The Germans in Wunsiedel discovered that the best way to fight Nazis is to make fun of them. Nazi marches and rallies are a performance, and making fun of them "deflates the puffery" they mistake for heroism.
Wunsiedel had Nazis marching to a grave of one of Hitler's deputies every year. Counterdemonstrations didn't help. Relocating the grave didn't help. In 2014 they tried mockery. They made the march look like a walkathon fundraiser for a program that helps people leave right wing extremism. This deprived the Nazis of their dignity and victimhood story in a way that violent confrontation can not.
So in 2014, the town tried a different tactic: humorous subversion.
The campaign, called Rechts Gegen Rechts — the Right Against the Right — turned the march into Germany’s “most involuntary walkathon.” For every meter the neo-Nazis marched, local residents and businesses pledged to donate 10 euros (then equivalent to about $12.50) to a program that helps people leave right-wing extremist groups, called EXIT Deutschland.
They turned the march into a mock sporting event. Someone stenciled onto the street “start,” a halfway mark and a finish line, as if it were a race. Colorful signs with silly slogans festooned the route. “If only the Führer knew!” read one. “Mein Mampf!” (my munch) read another that hung over a table of bananas. A sign at the end of the route thanked the marchers for their contribution to the anti-Nazi cause — €10,000 (close to $12,000). And someone showered the marchers with rainbow confetti at the finish line.
The approach has spread to several other German towns and one in Sweden (where it was billed as Nazis Against Nazis).
This week, following the violence in Charlottesville, Va., Wunsiedel has come back into the news. Experts in nonviolent protest say it could serve as a model for Americans alarmed by the resurgent white supremacist movement who are looking for an effective way to respond (and who might otherwise be tempted to meet violence with violence).
Violence directed at white nationalists only fuels their narrative of victimhood — of a hounded, soon-to-be-minority who can’t exercise their rights to free speech without getting pummeled. It also probably helps them recruit. And more broadly, if violence against minorities is what you find repugnant in neo-Nazi rhetoric, then “you are using the very force you’re trying to overcome,” ...
But ideally, of course, we’d avoid violence altogether. This is where the sort of planning on display at Wunsiedel is key. Humor is a particularly powerful tool — to avoid escalation, to highlight the absurdity of absurd positions and to deflate the puffery that, to the weak-minded at any rate, might resemble heroic purpose.
But we do have similar examples of humor being used to counteract fascists in the United States. In 2012, a “white power” march in Charlotte, N.C., was met with counterprotesters dressed as clowns. They held signs reading “wife power” and threw “white flour” into the air.
“The message from us is, ‘You look silly,’ ” a coordinator told the local news channel. “We’re dressed like clowns, and you’re the ones that look funny.” By undercutting the gravitas white supremacists are trying to accrue, humorous counterprotests may blunt the events’ usefulness for recruitment. Brawling with bandanna-clad antifas may seem romantic to some disaffected young men, but being mocked by clowns? Probably not so much. [emphasis mine]
Organized mockery seems the most powerful tool in our toolkit!
That's hilarious, Carl. There couldn't be a more appropriate welcome mat.
... Carl, this event really puts my faith in humanity back in full swing!
Seeing an "Emergency Clown Nose" ["Warning: may impair your ability to remain serious"] for sale at a thrift store's display of Halloween costume stuff inspired me to buy it, along with a clown wig and silly tie, for an emergency mockery kit.
I don't play sousaphone, but have a melodica and am not afraid to use it.
Grinning Cat, I like and admire your style and attitude! Comedy and mockery are often the best biting critiques.
BTW, since you mention the melodica, I want to introduce you to these two phenomenal guys...