The comments section of a right wing tabloid newspaper is hardly a place for the faint hearted at the best of times, but when it comes to stories on race and immigration things really get out of hand.
So out of hand, it turns out, that slightly altered quotes from actual Nazi propagandists fit in perfectly.
In an experiment that bodes poorly for the future of the Australian media, a pair of satirists teamed up to see what would happen if they posted actual quotes from Nazi leaders in the comments section of the Daily Mail Online, the British news outlet which recently launched in Australia.
Here’s the catch. When posting the comments, some of which were uttered by no less than Adolf Hitler, they changed all references to “Jews” to “migrants”.
The Daily Mail comment section has an ‘upvote’ and ‘downvote’ function, meaning readers are able to register their reactions to comments left by others. Here’s how the Nazi appropriated remarks faired:
As you can see, both received an alarming number of green ‘upvotes’. Overall the comments earned 480 upvotes to just 16 downvotes. That’s a big tick of approval for actual Nazis from Mail readers. Thankfully, at least some of the comments were blocked by the Daily Mail moderators. Not this one though.
British media outlets like the Mail have taken a dark turn of late, with immigration coverage reaching fresh levels of hysteria. In May, the Mail attacked refugees and migrants for ruining the holidays of British tourists in Greece, while a columnist in the Murdoch owned rival The Sun called for gunships to be used on migrant boats, and described those on board as “cockroaches” and “a plague of feral humans”.
“As a social experiment, @DMReporter and I wanted to see what level of support the comments would get if we took some famous pieces of Nazi propaganda and changed the word ‘Jew’ with ‘migrant’,” one wrote.
“We had four more similar submissions (including Hitler’s famous quote ‘Humanitarian is the expression of stupidity and cowardice’). They were all also highly rated, receiving way more green than red arrows.”
It was comments like these that spurred them to try the stunt in the first place.
— Daily Mail Comments (@BestoftheMail) August 11, 2015
They even found a real comment which, by coincidence, referenced the exact same Hitler quote as they had used.
With real readers like these, who needs fake Nazis!
In the end the Daily Mail realised it had been had, and responded by lifting the standards of its reporting to highlight the moving stories behind migration and put a human face to a phenomenon too often marked by a form of denigration that feeds the same instincts preyed on by fascist ideologies like Nazism.
Just kidding – they banned the tricksters from leaving any more comments.
— The DM Reporter (@DMReporter) August 10, 2015