When it comes to fascism, college students aren’t shy about protesting the ideology. As for communism, it seems they’d rather laugh it off.
That’s the argument a Stanford University student made in a recent column published by The Stanford Review, the school’s conservative magazine. In a column titled “Communism Isn’t Comedy,” Antigone Xenopoulos writes that her fellow students are more likely to make a “mockery of communism” than call it out as a deadly and failing political ideology.
From the column:
We demand the removal of Confederate statues and Nazi paraphernalia, but admire pop art portraying Mao and memes of Stalin. We call Halloween costumes of Hitler or SS guards bigoted and anti-Semitic, while we laugh at those of of Stalin or the KGB. A Soviet Union-themed Special D is acceptable, while a party honoring Apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany, or Mussolini’s Italy would be condemned immediately.
Why decry some evils of the 20th century but parody others? This year marks the centennial of the communist revolution in Russia. And yet, while denunciations of fascism and racism are abundant on college campuses, jokes about communist dictators abound.
This is a trend that Xenopoulos has seen emerge on her campus. She reports Stanford’s Slavic studies house hosts an annual “People’s Party” and notes that a Stanford online forum mocks past communist leaders:
Mockery of communism but not fascism even permeates Stanford meme culture: the Facebook group “Stanford Memes for Edgy Teens” features numerous satirical Lenin, Stalin and Mao memes, but, Hitler and Mussolini are not included. One post in the group asserted that “commie memes are still allowed if you call the red “cardinal” since thats stanford related.” Even The Guardian noticed Silicon Valley’s affinity for communism in a trivia quiz asking readers to distinguish between quotes from tech CEOs and communist leaders.
For Xenopoulos, these communist-themed parties and memes leave her wondering why today’s college students and millennials will fearlessly condemn fascism but remain silent on communism. It’s a conundrum, she suggests, because both ideaologies have had deadly consequences. She argues that by ignoring that reality, the students are ignoring history:
When we decry Hitler’s regime but but laugh at satirical depictions of Stalinist, Leninist, and Maoist eras, we fail to fairly examine history. The four aforementioned leaders were all tyrannical totalitarians. Vilifying extremist leaders on the right while parodying those on the left only reflects our political biases. It is estimated that as many as forty-five million Chinese civilians perished under Mao’s Great Leap Forward. Six million Soviet civilians are thought to have been deliberately killed by Stalin’s regime. The total number of noncombatants killed by the Germans during WWII is approximated at eleven million. We cannot ignore these horrifying counts.