January 23, 2005

Prince Harry the Nazi?

Britain's Prince Harry has recently come in for an amazing amount of criticism for wearing a Nazi-era military uniform to a costume party. I can see that some of the people at the party might have found this distasteful, but that isn't the basis for the complaints. The basis for the complaints is that he thereby showed sympathy for Nazism.

Now, I'm the last person on earth to have any sympathy for the Nazis. I'm a left-wing Jew. I know many people, including members of my own family, who were persecuted by the Nazis. My father, my uncles, and my doktorvater all fought against them in the Second World War. But this doesn't make any sense. The critics are assuming that wearing a Nazi uniform is a non-verbal indirect speech act that demonstrates support for the Nazis. Not one comment on this topic that I have seen mentions the basis for this belief. Surely it is false. People routinely wear costumes representing figures of whom they do not approve. When a couple come to a party as Bonnie and Clyde, does anyone think that they approve of bank robbery? When someone dresses as a pirate, is that taken to show approval of piracy? Of course not. Wearing a costume does not indicate approval.

The people going after Prince Harry would do the world a lot more good if they would put their time and energy into any of the real problems in the world today. Prince Harry isn't one of them. A real source of anti-Semitism, among other evils, is Saudi Arabia. According to the US State Department, Saudi Arabia requires all citizens to be Muslims and forbids the public practice of any other religion. Saudi Arabia has a policy of not issuing entry visas to Jews. This policy was publicly stated on the Ministry of Tourism web site until US Congressman Anthony Weiner made a stink about it and called on President Bush to refuse entry to Saudi citizens until the policy was abolished. To take just one other, particularly vicious, example, two years ago the official government newspaper Al-Riyadh repeated the Blood Libel.

There are of course plenty of problems other than anti-Semitism. Darfur, for example. I am astounded and dismayed at how much outcry there has been about Prince Harry's costume and how little there has been about so many other infinitely more important issues. That the outcry is ill-founded makes this all the more perverse.

Posted by Bill Poser at January 23, 2005 06:45 PM