Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taylor Swift & The Swastika



Earlier this week a reader named Larry alerted me to this picture of Taylor Swift posing with a guy who painted a swastika on his shirt. Before I wrote about this I needed to calm down and so took a day or two to think about it. The picture was taken at Katy Perry's birthday party. Apparently at the party guests wore white and were encouraged to paint all over their clothes.

One of the guests decided he was going to be an a-hole and painted a swastika. Taylor posed with him and so she gets the bad press. For the rest of her life people will say that she is anti-semetic or make up things about her. They will also say that the JH stands for Jew hater, but it isn't true. It stands for Julianne Hough who had a TS painted on her clothes.

Taylor's rep said that Taylor posed for lots of pictures that night and didn't see what they guy was wearing. That may be true or maybe she didn't know what it meant or it's implications. She should have, and she won't make the same mistake twice.

I am less upset with Taylor for making a dumb mistake than I am for all of the other hundreds of guests who didn't do or say anything when this guy was walking around all night. No one kicked him out and no one made him change clothes. They just let him be. He was seen hanging out with Katy and Russell and so many other guests and no one bothered to call him out on it. Why? Because it was a party? Because they didn't want to get involved? Because no one was offended? I guarantee you lots of people were offended but no one wanted to be the first to confront. No one wanted to rock the boat. The responsibility was on Katy Perry or the management of the place to make him change or kick him out. Barring that, someone else needed to step up. When people remain silent or scared to say anything then others with negative views feel emboldened and know they will not be challenged. Then you start to have problems. Katy should apologize. Taylor did.

56 comments:

Majik said...

The "swastika" is far older than Nazi Germany. It's actually an ancient sun sign that goes back to pre-Sumarian culture and represented peace and wisdom.

I wouldn't be too upset unless he was also giving a straight-armed "heil" along with it.

Majik said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika

Isabel said...

You know, I'm pissed at this whole "I don't want to rock the boat" thing. Not wanting to rock the boat is what got a 15 year-old girl brutalized for two hours in Richmond, CA. Grow some fucking balls and say something!

shazzzba said...

AND I READ SOMEWHERE IT SHOWS UP IN NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE ALSO...
BUT NOW IT HAS A MUCH DARKER MEANING, ONE THAT IS NOT EASY TO FORGET OR FORGIVE.

amanda rae said...

Majik, you beat me to it. There's a picture of Jackie O as a child with a swastika on a costume she's wearing...if people would just be less offended about these things, then they would lose their power.

I would be upset if I was Indian and an ancient symbol that my culture had used for thousands of years was co-opted and turned into something hateful simply because a dictator used it for 10 years. To me, THAT is the travesty here. We should reclaim it...things with a negative connotation have been reclaimed before, why not this as well?

Cindy said...

Thank you Majik and amanda rae -- the less we make this symbol evil, the less power it will have over people.

Pookie said...

*sigh*

i knew this pic would surface in general market press at some point. it's also causing a stir in a 2 other countries TS is slated to do press in soon.

here's what i know. she's a good kid. GREAT kid. good family. a little green perhaps, but not for a minute, racist. seriously.

and let's face it. i don't give a crap how many ancient meanings the swastika has, the fact is that in this day and age it stands for hate. end of story. the guy was a douche to do it, and obviously wanted attn. well, he got it. the only good thing here is that he'll be forever known as the racist douche w/ a painted swastika on his shirt. he brought that rep upon himself, i feel no pity.

that aside, i hope this blows over soon. her camp isn't happy about it, but they've manned-up in the way they've dealt w/ it. i applaud them for that.

ita w/ everyone else tho...someone should have called him on it the minute they saw it. what a bunch of wussies at that party.

Caroline said...

Be that as it may, it has now been appropriated as a symbol of evil and anyone wearing it should expect it to be interpreted as such. I agree with Enty - hate speech is hate speech regardless of intent. The rationale given above is like Mickey Rourke saying it's okay to call people faggots because he has lots of gay friends.

Lisa (original) said...

