Ethics Quiz: The Hitler Halloween Costume [UPDATED]


From the Las Vegas Review Journal :

An Adolf Hitler costume worn to a community Halloween event in Boulder City by the son of a Clark County teacher raised an uproar that spread far beyond the confines of the “Best City By A Dam Site.” Photos of the costume — consisting of brown pants and leather coat, a red arm band bearing a Nazi-style swastika and a brush mustache — went viral after being posted on social media after the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce-sponsored “Trunk or Treat” event on Saturday.

The reaction was harsh, with commenters’ outrage primarily focused on the child’s mother, identified as Janet Arsanian, and the fact that she is a teacher at Cortney Junior High School.

“Interesting to see a #CCSD teacher pridefully dressing her 13-year-old as Hitler,” wrote one Facebook poster. “These nazi sympathizers are supposed to be educating our kids.”

Wait: dressing your child as a monster or villain demonstrates support for the figure portrayed or his or her habits and conduct? Since when? I dressed up as a pirate in elementary school. Were my parents supporters of piracy? When kids dress up as Dracula, does that mean the parents are blood-suckers? Funny, when kids rang my door bell last year wearing Trump masks, I didn’t think that meant their parents voted for him. Were all those people wearing Nixon masks in the 70s Nixon supporters? I did not know that!

Hitler is a historical and cultural monster, scarier than werewolves, witches, ghosts or Voldemort because he was real. Why isn’t he a legitimate inspiration for a costume on a night where we banish boogeymen and dread by mocking them? The website Odyssey says in a jaw-droppingly stupid post about “offensive” costumes, “Hitler has never been an acceptable costume, and yet it is ranked among the most popular every Halloween.” If it is one of the most popular costumes, then it is “acceptable” by definition—not necessarily right, but acceptable: if people accept it, then it’s acceptable.  The post’s author doesn’t like it, that’s all. She continues, “Dressing up like a German, homicidal dictator really isn’t a good look.” And dressing up as Jack the Ripper is a good look?

Cognitive dissonance almost forces me to the adverse of positions of idiots like this (her name is Alexi Sanderlin ) She also declares that any costume she, or anyone, deems “cultural appropriation” is offensive, writing, “Please, please, please. I know you love Pocahontas or you think that wearing a sugar skull costume makes you cute, but it doesn’t. It’s cultural appropriation, and it will likely cause an issue wherever you’re going.” Note how Alexi bypasses actual reasoning to assume the truth of a highly dubious proposition (I’m being kind: “cultural appropriation” is extreme progressive crap), and accepts the fallacy of the assumed rightness of the perpetually offended.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh, right….

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is it unethical to dress up as Hitler for Halloween?


Pointer: Amy Alkon

64 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Hitler Halloween Costume [UPDATED]

    • Modified: There is no right *generalized* answer.

      Like all manners, the appropriateness of a costume will depend on alot of conditions for any given situation.

      And I think this falls under manners.

      • Michael, you hit on something I did not consider – manners. I don’t find it unethical but definitely bad manners. Far too many people are still alive today who have been or have family that have been directly and indirectly harmed by his atrocities.

        Dressing as Osama bin Laden would also not be good manners, especially in NYC.

        • But if manners are “mini ethics” or “interpersonal ethics on a micro scale”, then if such is unmannerly, then such is unethical.

          I think, as with manners, it depends on the context what set of manners applies and therefore, in some situations the Hitler costume is unethical, such as you listed, but in others it wouldn’t be.

  1. “a Nazi-style swastika”

    What a waste of words. “Swastika” suffices.

    I’m not aware of too many people using it for it’s ancient Hindu significance or for it’s Native American significance after 1941…

        • In order to understand someone like Serrano, or for that matter Savitri Devi (and as Serrano points out even CG Jung and H, Hesse), you would actually ( :::gasp!::: ) have to read things they wrote. If you did so, you would gain knowledge, but that would not mean that you *accepted* their ideas or agreed with them. The more knowledge, the less binary things become. The less knowledge, the more susceptible to *binary narratives* we become. And, paradoxically, the more easily manipulatable.

