Thursday, March 5, 2015

Kit's Thoughts: ISIS, Like the Nazis over 70 Years Ago, Deserves to be Mocked

by Kit

This past week Saturday Night Live did a sketch referencing a heartwarming Toyota commercial featuring Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) joining ISIS. Here it is, just under 2 minutes: Link.

Twitter went mad.

The primary complaints were featured on Fox and Friends* with Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who seemed to be shaking and on the verge of tears, attacking Saturday Night Live for daring to mock a heartwarming Toyota commercial about a girl and her father remembering the past 18 years she spent growing up as he drives her to the airport where she is joining the military at a time when many soldiers have given their lives in the defense of their country and come home in caskets and for being “insensitive” when ISIS is responsible for so much evil.

Me? I liked it.

First, the use of the Toyota ad. As Andy Levy explained on Red Eye. “Everything except the punchline was set up for the punchline”. The reason for the use of the Toyota ad was to take a recent, popular commercial that a lot of people recognize, build things up, over-playing it slightly so the audience does not get too invested in it, before hitting them —WHAM!— with the reveal that she is going not to college, not to the army, but joining a violent, murdering, raping terrorist group. It is surprising and also ridiculous because the idea of very white Dakota Johnson joining ISIS is ridiculous. So, using that ad was fair because copying the ad allows them to set things up for a shocking (and funny) punchline.

Now, what about the criticism that doing the sketch when ISIS has beheaded Americans, burned POWs alive, and sold young girls into sexual slavery. Surely ISIS is “no laughing matter” and doing a comedy sketch about them at this time is clearly in “poor taste!”

Let me respond to that question by giving you a brief history lesson.

Though the years 1942 and 1943 would later be seen as the year in which the fortunes for the allies changed from a string of defeats to a string of victories in 1942 with the Battles of Stalingrad, El-Alamein, and Guadalcanal and in 1943 the invasions of Sicily and the victory at Midway, for those living through those years things looked very much in doubt. The Nazis controlled nearly all of Europe with troops in Norway, Coastal France, the Low Countries, Poland, North Africa, and Eastern Russia, nearly knocking Russia out in the process. The rest of Europe either run by puppet states such as Vichy France or Allies such as Fascist Italy or, like Sweden and Switzerland, staying neutral. In the East, things were little better with Japan, having nearly crippled our Pacific Fleat at Pearl Harbor controlling Indochina, Manchuria, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and was creeping west towards British India and south towards Australia.

And what the British and Americans had heard about the Japanese and the Germans (and the Italians to a lesser extent) made it clear they posed to freedom, democracy, and even the basic tenets of civilization. When he Japanese entered Nanking they engaged in atrocities that might even shock ISIS, raping girls as young as 6 and holding “beheading contests” between officers. As for the Nazis, although the full extent of the Holocaust was not publicly known, the West was quite aware that of their brutality. The Nazis had kick-started their regime by killing a bunch of fellow Nazis in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 then spending the rest of the decade passing anti-semitic laws, cracking down on free speech, bombing civilian areas in Spain, euthanizing the physically and mentally “unfit”, organizing pogroms against the Jews, and organizing concentration camps for “undesirables”.

Upon entry into World War 2 they, and this is quite a list, had violated the neutrality of the Low Countries (despite their own assurances otherwise), then using bombing campaigns against civilian areas of those countries to direct civilians into the way of the British and French armies and thus slowing them down, when France fell they carried out a massive bombing campaign British civilian areas, ramped up deportations to concentration camps, and massacred all the men in the town of Lidice and shipped all the women and children to concentration camps in July of 1942, an act which, unlike other massacres, was announced quite openly and proudly in German media.

One might say the dire situation facing the allies and the free world in general was, in modern lingo, “no laughing matter.” One might further say that attempting to make light of the allies would be “insensitive,” given the acts of German and Japanese barbarism going on.

Yet, in late-1942 (but released on Jan 1, ’43) Walt Disney produced a Donald Duck cartoon called “Der Fuehrer’s Face” featuring Donald living under Nazi oppression set to a song by Spike Jones of the same name as the cartoon with much of the song sung by a tall, thin Goebbels and support from Il Duche Mussolini, General Tojo, and a rather effeminate, flute-playing Goering. Here are some sample lyrics:

When Der Fuehrer Says “We is de Master Race”
We Heil, Heil, right in Der Fuehrer’s face

And that is one of the softer lines. Here are some more:

(Goebbels) Is this Nazi land so good
Would you leave it if you could?

