Don’t Let’s Be Beastly To The Nazis

A head-scratching part of the recent terrifying rise of the far right into positions of influence in western democracies has been accompanied by various people on the left loudly saying that (a) we have enabled the far right by making them into comedy figures, and (b) we should engage with Nazis rather than punching the fuckers in the face.

To deal with the second point first: famously-punched Nazi scum Richard Spencer, who was punched while in the middle of a live primetime unchallenged interview with Australian national broadcaster the ABC, and later again whilst being give free, unchallenged access to the masses by television, says he is now too frightened to leave his house to give interviews.

I can’t for the life of me think of a downside to this. A man who preaches hate for people of colour, Jews, LGBT+, anybody who isn’t him, who advocates – indeed, argues strongly for – concentration camps and the mass gassing and cremation of people who aren’t him, is now too scared to appear on TV.

Good. About fucking time.

As for “enabling” the Nazi scum by taking the piss of them: the people who complain about this are an unholy alliance of those who dealt with bullies at school by hiding from them and now never speak up ever…

…and those on the ‘left’ who have drifted so far to the left that they’ve come round and met themselves at the other side and are happy and content in the midst of fascists (you know who you are, Laurie).

The Second World War, you remember, the last time fascism was a powerful force in the world, featured just the same type of people wringing their hands and calling for us to be nice to the Nazis. We were nice to them. And then a war that enveloped the entire world and only ended with the use of nuclear weapons happened.

And during that war, we – the not-fascists – continued to make jokes about our foes, even as they dropped tonnes of bombs on our heads.

And it drove them mad. All the counter-propaganda in world produced nothing like the hilarity in the Home Front and the extreme anger in the Axis as the type of satirical and comedy songs we sang to ourselves and broadcast at them.

For instance, this from Florrie Desmond, laughing at Mussolini:

Or this from Spike Jones in the United States suggesting that farting in Hitler’s direction would annoy him (the song annoyed the people in charge of his jamming equipment, and also the remaining appeasers on the board of the FCC at least):

And Arthur Askey had a thing or two to say about Rudolf Hess suddenly making a run for it in 1941:

On that basis… keep taking the piss of the Nazis, it drives them mad. And keep punching the fuckers, just because.



This video, like most REM videos, is a??fascinating??watch. However, if you've never heard the song before (and what's wrong with you?) listen to it with your eyes closed first and tell me what it makes you remember. It's an odd song, because for most people it tells a different autobiographical story. You may never have been skinny dipping at night, but I'm sure you've got some memory from adolescence with the same hint of danger-mixed-with-pleasure the song seems to be??describing.

The band themselves are split as to what it means, with lead singer Michael Stipe saying that it's autobiographical in places but mostly just made up while other members recall memories of the early days of the group getting together – but not the same memories as each other.

For me, the song seems to be about boys. That first flush of adolescence when I first noticed other boys, when I first realised that whatever was going to happen as I grew up, other boys were going to feature quite prominently in life. That time as a teenager when life seemed full of??possibilities??and the promise of sex, rather than mortgages and cleaning the lav and thinking that a trip to B&Q makes a lovely thing to do as a couple of a Sunday. This song brings it back to me: the sight of male flesh; the smell of being outdoors at night; the taste of cheap ciggies and cheaper cider; the sound of other boys breathing while asleep; the feeling of being touched for the first time.

Pretty good for 4 minutes 23 seconds of American songwriting.