Who Owns Hate?


Here's the deal: I'm back from vacation, and telling you to go read The Works today. I weigh in on Casspi, anti-Semitism in America, and what it means that Nate Robinson likes the WNBA. Ziller explores the concept of defensive hangtime. It was a lot of fun and now I need to hit the gym.

I am left wondering, though, if the swastika somehow "belongs" to anti-Semitism above all other forms of bias. Minus Casspi, it certainly connotes all sorts of hatred. But it's very difficult for it to, ahem, transcend its historical significance and express, say, some asshole's dislike of blacks or Latinos.

This is understandable; it's pretty hard to dispense with the enormity of WW2 (note: I didn't say "the Holocaust", because deniers happen all the time). Yet it also shows just how potent (and striking) Nazi iconography was. I almost think that a lot of Jew-hating is just an excuse to sport swastikas and lightning bolts. Who wants to wear a stupid white robe and drag around burning wood? Flip, I know, but obviously Hitler was far better at "branding", which is why his evil racist movement has had more staying power, in terms of look and rhetoric -- even if this means getting caught up in a cloud of translation.

Fun fact: Tris Speaker was a member of the Klan, but later went on to be the most important mentor Larry Doby had as he adjusted to life in the (white) majors.

Am I trippin'? Someone set me straight.

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At 9/20/2010 3:42 PM, Blogger themarkpike said...

There's a solid chapter in Franklin Foer's "How Soccer Explains the World" about anti-Semitism in the Sport, which has some parallels to this recent Casspi incident.


At 9/20/2010 4:57 PM, Blogger Dustin Stevenson said...

It's misleading to give Hitler credit for being 'good' at branding. Likewise, drawing the comparison to the KKK is a straw man.

As head of a European state, Hitler enjoyed visibility and publicly sanctioned authority that the KKK could only dream of. The atrocities he committed raised the penetration of Nazi symbols and imagery such that they remain indelibly stamped on the global consciousness.

It's a small point, but the source of the power of these images is that they provide a cheap tie to the weightiest horror. The credit for their power then lies not with the image itself. You seem to allude to some inherent 'coolness' of the swastika as opposed to, say, dragging a burning cross. Funny, but not a fair comparison. The letters themselves, KKK, are a much more apt point of reference and are still widely utilized to (seriously or not) spread fear. Nasty as the KKK was and are, their terror is of a different magnitude and degree of focus than the highly efficient death camps of a federal government.

Nor should we lend primary credit to any sort of conscious branding endeavor on the part of Hitler, Goebbels, or anyone else. Not to discount the power or success of the Nazi propaganda machine, but if not for the enduring evil of their actions, the swastika and other images would not have maintained such authority.

At 9/20/2010 6:00 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hitler's genius (if a eugenicist monomaniacal madman can be said to exhibit or otherwise have genius) was the appropriation of a minority group in furtherance of the Nazi party's aims, though said appropriation isn't incidental to the larger political strategy (world domination and the elimination of the Jews). Dr. Langdon schooled us on the provenance of what became the Nazi calling card.

What's cool about the whole thing is apparently anyone anywhere can take a symbol (Crusaders, Klansmen and crosses come to mind) and make it whatever they want.

What's required of us (admittedly this is asking a lot) is to understand and internalize the history of these symbols, thereby demystifying them and sapping them of their power in the same way some folks attempt to argue the efficacy of or against the popularization of "nigger" as a means of black empowerment. I'm black and I'm not sure I buy into that line of reasoning, but it works great for swastikas, crosses, crescents and stars.

At 9/20/2010 7:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Not to discount the power or success of the Nazi propaganda machine, but if not for the enduring evil of their actions, the swastika and other images would not have maintained such authority.

Except for the part where, from the beginnings of the Nazi party up through the war's end, the propaganda machine seduced people, not explicit WE ARE KILLING LOTS OF PEOPLE dispatches.

At 9/20/2010 8:39 PM, Blogger Dustin Stevenson said...

Nazi propaganda was selling a masculine identity which is appealing to young impressionable and generally disadvantaged white men today. So it absolutely is a factor. You almost seem to contradict your initial point which I was responding to:

obviously Hitler was far better at "branding", which is why his evil racist movement has had more staying power, in terms of look and rhetoric

My reply is that, though branding/propaganda were a factor, you give this too much credit. In answering the question why do these symbols have such staying power in American culture, the primary answer is that they are an easy way for people to throw around great & weighty evil.

If Hitler had been every bit as good at marketing but had just been an ass who slaughtered, say, a couple thousand here and there - typical despot stuff - would we see the swastika used as it is today? Of course not. The primary basis of its power is its use as a tie to acts widely regarded as the pinnacle of human depravity.

At 9/20/2010 8:51 PM, Blogger Dustin Stevenson said...

Likewise, if the KKK were to hold the position of Authority of Evil that Hitler does in the American consciousness, the letters KKK would easily assume the position that the swastika holds today.

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