Of Bullshirt Memes And Statues

We’ve covered before how memes can be more toxic (and wrong) than you think and how they can be super racist. But it’s worth noting that they can also be super misleading while sounding (or even being) factual.

Wedding bands that were removed from Holocaust victims prior to being executed, 1945. Each ring represents a destroyed family. Never forget, Nazis tore down statues. Banned free speech. Blamed economic hardships on one group of people. Instituted gun control. Sound Familiar[sic]?

Take this one for instance. (please).

It is absolutely correct about the wedding bands being removed from Holocaust victims. And then it conflates actions and motivations and provides a bunch of hopelessly misleading data points.

Let’s start with the easiest one: "Nazis and gun control". This has been thoroughly debunked; read this Salon article for more. The key bit?

The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he says it did. “The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.


Okay, so what about the rest?

One of the earliest recorded instances came in 1776, just five days after the Declaration of Independence was ratified. In a moment that was immortalized in a mid-19th-century painting, soldiers and civilians tore down a gilded statue of Britain’s King George III in Manhattan.


It’s this last that I find particularly troubling. Because the meme – and those spreading it – are trying to imply that tearing down any statue makes one equivalent to a Nazi. And that’s bullshit. The reasons for removing a statue (or any of the complaints in this meme) are important. We supported and cheered for the removal of statues of oppressors in the past, whether from the Soviet bloc or even from England during the time of the American Revolution. We tore them down because we no longer wished to honor those who were cruel and vicious to people. After all, statues of Hitler came down after the Nazi regime fell. But I’m guessing the people spreading this kind of misleading meme want statues of Hitler too. Featured Photo by Sangia on Unsplash

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