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Why Nazis Are So Afraid of These Clowns
Posted by: riverhousebill ()
Date: October 29, 2017 05:24AM

Common Dreams
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Why Nazis Are So Afraid of These Clowns


Published on


Saturday, August 26, 2017

by

Waging Nonviolence

Why Nazis Are So Afraid of These Clowns


by

Sarah Freeman-Woolpert


Trolls chanted in the streets the day of a planned neo-Nazi rally in the small ski town of Whitefish, Montana earlier this year. But they were not the trolls that residents had been expecting—namely, white supremacists from around the country, who had been harassing the town's Jewish community with death threats.

These trolls wore bright blue wigs and brandished signs that read "Trolls Against Trolls" and "Fascists Fear Fun," cheerfully lining the route where the neo-Nazi march had been slated to take place. Due to poor organizing and the failure to obtain proper permits, the demonstration had fell through, leading to what the counter-protesters gleefully deemed a "Sieg Fail." So, locals held their own counter-event, gathering together to share matzo ball soup and celebrate the town’s unity, which—with a dose of humor and a denunciation of hatred—had successfully weathered a rightwing anti-Semitic "troll storm" and strengthened the community as a whole.

Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich, from jokes and cartoons employed by Norwegians against the Nazi occupation to "The Great Dictator" speech by Charlie Chaplin.

Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich, from jokes and cartoons employed by Norwegians against the Nazi occupation to "The Great Dictator" speech by Charlie Chaplin.

In recent years, humor has continued to be used as a tactic to undermine Nazi ideology, particularly in the unlikely form of clowns—troupes of brightly-dressed activists who show up to neo-Nazi gatherings and make a public mockery of the messages these groups promote. It puts white supremacists in a dilemma in which their own use of violence will seem unwarranted, and their machismo image is tainted by the comedic performance by their opponent. Humor de-escalates their rallies, turning what could become a violent confrontation into a big joke.

Satirical imitation was used in Olympia, Washington in 2005 when a dozen members of the National Socialist Movement paraded around the state capitol to recruit members for the coming "race war." They were met with clowns mimicking the "Seig Heil" salute and goose-stepping in a public mockery that drew attention away from the Nazi demonstration and undermined their image to would-be supporters.

In 2007, the group Anti Racist Action staged a full-fledged clown performance at a neo-Nazi rally in Knoxville, Tennessee. The clowns feigned confusion at demonstrators' cries of "White power!" and called back, "White flour?" as they threw fistfulls of flour into the air.

"White power!" the neo-Nazi group shouted, and the clowns pretended they finally understood their mistake. "Oh, white flowers!" they cried out, handing white flowers to passersby, including some of the neo-Nazis themselves.

"White power!" they yelled again. "Tight shower?" the clowns called back, holding a shower head in the air and crowding together in a ridiculous attempt to follow the directions of the white supremacist group.

They tried once more: "White power!" And the female clowns exclaimed, as though they finally understood, "Wife power!" raising letters in the air to spell out the words and hoisting the male clowns in the air, running around and carrying them in their arms.

The clowns stole the show, and continued parading through the streets with the police smiling happily at their sides while the neo-Nazi group called off their demonstration several hours early. This action inspired clowns in Charlotte, North Carolina to also yell "Wife power!" at a white supremacist rally. They also held signs that said "Dwight Power!" next to photos of the NBA player Dwight Howard.

Anti-Nazi clowning can also turn into a wider community event, bringing local people together in solidarity and fun. A recent New York Times editorial highlighted an "involuntary walk-a-thon" in Wunsiedel, Germany, organized in response to an annual neo-Nazi march. The organizers drew chalk markers on the pavement marking the starting point, halfway point and finish line. Local residents and businesses pledged to donate 10 euros for every meter the white supremacists marched to a group called EXIT Deutschland, which is dedicated to helping people leave rightwing extremist groups.




People came out to cheer the marchers the day of the event, flanking the route with signs that read "If only the Fuhrer knew!" and "Mein Mamph!" ( or "My Munch"winking smiley by a table of bananas offered to the walkers. This turned the marchers into involuntary supporters against their own cause, and brought the community together in unity to counter the messages of white supremacy.

