- Published on Monday, 14 July 2014 18:47
We all place our elected representatives on a higher moral pedestal which is expected of them in public office. When Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin tweeted his Hitler salutation in the euphoria of Germany’s win over Brazil in the recent World Cup semi-final and followed up with an apology after being publicly censured by the Prime Minister, many Malaysians find his casual apology insincere and even worse, bordering on sarcasm.
The world of football has seen its fair share of ill-timed Hitler salutations including the recent World Cup. Ohimai Godwin-Amaize, Special Adviser on Media and Strategy to the Minister of State for Defence of Nigeria, Musiliu Obanikoro, committed the grave error of tweeting ‘Hail Hitler’ after Germany’s win over Brazil. Besides the angry backlash from his fellow citizens and Nigerians abroad, many demanded for his resignation with one Nigerian website stating that “Any Nigerian Public Official Who Glorifies The Name Of Hitler For Whatever Reason Should Be Sacked, Disgraced And Forced Back To School!”
Other famous football celebrities who have been publicly chastised and shamed for their Hitler salutations include West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka who was suspended by the English Football Association for his gesture referencing Hitler after a goal celebration in the West Brom vs West Ham game in 2013.
In addition to that, football fans were privy to Paolo di Canio who came under disciplinary scrutiny from FIFA for his fascistic salutation during his Italian club, Lazio's game against Juventus back in December 2005. Greek soccer player Giorgos Katidis was also handed a lifetime ban by his national team after giving a Nazi salute while celebrating a goal during a match in the Greek league in March 2013.
Any use or reference to the name of one of the most controversial figures in history is bound to generate public backlash as many other public figures have found out. When American country singer Hank Williams Jr referred to Hitler in an analogy he was making to President Obama during the opening song for NFL’s hugely popular Monday night football on October 2011, the broadcasting network SPN made the decision to pull out his opening song sequence from its telecast. In another incident, Richard Belzer, the long time actor in the long running Law & Order TV series courted unwanted publicity when he gave the Nazi salute on prime time American TV in October 2012 and asked the co-hosts to say ‘Heil’ to the network colleagues. Although his publicist later gave the explanation that it was a satirical gesture towards Fox News, the damage was already done.
The use of the Nazi reference is so toxic that any unintentional reference can set off a public backlash. When some international news wires published photographs of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech at the United Nations in September 2012, they unfortunately chose one of Netanyahu extending his left arm with his hand held in the same formation that was used in the Nazi salutation. Netanyahu was not saluting and his speech was about a totally unrelated subject of medical technical innovation in Haifa, Israel, which makes the public backlash and public relations furore all the more ironic.
Which brings us back to our esteemed MP and his recent tweets which have brought unwelcome attentions to Malaysia. As a public figure with significant influence on social media, Datuk Bung Mokhtar could have exercised more restrain and used his high stature more carefully.
Following the ill-timed tweet with a somewhat blunt and callous apology has done even more damage to the public office that he holds. It would seem that Datuk Bung Mokhtar has joined the infamous ranks of those who have been forever tarnished by their thoughtless use of the Nazi salutation. The Nazi salute is outlawed in Germany and uttering the Nazi salutation anywhere publicly is one of the worst social transgressions one can commit.