You guys are all correct. That said, I doubt this douchebag-asshole is educated enough to know ANY of the alternate meanings of this symbol other than the hateful one. And that is the one he meant. Probably thougth it was funny. Jerk. And if he later claims he's Jewish...he'd better whip it out and show us proof!

Beth said...

Yes, it is an ancient symbol and luckily some people know that fact. However, it is associated with the Nazi party and forever will be probably. I doubt that guy was thinking about pre-Sumarian culture or Hinduism or any other culture and instead was being a jackass.

Soon we will know who he and he will be publicly shamed like all morons who get their photos taken and posted on the internet.

As for "rocking the boat"--Isabel said it best, grow a set. Man up!

Anonymous said...

Whipping it out isn't proof, at least not in the US - we're the people who cut them routinely regardless of religion.

If we are going to let this slide, let's let the Rebel flag slide too, and all the other things that mean something different now than they used to. This jerk probably not only doesn't know the history of the ancient swastika, he probably has no clue as to why it's hateful to people today. He wanted attention and he got it, and he dragged a nice girl into it with him.

Liz said...

I actually ran into a similar situation earlier this year. I was at a picnic, and a couple of people that were friends of the host's gf showed up. About halfway through the picnic, I realized the guy had a swastika tatoo (among many, many others) on his arm. I honestly just had no idea what to say, I was so stunned that someone would so blatantly have a hateful symbol tatooed on themselves (and didn't seem to be an outright white supremacist or anything). I thought about calling him out, asking (almost jokingly) if he was a fan of the Indian peace symbol. But I really just had no clue what to do. Luckily, we left soon after and all of us friends were like WTF?? And It still upsets me that a good friend of mine has a girlfriend with a friend like that.

Marisa said...

Sorry guys,

As a Jew with a grandmother who lost much of her family in the Holocaust, I'd prefer not to see it. Period. I understand that it had other connotations before it was appropriated by the Nazis, but that doesn't change what it means to my family.

And I doubt "reclaiming it" would give the symbol less power. Many black people have chose to "reclaim" the n-word, but those same people can still be affected negati vely when the word is used against them.

RocketQueen said...

I agree with those of you who are fairly certain this guy wasn't conjuring ANY of those ancient symbols.
Today - and for a very long time hereafter - that symbol stands for hate. To wear it in a public setting is unacceptable.

Marisa said...

Also, no one seems to be mentioning the fact that someone else at the party painted it on him. He didn't paint it on himself.

.robert said...

Syco, a few miles from where I live at the I-4/I-75 interchange, 40'x60': http://tinyurl.com/yglzc6q

Lisa (original) said...

Syko, you have a point there, but I was just being facetious to counter the darkness. I say they publicize this twit's name and the name of the person who painted it on his shirt. Taylor shouldn't have to take the heat for everyone; she's a sweet girl.

amanda rae said...

It's a difficult situation, and I see and respect both sides of the issue. Most decent people do not want to hurt anyone or to offend them, but I do feel that allowing a symbol or a particular word to have so much power over people is harmful in it's own way. But I am not sure of the solution, and I doubt any solution would be acceptable to everyone.

As for "hate speech", it's such a slippery slope. I do not agree with people who use it, but I think it is vitally important that there not be laws restricting people's speech, because that leads to a very dangerous place. I am more in favor of people publically shunning those who use it, because legislation and criminalization is not the answer, at least not to me. Nobody has the right to not be offended, although like I said, most decent people will automatically try to NOT offend others. We should just deal with the ones that do through non-legislative means.....criminalizing opinions and hateful worldviews is just too dangerous and IMO, only breeds more hatred and discontent.

jlb said...

I didn't know that Hitler had used someone else's symbol for his hate - makes sense though - lazy as well as hateful.

This makes me think of the prince and how he used that symbol one Hallowe'en, on purpose, in his costume. It's incredibly sad how the world forgets.

Ms Cool said...

He's a douche.

Anonymous said...

Nice flag, .robert.

The rebel flag is a good example here. Most historians agree that the Civil War (or as we in the south call it, the Recent Unpleasantness) was not particularly about slavery. So the rebel flag did not represent slavery. And yet, today we see it as a hateful symbol of just that practice. And it is with today's eyes that we need to view these things.

lutefisk said...

