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Post-Galliano, Lars von Trier and 2014 Sochi Olympics Campaign Accused of Harboring Nazi Sympathies

In a bizarre turn of events, it feels like we’ve suddenly been thrust into a world where the situation with John Galliano, who heads to court next month in Paris for his racial slurs and claims to love Adolph Hitler, never happened. First, and making the rounds like wildfire this week, was director Lars von Trier at Cannes, who didn’t seem to be able to control his babbling as he stumbled through an awkward few minutes of a press conference, wherein he said things like, “[Hitler] is not what you would call a good guy, but, yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit” and ended with a what-have-I-done, “Ok, I am a Nazi.” He was flanked by actresses Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst, who both appear in his latest film, both of whom seemed understandably uncomfortable (here’s video of the scene and for more careful review, a great page full of animated gifs of Dunst’s reactions as the horror show played out). Second, the organizers behind the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are catching some heat this week after rolling out a new campaign featuring illustrations that critics have described as “neo-Hitlerite” and “like something from a Leni Riefenstahl film” due to its use of “an Aryan-looking snowboarder and an ice-skater gazing into the middle distance.” While certainly one could argue that old fascist and communist era iconography has long been used to ironic effect (see: Shepard Fairey, the multi-million dollar industry of Che Guevara merchandise, etc.), the Guardian reports this particular instance is a bit different, in that the design firm behind the campaign, the St. Petersburg-based Doping-Pong, has used swastikas and Nazi flags in some of their work, and have frequently collaborated with the artist Katya Zashtopik, “who is known for her sympathies with the ultra-right” and who recently wished Hitler a happy birthday on her blog. The firm is now playing defense, claiming they had no intention to support Nazism through the ads, nor did they work with Zashtopik on them. They’ve also claimed that the press is itching to read more into this than is there (and upon seeing their site and the context for which things are used, particularly the Guardian‘s aforementioned, seemingly very devious claim that they’ve used “a swastika as one of its online ‘banners’” we’re inclined to agree with their defense to some extent, because once you see what they’ve done, it makes more sense than just that one, evil-sounding sentence). But in the end, it’s all up for you to decide: Did von Trier just get tongue tied or did he spill a bit more than he should have? And is this campaign a nod to Nazism or just the media trying to dig a story out that might not really be there?

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