the aggressor in Soviet/US relations, all the way back to Woodrow Wilson. Don't forget that the USSR also managed to bring a vast country from an agrarian, feudal, and illiterate population to one of the most educated, industrialized nations in the world within 70 years. We're talking from "plowing the fields for the absentee landlord" to "pioneers of SPACE" within 50 years. Hardly the vicious, oprressive regime of your imagination. I'm not saying the USSR was perfect, but putting them in the same lump with Hitler's Germany is unforgiveably ignorant.
posted by eparchos at 5:49 PM on January 2, 2007


Pastabagel: The nazis and their ideology were annihilated over half a century ago, and were are still running scared from them.
Annihilated?

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.."

I understand that it gets tiresome when some people go apeshit every time it's made apparent that for many people the holocaust is ancient history now -- but that's different than thinking that nazism or any of it's terrible ideologies have been removed from the world.

I personally think this particular symbol would not be emblematic of nazism or anti-semitism for most people, so I think it's a shame for the companies involved that this happened.

But more important I am frustrated that there are people who are more upset about this than they are genocide in Darfur, Serbia, Cambodia, etc. In the end, the swastika is an empty symbol, like the SS Totenkpf, the American Bald Eagle or the flag of any nation, but genocide is eternal and seemingly always possibly around the corner.
posted by illovich at 5:54 PM on January 2, 2007


Ill probably get flamed for this post, but as a graphic designer ive always been intrigued and in love with communist and propaganda imagery, I think most of us are. Hell look at shepard fairey and obey giant clothes for evidence of that. I used to have a giant 6 foot 4 color comic book stile stipple print of mao on my wall. I was one of the first to grab the chetrooper bust online, ive got books on russian iconography, chinese propaganda, korean posters and nazi symbols. So yeah... when I saw this article I ran out and got two of these shirts. I realize it might be morbid and callous and in poor taste... but I cant help it... I like how it looks.
posted by skrike at 8:57 PM on January 2, 2007


I remember Idi "VD" Amin! He was on Saturday Night Live a few times, once waving a slice of his brain.

As for the "Death's Head", the damn Nazis stole that from old "swashbuckler" movies; there too they were short on original ideas.

Armchair semioticians, do get a grip.
posted by davy at 9:10 PM on January 2, 2007


Pastabagel: In 1979, the USSR invaded and conquered Afghanistan.

Not really, they occupied it with limited success.

I suggest you read up on the activities of Team B and the paranoid-fantasy world they promoted to the US government, if you are not familiar with them. This seems to bear more resemblence to your interpretation of the Soviet situation in the 80s than those arguing against you.

The neoconservatives chose, as the inquiry chairman, a well-known critic and historian of the Soviet Union called Richard Pipes

PIPES: The CIA was very loath to deal with issues which could not be demonstrated in a kind of mathematical form. I said they could consider the soft evidence. They deal with realities, whereas this was a fantasy. That’s how it was perceived. And there were battles all the time on this subject.

INTERVIEWER: Did you think it was a fantasy?

PIPES: No! I thought it was absolute reality.

Dr ANNE CAHN, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1977-80

CAHN: I would say that all of it was fantasy. I mean, they looked at radars out in Krasnoyarsk and said, “This is a laser beam weapon,” when in fact it was nothing of the sort. They even took a Russian military manual, which the correct translation of it is “The Art of Winning.” And when they translated it and put it into Team B, they called it “The Art of Conquest.” Well, there’s a difference between “conquest” and “winning.” And if you go through most of Team B’s specific allegations about weapons systems, and you just examine them one by one, they were all wrong.

INTERVIEWER: All of them?

CAHN: All of them.

INTERVIEWER: Nothing true?

CAHN: I don’t believe anything in Team B was really true.
posted by asok at 4:45 AM on January 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think the obsession with banning every last vestige of Nazi symbolism is a little misplaced. I understand that it's offensive to people by association, and nobody wants to be reminded of the SS when shopping at Walmart, etc. However, I think a lot of people seem to be under the mistaken impression that the symbols themselves are somehow evil or dangerous.

They aren't. A swastika never killed anybody, and neither did a totenkopf. Let's not confuse things here. It was people that were shoving other people into ovens, not symbols. If the swastika became the hot new fashion trend of 2025, that wouldn't mean that fascism was right around the corner.

Sometimes, I think the obsession with the Nazis and Hitler as the embodiment of evil stops people from recognizing fascism and genocide and the evils of totalitarianism when it happens.

It's like, well, they're killing lots of innocent people in Darfur, but they aren't wearing fancy uniforms, so it's not something we need to do anything about right away. Or ethnic cleansing in Iraq, etc.

Somehow "Never Again" came to mean "Never again will Nazis kill Jews in 1940s Germany."
posted by empath at 6:34 AM on January 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's like, after WWII, we kind of projected all the rage and hatred about the holocaust to these cartoon super-villians -- Hitler, Goebels, etc-- with their secret lairs and magical symbols and mysticism, etc -- the surface elements. All the superficial aspects of Nazism became this huge taboo.

And we conveniently forgot all the normal, everyday people and wholesome corporations that enabled and encouraged the policies that lead to WWII and the holocast -- Ford, General Motors, IBM, Mercedes, BMW, etc... The folks that went to work everyday making the machinery of death.

The military-industrial complex is still in place, still pushing for war, war, war. People are being slaughtered by the thousands all around the world. Anything to make a profit. And it's all okay, as long as nobody wears a swastika.
posted by empath at 6:41 AM on January 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


There was recently a bizzare attempt to get the pages of an immunological journal ripped out of library copies. So, if we have to suppress a lousy T-shirt in the name of free speech, we should either count ourselves lucky or consider ourselves conquered by a special interest. What we may want to avoid in the future is succumbing to emotional pleas where the threatening object itself, in this case a pirate image, can be later replaced with mention of a race or a nation, thus slipping into the thought reform of a controlled mob mentality by proxy, sacrificing our ideals by banning all offensive T-shirts.
posted by Brian B. at 12:09 PM on January 3, 2007


I'm sure a donation to AIPAC and another to the ADL will be the only thing that can possibly smooth this over.
posted by Sukiari at 12:02 AM on January 4, 2007


« Older A mere 800 years ago, the Mongol Empire was a lot ...  |  "A Christian man is weak compa... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments