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June 23, 2006

Don't mention the war


Babbling Brooks discusses an ostensibly controversial World War II-themed ad campaign by Shepherd Neame. Though given Spitfire ale was released as a Battle of Britain 50th anniversary promotion I cannot see how the subject of the Luftwaffe was to be avoided.

Here's my question: are the ads funny and clever, are they hateful and offensive, or do they fall somewhere in between those two extremes? ...

It's interesting to note that formal complaints were filed about some of the ads, they were pulled from the Underground, but both the German embassy and the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK didn't object to the content.

In the comments, Chris Taylor asks: "If the Germans cannot be bothered to complain, who's raising the ruckus?" An excellent question. I will add another point of my own: The Battle of Britain was a contest between representative democracy and objective evil. Furthermore, it was by most accounts a close run thing. That victory of the light over darkness is worth remembering with a drink or three in honour of the people who fought and won it. If some fifty - or sixty or one hundred - years after the fact we feel like poking fun at German deck-chair lebensraum and continuing German cheating at World Cup football* and some weak-kneed folk do not like it then I find I could not possibly care less.

*Unlike the talented amateurs of the England side, the German team is rumoured to practice. It beggars belief.

White hankerchiefs and bed linens Update: Reuters thinks it is necessary to report that all those German flags at the World Cup are nothing to be alarmed about. In fairness, it is only recently that England flags have been reclaimed from Britain's skinheads and we have had similar problems in tearing the Canadian Red Ensign from the hands of our own racists. Germany is not alone in negotiating the tricky waters that separate patriotism and nationalism.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at June 23, 2006 11:17 AM


They are not hateful of Germans. They are hateful of Nazi aggression. Is there a constituency for politically correct response to Nazi aggression? It is also, more subtly, a campaign in support of the hoppy real ale of southern Engerlant as opposed to thin Teutonic lager but you only would understand that if you saw things generally as having as many levels as I do.

Posted by: Alan McLeod [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 12:00 PM

I do not believe the ads are "hateful" of anything. This is the key difference between being English and thus in position of a divine possession of a sense of humour and being Canadian and thus the inheritor of a battleship grey earnestness. The former is much better equipped to confront contemporary German deck-chair aggression.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 12:23 PM

Pity our grey earnestness doesn't come with the namesake battleships.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 01:03 PM

I think that all of them are funny except for the one using the stylized SS "lightning bolts": that goes over the line for me personally and I can see how others would be offended in invoking one of the most evil organizations ever to sell some beer.

The rest of it is harmless rah-rah.

I've been accused of being a "self-hating German." Those of us who see World War 2 in perspective can know which side was right and which side was wrong. Anybody offended by these ads hasn't confronted this question (or furious grandparents still clinging to the notion that Hitler was good for Germany at the start and "lost control" and turned bad only at the end.)

I think it's encouraging that modern Germans haven't given a damn about this.

Posted by: Raging Kraut [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 01:09 PM

I think they are hateful of Nazis with the good humour that their contemporary Brits met and defeated them with. My Dad, a school kid in the Blitz, told us all the "Herr Kutt" and other playground jokes he heard during WWII. "Whistle while you work Hitler is a jerk..." humour. Basil Fawlty humour. While I get the point is the SS, they, too, were defeated by the cheery Brit that the ad campaign plays into. I got a PC lecture the other day at Jay Curry's for relating how my mother's family picniced and cheered Nazi death in the sky during the bit of the Battle of Britain that took place over the valley of the Clyde. Dingbattery. Humour kills not just facists but all totalitarians and that is good.

Such strength of humour is a great means to deflate any emeny. Needs to be used more in the WoT as far as I am concerned. Oddly, I saw an Osama Bin Laden god chew the other day here in Kingston. I thought that was great.

It's good beer, too, but the way and actually available at the LCBO.

Posted by: Alan McLeod [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 01:20 PM

Chris: Battleships for Canada... by all means lets! Or at least some contemporary equivalent of battleships.

Kraut: I agree with both you and Babbling Brooks that the SS-logo ad was over the line. I notice it does not appear on that ad archive site.

On a related note: Thanks to MySpace I have been introduced to more bands in the last three weeks than in the last fifteen years combined. I am somewhat alarmed to discover the number of German acts using stylized runic symbols including thinly disguised swatikas and SS insignias. While I expect this sort of stupidity from early punk (typical of the same "radical" irresponsibility that marches in the streets in the name of North Korea or Ba'athist Iraq) or moronic metal acts, I was under the impression this sort of thing was illegal in Germany and for very good reason. I have half a mind to look up the German police force responsible for investigating this sort of thing and sending them MySpace artist links. And for any 1rst Amendment commentary this notion attracts let me be perfectly clear in saying I am opposed to unlimited freedom of speech so most arguments to the contrary will be lost on me.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 01:23 PM

Alan: Pity Canadian "sensitivity" over those Danish cartoons trumped not only humour but the freedom to disagree with someone else's religious beliefs. But then that same suicidal - and entirely unilateral - sensitivity has triumphed in Blairite England as well. Sadly, when many think even the sensitive feelings of the War-era Luftwaffe must be protected I am left with little hope for disputing its non-armband wearing modern day equivalents.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 01:28 PM

And on the other hand you have Fark, which linked to a CNN Sports article on today's World Cup results by noting "Germans smash through Polish defense. Again."

