The appearance of a swastika in a Melbourne fruit shop is fitting, as the soft-validation of the Nazis has been vogue since the turn of the millennium.
On Friday afternoon, the swastika strolled the aisles of a Melbourne fruit and vegetable market, as an unnamed man wore the infamous armband whilst doing his shopping. The incident was reported to the police, who eventually informed the market that there was nothing that they could do, as there is no law that stops the wearing of nazi imagery and insignia.
Australia, undoubtedly has a Nazi problem, as the flag of Hitler’s monstrous regime is a common sight on these shores. Be it waved in well-covered protests, links to elected officials, or the talking heads that are given space by our mainstream media. Often, we speak about what they’re wearing, but not how we’ve enabled their abhorrent fashion choices.
“They Dressed Well” is an article from TIME magazine, referring to the Nazis. No, it’s not an article from 1938, although it could be. It’s from a piece in June of 2000, long before Donald Trump was on anyone’s mind as a presidential candidate, before “alt-right” was a term on everybody’s tongues, but two years after American History X hit theatres.
The piece talks about “Nazi chic” in Korea, where people idolise the style of the Nazis. Something which, as everyone knows, they were very good at; Hugo Boss made the SS uniforms, as everyone is so fond of reminding us all, and the Volkswagen Beetle was made at Hitler’s request.
But the bar the journalist is visiting is not a Neo-Nazi hangout, he tells the reader; some of the patrons “aren’t even quite sure who Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were.”
“Others, like regular patron Chung Jae Kyung, 22, are aware of the evil the Nazis did but not especially moved by it,” Donald Macintyre writes. “’I don’t hate them, I don’t like them,’ says Chung, a neatly dressed English-lit student with an easy smile. ‘But at least they dressed well.’”
“Any power whatsoever is destined to fail before fashion,” Mussolini is quoted as saying in a 1930 issue of British Vogue.
“ was intended to highlight the need for fascist regimes to capture the fashion system for their own purposes,” Mel Campbell writes in her piece for Crikey. “And because clothing can also express subversive ideas of dissent and solidarity, the fascists will come for your community’s favourite looks, too. Spencer’s ‘dapper’ dressing and trendy side-fade haircut are a deliberate attempt to confuse far-right politics with hipster progressivism. Normalisation of fascism begins when we internalise fascist aesthetics, either through irony or self-preservation.”
In other words, fascism intends to make itself presentable so that people aren’t scared of it, so that they view it as non-threatening, as acceptable, as palatable, and then others can adopt it – even ironically – and thus normalise its aesthetics and, therefore, its existence. The punks did it in the 1970s and ’80s as a way of rebelling against the uptight society they were breaking out of, but that created a splintered subculture that could be radicalised.
Today, we don’t like to use the word “Nazi”. We prefer “alt-right” or “Neo-Nazi” or “anti-immigration”. They are the “hipster fascists” inspired by the neatly trimmed Mike Pence, the aforementioned “dapper” Richard Spencer and the calm Steve Bannon.
“Middle class and well-spoken, dressed in skinny jeans and New Balance trainers rather than bomber jackets and boots,” Andrew Gilligan writes, “members of Generation Identity (GI) are accused of using slick branding and coded language to ‘normalise’ extremist views.”
And the media is always quick to comment on the looks of these new fascists, although there is nothing new about their ideas. Genocide and race-hate are quite passé; someone should let the hipsters know. People like to read about these well-dressed jackbooters because it’s so unexpected, even though it shouldn’t be.
“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said from a podium. “It is our creation. It is our inheritance and it belongs to us.”
These “respectable” looking boys and girls, spewing their hate using words like “globalist” and “nationalism” and “hail” are so novel to people because they expect to see hooded Klansmen or shaven-headed thugs covered in tattoos to take the podium and spew bile with unrestricted fury.
But those guys sat down with a publicist. They don’t want to look “dangerous”. Their parents or mentors or teachers wore hoods and got tattoos. They beat up the Jewish kid or burned down the store owned by the black family, and they realised that it didn’t work. No one empathised with their struggle except a measly few.
They realised that it’s so much more effective to put on a suit, or a nice dress, and step out onto a stage and act sweet and speak with all the words their expensive education taught them. By doing so, they make their enemies – people of colour, Jews, Muslims, women – look like “animals” by not getting their point across the “right way”.
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate,” Martin Luther King Jr wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail.
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season’.”
By seemingly taking the high road, they make groups like Antifa appear criminal simply because they don’t play nice, especially after one punched Richard Spencer in the face during a filmed interview.
Their fashion is a distraction, and it’s a good one. People – and by that, I mean mostly white people, from all walks of life – see them, neatly trimmed and suited up, and compare them to what they see on TV of anti-fascist protestors in jeans and T-shirts and bandanas in the streets and think, “Well, those people are just causing trouble. Those nice young men and women must be saying something important.”