Other European cities have employed clowns to counter anti-immigrant groups. For example, the "Loldiers of Odin" formed in Finland to counter a citizen patrol called Soldiers of Odin. The clowns danced around the streets the same nights that the patrols went out in the community, bringing acrobat hoops and a hobby horse. They also danced around the "soldiers" while playing in the snow. Their actions countered rightwing propaganda of making the streets "safer" from immigrants by bringing humor and silliness to their actions.

To build on past successes of anti-Nazi clowning, activists and local organizers can draw on the creativity of the community to devise actions and events that mock white supremacist ideology and those who support it.

Clowning as a tactic of creative resistance was first developed by a group of U.K. activists who started the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, or CIRCA, in 2003. Mixing slapstick humor and improv theater with civil disobedience, the group had—at its height—over 150 trained clowns in Edinburgh, and their tactics were adopted by activists across Europe and the United States.

Humor has wide-reaching potential beyond clowning in countering neo-Nazis. It can be employed in the form of a serenade, like the sousaphonist who played his instrument to a crowd of Confederate flag-wielding marchers in Columbia, South Carolina. There's also the parody song "Tiki Torch Nazis," written and performed by a couple from San Francisco, that went viral after Charlottesville and hilariously undermines the serious image neo-Nazis strive to present. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, a group called the English Disco Lovers, or EDL, uses its acronym along with dance music and 1970's style wigs to subvert public gatherings of the racist English Defense League.

To build on past successes of anti-Nazi clowning, activists and local organizers can draw on the creativity of the community to devise actions and events that mock white supremacist ideology and those who support it. This could be done in the form of a carnivalesque "Fascist Fair," complete with a dunk tank and jousting match. It could take the form of dressing up in costumes that satirize the labels white supremacists have given counter-protesters, like vermin or Communists. Events can draw in various local groups, from marching bands to theater troupes to intramural sports teams so that resistance to white supremacy becomes a community expression of solidarity, like in Whitefish, Montana.

Counter-demonstrations can employ a tactic called détournement, or culture jamming, to draw on existing cultural symbols that resonate with a wider audience. This could involve staging a humorous match in which one side represents neo-Nazis dressed as Death Eaters from Harry Potter, and the other side represents Gryffindor, or the Avengers, or Wonder Woman and the Amazon warriors.

Their marches can be accompanied by a mass choir drowning out their chants with refrains of "You're So Vain" or JoJo's "Leave (Get Out)." They could also be met with "Flash Mobs Against Fascist Mobs." The street where the march is planned could be covered in rainbow paint and glitter that will coat the bottoms of their shoes.

Other creative tactics can be used to counter neo-Nazi propaganda with less direct confrontation. Activists around the world have turned Nazi graffiti into art, like the #PaintBack campaign transforming Swastikas into cartoon animals.

Beyond the marches themselves, clowning can undermine Confederate statues and symbols when their removal would lead to an escalation of violence, as activist David Swanson has suggested. Dressing up Confederate statues as clowns or jokers with signs like "You must be joking!" mocks the statue itself and undercuts the veneration of historical figures who represent the country’s legacy of slavery.

Other creative tactics can be used to counter neo-Nazi propaganda with less direct confrontation. Activists around the world have turned Nazi graffiti into art, like the #PaintBack campaign transforming Swastikas into cartoon animals.

These actions not only deflate the macho image of neo-Nazis to their own supporters—which is strengthened by violent confrontation—but they also engage the community in planning fun collective actions to counter hate and intolerance. Humorous counter-demonstrations unleash a storm of creativity, as activists and local groups collaborate to design creative actions together.

In the end, the actions bring communities together against hate speech. Since humor and clowning can incorporate so many community members—children and the elderly, musicians and athletes, politicians and school teachers—they draw everyone into a joyful, silly expression of solidarity. That's something a band of tiki torch-wielding neo-Nazis don't stand a change against.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.


Originally from New Hampshire, Sarah Freeman-Woolpert studied international affairs and conflict resolution at The George Washington University. She lives in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she is conducting qualitative research on youth activist movements.

