Humour as a Means to Challenge Hate

Post by Erica Fagen

So far this month, I’ve gone through hundreds of photographs of neo-Nazi marches, as well as marches against neo-Nazis.  Neo-Nazis spread their vitriol through slogans and banners, and people oppose them with signs like these.  A question I was asking myself was whether people have more creative ways of challenging the far-right.  I found something, but it was not what I expected.  People are using humour and pop culture images to counter right-wing extremism.

Some of these humorous images I found were caricatures of Hitler with “Nazis sind doof” (Nazis are stupid) written under the drawing.  However, with more research and time, I found that people demonstrate a certain wit when ridiculing neo-Nazis.  Characters none other than Sonic the Hedgehog and “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski are brought in to challenge hate.  (The Dude exclaims that he can stop the Nazis.)  Demonstrators go beyond the simple use of pop culture references to challenge neo-Nazis; they also use witty toilet humour to prove their point.  Whether it’s hanging banners from apartments or placing clever signs on top of a Port-o-Potty, individuals show their resistance through humour.  Countering the far-right can be funny.

The question that arises from these photographs is the ethical issue of laughing at neo-Nazis.  Can we laugh at a group of people with such deep-seated xenophobic beliefs?  Scholars have grappled with this question, with the 1998 film Life is Beautiful used a case study.  However, the bigger question these photographs pose is whether humour can be seen as a way to challenge “the hate merchants.” Looking at funny images make us rethink of how people respond to hateful acts in their midst.  These humorous images show us that opposing neo-Nazis is not limited to holding signs, but includes using one”s imagination and wit.  For these reasons alone, it is key to consider toilets, caricatures, as well as “The Dude” when pursuing academic studies of the far-right. I am curious to see if I find any other pop culture icons fighting neo-Nazism.  Perhaps finding SpongeBob SquarePants in an anti-Nazi demonstration is only a matter of time.

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