          According to Serrano the way to understand the phenomenon of Hitler is to understand, if you will, the symbol of Hitler. Or (Jungian-wise) what the manifestation meant. Hitler has a great deal to do, psychically, with Europe. It was true then, it is still true now.

          I am really really sorry to bring these things to your attention — that is, that knowledge is there, that it can be gained — but in order to understand the 20th century, and certainly to understand *Our Present*, it should be completely obvious that the symbol, the shadow, of Hitler plays a powerful role. It is perhaps one of the most outstanding examples of (if you will) a living symbol. Obviously for some: as ontological malevolence. But for others — and I point this out not as a partisan of the view — as a manifestation of ‘the Gods’. Exactly in the Greek sense. Or, according to Jung, as manifestation of the Collective Unconscious.

          Trump, now, has been given and had projected onto him a great deal of the same (unconscious) content. In that way, and how strange it is, he is invested with psychic entity.

          I suggest that these things can — and should be — looked into. Therefor, I chose to understand, even if superficially, Esoteric Hitlerism.

          Oh but all this has gotten me hungry! I am so transgressed that I always start with dessert first. Won’t you join me? 🙂

          • The amount I need to understand this Serrano fellow in order to grasp useful knowledge is probably less than 1/1024th. And that miniscule need was fulfilled by hearing the term “Esoteric Hitlerism”.

            Go cosplay Apt Pupil elsewhere, the grown ups are discussing ethics here.

              • OK. It is completely unethical to put on a Hitler costume for Halloween. That is a really simple one. Hitler is off limits.

                What if it became a popular get-up and, say, 5-6 Hitlers showed up at your Jewish neighbor’s home? Hmmmm?

                It doesn’t play well in Peoria. Or Borough Park . . .

                Use your ethical head, man!

                Well? How’d I do?

                • I’ve been thinking about this more (I suspect you’d have guessed!) and wonder: Are there Neville Chamberlain Halloween costumes? What about Winston Churchill? OK, so let’s suppose that one kid goes out as Hitler and the three happen to knock on Mrs. Manischewitz’ door yelling “Trick or Treat!!!” and the poor lady passes out! Or worse…

                  It just wouldn’t be fair!

            • Sencillo, Chica: no hablamos del rey de Roma.

              Most native born Texicans habla un poco…

              (yes, this is intended as a double entendre. I am also Protestant and disgusted with his recent performance)

    • Yes, what the Nazis did was so horrific that for a very long time the swastika will automatically and only be associated with them.

      I believe I have a few 19th century books that featured a swastika on the cover or elsewhere, but obviously had no connection with the Nazis. I am certain they would be edited if reprinted today, and rightly so I think.

    • The only Hindu designed swastikas I saw were always the facing emphatically in the other direction from the German version, thick with very little white space between “arms.”

      I was looking for a good illustration and ran across this history of the symbol, pretty much as old as mankind, and either sexual ( those limbs entwined) or as I knew it in India, a sign of goodness — which probably meant the same thing. Hitler perverted it to such an extent it may take a few more generations before it fades back into its auspicious form.

  2. Is it unethical to dress up as Hitler for Halloween?

    It might not be unethical to dress up that way but it’s certainly not socially acceptable. There are lots of murderous bastards in history that they don’t make costumes for, why is that, and why start with Hitler now?

    Maybe in 500 years it will be more socially acceptable to dress up as Hitler on Halloween, if this ridiculous tradition continues.

  3. Mercifully, there won’t be any nationally televised night NCAA FB game at Camp Randall.

    In times past, that venue has…um…pushed the creativity envelope beyond where the more easily offended become triggered, requiring the solace of a safe space.

    Madison community reacts to hate speech following Halloween costume controversy

    ”Minority students say they don’t feel safe, welcome on UW campus”

    FWIW, my trauma persists to this day…

  4. It’s not unethical. It’s extremely weird that the people who fought Hitler could laugh at him, but people 75 years after him cannot. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Menghistu, Castro, Duvalier, Bokassa, Ceausescu – bring ’em on.

