Wowsers. Nice one, lindy hoppers.

“Oh, it’s ok, he’s a nice guy who just wants to have fun. So his anti-semitism was just a joke.”

“It’s awful we can’t watch their routine any more, because my pleasure in their dancing is more important than their anti-semitism.”

Yehoodi

ILHC on fb

Yehoodi discussion on facebook

Lindy hoppers, get a fucking reality check. We’re talking about two French dancers knowingly including an anti-semitic gesture in a dance routine at an international lindy hop competition. There is no way they would not known what quenelle is – the gesture is freaking illegal in France. And to argue that this gesture is ‘just anti-authoritarian’ rather than anti-semitic is one fucked up argument. Your government has made anti-semitic gestures illegal, so your making that gesture is ok because you’re just ‘fighting the man’, and can’t possibly be contributing to, or normalising, anti-semitic sentiment? PUHLEESE.

I hadn’t heard anything about this issue until it had mostly passed, because I was running an event that weekend, and have been very busy since, but when a friend commented about it on facebook, I commented with:

————————
Wowsers. That’s really full on. I didn’t know anything about quenelle before this, so I didn’t recognise it in the routine. I did go and look it up, though, and it’s clearly a fairly offensive gesture. On the one hand it’s a hitlerian salute – an inverted ‘heil hitler’ gesture’ with clear anti-semitic overtones. On other hand, the meaning of the gesture has changed a bit in France to more ‘anti-establishment’. HOWEVER, the gesture is banned in France, and is so well-known, and so hotly debated, that you’d have to be living under a rock in France if you didn’t know that it is considered anti-semitic, and is used by scary arse neo-nazis in France.

I don’t think many australians (or perhaps americans?) realise just how scary the new right (neo-nazi) movement is in Europe at the moment, and it seems ridiculous that people would make a ‘hitlerian’ gesture at all. But Irene and William made a very poor judgement using that gesture. While they may have been riffing on the ‘momma, you treat your daughter mean’ theme in the dance, it was a bad thing to do. And it was correct for ILHC to immediately distance themselves from that – they do _not_ want that sort of gesture associated with their event. No matter what the intent.

I’d double check the facts on this, though, as Rick’s made some factual errors on the yehoodi site lately.

—————–

William’s response to this issue:

William Mauvais: Hey guys, im sorry if i have hurt anybody with the routine it was not our intention and i think this is really crazy!!!!!

My mom and i worked so hard from far away, i leave in France she lives in Canada and she worked pretty hard by herself to make this routine fun. Anyway all of those things are going so far… We are dancers and not politicians!!!!!!

Anyway i think that this is really sad. Take off a video from youtube especially when its a swing routine with no political thoughts behind except the joy of sharing our passion.

For those who see something im very sorry but thats not the meaning we wanted to have….

Its just sad that my mom cannot share this video with our family cause that’s why we did it, because we are leaving far from each other and all our family wants to see what a son and a mom can do and the complicity that we can have together!!!!

Anyway after 7600 views on our video in 2 days and only good comments on the video, our family is devastated about the situation!!!!

Just to finish with, if people are offended about the video please don’t hesitate to contact me and talk about it.

I’m not gonna talk about this again cause i think its a waste of time!!!

Thank you and keep on swingin’ (source

Frankly, this response is even worse than the ignorance of including the original gesture. “I’m not gonna talk about this again cause i think its a waste of time!!!” Are you fucking KIDDING ME?
You think a discussion about anti-semitism is a waste of time?! You didn’t notice that anti-semitism in Europe is on the rise, and also PEOPLE ARE DYING?!

As I said on the facey, “I reckon William just didn’t think it through, and perhaps just doesn’t think that anti-semitism gestures are that bad. Which implies he’s ok with anti-semitism. Which scares me.” It’s also terrifying that Eruopeans might be so ‘used’ to anti-semitism, and have so internalised anti-semitism that they just don’t see it as worth their time. This is some scary arse shit. And it’s really serious and important.

James William McGraw commented on the Yehoodi FB page:

I’m not satisfied with William’s response. Did he know A) That this gesture was in the piece before it was performed and B) Did he and Irene know what it meant before they performed it. If it is the case they both knew and did it anyways, they should have their placement stripped and be banned from the event for at least a year.
28 August at 17:09

And I agree. I’m just not satisfied by this ridiculous answer.

Honestly, so many people were ‘ok’ with blackface routines, and others are ‘ok’ with sexual harassment and misogyny at a national competition night, and now we think questioning anti-semitism is a waste of time?

