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RedBubble’s Nazi trouble

Arty Hitler humour draws fire

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Online arts community and digital darling, RedBubble, has attracted the ire of the Australian Jewish community and is suffering a membership backlash over its affiliation with New York based T-shirt and merchandiser designers Hipster Hitler.

The fuhrer furore has spilled overseas, sparking a PayPal investigation and prompting Facebook to pull HH's page. The art showcase and sales site RedBubble launched in 2006, and became one of Australia's most successful crowdsourced sites, offering free membership, creator retention of copyright, and fee-based online sales.

The row, which has turned into a near-riot on Oz art blogs, kicked off late last month when the site’s lawyers, Arnold Bloch Leibler, dropped RedBubble as a client over the Hipster Hitler merchandise.

The allegedly offensive T-shirts include slogans like “Three Reichs And You’re Out,” “Back To The Fuhrer”, “Catcher in the Rhine”, “You Make Me Feel Like Danzig”, “I Heart Juice” and “Whose Rhine is it Anyway.”

Mark Leibler, senior partner at Arnold Bloch Leibler, said “the firm has deep roots in the Jewish community and is extremely sensitive to the consequences of the Holocaust. Any implication that the firm is supportive of attempts to ‘reinvigorate Nazi ideas’ is false and unacceptable to the firm. ... Arnold Bloch Leibler does not currently act for RedBubble and will not act on behalf of RedBubble in the future; however the firm has previously provided corporate advice to RedBubble."

Leibler is also national chairman of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

RedBubble CEO Martin Hosking defended the work in this interview, and said his site is against censorship.

“The right to free speech is a bedrock of our democracy and of creative freedom and any decision to censor has to be taken mindfully and with great care. We are working with these peak organisations to craft a solution which balances the right to free expressions against the legitimate restrictions on it. Along with these organisation we don’t believe a knee-jerk response is appropriate given the critical importance we attach to freedom of expression within legitimate boundaries,” Hosking said.

However, controversy now seems to be dogging the purveyors of Hitler chic, with Facebook removing the official Hipster Hitler page in mid-May, and PayPal is investigating whether the T-shirt designer should keep its account as a result of the Jewish community's outrage.

The creators of Hipster Hitler clearly state that their work, which includes a cartoon series, is satire and offers a new way of disliking Hitler. “In the process of satirizing Hitler’s thoughts, actions and logic, we’re taking a few digs at a contemporary subculture of urban, middle-class youth that fetishize the ‘authentic’ and conform to non-conformism. HipsterHitler.com is strictly a parody, satire and humor site, all content herein should be treated as such.” ®

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