First it was the iconographically challenged neo-Nazis that gave us that other brand of Bizarro swastika found in the Popular Association – Golden Dawn’s logo. Now comes the inverted, spastic quenelle salute. The reverse Heil Hitler, made popular by Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a French comedian is now spreading over the Internet like an underground twerk.
Dieudonné tries to present his brand of sicko anti-Semitism in a humorous wrapper, making it easier to swallow while lacing it with the new and improved label of anti-Israel / anti-Zionism that masks the poisonous Jew-hatred in the center of his tainted treat.
But of course, the recipe is as old as the one that’s plagued and murdered Jews for centuries. By infusing a dose of drollery into the oldest hatred, it provides a comedic mask--a way of softening the harsh message (you know, “a spoon full of sugar…”)
By mocking the Holocaust in the modern guise of a Jon Stewart style send-up, Dieudonné is leveraging the style young people (and more and more of us) get their news. Yet, he’s taking a page out of the old propaganda playbook and making it pop. Propaganda, simplifies complicated issues or ideology for popular consumption, and according to the USHMM, is always biased, and is geared to achieving a particular end.”
Interestingly, the same college students who are Stewart’s prime demographic target and have been weaned to consume news as if it’s a joke, are also fed a steady diet of anti-Israel bias and BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) bull. For Dieudonné and his ilk it only makes sense, when appealing to post adolescent minds that the way into their supposed, scholarly heads is through their funny bone. They can then post, share and make the evil viral.
But it’s just a joke…right? No. Yet the problematic phenomenon here is that there’s a relation between the “out” that socio-political humorists, particularly on the Left, like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher on his show, “Real Time” often use and the antics of a Dieudonné.
Leaving their politics aside for a moment, just focus on the social trend. Stewart and Maher frequently claim they’re only comedians. We’re told by them not to take what they’re saying as ‘serious’ as ‘real news’, because they’re only making fun. Yet, their shows are filled with opinion and their own political perspective. Still, when cornered on a substantive issue that they’re skewering, well, they’re only just kidding.
Now focus back on the politics. For most of contemporary comedy’s run it’s been the domain of the Left. Jews and blacks - from Lenny Bruce to Richard Pryor - were the pathfinders of modern stand-up and gave rise to an edgy, rebellious style of satire aimed at the status quo. I’m sure Dennis Miller would agree. Statistically comics with the political leanings of Miller are a rare breed.
Dieudonné is using that same comedy but as a weapon against a minority. Which leads me to the most Bizzaro thing about Dieudonné. While Dieudonné is clearly racist, he’s dark skinned and from Cameroon. He would have been first in line at the gas chambers he so frivolously mocks.
For Dieudonné, while his style is comedic, his intent is nothing to take lightly. A French court found him guilty of defamation, libel, and incitement to hatred and racial discrimination.
Yet for followers of Dieudonné, they claim it’s all just a joke and with this newest gesture “quenelle” those doing it, can also wriggle out, Houdini-like with a wink and a “Lighten up.”
Sickeningly, it’s now been “selfied” by followers in front of Auschwitz, the Anne Frank House and other sites where the worst actions towards Jews occurred.
Sorry selfies, but I’m not laughing.
Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at abebuzz.com.