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Do we really need Hitler to warn us about Aids?

Rod Liddle says the advertising world has plumbed new depths of macabre tastelessness

9 September 2009

12:00 AM

9 September 2009

12:00 AM

I haven’t seen much of my wife this week — she’s been camped out on the sofa, filling her boots with 9/11 porn. She loves it, can’t get enough of it, gagging for it. Sits there with a glass of pinot noir, shaking her head, knees tucked up into her chest. People falling from the windows, scary men on aeroplanes shouting in Arabic and waving box-cutters around, firemen covered in concrete dust; whole programmes about 9/11 text messages, doomed people telling their loved ones that everybody’s calm. And then a very long film culled exclusively from amateur footage — the double XX-rated Debbie Does Dallas of 9/11 porn; you got all the money shots — those planes hitting the towers, people jumping out, towers falling down, the lot. For a long time, film of the planes hitting the towers was banned from our screens, much as erect penises were banned. You could show the towers burning, but not the moment of impact. It all changed this week.

It was a Channel Four documentary ‘sponsored by Volkswagen, taking you further’, it said during the commercial breaks, which I suppose was true in a way. Volkswagen: the first VW ‘Beetle’ car was created by Dr Ferdinand Porsche in 1934 in commemoration of Hitler’s mum, Mrs Hitler. Klara was a charming and devout woman by all accounts, and died in 1907 from complications arising from breast cancer — Hitler was very upset, apparently, because he liked her. This is a useful link, because while 9/11 porn leaves me cold and I don’t really get it, we all have our foibles, our peccadilloes. We are what we are, as the former politician Ron Davies once explained to the House of Commons after he’d been caught ‘watching badgers’ in a copse near the M4. And my particular vice is Hitler porn. I like to curl up on the sofa with a packet of Cadbury’s Snack biscuits and a nice mug of coffee and watch old Adolf going about his business. There’s almost always some Hitler porn on TV, somewhere, if you search through the channels. And when there isn’t I have a luxury boxed set of The World at War, the director’s cut of Downfall and the complete Dad’s Army. Don’t tell him, Pike! That’s soft porn, really, hardly any worse than an old copy of Razzle with the nipples blacked out. Comfort porn.

Last week two adverts tapped into these twin porno compulsions of ours and succeeded in causing a certain amount of outrage. In common with most people, I loathe adverts and the people who make them, and there are no adverts more vile than those which are not for products but for charitable or political ends. On these occasions the advertisers add self-righteousness and suffocating political correctness to their more familiar faults of stupidity, condescension, pretension and a cringeworthy faux-daring. Both of the adverts I’ve referred to were attempting to make political or perhaps social points. The first was commissioned by the Brazilian branch of the World Wildlife Fund (although the organisation has subsequently disowned it) and showed scores of jet airliners poised to strike the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The message they intended was, of course, that if you think 9/11 was a disaster, just think how many people are going to be killed through environmental catastrophe, not to mention those polar bears. The subtext was just as clear, though, and not very different: didn’t we all make a bit too much of a fuss about 9/11? After all, it was only a few thousand people killed — if they’d been Somalians or Iraqis there wouldn’t have been all this bother. It’s because they were affluent, spoiled, right-wing Yankees, who are not used to being attacked in their own country. Well, f*** them.

The other advert was shown in Germany and was intended to warn youngish people about the dangers of contracting Aids through enjoying unprotected sex. This was a long and pornographic advert during which an attractive naked woman whinnied and yelped her way towards sexual climax whilst being rogered from behind by a shadowy lover. But, remarkably, it wasn’t this explicit sexual detail which provoked complaint, but the ‘witty’ twist at the end of the film where the man was revealed to be … Adolf Hitler!

The point the film wished to make was that Aids, like Adolf, is a mass murderer. I have to say, it was a pleasure to see Adolf again, and in the film he looked as though he was enjoying himself; it was a youngish Hitler who was portrayed, perhaps the Hitler who had just been released from prison in 1924, rather than the foam-flecked, shivering, cake-munching madman of spring 1945. I suppose the film-makers thought it unlikely that any babe would cop off with that latter sort of Hitler, no matter how much they’d had to drink — although I know one or two who might well have succumbed, and at least one who’d have shagged both Goering and Pol Pot if they promised to buy her a kebab on the way home. But we digress. The secondary message in this stupid film was not that you can get Aids from having sex with anti-Semitic megalomaniacs, but that Aids will get you even if you are a very attractive middle-class white girl enjoying heterosexual sex in a nice apartment. And the subtext was that Aids is universal, a great leveller like TB, and we are all at risk. To deny this is akin to denying the holocaust — to being a ‘holocaust denier’. Much as, these days, one can be a ‘climate change denier’ — a deliberate allusion, on the part of our eco-worriers, to holocaust denial, and in their eyes every bit as grave a charge. Calling people ‘deniers’, with that obvious allusion, is very au courant — I notice Richard Dawkins has started calling people who disagree with Darwin ‘evolution deniers’.

I suppose the German film-makers thought they were being terribly daring. But it would have been more daring and far more honest and socially useful if they had somehow illustrated the point that you are highly unlikely to contract Aids through having heterosexual sexual intercourse with a heterosexual non-African non-drug-using male, even if it is from behind and the man keeps muttering stuff under his breath about the Jews. The number of people who have contracted Aids in such a manner is vanishingly small and confined to those who have copulated with men who have been haemophiliacs. But it would take far more daring than anyone in the ad industry possesses to make such a point.

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