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!
Speaking of ridicule, I saw this on Twitter, credited to a Facebook group "badturmp" [sic].
More ridicule against the Tiki Torch Nazis (a beautifully done parody of "Beauty School Dropout" from Grease):
Not humor, but also innovative:
In 2011, undercover Exit members distributed 250 T-shirts decorated with skull symbols and extremist slogans in a music festival organized by the NDP. When the recipients washed the T-shirts the initial stamps disappeared, exposing a stamp with a message, “If your T-shirt can change — so can you! We can help you get free of right-wing extremism. Exit-Deutschland.”
from "How To Leave the Neo-Nazis in Two Easy Lessons — and One Hard One" on Exit-Deutschland's website
Ignore it all, thereby not giving them the attention they crave?
because the right-wing marchers are absurd and yes, deplorable, the action should, most of all, be mocking.
Example: In 2005 the National Socialist Movement chapter in the Northwest paraded a dozen or so sieg-heiling brown shirts around the state Capitol steps in Olympia. It was supposedly a recruiting session for the coming “race war,” the group said.
But instead of shouting or, worse, attacking, protesters dressed up as Nazi clowns to mimic the rally. Ever seen a Nazi clown goose-stepping? It was like “Springtime for Hitler!” Neiwert says after a time onlookers seemed to forget about the deflated white nationalists entirely: “That was the most striking defeat I’ve ever seen dealt to neo-Nazis.”
... as much it may feel like a death match out there, remember: That’s what the extremists want you to feel. Don’t give in to them. If you can muster it, have a laugh, at their expense, instead. [emphasis mine]
image source [caption mine]
So shouting at them, raising your fist, being angry at them, that's what they want. Anger dignifies them, in their mind, shows respect.
It reminds me of a scene from a Captain America movie. The villain taunted the hero, when he was losing their hand to hand combat, and Captain America removed his mask in response. It signaled that this hero needed the villain's respect. This is the mano-a-mano respect the needy guys, who secretly see themselves as losers, crave. In a way it's like the neglected child who acts naughty to force a negligent parent to pay attention to him. Nazis need, need, need your attention.
image source (text mine)
Has anyone seen the film Time after Time? It's Nicolas Meyer's 1979 masterpiece in which Jack the Ripper, played brilliantly by David Warner, uses H.G. Wells's time machine to escape to modern day San Francisco. Wells, played by Malcolm MacDowell, pursues him to try to bring him to justice. In this scene, Wells has just caught up with him in his hotel room. You have to watch till the end to get the punch line.
Yes, violence is catching. Good illustration, thanks.
It was a little off topic, but a great point I thought. To the point of ridiculing fascism, Charlie Pierce is in agreement. In one of his blogs today he noted this as one of his favorite responses to fascism:
Look at this person marching next to the inbred Citronella SS back in 2015. Look at the tuba. Now listen to the tuba.
There is nothing funnier than a tuba, as Martin Mull proved years ago. This is Einstein-level trolling and I hope, at subsequent white trashfests around the country, an army of sousaphonists engages in non-violent, but noisy protests.
Counterprotesters in Boston today had sousaphones!
The crowds have shown up in #Boston
We have the numbers, they don't!
This is a sea of #resistance against hate
And yes, we brought tubas!
Mocking musical commentary would be a powerful response, as in the video below!
Folks who don't play sousaphone or trumpet or bassoon or accordion or banjo or whatever could come prepared with appropriate music clips -- or laugh tracks! -- on their phones, and small portable Bluetooth speakers that amplify the sound. (Many battery-powered speakers have a "line in" jack for connecting older phones and iPods, inexpensive MP3 players, etc.)
(freesound.org is one source of free recordings of laughing, as well as "cartoon music", "ant marching band", "funny bassoon", and so forth. You can download sounds with a free account. Youtube and other sites undoubtedly have useful sounds as well. If higher-tech ways to get sounds onto your phone don't work, you can always use the voice recorder to record from the computer speakers!)
A sousaphone player mocking KKK marchers with lumbering cartoony music and "Ride of the Valkyries":
And a bit more mocking music: the Laurel and Hardy theme, "Dance of the Cuckoos":