Menachem Z. Rosensaft: A neo-Nazi beauty pageant – nefarious glorification of anti-Semitism at its worst
20 Oct 2014
The following article was first published by the ‘Huffington Post’.
One of the most insidious, and perhaps ultimately one of the most dangerous, manifestations of neo-Nazi resurgence may well be its steady subversive infiltration of contemporary popular and consumer culture.
Rabidly bigoted – anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, generally xenophobic – modern day neo-Nazi parties and movements such as Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece are relatively easy to identify and fight through political, judicial and legislative means. They are the violent heirs of the Nazi Brown Shirts, the SA, who terrorized non-fascist Germans throughout much of the 1920’s and early 1930’s as part of Hitler’s rise to eventual absolute power.
Then there are the more nuanced modern-day fascists such as Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France who combine reactionary views with a calculated strategic effort to make themselves appear more palatable to the political mainstream, often with frightening success. Still, these ultra-right wing extremist movements and parties are relatively easy to identify and expose for what they are – at the end of the day they leave little to the imagination. Bigotry, after all, remains bigotry regardless of any intellectual or dialectic attempts to legitimize the preying on fears and often deep-seated prejudices.
But below the radar screen, there are nefarious attempts to legitimize Nazism and all that Nazism stood for in the popular psyche under the guise of cutting edge fashion, perverse home decoration, and even crass, prurient sexual exploitation. Among some of the more egregious recent examples are:
The peddling of silver ‘Swastika Rings’ on Sears’ online Marketplace that “are going to make you look beautiful at your next dinner date.” Faced with consumer outrage, Sears quickly yanked this example of what had been described as “gothic jewelry” and removed the offending vendor from its site.
The sale on the Walmart, Sears’ and Amazon websites of a “home decoration” poster featuring the “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work makes you free”) gate of the Dachau concentration camp. All three retailers pulled this item after their attention was called to it. “We were horrified to see that this item was on our site,” declared Walmart. “We sincerely apologize, and worked quickly to remove it.”
The Spanish retail clothing chain Zara was forced to apologize for marketing a striped concentration-camp-like tee shirt complete with a six-pointed yellow star. For what it’s worth, Zara had previously sold handbags embossed with swastikas. Lovely.