(Chorus) Ja this Nazi land is good
(Mussolini) We would leave it if we could

(Goebbels) We bring the world new order
(Tojo) Heil Hitler's world to order
(Goebbels) Everyone of foreign race
Will love der fuehrer's face
When we bring to the world ‘dis order

It won an Oscar for Best Animated Short.

And Britain, who had lost 40,000 civilians in the London Blitz to Nazi air raids, the equivalent of 13 World Trade Centers, released a short little film featuring clips of Hitler, the German Army, and the SS taken from newsreels and Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will edited in a rather zany fashion to the British dance, the “Lambeth Walk”: Link.

Amusing? Allegedly Goebbels didn’t think so, as a story goes that he put its creator, Charles Ridley, on a secret list of people to be taken out by the Gestapo when Britain was defeated.

But what about the soldiers? They must not jokes about the people who are trying to murder them so funny? To that I recommend that you read this crude little ditty allegedly created by British soldiers in World War 2 set to the Colonel Bogey March of later Bridge Over the River Kwai fame:

Hitler has only got one ball,
Goering has two but very small,
Himmler, has something sim’lar
And poor old Goebbels has no balls at all!

But, you say, what about people living under ISIS? Surely, they must have a different view!

During the Cold War, the Russians and East Germans, who lived under the full weight of Communist oppression had no problem mocking the government whether it was pointing out that the reason the horribly-made East German Trabant car puts its heater in the back is to keep your hands warm while pushing it or that the KGB worked in teams of three because the KGB needed “one to read, one to write, and one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals”.

And if you think that is all just light humor give The Lives of Others a viewing and take notice of the fear of the Stasi’s reach the East Germans had to live with or crack open Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and remember that he was originally sentenced to the Gulags for cracking a joke about Stalin’s mustache.

ISIS, one of the most depraved organizations in the modern world, deserves all the mockery we can throw at it. Humor is one of the best weapons in the arsenal of democracy. If our grandparents could mock the Nazis in the darkest hours of World War 2, if citizens living behind the Iron Curtain could risk their lives mocking their respective communist regimes, we can surely lob a few jokes at the Islamic State’s expense.

If not, then what was the point of #JeSuisCharlie? Or is it okay to mock Mohammed but not ISIS?


*This nonsense was peddled by people on the Left as well but I picked on Fox News because, well, they should know better.


AndrewPrice said...

Kit, This is a classic example of the sliver of society that has become terrified of its own shadow. Those are people who don't dare use words that might in theory offend anyone or who whine about the outrage that anyone might ever be made uncomfortable. In other words, the hypersensitive.

These are the same people who want to ban cartoon mice flattening cartoon cats lest some child somewhere try it.

I think it also shows that some people (particularly ideologues) don't understand the concept of humor. To them, everything is politics at full speed. Hence, any skit like this gets seen as an endorsement of ISIS unless it is packed with lectures and disclaimers.

Kit said...


In 1939 we had the song "God's Country" in the movie Garland/Rooney flick Babes in Arms. It had this verse:

We've got no Duce, We've got no Führer.
But we've got Garbo and Norma Shearer.
We've got no goose-step
But We've got a Susie-Q Step.

Can you imagine a song like that today?

We've got no Putin, we've got no Dear Leader
But We've got Whedon and [insert name here]

We couldn't.

Robert L. Hedd said...


A historical image comes to mind whenever I hear/read something like your examples:

A walled medieval village is under attack by the barbarians. They are safe and secure knowing they have enough supplies and weaponry to keep the horde at bay for years if need be. The 'priests' and learned men, plead with the populace that they shouldn't anger the enemy. It will only embolden them they say. Don't mock them for they do not like to be mocked. In fact, if we just negotiate with them we can all live without threat of them ever again. All they want is a little land, a yearly tribute and some food for their wounded.
The people can't believe what they're hearing from these quislings. They just want to kill us the people claim. We can hold them off and kill them all with our weapons and skills. Let's just talk with them plead the learned priests and shamans.
One night, one of the wisest of the learned men, firmly knowing he has more learning and wisdom than the dumb villagers, opens the gates to allow the barbarian leaders in. Once in, the leaders line up the village elders and priests to 'negotiate.' See, the elders claim, all we had to do was just talk with them and give them a little of what they want and we avoided war. The barbarians slaughter the elders, open the gates to their horde and rape, kill and plunder the village.
That village was too easy they say. We need to find more villages that want to 'negotiate.' We like this negotiating!