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Re: Why Nazis Are So Afraid of These Clowns
Posted by: riverhousebill ()
Date: October 29, 2017 05:34AM

I'm a former neo-Nazi. Don't ignore the threat of white extremism.
VOX
2017, 9:30am EST
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Bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country. The desecration of headstones at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.

For Christian Picciolini, these recent incidents are not necessarily surprising. He’s at the forefront of warning Americans against the growing threat from white nationalists.

What makes Picciolini’s insight into these individuals so compelling is that he used to be one.

When he was only 14, Picciolini was recruited by Clark Martell, a prominent neo-Nazi skinhead leader. By age 18, Picciolini was leading America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead gang and helping to recruit and organize cells across the country.

Picciolini worked to soften the neo-Nazis’ external image and political language to attract individuals who would otherwise not have been willing to join the movement.

“We hear terms like ‘liberal media,’ when in fact what they are talking about is Jewish media,” Picciolini told me. “We used to say that the Jews controlled the media. And now they've just massaged the phrase to call it ‘liberal media.’”

Picciolini began his transformation from neo-Nazi to anti-hate advocate in his late teens.

“Having my child when I was 19 years old and being married was a powerful catalyst for me because I finally had something to love,” he said.

In 2010 he co-founded Life After Hate, a not-for-profit organization dedicating to fighting racism and violent extremism. Five years later he published his memoirs of his time in the neo-Nazi movement, Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead.

“I'm still pulling up the weeds from all those seeds of hate that I planted,” he said, “which is why I have dedicated the last 20 years of my life to help eradicate racism.”

He recently sat down with me to talk about how he joined and left the neo-Nazi movement. In our conversation, Picciolini also explained why the American public should be as alarmed about white extremism as they are about Islamic radicals.

Matteen Mokalla

What was it about your early life that made you so susceptible to white supremacist views?

Christian Picciolini

I wasn't raised a racist. My parents were often victims of prejudice because they were Italian immigrants. So it wasn't a foundation of who I was. But what I was searching for, just like every young person who is vulnerable searches for, identity and community and a sense of purpose. [Clark Martell] gave that to me when I felt very powerless. And the racism actually came later.

My neighborhood was changing, and he was able to use those instances of crime to focus my purpose. He made me learn how to hate people — people that I didn't even know, people that I never communicated with. I was taught to go against them because it was an us-against-them mentality, and if I didn't protect myself, my race would die.

Matteen Mokalla

The Trump administration has made it clear that it will focus on countering Islamist terrorism. Reports indicate it will put far less resources into monitoring white extremism. Is this a mistake in your view?

Christian Picciolini

In prior administrations, the government has supported the fight against white extremism. They've recognized the threat in our own borders. But some of those policies might change — I think that's a mistake.

Not only is that denying that we have a problem with our own borders, but it's also marginalizing other people, Muslims specifically, telling them that they're the problem. That we need to infiltrate their communities. And that's not what countering violent extremism is about. It's about being community-led and having the communities really work with the people they know the best to help understand and provide the services that they need. And if you remove white extremism from the focus of terrorism and counterterrorism, we're only setting ourselves up for failure because we'll only embolden that side. And it will only marginalize the others.

Matteen Mokalla

There is a sense among some that white nationalist violence is underreported in this country. Do you share this feeling too?

Christian Picciolini

White violence and white extremism often goes underreported. One incident in particular was in Las Vegas, where two police officers were executed and then draped with the flag that represented their militia group.

Sometimes we blame it on mental illness or the work of a lone wolf. But this is an ideological threat that runs deep within these groups in our country. And if we don't start calling it terrorism like it is, it won't get the attention that it needs to be combated.

Matteen Mokalla

There has been a shift in the imagery and language of white nationalists over the years. What are some of the messaging tactics these groups are using these days?

Christian Picciolini

The imagery of white supremacy has changed over the last three decades. It’s gone from what you would consider your normal racist, who might be a skinhead with tattoos or a Klansman wearing a robe and a hood, to something that's more mainstream: suits and ties, fashionable haircuts, and clothes that would never identify them as neo-Nazis until they open their mouths.

