Friday, 12 April 2013

We’ll gesticulate how we want to: semiotics for cops

Not sure this sports criminology but involves sport and crime and policing!

When reading Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style I was never entirely convinced of the links he saw between punk and reggae though I listened to a bit of both and still enjoy the Clash.  I think he was correct in arguing that Punk’s use of the swastika was meant to shock or to imply ‘Berlin’ (and therefore Bowie etc) but feel he and his respondents were too naive in thinking they had succeeded.

For instance, Wallach notes (in Duncombe and Tremblay (eds) White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race) how the transposition of punk to Indonesia meant that its earliest adherents didn’t even know these shock or hip references.  It just meant punk.  But quite quickly a more political punk (he cites, for instance, the Dead Kennedy’s ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’) is seen to chime with their own position under Suharto’s dictatorship.

And Hamm (in American Skinheads: The Criminology and Control of Hate Crime) notes the outgrowth of skinhead Oi music from some of the same roots which did fully embrace the Nazi regalia and ideology without robbing Wagner’s music box.  And Thompson (Punk Productions: unfinished business) is right to argue that punk may have attempted to empty Nazi symbols (and bondage gear for that matter) of their signifying power but failed to do so.  Yet whenever I happened across any punk wearing a swastika the bricolage of their clothing (see also Punk & the Swastika) and other accessories (Malcolm and Vivien’s Accessories franchise anyone) meant I never felt I was dealing with a Nazi.  Though I have felt that when dealing with others more conventionally dressed.

So am I easily reassured by a torn neon jumper and multi-dyed hair as counters to the message of the swastika?  Or is it too much cultural studies and semiotics and knowledge of Hindu (mention of Prince Harry in this BBC story) and Roman (was hoping to find a Mary Beard ref but here Hull Museum pitch in) uses of the swastika.  Or would anyone easily recognise that however offensive, they were not Nazis?

megan ruminates on “Can you accidentally do a Nazi salute?”, the case of Giorgos Katidis a 20 year old Greek footballer now banned for life for celebrating a goal with a nazi salute.  He claimed not to know its significance.  He may want to know about Basil Fawlty’s knack of not ‘mentioning the war’.  Not that this was much assistance to Mark Bosnich, the Aston Villa goalkeeper, who in 1996 was fined £1,000 for what he said was a Basil Fawlty impression in front of Spurs fans.

And talking of my team.  Whilst I don’t chant ‘Yids’ or ‘Yiddo’ on my rare visits I’d happily admit to being one, particularly to a non-threatening Arsenal fan in a solidaristic Spartacus sort of way.  Been known to let people think I’m gay (and certainly sung along with Tom Robinson Glad to be Gay) in the same spirit.  But I know full well that some do find the chanting offensive.  We’ll ignore the ironic potential of David Baddiel using the Daily Mail to argue it sustains anti-semitism.  And apparently the club has defended supporters against similar complaints from the Society of Black Lawyers.

Just as I know that no offense is meant to the jewish supporters of Spurs by the chants I suspect little support for them or wider Jewry either which is why I decline to join in.  Which brings me to the upcoming NE derby between Newcastle and Sunderland.  Northumbria Police have apparently decided that this is no Twitterjoke and intends to use CCTV to collect evidence should any Newcastle fans seek to mock the Sunderland manager’s alleged fascism with nazi salutes.  The BBC says, ‘Northumbria Police said such gestures would not be treated "as a joke".  Spurs fans sensitive to the criticisms and proud defenders of free speech now chant ‘We’ll sing what we want to’.  Will the Toon Army now chant ‘We’ll gesticulate what we want to’?  Or all turn up in Hitler moustaches or chant ‘Yiddos’ perhaps?

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