Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, April 01, 2013

Pity these "English patriots" don't know enough about Mr Punch to use a swazzle to do his voice.

Anyone who has ever watched Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen opera cycle cannot fail to have been struck by the characters of Alberich and more particularly his brother Mime. Alberich is loveless, obsessed by wealth and power, a bullying slave-driver who is so puffed up with self-importance that he falls easy prey to the superior intellect of the Valhalla Gods. Having been dispossessed of his means to wealth and power in the first opera, he spends the rest of the cycle impotently plotting revenge. Mime, whose music has a wheedling, whining edge to it, is a super-skilled goldsmith, though when it comes to the important matter of repairing a sword made by the Gods he is effortlessly outclassed by a blond Germanic hero. He is treacherous, thieving, murderous, and once again is so keen to show off his cleverness that he misses the opportunity to learn something important. Like his brother he is obsessed with gaining power and wealth, and while he seems to have shown kindness to an orphaned baby it is really only in the hope of exploiting him.

Knowing what we do about Wagner's ideas of racial purity (the ones which would later so endear him to Adolf Hitler) it takes no effort at all to see in Alberich and Mime very clear caricatures of the Jews he so despised. And while there is no mention of Jews in the Ring cycle, pretty much every antisemitic trope you can think of is incorporated into the depiction of those two Nibelungs.

Why am I bringing this up today? Because it demonstrates that you don't have to mention Jews explicitly to be anti-semitic. If Wagner had instructed that they should wear ringlets and skull caps the identification would have been total.

Nor is it necessary to mention Islam or Muslims to be quite extraordinarily Islamophobic. In a new video from the Englsh Defence League (England's answer to Ernst Roehm's SA brownshirts) we see Mr Punch, with his normal pointed hat but also with an Islamic-style beard. Without ever mentioning Islam or Muslims, the video accuses "Mr Punch" of wife-beating, cousin marriage, female genital mutilation, demanding that his wife remain at home or cover herself from head to foot in black, bomb-making, honour killing, grooming of underage girls for sex, intent to murder white English people, terrorism, contempt for the law, and false accusations of racism to excuse all this criminal behaviour. (None of these things has any connection with Islam, but that's OK because the video doesn't claim that they do - only that "Mr Punch" does them.) Mr Punch is assisted in his fight against the law by a complicit judge who is concerned only with cultural sensitivity. All this in three minutes and forty-eight seconds of very professionally-scripted hate speech which makes Pat Condell's anti-Muslim diatribes seem tame, and which use the good old English comedy villain "Mr Punch" to wrap it all up in an aura of Englishness. As clever a piece of propaganda as anything Der Stürmer ever came up with.

However, unlike Wagner's Jewish caricatures which will live on for ever by virtue of their attachment to a sublime work of musical drama, the EDL's Muslim stereotypes will most likely be forgotten by this time next year: and the EDL itself is unlikely to last much longer.

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