I hope someone finds him & kicks the shit out of him. In this day & age, a swastika means only hatred. I am sick of hearing every day about homes & synagogues being painted with swastikas. It is just pure hate--
I am shocked that no one kicked him out.
That is a sad commentary on the guests present.

Lisa (not original) said...

Marisa, I seriously doubt someone held his ass down, painted the swastika on him against his will, and forced him to leave it on all night.

If someone painted symbols of hate on me, I'd beat their ass while destroying the shirt. I certainly wouldn't be photographed in it.

MommaBear said...

"When people remain silent or scared to say anything then others with negative views feel emboldened and know they will not be challenged. Then you start to have problems."

Well said Enty. If you don't stand up against them, then you're silently with them. Had more people/counties spoken up and taken a hard line, the world wouldn't be missing millions of Jews and Gypsies today.

As for the fool with the swastika, he probably doesn't know the difference between his a**hole and a hole in the ground, so how could he possibly comprehend the significance of a symbol of unspeakable evil. His mother must be soooo proud.

The problem with kids today is they've all adopted the mantra: if it feels good, just do it. And there is no accountability for their actions. They are truly the most clueless 'me' generation.

amanda rae said...

Ahh, the rebel flag. As a Southerner whose family unironically calls the Civil War "The War of Northern Aggression, and whose mother is in Daughters of the Confederacy (with over 30 ancestors who fought for the Confederacy), I can tell you that to us it is no more hateful than someone flying an English/Polish/whatever flag. It really IS a heritage thing to many of us, and while we try to be mindful of people's concerns and be respectful about it, completely ignoring the heritage aspect of it is hurtful and harmful.

There are obviously unpleasant connotations with the flag, but that does not mean that people who have that heritage should be ashamed of all of it. I am sorry for the slavery aspect (nobody in my family owned slaves at any time), and I do not want to minimize the wounds that still exist from the practice of slavery, but compelling people to denounce ALL of their heritage because some people think the Civil War was about slavery (which it really wasn't, slavery was on the way out, it was about state's rights) is not going to make the past automatically a rosier, more sanitized place, nor will it change it. All it does is create more resentment from those who are being told that their heritage and ancestors are monsters, which can never be a good thing.

We shouldn't ignore the bad, but we can celebrate the good, and to many of us, the flag is an integral part of that. Just a thought...

RocketQueen said...

I thought we were going to try to avoid making the comments section a forum for political essays?

amanda rae said...

How is this a political essay? I tend to think of it more as a comment on respecting ALL cultures , not just the "acceptable, approved" ones. Where in there did I say one word about politics? Please, point it out because if I did so, I apologize but I just do not see it.

J. said...

Let me start by saying this jag in the pic with Taylor Swift was is a fucking moron for painting that on his shirt. I highly doubt he didn't know what he was doing by painting that on his shirt. He only gets a pass if he's Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain, which I highly doubt.

So I'm curious - those of you who are against the swastika in all forms, and say it's horrible and wrong and you never want to see it - what about the millions of Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists who still use it in their religuous ceremonies, with no anti-Semitism whatsoever implied because the ceremony has been there for centuries? Should they hide their religion and their ceremonies from you for that reason? It almost happened in Britain.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article414027.ece

So one person's religious beliefs will override another's? Sounds fair to me.

And Amanda Rae - there's a difference between the Confederate Flag and the swastika being used for hate. The swastika was appropriated for evil by Hitler. The Confederate Flag has always been a symbol of southern opposition to racial progressivism. I grew up in the South, and I never met a person who was a proponent of that flag who wasn't a racist.

amanda rae said...

J.-

Hmm. I know people who have that flag who aren't racist...but the "South" is a big place, full of many different types of people, so maybe it's different where you are? I don't know...

Lisa (not original) said...

"In Hinduism, the right-hand (clockwise) swastika is a symbol of the sun and the god Vishnu, while the left-hand (counterclockwise) swastika represents Kali and magic. The Buddhist swastika is almost always clockwise, while the swastika adopted by the Nazis (many of whom had occult interests) is counterclockwise.

