Thursday, 3 March 2011

Forgetting and apologies

The Japanese band Kishidan wore Nazi and Nazi-style regalia for an interview with MTV. The Simon Wiesenthal Center complained. In response, Kishidan (who apparently usually have an image of wearing Japanese school uniforms) immediately apologised and promised to never wear the costumes again. After the ignorance involved in the incident, brownie points, at least, for a swift, clear apology, and a changing of ways.

They are not alone, of course, in using Nazi symbols, ephemera and clothing in music (or elsewhere: for example, Prince Harry's ill-thought-out fancy dress in the UK.) The band Kiss use in their logo a Nazi-style, storm trooper  double-S (Kiss' lead member Gene Simmon's mother is a concentration camp survivor, and the band claim accident or appropriation for the letters' similarity) and the punk-era saw a few bands using Iron Cross-type imagery, claiming it as a rebellion against, presumably, whatever you've got.

There can be arguments for appropriation or artistic license, but to think that Nazi imagery was happenstance is belied by National Socialists' clear attempts to coordinate imagery and propaganda, and to impress via their design choices: see designer Stephen Heller's find of the Nazi design handbook.

As such, Stephen Heller is not alone in arguing that further continued use of Nazi symbolism and imagery purely for design's sake and to believe that it has no impact is to operate under a delusion. Back in the first issue of (the now obsolete and sadly missed) magazine Speak, in 1996, Heller wrote simply: "Designers who believe they are doing the world a service by reducing symbols of brutality to the equivalent of happy faces are deluding themselves." He added, "Reducing Naziism to nothing more than an object of fun is an example of the politics of forgetting."

That was already 15 years ago, and forgetting continues. Good, then, that (in a country not renown for immediately understanding the effects of remembering war events) Kishidan acted quickly.

(By the way, the first link at the top also mentions the BBC QI/Hiroshima controversy. More about that from me soon.)

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