That was a concerted effort because we knew that we were turning people away who we could eventually have on our side. And now we're seeing the suits and the ties. And we're seeing people go to universities and spread their messages on campuses. And we're seeing people join law enforcement and run for office.

They know, if they take away the edge, if they take away the things that turn most people off, even if they're racist, they can attract more people. Because now they're appealing to the grievance the people have and they're using us against them narrative to really spread racism. And most people that fall into this camp don't even know that.

When they're being xenophobic and they're talking about Muslims being the enemy, they don't really understand because maybe they've never really interacted with these people. They've never had a dialogue with these people. But they believe the propaganda and lies that are out there. And that's all fear tactics.

Matteen Mokalla

What about the phrase “Make America great again” — do you see that as coded language?

Christian Picciolini

These days with our political climate, we see a lot of coded language or dog whistles, the use of star of David, when talking about politicians. We hear terms like “liberal media,” when in fact what they are talking about is Jewish media. We used to say that the Jews controlled the media, and now they've just massaged the phrase to call it “liberal media.”

"Make America great again?" Well, to them, it means make America white again. And I'm not ready to let that happen, because America is for everybody.

Matteen Mokalla

What exactly is the “white paradise” that white nationalists promise today and that many years ago brought you into the movement?

Christian Picciolini

White nationalists, just like any other extremist groups, promise paradise. They promise that the problems of crime and the problems of white genocide are going to go away. And that you come from a very white noble cause and that your culture is worth protecting.

The problem is that nobody is trying to take that away from you. The promise they make you is false because there is no “us against them.” We're here on this world together to work together. And in fact, America was based with its greatest import being immigrants. So there is no problem.

The only problems they have are the ones that they inflate with propaganda, with fake news. Where they teach you that blacks commit more crimes against white people or that Jews control the media and the finance system.

These are all conspiracy theories; there's no basis in truth. I know this because I helped create those lies from the beginning. I helped spread them, and ultimately I believed them myself. And I infected that lie to other people that were innocent, and even 20 years later, after I left the movement, I'm still pulling up the weeds from all those seeds of hate that I planted. That’s why I have dedicated the last 20 years of my life to help eradicate racism.

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Re: Why Nazis Are So Afraid of These Clowns
Posted by: riverhousebill ()
Date: October 29, 2017 07:42AM

I just watched a documentary about Adolf Hitler.

He sure was a popular guy.

Everywhere he went, people shouted "Hi Hitler" and gave him a little wave.

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Re: Why Nazis Are So Afraid of These Clowns
Posted by: riverhousebill ()
Date: October 29, 2017 09:21AM

International edition
The Guardian - Back to home
The far right

German town tricks neo-Nazis into raising thousands of euros for anti-extremist charity

Far-right extremists inadvertently take part in ‘walkathon’ to raise money for group that helps rightwingers escape extremism



Campaigners in Wunsiedel came up with a novel way to tackle an extremist march on November 15 – by turning the event into a sponsored walkathon. Photograph: Rechts Gegen Rechts /[www.rechts-gegen-rechts.de]

Elena Cresci

@elenacresci

Tuesday 18 November 2014 17.01 GMT First published on Tuesday 18 November 2014 13.12 GMT


Neo-Nazis gathered in a small German town found themselves the target of an anti-fascist prank this week when they inadvertently raised €10,000 for an anti-extremist organisation.

For decades, far-right extremists have marched through Wunsiedel in Bavaria every year, to the despair of those who live there. This year, the organisers of Rechts gegen Rechts (Right against Right) took a different approach.

Without the marchers’ knowledge, local residents and businesses sponsored the 250 participants of the march on 15 November in what was dubbed Germany’s “most involuntary walkathon”. For every metre they walked, €10 went to a programme called EXIT Deutschland, which helps people escape extremist groups.

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Campaigners hung humorous posters to make the march look more like a sporting event, with slogans such as “If only the Führer knew!” and “Mein Mampf” (my munch) next to a table laden with bananas. They even hung a sign at the end, thanking the marchers for their “donations”.

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