In Buddhism, the swastika signifies auspiciousness and good fortune as well as the Buddha's footprints and the Buddha's heart. The swastika is said to contain the whole mind of the Buddha and can often be found imprinted on the chest, feet or palms of Buddha images. It is also the first of the 65 auspicious symbols on the footprint of the Buddha."

As a practicing Buddhist, I wear an "om" pendant rather than choosing anything remotely offensive. If I lived in the East, who knows.

JW said...

I agree the swastika has taken on the Nazi connotation and should not be displayed. But out of general interest, why doesn't everyone also get up in arms over the Iron Cross which is so prominently displayed in motorcycle culture? That was also a Nazi symbol but nobody seems to give a rats a*** about that one.

.robert said...

The iron cross is of Prussian extraction.

.robert said...

Oops, thumb on the touchpad.

It wasn't a symbol for the nazi party, it was a Wehrmacht medal (also awarded to SS). Normal soldiers were not nazis and were forbidden from belonging to political parties.

GalFriday said...

The svastika (Sanskrit, meaning all is well) is used on Buddhist temples, statues, clothing and is sometimes used to mark the beginning of Buddhist texts.

There is a difference, albeit a small one, between the svastika and the swastika. As a Buddhist I spot it immediately:

The Buddhist svastika is cross-shaped with the little lines jutting out. It is straight, up and down.

The Nazi swastika is cocked to the side so the main shape is an 'x' - like the one this kid painted on his shirt.

Boo on him. :(

GladysKravitz said...

Context, people, context. If this guy were in India, at a party for Jains, this would be a different story. He's not. He's an a**hole. Case closed.

I like Enty's point, though. It's not that this guy's an a**hole, but that the fellow party-goers are equally reprehensible. I'd include Taylor Swift in that, too. Hard to miss a big red swastika. But--let's say she DIDN'T see it. Anyone who did and didn't do anything about it is guilty of complicity. We have an obligation to our friends who are members of minority groups in this country to speak up. If we stand alone, we die alone.

Pookie said...

*standing ovation for GladysKravitz*

*applause applause!*

Quintessential Southerner said...

i second gladys kravitz.

"The Confederate Flag has always been a symbol of southern opposition to racial progressivism. I grew up in the South, and I never met a person who was a proponent of that flag who wasn't a racist."

i agree.

LetLoveRule said...

As a jew, seeing this and no one complaining would have made me leave immediately. It's not just about the past: there are still plenty of neo-Nazis, anti-semites, and perpetrators of violence against jews. I've personally met neo-nazis/skinheads who didn't recognize me as jewish as I'm blond & blue-eyed. I'll never forget the things they said about killing jews, blacks, and gays. It was an eye-opener.

My temple has an electronic security gate. We have a sister site that was vandalized just this summer w/ hateful words and symbols. Remember the Holocaust Museum shooting? I'm afraid I can't see the humor.

BTW Enty not even seeing you I know you are a lovely man. Your moral compass is always right on and it's sexy as hell. Xo

Lana's Blog said...

Poor Taylor.

NYC2008 said...

Poor Taylor?
Sorry, but I have zero sympathy for apologies after the fact.

We don't know how people (celebrities included) feel about
race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
Why do we accept their apology after the incident gets blown up in the papers.

Please.
Celebrities apologize when the media point out that their actions are bad.
I would respect them more if they actually did something at the time of the party.

Accept their apology? Never.
Never apologize for things you say or do after it's happened. It really doesn't seem sincere.

NYC2008 said...

Majik

I understand what you're trying to convey, but I think you have to remember that NOW, people associate it with evil.

The guy in the picture was not thinking about what it meant before Hitler.

I think he's dumb enough to know that people will associate it with Hitler.

yeahwhatever said...

GladysKravitz said it perfectly. I was beginning to think I was in a parallel universe with all the discussion of the history of the swastika. I'm Jewish and it's offensive, just trust me. :) Like she said so beautifully: context people. And I will *third* the fact that southerners who are proponents of the Confederate Flag tend to be racist. I'm sure in the depths of the South there exists such a person who may not be... but I haven't met 'em! True dat, and I've lived ALL over the South: NC, AL, TX, FL, so BOO.

