Almost everyone who has spent any time on the internet has seen YouTube parodies using a clip from Downfall, the 2004 movie about Hitler's last days in his bunker. The parodies swipe the electrifying scene — in which Hitler, informed of a grave defeat by his generals, flies into a rage — and alter the subtitles to make it seem that Hitler is reacting to any anachronistic thing you can imagine, from the geeky (like being banned from X-Box Live) to the pop-cultural (like Kanye West being a dick). Before the parodies got old, they worked because some of them had cleverly written dialogue, and because of the ironic contrast between the banality of the chosen topics and the seriousness of the original scene.
The Downfall parodies were so ubiquitous that The Telegraph did a story on the top 25 best ones, and the New York Times — which is quick to pick up imagined trends, but glacial at detecting real ones — covered it a full year ago. The meme is featured prominently in the film's Wikipedia page.
And yet, when some low-level schlub at the National Republican Congressional Committee made a Downfall parody video featuring Hitler reacting angrily to Obama's timidity on health care (with Hitler probably voicing the anger of a hypothetical Harry Reid), several prominent bloggers went nuts. Glenn Thrush of Politico reported it breathlessly, giving it a "bad behavior" tag. Prominent liberal blogger Digby at Hullabaloo captioned it "Hate speech," and railed against a perceived double standard about Hitler comparisons. Neither blogger showed the slightest twinkle of comprehension that this was simply an old riff on a tired meme.
This suggests that (1) they had no clue about the widely publicized meme, and didn't do the roughly 30 seconds of digging about the movie that it would have taken to recognize it, or (2) they knew about it, but deceitfully decided not to mention it. I rather think it's #1. Now, not everyone keeps track of every lolcat that hops out of the basket. But really — this was not remotely difficult to figure out. I'm all for calling out obnoxious rhetoric, and I do it here sometimes. But it's possible, when you combine it with an unwillingness to research and a hair-trigger attitude, to descend to an insufferable level of prissiness about people making fun of your side.
(You can observe that level of insufferable prissiness in the comments to those two threads, where critics argue earnestly that whether or not the Downfall joke is used to make fun of X-Box live, it's just evil and over the line to use it to make fun of politicians.)
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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