Reason reported last week that a high school production of The Producers has been forbidden from using swastikas:
The New York school district that oversees Tappan Zee High School considers the inclusion of a swastika to be offensive and, possibly, a hate crime—regardless of the context.
“There is no context in a public high school where a swastika is appropriate,” South Orangetown Superintendent Bob Pritchard told the local CBS station.
If you’re familiar with the play, you’ll know that it would be extremely difficult to interpret the production as pro-Nazi.“]
The Producers, created by Jewish actor/comedian/writer Mel Brooks, tells the story of two producers who attempt to create an intentionally terrible play to profit off its failure. Their plan is foiled when audiences love the pro-Hitler play they put on, believing it to be satire.
That context is important.
As Reason writer Robby Soave points out:
Contrary to what the district thinks, context does matter. If a swastika appears on a Jewish student’s locker, it’s a hate crime. If it appears in a history textbook, it’s not.
The danger comes when authority figures try to shelter kids from offensive ideas and symbols. It’s better to let them behold the swastika, and laugh at it, than live in fear of it.
As Mel Brooks—creator of The Producers—said in a 2001 interview:
“I was never crazy about Hitler…If you stand on a soapbox and trade rhetoric with a dictator you never win…That’s what they do so well: they seduce people. But if you ridicule them, bring them down with laughter, they can’t win. You show how crazy they are.”“]
For more on the importance of offensive speech, check out the Learn Liberty video below.