Michelle said...

First time poster here. I'm Jewish and the daughter- and granddaughter- of survivors of the holocaust. I grew up with my grandparents friends all having numbers on their arms. I learned about the holocaust extremely young. I have been to Poland. I've been to the concentration camps. I am extremely sensitive to anti-semitism.

My dear friend from college is Hindu and taught me the ancient meaning of the swatstika. If I went to her parents house and saw it, I would understand its context and not be offended.

However, this picture was not taken in India or at a Buddhist event. It was taken at an oompa loompa party in LA. This guy is not making some deep buddhist statement with the swatsticka. He is making an offensive, racist one.

And I agree with enty- that the biggest tsk tsk belongs to all those party goers who let this guy continue to party with this disgusting symbol on his shirt. They should be ashamed of themselves for saying nothing. Enty, its nice to know there are other lawyers out there with some ethics.

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle said...

One more thing- I don't think people realize just how rampant racism/anti-semitism still is. In high school, I went to a new friends house. I knew her grandparents were German. I was SHOCKED to walk past her brother's room and see a big ole poster of Hitler there. She apologized for it and told me she didn't share her brother's views, but I could never go into that house again.

Since then, I have heard so many racist/anti-semitic comments from people who don't realize that I'm Jewish- or that I don't share their racist views. Those views are still here and running rampant. Its just not PC to talk about it. They may not hide under cloaks anymore- just the internet. I can't tell you how many times I googled something seemingly innocent- which led me to a racist/anti-semitic site. It could be your neighbor, your dentist, your co-worker- anyone. Hatred spans all socio-economic bounds.

lutefisk said...

Michelle. I am also Jewish, & grew up in a neighborhood that was basically 1/2 Jewish, 1/2 Christian.
In high school, a good friend of mine was dating a boy who's family was from Germany. She was Jewish, and blond & green-eyed. She was invited for dinner, and sat there all night listening to the grandmother talk about how she had 2 sons for Hitler. My friend never said a word, & dated the boy for the rest of the summer.
I don't know which was more shocking--the fact that the grandmother used that as dinner conversation & no one in the family said anything to her, or the fact that my friend didn't say anything to her that she herself was Jewish.

Sue Ellen Mishkey said...

I only read the first few comments before I scrolled down here, so I don't know if anyone commented on this yet, but has anyone considered that HE didn't paint that on his shirt? Both of their "paintings" look too legible for them to have done it themsevles, unless they took their clothes off. Just a thought.

c17 said...

"However, this picture was not taken in India or at a Buddhist event. It was taken at an oompa loompa party in LA. This guy is not making some deep buddhist statement with the swatsticka. He is making an offensive, racist one."

Really Michelle? And you know this how? Do you know this person or were you at this event? If not, then you have NO idea why he wore this. I am a mostly Caucasian female that owns a skirt from India that has swastikas all over it. Are you inferring that I'm racist or a Nazi because of it? It was a gift from a friend of mine who is MOST DEFINITELY not an anti-semite.

Until you can read minds, you might want to rethink your position. And learn how to spell.

Sue Ellen Mishkey said...

Hi! Back again.

As far as the political conversation that was going on, I would like to throw my 2 cents in there.

The Civil War WAS about states rights, who ever said that. You're right. It was about the states rights in the South to continue to keep slaves, and having the "right" to ignore the laws of the free states. The National government(and the Dem's in the North, plus the abolishionsits) wanted to step in and force the South to free the slaves, but they wouldn't. It wasn't until Lincoln's era that things started to change ie: the collapse of the Whig(pro-slavery) party, the balance of free states vs slave states being lost in the House, the Reconstruction plan, and eventually, the Civil War. Anyway, the whole point is as a result of your Nation's history, people associate the Confederate Flag with slavery and racism, much like people associate the swastika with Hitler and the Holocaust. It doesn't matter what it USED to symobilize, it matters what is symbolizes now and how it hurts the people who were ruled under that symbol, or are even sympathetic to the cause. It's offensive and makes the rest of us look bad.

