Is It Possible to Make Nazis Even More Offensive?

by Tim Cavanaugh

The great punk theorist Legs McNeil has a story about the first appearance of the Ramones at CBGB that he tells very well. He starts with a rant deploring the sappy, mellow, earth-toned grooviness of the early 1970s — a time when longhaired, denim-and-suede guitar strummers soared on both Wings and Eagles, when take-it-easy rockers rode into towns on horses with no name. McNeil limns it all with such disgust and quasi-reactionary brio that you’d be ashamed not to share his horror of the hippies and their laid-back indiscipline. Then comes the night when the Ramones show up, which McNeil depicts as a hard-edged, no-nonsense, leatherbound deliverance from years of shaggy excess. In describing how mind-blowingly cool the punk pioneers appeared to be, McNeil talks about their black boots and jackets, their lankiness and height, their all-black fashion; and at last he reaches for a phrase that can capture the awesomeness of it all: “It looked like the SS had just walked in,” McNeil says, with obvious awe and admiration.

I’ve always figured people who really get into the Nazis are following a similar appeal. Sure, you want to uphold the purity of Aryan blood, but most of all, you want to look sharp, fit, militaristic; you want to wear fantastic uniforms and look like this guy:

No more! Apparently even Nazis have given up on fantastic Hugo Boss uniforms. Maybe it’s the recession. From Rolling Stone’s Thomas Rogers:

Over the past year, partly because of leaders like [Internet TV Nazi hipster host Patrick] Schroeder and partly because of the unstoppable globalization of youth culture, the hipsterification of the German neo-Nazi scene has begun to gain steam. This winter, the German media came up with a new term, “nipster,” to describe the trend of people dressing like Brooklyn hipsters at Nazi events. Experts have noted that the German neo-Nazi presence on Tumblr and other social networking sites has become sleeker and more sophisticated. Neo-Nazi clothing has become more stylish and difficult to recognize. There’s even a vegan Nazi cooking show. “If the definition of the nipster is someone who can live in the mainstream,” Schroeder explains, “then I see it as the future of the movement.”

There’s hope that this time the majority of peace-loving Germans are standing up against Nazi hipsters:

In 2012, the daily Welt heralded the “hipster” as Germany’s “new object of hate” and just this February, the country’s biggest tabloid, Bild, offered a guide to “hipster types” for its readers.

For the record, I don’t recommend hatred of hipsters, or hatred of any other group, even for Americans. I doubly don’t recommend it for folks from the land of Bach and Goethe. Rogers ventures that the rise of the German hipster presents “both an opportunity and a dilemma,” and one Junge Nationaldemokraten flack specifies, “I mean nationalist hipster, not Nazi hipster.”

In the full-spectrum blast of planetary brotherhood that is Federation International de Football Association’s World Cup, can’t we cut the krauts a little slack? It’s a sign of progress that National Socialists are so deplored, that the swamp of racial-purist pseudoscience in which they spawned is so dry, that Hitlerites now have to dress in the cast-off rags of Americans who themselves bought the original rags in quaint secondhand stores. The Rolling Stone piece acknowledges this after its first few million words, bringing in a Tim to help disambiguate:

“It’s noticeable,” Tim says, over the phone, and explains that everything that emerges in German mainstream culture ends up in the [neo-Nazi] scene, just with a delay. “We don’t walk around the city center with our eyes closed,” he says, “we see what people are wearing on TV.” He also agrees that the Nazi Tumblr style has gotten “more youthful” and “looser.”

Heil Hipster” is the title. My recollection of interwar history is that the German political class believed it was safer to have Hitler inside the tent, and you see how that turned out; so the “nipster” is not a species to be underestimated. But since every nation is now condemned to endlessly beginning National Conversations, it might not be a bad thing for Germans — who before they were the disposable cogs of Bismarck and Wilhelm II and Hitler were the envy of Europe because they were business-oriented — to unpack the Nazi portmanteau and take a fresh look at the part that says “socialist.”

And the rest of you need to stop hating hipsters. Imagine how barren a world without hipsters would be. I’ll imagine it for you: If it weren’t for hipsters, you’d still be wearing a tie as short as the one the guy’s wearing in the poster two images up.

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