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.
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.https://www.salon.com/2013/01/11/stop_talking_about_hitler/
Okay, so what about the rest?
- Banning free speech: Sure, the Nazis did that. They banned certain speech everywhere. But that doesn’t mean you get to say (or display) whatever you want on private property. Like, y’know, racetracks.
- Blamed economic hardships on one group of people: Yup, the Nazis did that. And yes, it does sound familiar – because Trump has been blaming Mexicans and immigrants for economic hardship and low wages for years. I mean, the Godwin of “Godwin’s Law” has explicitly said that comparing Trump to Hitler was pretty much on point.
- Tore down statues: Again, the Nazis did this. Pretty much every culture has done this at some point. We freaking cheered when statues of Stalin came down. Hell, tearing down statues in the United States dates back to five days after the Declaration of Independence.
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.https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/world/controversial-statues-monuments-destroyed.html
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