That being said, as far as the South goes, historically(and presently), it's a racist place to be. Even today there are hand painted signs on creepy side roads in Georgia that have racist slogans on them, that I have personally seen with my own eyes. To be honest, it's not just the South and black people. Most Americans I meet hate Mexicans, even if they aren't Mexican and are from, say, Puerto Rico, they're called Mexican as if it's a bad name. I don't know what their problem is down there in America, but from where I'm standing it makes you all look bad, collectively.

Thanks for reading.

selenakyle said...

This is way late, but was just able to read some of the comments...

I grew up in the South but married (then divorced) a Buffalo, NY native during my early 20s, and I saw just as much racism in the NYer's family and neighborhood as I ever saw growing up here--
they were strict Irish Catholics who could tell a German, Polish or Jewish person out of a crowd of 100 people, swear to God.

I had a red-haired Jewish GF who I had no idea was Jewish nor cared, had no idea about Jewish traits or what-have-you, but he picked her out as Jewish from the get-go and I was floored that it even mattered!

About Taylor Swift and her idiot friend(s)--young people don't know a GD thing about the ills of the world. Really, they don't.

You think someone who doesn't even know who the frigging BeeGees were will understand what the Holocaust was REALLY all about, other than what they were forced to remember to pass tests in HS or college?

I am NOT cutting them a break, just saying why I think things like the swastika and the stupid GD rebel flag are even still OUT out there--because every generation likes to be ironic and provocative and "bad" and they all think THEY are the first ones to think of doing something to get attention.

It's why so many HS teachers are so bored--they see the same stupid shit over and over.

amanda rae said...

*sigh* Whatever. I completely disagree, but people are going to believe what they want regardless of what the truth is.

However, I would like to know if you think these things should be banned. Should the rebel flag be banned? Should the swastika be banned? And if yes, why? Because it's offensive to some people? I am genuinely curious about this, because it seems to be VERY dangerous ground....

Sue Ellen Mishkey said...

@amandarae:

If you are speaking to me, no, I don't think those things should be banned. I agree with you about the slippery slope you create when you start banning things and infringe on the rights of the minority over the will of the majority. That being said, I just think people should act like they have some sense about things like that. Booting down the highway with Confederate flag mud flaps and a big 'ole Confederate flag snapping in the wind, much like drawing a swastika anywhere, is offensive to some people. That's all I'm saying.

abigail7881 said...

Well, I read (and I don't know who its from and how true it is) that the boy had only painted a X on his shirt, and apparently other people at the party added the rest. Like I said, I don't know how factual that it, but I thought I'd add it.

Mango said...

Taylor Swift strikes me as being as cute as a button and as dumb as a rock. I'm sure she had no idea what a swastika is, but the asshole she's posing with sure did, and he probably knew the implications of her posing with him in that shirt. He should have been turfed out on his ass.

BrownEyedGuy said...

@Sue Ellen - Lincoln was a repatriationist, read up on it.

@Amanda Rae - You're either from the south...or your not huh? I feel you.

amy_weyers7 said...

Sue Ellen Mishkey...you really need to read up on your history of the civil war...and so do you amanda rae....and i wouldnt make a difference if you banned the swastika or the conferderate flage...people are still going to use it, vandalism is illegal b ut people still vandalize properties and stuff with the swastika...
Selenakyle:...every f*cking teenager knows what a swastika is and it doesnt make a difference if we dont know who some old band or singers like the Bee Gees are, our parents probably know who they are and most kids get their beliefs from their parents...and whoever said taylor swift doesnt know what the swastika is...she does...practically everyone over the age 10 does...and abigail7881 the paintsrokes of the swastika are solid...he just didnt put an "x" on his shirt and random people didnt draw the little lines making the x into a swastika...the guy was an idiot and the people at the party were wrong for not kicking him out...but for all we know they could all be anti-semitics also...so he was an *sshole...and you all probably hate him...but i have a question...this guy was at kate perry's b-day party and how does no one f*ckin know who he is?

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