THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 379, August 6, 2006
"Absolutely Shockingly Amazing"
Fun With Hitler
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
A couple of months ago, I wore a fake Hitler mustache under my nose at a large social gathering. I learned two things that afternoon. One, that I actually look pretty good in a Hitler mustache. And two, that most people find Hitler refreshingly funny. . . but those who don't tend to dampen the mood.
For 30 minutes, I walked around, Sieg Heil-ing perfect strangers without incident. But the moment I ran into someone who failed to see the humor, the joke was over. Rather than spouting off, this guy just decided to guilt me. He gave me the look that said everything he was thinking: "Hitler killed millions. You find that amusing?"
I wasn't endorsing Hitler, his beliefs, or his crimes in any capacity. I wasn't making fun of Holocaust victims. I wasn't even making a statement.
I was just wearing a fake Hitler mustache.
But the way he looked at me, you wouldn't've known the difference. It was impossible to keep the joke going at that point. You would've thought he was looking at the Fuhrer himself.
I think most people would agree what I did at that large social gathering was harmless. On the other hand, most people would also agree Adolf Hitler wasn't a very good person. Under his guidance, Nazi Germany invaded sovereign countries, started the bloodiest war ever, and committed horrific acts of genocide. For this reason, the man isn't simply despised in this day and age. He has come to embody the very concept of evil.
This is why people often refer to someone they don't like as "the Hitler of [insert whatever they're the Hitler of]"such as Mel Gibson, who is the Hitler of Hollywood actors who deliver anti-Jew speeches when they get pulled over for drunk driving.
It's also why the name "Adolf" is no longer popular.
But while it's easy to see why no one wants to be Hitler, it amazes me how some people react to Hitler humor. I'm not saying people should laugh at him as a matter of principle. My argument isn't: "Hitler was awful. Therefore, let's reduce him with humor." Nor is it: "Hitler used censorship. Therefore, let's speak freely." My point is that Hitler's bad deeds and disagreeable personality should have nothing to do with whether we find him amusing. I mean, just look at him. Look how intense he was. Look how seriously he took himself. Anyone who makes faces like that is a comedy goldmine.
If you shared a cubicle wall with this guy, every day would be an adventure in funny. He wouldn't be able to pick up the phone or fill his coffee mug without inspiring snickers and not-so-playful impersonations. I know because I have a long and colorful history of ruthlessly making fun of coworkers.
Deep down, I think most people recognize Hitler's unintentionally funny nature. And deep down, I think most people want to appreciate it. Some people just refuse to admit it, though, because they feel like they're betraying the millions he murderedor, worse, endorsing the fact that he murdered them.
I learned this the hard wayor maybe it was actually the easy waywhen I wore a Hitler mustache to a large social gathering. England's Prince Harry learned it when he wore a swastika armband to a costume party last year. I was reminded of both of these incidents when I discovered a website called CatsThatLookLikeHitler.com recently. You wouldn't think there's much to hate about felines with black patches of fur below their noses. Yet stroll through the site's gallery of so-called Kitlers and you'll soon learn some people do hate the concept. There's even a page called "We Hate Kitlers"which, fittingly, features letters from people who hate the website. Some are so poorly written that it's hard to believe they're authentic. But even if we said for the sake of argument that they aren't, I still wouldn't doubt there are people who, as one letter writer put it, think the site is just "trying to make hitler and natzism look cute."
Even if that were true, what difference would it make? I understand those who ignore history are supposedly doomed to repeat it. But historically speaking, lampooning Hitler didn't cause Hitler. Hitler caused Hitler. Ignorance, hatred, and a poor German economy caused Hitler. But making fun of the Fuhrer had nothing to do with it. Hitler humor in no way, shape, or form caused the Holocaust.
You don't have to find Hitler funny if you don't want to. I'm not the kind of guy who thinks we need to laugh at evil in order to overcome it. Nor am I the kind of guy who thinks all the world needs is a little more love and a little more laughter. I find that entire concept dumb. But the Nazis happened 70 years ago already. Maybe it isn't time to "get over" them, but. . . well, it's time to get over them. History happens. Then it keeps moving. Being solemn about it decades later only makes us look like we take ourselves as seriously as Hitler did.
You can disagree with me if you want to. That's fine. It's your right.
To me, that just makes you the Hitler of comedy, though. And take it from me: You don't want to be Hitler.