In a way, there’s nothing surprising about this: Target Yanks ‘Neo-Nazi’ Clothing Off Shelves. If I were a retailer I wouldn’t want to sell things with coded Nazi slogans on them either. Still, the story has some oddities:
- The description of the clothing and the picture are a little alarming. Joseph Rodriguez, a man in his 50s who flagged the problem, is quoted by Reuters as saying that until he saw the “88”s he thought it was “cool.” Why?
- The story speaks of “experts on retail branding and on racism.” What is an expert on racism? I’ve written a few things on antiracism as a system of thought and feeling and there’s not much else out there on the subject. Does that make me one of the world’s leading experts on antiracism?
- One of the experts on retail branding says “At a minimum, the retailer will need to be far more vigorous in screening the merchandise it sells.” How can they catch esoteric meanings? Which ones should they avoid? Things suggesting satanism like skulls and the color red? Should they hire Morris Dees to screen everything for them?
- Why is it that selling things with communist symbols is completely different? There haven’t been any Nazis to speak of for better than half a century, yet somehow they remain obsessively fascinating and demonically threatening. It seems to me the reason is that liberal ideology rejects as immoral essential aspects of human life, those that depend on particular loyalties, and the conflict between moral demands and human nature creates a perpetual need to demonize and scapegoat. Unfortunately, that’s about as abstract as an explanation can be. Some cultural historian with a secure livelihood should do a study on the history, development and function of the Nazi as a symbol, and of related symbols like the Racist and the Holocaust.