  5. Not unethical. He mostly just killed Jews. Jews are termites. And they are persecuting the Palestinians and threatening Arab hegemony in the Middle East. Your enemy’s enemy is your friend.

  6. Of course it’s unethical. Just as it is unethical to wear a Reagan, W, or Trump mask because they are literally Hitler. And, all those little Trump balloons, they are literally little Hitlers, and they must be popped immediately.

      • Certainly not intentionally, since I had to Google NPC meme to find out what it was. Mocking those who reflexively label opponents to their right as Nazis, Hitler, yes, of course, as they well deserve for their willful ignorance of history.

  7. I don’t think this is an unethical costume. I do think it falls into the Niggardly Principles category.

    Anyone who wears a Hitler costume should know how polarizing he is going to be. He will definitely offend someone. Could he attend the party without wearing a Hitler costume and have as much fun? Sure, probably. This, to me, is a Golden Rule moment.

    On the other hand, since the Left is persistently attempting to make Hitler its own personal Boogeyman that can be pulled out and stuffed back into a closet whenever they want (accusing and ignoring, as the case may be, when it suits their political agenda), allowing them to decide how and when Hitler can be used is deleterious to our freedom to express ourselves (even if those expressing themselves via Hitler and his attitudes are jerks).

    • Agreed. I still have a relative or two who (might) still remember the waste, but he is a frightening figure. And while I find costumes like that tasteless, I’m coming to be more offended by oversensitive people than any idiot’s rude costume.

  8. If the kid took a DNA test and it showed he had at least 1/16 German, then the costume is not cultural appropriation and therefore ethical. Just kidding.

  9. I don’t think it is unethical. We can dress up like fake monsters (no I don’t believe in vampires). We can dress up like real ones (yes I firmly believe demons are real). We can dress up like real people in history (Cleopatra and Jack the Ripper are costumes I saw at Walmart). We can dress up like fake historical people (Moana and Hercules). Hitler, to me, is little different than Jack the Ripper. Both were real men. Both were utterly terrifying. If one is ok, I see nothing wrong with the other. I admit that I wouldn’t encourage my kids to dress up as either, but if they asked to and showed an attempt at a good reason, I doubt I’d fight them too hard.

  10. Back when I cared about Halloween parties and the like. I always worked off the assumption that the best costumes where the ones that most closely matched the real person or what ever it was you were trying emulate.

    To me this is just more social media hyper sensitivity. You’re not doing it right if you can’t find something to be outraged about. Society as a whole has to start pushing back at this disturbing trend. Let’s be honest, if you try hard enough, and many people these days do, you can find something to be offended by, outraged or hurt by, from virtually anything you throw out there. Sometime in the last 30 years or so the right to not be offended became a thing and now the seeds of, no one fails; everyone gets a trophy and grief counselling amoung other things, have come to fruition.

    As for cultural appropriation. That ones burns me every time I hear it. Especially so growing up here in Canada where for most of my life, we have praised the merits of multiculturalism. Here I thought it was about bringing different cultures together and existing within a multi faceted tapestry of cultures , taking the best of each and incorporating them into a society as a whole. I’ve ran up against this a few times myself. I work outdoor in the elements a lot and I’ve found that an Arab keffiyeh scarf is an all around effective winter neck and face protector. I’ve had more than one comment about it, as it’s clear from my appearance that I’m not of Arab decent However, I do live I an area with a large Muslim population and it would seem they have no issues with me appropriating parts of their culture for my own comfort and protection.

    So I say, appropriate away and dress up however way you like. You will always eventually offend someone now matter how hard you try. The goalposts are just going to keep moving on you. Today it’s Hitler and apparently Pocahontas. Tomorrow it’ll be a straight man dressing in drag for Halloween. Something I did quite convincingly 30 odd years ago for a party.

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