“…And not a dang thing in that Alanis Morissette song is ironic anyway…”
I can’t remember who it was, but ever since someone nonchalantly threw this statement into a conversation a couple of years ago, I have been insecure about my degree of understanding of irony. It’s not? For fear I would look like a fool, I secretly avoided the term ‘ironic’ in my vocabulary like the poo-poo I had to step over on the way to my point.
This was until one fateful day, the day I got into a fairly substantial bicycle accident on a bridge, right in front of a sign that read ‘Murphy’s Overpass.’ That was the moment I understood that Iron does not equal Murph and that most things Murph-y are not iron-y and vice versa. I am still not totally confident in my use of the term, but my wounds have healed and I am ready to start bridging the poo-poo as opposed to avoiding it. Bring it on, I say!
But this piece is actually not really about irony. It’s more about Hitler. Well, it’s not really about Hitler, either. It’s a story about a great kingdom. Oh …I don’t know…, maybe it’s about propagandizing. Yes, propagandizing! Um…and irony, yes, and Hitler and definitely also about a great kingdom….. See?!?! Finally puts pen to paper and experiences massive brain aneurism – murph, not iron!
Here’s the thing. We all know that the rules of media-land have changed. Once upon a time, investigative journalism roamed the dark forest, followed tracks, and stayed up all night, watching, listening, and learning about its prey. Back then it was driven by a hunger to illuminate a subject and maximize transparency to ultimately lay it at the feet of the public as a gift – the gift of being empowered to form an opinion. Today, in this epoch of King Rupert who rules all the land, all that effort has become boring and unnecessary, as the fox makes its way to the freezer, microwaves an opinion and serves it to us. We inhale it – done. Burp.
You already know all this. I don’t need to bore you with this story again.
The part that is interesting in all of this though – is Hitler…
Let’s play a game – think of a really bad man, a man you frankly can’t say anything good about, where pretty much everyone will agree that this person was no good….? Yes! Hitler! Congratulations! You win as many washing machines as you can carry!
So, Hitler has become a symbol then, of tyranny, of evil, not a human being, which, on a little side note, he likely was. And as this symbol of evil, his name is uninterruptedly thrown around our media discourse because once someone is identified as Hitler or aligning with Hitler, really all debate about good or bad is over. You know, there’s someone else who used this little tool of rhetoric in steering the public sentiment……. Hitler.
When our media discourse uses ‘Hitler’ as symbol for the personification of evil and then applies it to entities and persons in an attempt to maneuver public cognizance, we ought to ask, how this is different from when Hitler writes in Mein Kampf, “…the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.”? To which degree is this a solicitation of the same tactics?
There does seem to be a difference in the application, however. Hitler applied this tool of public manipulation with much greater deliberation, precision and repetition in regards to his targets than does our media sphere of today, which more closely resembles an aimlessly running, sugar-high child with a hot branding iron for a toy.
Further, in Mein Kampf, Hitler fully owns the way in which the invocation of basic emotional responses yields itself to the manipulation of public opinion when he writes – “All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.” – In other words, when we are ‘informed’ by our media of anything being in resemblance of Hitler, we are immediately inclined for this ‘anything’ to be something worth rejecting. The notion of anything ‘Hitler’ being ‘not good’ is a very palatable notion. It accommodates itself to a very basic response in all of us; it doesn’t take much thinking about. We don’t need to go back to the drawing board. We don’t need to have a discussion group. We don’t need to get to know Hitler, the man. No one has to go and google ‘The Holocaust’ to be sure that, indeed, it really was a bad thing. It’s basic. It’s simple. It’s over. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a no-brainer.
Whenever our media dialogue invokes base emotional responses within us and throws a stick into the spokes on the wheels of our intellect, it also side steps our sense. And here I get to write words I didn’t realize I ever would … I fully align with Adolf Hitler when he says “The man who has no sense of history, is like a man who has no ears or eyes”.
This is the point, where I have to wonder if Hitler would chuckle or be downright embarrassed about the fact that in the public discourse of the 21st century, he himself is used as the kind of tool for public suasion that he once advocated for. And this, even after my minor concussion, I can say with almost complete certainty, is a great, great irony.
It’s none of my business what others like to have for dinner, but all I would like to say is that next time you hear ‘Hitler’ or related terminology thrown around in the media rhetoric, perk up your ears. That was the ‘ping’ on the microwave; the opinion is thawed and ready to eat.
There is, however, a potential for disastrous indigestion.
Well, I want to thank: the city of Tucson for maintaining no bicycle lanes whatsoever (okay, sorry, there are some), Hitler, for assistance in helping me become more confident in my understanding of irony (though I don’t think it will do much in affecting the karmic balance sheet if you know what I mean) Murphy for teaching me the hard way so the lesson always sticks, and the Universe for the once in a life time opportunity to bleed on my boss, and my desk and the computer and stuff. I’ll never forget it and forever relish in the symbolism – thank you!
Ms. Spieth holds Bachelorette Degrees in Management and German Studies from the University of Arizona and an MA in Conflict Resolution from the University of Sydney, Australia. She has worked in the fields of disaster response management, community bridge building and logistics management on an international level. She enjoys working with children, teaching yoga and riding her bike.