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 04:06 PM

Sorry I guess that's Wednesday's results... You can tell I'm watching this thing like a hawk.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 04:26 PM

Germany is not alone in negotiating the tricky waters that separate patriotism and nationalism.

But I'd go so far as to say it faces the biggest challenge out of all nations in the world on this topic. Public displays of national pride, no matter how innocuous, are usually greeted with suspicion by outsiders and nervous hand-wringing by fellow Germans. The type of "liberal white guilt" one finds here in the US is pretty mild compared to the self-flagellation over Nazism some Germans engage in.

While remaining clear-sighted about the nature of Nazism and wartime atrocities, it's obvious that this situation is bad for both Germany and its friends. If a healthy patriotism is not encouraged, a degenerate one will crop up instead, as we are seeing with German skinheads and the morbid fascination with fascistic imagery that Flea points out above. Crafting and promoting a healthy patriotism should be a project of the German intelligentsia, but I fear they no longer have enough faith in the basic values that sustain it for the idea to even occur to them. I wonder, too, whether negative foreign reaction to such a thing would quickly derail the attempt.

Posted by: Varenius [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 06:41 PM

Varenius: While I would not disagree with your assessment, and in fact do not know enough about contemporary Germany to be in a position to disagree, I think a "healthy patriotism" is missing here in Canada as well. The casual, founding anti-Americanism of English Canada remains but gone is the relationship to Empire and the logic that Empire provided in, for example, keeping Quebec stapled into Confederation. And despite having lived in Toronto on and off for ten years I do not have a clue what it is that most people here imagine Canada to be. When my parents landed in Montreal, the Empress of Canada was arriving in a Dominion (at that point I believe it was still a nuclear-armed Dominion, at that). Things have changed. I would argue that in many, and probably most, ways things have changed for the better. But I cannot see what it is that would unite the country in war in the way that once would have been obvious (with the exception again of Quebec, content as it was to leave France occupied by the Nazis or run by fascist Vichy puppets).

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2006 06:52 PM

That is interesting, Fleaster, as I have much confidence in what I am due to my Nova Scotian residency, though I was born and now live again in Ontario. I suspect an Albertan would also have such confidence as would a Newf or a Quebecker. I think it is Ontarians who go around asking what Canada stands for when they may better ask what Ontario stands for.

Does an Englishman or a Scot ask what Britain stands for?

Posted by: Alan McLeod [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 24, 2006 06:54 PM

Many Canadians think Canada has no business standing for democracy, representative government and the rule of law in Iraq (under a UN mandate, no less) alongside our traditional British, Australian and American allies. So I suppose standing for not much of anything is something that is fairly straightforward to find agreement about.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 24, 2006 07:02 PM

I don't think Canada defines itself as standing for anything in Iraq. It's response to any context would excemplify what it stands for but Iraq is just one venue. Our responses to Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and Zimbabwe may come together to say something about what we stand for. Do we stand for democracy or only some democracy where useful to us? Do we stand for defending ourselves or defending others?

And we must make sure we are asking a valid question. What do the Belgians stand for or the Peruvians? Maybe the problem is only that Canadians consider the question answerable or even relevant.

Posted by: Alan McLeod [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2006 09:00 AM

This is precisely the meandering waffletalk at the heart of the problem.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2006 10:35 AM

Hog wash, sir. You have identified a question that is unanswerable (hence it not being answered since the mopes started asking it around 1959) and then point to all around and accusing them with not being able to answer. If you are right then you should be able to identify alterate answers or hold a poll or something. As you can't it is a set-up pure and simple aimed at providing some sort of satisfaction but no gain.

Posted by: Alan McLeod [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2006 12:01 PM

The fact you think the question is "unanswerable" circles even closer to the heart of the problem. Admittedly, your sentence structure has improved so full marks for that.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2006 01:10 PM

Hmmm, I clearly have to go away to recharge my clever anodes and diodes. In the meantime, I am still unclear whether you are thinking about what Canada does stand for (a factual question) or should stand for (a rhetorical political one). If you can tell me what I have in fact in common with Albertan Tories you will one gold star sticker left over from Sunday school.

If there is one thing in fact it may be trade. Perhaps peace, too, which is a pre-condition to trade. And a sensible allocation of resources to each of those after an assessment of likely outcome. Could you please draft an anthem based on trade and peace? I would approve use of the Ecuadorian one's tune.

Posted by: Alan McLeod [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2006 01:34 PM

What is most amusing to me of course is that its isnt the England fans who are the hooligans its the bloody Germans. First against the Poles, then against the English.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2006 06:40 PM

Which did not work out for them so well the last time they tried it on.

/doo-dah doo-dah

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2006 06:42 PM