'Nazis Are Bad' Ad Too Controversial For Fox News
Fox News is Donald Trump's biggest supporter and advocate. Here's how seriously the network takes its not-so secret service role: CEO Suzanne Scott personally stepped in to stop an anti-fascism ad from running during whatever it is Sean Hannity does each night.
The rejected spot promoted the Oscar-nominated documentary short A Night at the Garden. In 1939, an estimated 22,000 Nazi supporters held a rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where we understand a few Jewish people reside. Demonstrators protested outside. The German American Bund program offered a mix of repulsive anti-Semitism, anti-Communist rhetoric, and the "America first" proposal that the country abandon its allies and let Adolf Hitler and his goose-stepping goons run roughshod over Europe. Germany was just a few months away from invading Poland and had already spent most of the decade persecuting Jews. Yet Nazis gathered in America for a perversely titled "Pro-American" rally before hockey and basketball games the following evenings.
"The ad in question is full of disgraceful Nazi imagery regardless of the film's message and did not meet our guidelines." Marianne Gambelli, president of ad sales for Fox News, said in a statement.
"Nazi imagery" is more than just flags with swastikas. It is bombastic rhetoric that dehumanizes and marginalizes. It is thoughtless propaganda. It is fear and hate disguised as patriotism. Fox News usually has no problem airing this type of "imagery." It's their prime time lineup.
Besides, the ad recounts history. History, we're told, is why we have to preserve Confederate memorials and keep battle flags flying over Southern state capitols. Why is history suddenly unpalatable? Americans whose understanding of Nazis begins with Indiana Jones and ends with at best Saving Private Ryan might not realize how down with Nazi ideology Americans were in 1939. It's chilling to see Nazis occupying so American an institution as Madison Square Garden. That's usually the horrifying sight that lets time travelers know they've stumbled onto an alternate reality. Yet this really happened. The Nazis even modified their stage show to appeal to Americans, marching behind US flags and the image of George Washington. Sure, he was a slave-holding bastard, but that's still pretty brazen.
A Night at the Garden director Michael Curry specifically chose Hannity's show to air the ad because he wanted to reach a conservative audience. He's also pretty open about his Trump-trolling intentions.
CURRY: I hope that by showing the 'Hannity' audience how manipulative leaders in the past have attacked the press, scapegoated minorities, made light of violence against protesters, and wrapped hateful ideologies in the symbols of American patriotism, they might become more vigilant when they see leaders do those things today.
The ad was originally set to air on local TV in Los Angeles during Hannity but -- get this -- was pre-empted by the "breaking news" of Trump's WALL rally in El Paso, Texas. The film's distributer, Field of Vision, attempted a network ad buy instead.
A Trump supporter, wearing the MAGA hat that is now more uniform than fashion statement, attacked a reporter at the El Paso rally. It was brutal, sickening, and totally expected given Trump's consistent verbal assaults on journalists. The hook for the Night at the Garden ad was "it can happen here," a warning that perhaps sadly comes too late. It's already happened here, at least the part where fascists beat the crap out of some random person they don't like while the audience watches approvingly.
Fox spent eight years making baseless comparisons between Obama and Hitler, liberals and Nazis. Now, the network wants everyone to forget that Nazis were ever a thing. It's certainly out of bounds to make, well, relevant comparisons between Trump and fascism. Anti-Semitism is just a convenient bludgeon for conservatives now against Democratic congresswomen. Fox certainly doesn't want even their most devoutly conservative viewers to see the images from the 1939 rally and realize how similar they are in tone and rhetoric to the hate rallies the president regularly holds.
Ignoring the past and how Nazis operated is also why people on even the left minimize Nazism as just a kooky, "fringe" idea. Nazis marching in cities or recruiting on social media is simply an expression of free speech. However, we can't forget what happened, what had already started to happen, not so long after this rally took place. Your smoke alarm going off isn't part of an engaging dialogue in the public square. It's a warning that your house is on fire.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).