A child's tale maybe, but my mind always goes to something similar when I hear we're negotiating with our enemies.


Critch said...

I expect that the Nazis also had the Three Stooges on some kind of list. Moe Howard did some spot on impressions of Hitler and Curly was great as Goering in his blue Luftwaffe uniform. I'm with you completely, satirize them, make them look even more silly than they are...BTW, we need to go after Putin while we're at it.

Anthony said...

*Shrugs* The downside of humor is people who are either don't get the joke or are even offended by it. I suspect such people have always existed (a lot of satirists have gotten a lot of grief over the years). Assuming SNL's audience responded well to the joke, I don't see why the existence of people who didn't like the joke would bother them ('Oh noes! Someone on Twitter is upset!').

Of course, for practical reasons satirists do have to careful. If you piss off a corporation who provides your livelihood or even worse, your audience by attacking the wrong target or the right target the wrong way, you suffer. If you cross some government line (the US is very permissive, a lot of the world, even many of our closest allies, takes a much, much dimmer view of free speech) you can get fined or even jailed.

Then there is the risk of attack. North Korea hacked Sony in response to a movie (the resultant e-mails helped bring down the head of Sony Pictures) and ISIS sent killers to an office of cartoonists.

ScottDS said...

Ah, the Three Stooges... loved their Nazi parodies. "Moronica for morons!"

Kit, I hate to give SNL credit but I enjoyed this parody and when was the last time they did anything remotely controversial? It feels like they haven't gotten this much coverage over a sketch in a long time.

Cast member Taran Killam (who played the dad) tweeted a nice message, and received some nice replies as well. (Mentioned in the link.)

It's a shame people will even let something like this offend them, even people who (theoretically) should enjoy it. Get with the program, Ms. Hasselbeck!

Oh, and after watching this episode, all I have to say is... Dakota Johnson is adorable! I don't want to see her in 50 Shades getting all whipped and injured! :-)

Anthony said...

Something kind of similar happened in Egypt.

The video of the fake kidnapping — complete with a remix of the ISIS anthem and a dance party inside a makeshift cage — quickly went viral, with many Egyptians condemning the stunt as being in poor taste in light of ISIS’s recent mass execution of 21 Egyptian Christians.

BevfromNYC said...

No one has mentioned "The Great Dictator" by Charlie Chaplin which was banned in Germany...doesn't get more mocking than that. Well, pretty much everything that Chaplin did mocked someone in a socially conscious way

Yeah, I kind of, sort of get why people would be upset, but no really. I only wish at the end of the parody, she had been forced to put on a burka and run behind the truck...they missed a golden opportunity.

Kit said...

Robert Hedd,

It wasn't so much that liberals were getting annoyed, I expect that, but that conservatives were getting offended. I mean, seriously?

tryanmax said...

The left is so timid because they believe any aggression can be quelled through conflict resolution techniques. They think ISIS just wants to be heard and taken seriously, and would stop terrorizing in that case. They don't get that in order to feel taken seriously, ISIS requires nothing less than total acquiescence.

As for Fox and Friends, I suspect they are in a knee-jerk snit over what they perceive as an anti-military slam on a pro-military ad, but they aren't clever enough to know it. So they mistake others in a tizzy as fellow-travelers and steal their words.

Critch said...

Hasselbeck is kind of a dim bulb anyway, I've never expected a lot out of her. Lately I've been more inclined to watch Morning Joe, I know it's full of liberals but at least I know what they're up to.

Koshcat said...

Sometimes satire hits and sometimes it misses. It is also ok for some people not to get the joke or not think it is very funny. I think it is ok but I think a funnier skit would have to drop her off at an adult book store or nudie bar.

To tease ISIS would have to advertise Toyota but like a Land Rover showing how useful it is to run from Jordanian jets and to catch camels for romantic interludes.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That is the problem: the left views the bad guys as victims who just want to be like us if only we would stop scaring them. They don't seem to be able to grasp that some people just like to hurt other people. I don't get it.

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