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, LINDY HOP.

EDIT: William posted this 20 hours ago:

William Mauvais

To the lindy hop community,

In regards to my pro am with my mom this year at ilhc:

In the dancing there was a gesture that has become a huge misunderstanding. This was intended to be harmless, but regardless of that, it offended people in my life and community that I care about very much.

For that, I would like to express my apologies to the ILHC team and anybody that was offended by the gesture.

For the video removal: we completely understand the decision and are very grateful that we were not disqualified. Thank you for your understanding.
We love the lindy hop and our community, we didn’t mean to hurt anyone. This is a dance and community that is based on fun and having a good time. We wish only to do that, and once again apologize to anyone that was offended.

Keep on Swingin’ and hope to see you all soon!!!

William.
20 hrs · Like · 8

Don’t read the whole of that thread. The stupid: it burns.[/edit]

EDIT 2: I was going to keep updating this post, because it’s an interesting (and ongoing) issue. But I just don’t have the time at to do it justice at the moment. So I’ll have to leave this here, I’m afraid. And I’m sorry I had to leave it on such a fierce note. Perhaps the best thing about this issue, is that there’s been ongoing public discussion about it, and that the ILHC has been publicly engaged with the discussion, and William and his mother Irene have also returned to the discussion. I’m not entirely happy with the way this is being resolved, but I am happy that we are having an open, public discussion.
I recommend keeping an eye on the ILHC facebook page, rather than the yehoodi page, because I’m finding the yehoodi page is a beat behind and tends to not quite have the facts straight.

5 thoughts on “Wowsers. Nice one, lindy hoppers.”

  1. For those wanting some background into Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, a quick read of Diane Johnstone’s, The Bête Noire of the French Establishment (google comes in handy here).

    When it comes to governments deciding what is legal and illegal in social context, I believe it is better to use common sense, and historical pretext, judging people in such a pavlovian fashion. The question I ask myself in situations like this is ‘do I have more in common with a kid from France whom I have met, taken classes from, and like? Or, do I have more in common with a right-wing politician in France who judges a bi-racial comedian anti-Semitic?’ For, me the answer is pretty easy. Or even easier if you use the rule, never trust a right wing politician, no matter what country they are from.

    Love and Hugs

    David

  2. Ok, I’m not really ok with ‘love and hugs’ from people I don’t know. That’s creepy. Stop.
    But, moving on.

    The example of Dieudonné is a bit different. There isn’t any doubt that Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is anti-semitic. And that his contribution to popularising the quenelle is scary. Here’s a quick watch about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_kfHMHq-Gk

    I think it’s also important to draw distinctions between ‘racism’ and ‘anti-semitism’. Just because Dieudonné is ‘bi-racial’ (I use scare quotes because I’m quoting you, David), doesn’t mean he can’t also be ant-semitic.

    You can be both critical of a government (and anti-establishment) and anti-semitic. In fact, that’s the sort of attitude that gets about in particularly scary-arse right wing nutcase circles. Usually alongside arguments for the right to carry semi-automatic weapons and stockpile canned goods. You can read some criticism of this thinking here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/alanjohnson/100255874/nicolas-anelka-the-quenelle-and-the-history-of-demonising-jews/

    I do not assume that the current French government is the ‘good guy’ when it comes to race and ethnicity. My point is that the issue is so high-profile in France that it’s attracted legislation. Not to mention mainstream commentary on footballers’ use of of it.

    Basically, the quenelle is an anti-semitic gesture. There’s no getting away from that. The other incontrovertible fact is that these dancers made this gesture in their routine. There, right there: that is the problem. They weren’t critically engaging with anti-semitism and neo-nazism in a clever routine. They were (and they make this clear) not intending to be political. But they were.

    Further, these were French dancers performing in an international dance competition, and they made this gesture. Enough people in the audience on the night, and around the world recognised the symbol, and were moved to mention it to the ILHC organisers. So the ILHC made the correct choice and moved to take down the footage, thus distancing themselves from the image, and making it clear that did not tolerate, even indirectly, the use of this gesture.
    William’s response was inappropriate.

    I think it’d be equally inappropriate to make a more widely recognisable ‘heil hitler’ salute as well. Just as I think it’s inappropriate to use the word ‘nazi’ as a joke (eg ‘grammar nazis’). We don’t make jokes about nazis, because there’s nothing funny about the holocaust. That’s the end. We don’t do it. It’s not ok. It is NOT OK.

    You write:
    “The question I ask myself in situations like this is ‘do I have more in common with a kid from France whom I have met, taken classes from, and like? Or, do I have more in common with a right-wing politician in France who judges a bi-racial comedian anti-Semitic?’ ”

    This is a misleading question. I ask myself, instead, can I question the judgement of two dancers (no matter what their age and gender) in performing a gesture that is clearly (and generally considered) an anti-semitic gesture at an international dance competition, on film, and in front of an international audience of thousands? Yes, I can. They made a mistake.

    Can I think that these two dancers did intend to ‘make a joke’ by using this gesture in their routine. Yes, I can. But I must also think that these two dancers have obviously internalised anti-semitism to the point that they no longer see a problem with using a nazi gesture as a joke. They cannot see why it is both horrifying and horribly inappropriate to make a gesture used by people who openly advocate murder based on culture, who firebomb synagogues and shoot people in museums (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/07/antisemitism-rise-europe-worst-since-nazis). We are not talking about hurt feelings here. We are talking about a movement that murdered millions of jews, within living memory.
    As I have said, there is nothing funny about the holocaust.

    For me, as I have made clear in this post, the most distressing part of this whole incident is that William dismissed people’s concerns, fobbing them off with a backhanded apology, and the suggestion that this discussion is a waste of time. He might not want to talk about this, but it is a little late. He clearly does not understand the gravity of this issue.

    I am also concerned by this part of his response:

    “Anyway all of those things are going so far… We are dancers and not politicians!!!!!!
    Anyway i think that this is really sad. Take off a video from youtube especially when its a swing routine with no political thoughts behind except the joy of sharing our passion.
    For those who see something im very sorry but thats not the meaning we wanted to have….”

    Firstly, the personal is political. Politics is not simply something that people who are elected to government office do. Politics is about relationship of power between groups and individuals. William is a high profile, influential dancer who teaches and performs internationally. He sets an example for the international lindy hop community. He holds great cultural power, and this brings with it responsibility.

    Secondly, that might not have been the meaning they had intended, but then perhaps they should have thought a little more in preparing this routine, and perhaps they should have practiced a little empathy. They mightn’t care about anti-semitism or think it’s a particularly serious issue, but a great many other people do.

    Thirdly, to argue that it was ‘wrong’ to remove a video from youtube because it was their ‘joy of sharing their passion’ is particularly irksome. As I say in my original post, he is expecting us to sympathise with this line:

    “It’s awful we can’t watch their routine any more, because my pleasure in their dancing is more important than their anti-semitism.”

    I am expected to accept that two dancers’ wanting to ‘express themselves’ is more important than addressing anti-semitic discourse in lindy hop?

    My response is, and I am too blunt, is fuck off. I am not ok with that. To use a particularly apt colloquial Australian expression, he needs take a long hard look at himself. At the very least, he could write a proper apology. And more importantly, perhaps talk to some people about why the gesture was inappropriate.

  3. Two points. The person who made this up denies that it is anti-jewish.

    In order to make statements linking crimes to people making any gesture you would have to provide proof.

    The only point I was trying to make, is if anyone thinks that someone hates jews ask them. It is quite simple. My pointing out that the comedian was bi-racial was to draw attention to the fact that amongst the first to scream ‘anti-semitism’ about him is a group that do not (I could underline) hide the fact that they do not like people of skin-colour other than white, nor do they like jews. That hypocrisy I believed showed more about the validity of the charge of anit-anything than any long winded explanation or a 6 minute Newsnight clip. Perhaps I am naïve.

    Thank you for your space, and your time

    /David

    1. Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is the comedian who coined the gesture. Dieudonné has been convicted eight times in French courts for antisemitic charges. His comedy shows and other public gatherings have been banned in France as a threat to public safety.

      Dogpossum makes a handful of factual errors and doesn’t give any real benefit of the doubt to William and Irène (and let’s not forget Thomas, who dared them to do it in the first place). But the above paragraph is undeniable truth. Dieudonné is an antisemite, and even if you’re unconvinced about that, he is publicly and aggressively anti-zionist. For a French citizen to employ the quenelle and NOT know he’s an antisemite, they’d have to be pretty clueless. Which, turns out, I’ve seen quite a few clueless French citizens pop their heads into this conversation over the past week. So, there’s that.

      It’s entirely possible for people to have heard about the gesture as a “fuck you” to the powers that be, and that’s all they know. But it’s up to you to know whose caravan you’re hitching your wagon to, and to apologize gracefully when called out for it. It’s unfortunate that William, Irène and Thomas all chose to publicly respond with petulance.

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