Desensitization Therapy for the Public

Paul Dutton of Cambridge, England says that he has been shopping twice a week for three years at Asda — wearing an SS dress-uniform.

Finally somebody complained about it, with the result that Mr. Dutton was escorted out of the store,  but for three years shoppers were habituated to the fact that a man wearing a swastika was mild-mannered and harmless. 

In his reaction to being given the bum’s rush, Mr. Dutton remained mild-mannered: “I’ve shopped in Asda since the place was opened twice a week, this is how Asda repay me for my loyalty.” 

Now, it may be that Mr. Dutton is a bit peculiar, but this action considered just in itself, is effective desensitization, tending to erode the effect of decades of conditioning. If you can arrange for people to see some forbidden symbol or hear some taboo utterance on a regular basis, it is good to do so, using discretion about how far you can go without incurring a severe reaction. 

How much you can do safely will depend on factors like the depth of respect for freedom of speech where you happen to be, whether there happens to be a degree of local sympathy for your speech, and whether you are perceived as dangerous apart from your actual speech: a man who is perceived as dangerous will have less freedom because of it. For maximum freedom of expression, you must appear harmless.

Paul Dutton has shown that for people who do maintain a mild demeanor, there is considerable leeway for expression in the UK that nobody uses.

If a swastika is too much for you where you live, maybe you could display a Confederate battle flag (which has tacit popular support in much of the USA), just to show that somebody is not intimidated, and to show others that they don’t need to feel intimidated either.

The reaction that Mr. Dutton incurred, being told in effect that he can’t wear his uniform in that store anymore after three years of doing so, is far from ruinous, and meanwhile he has probably done some good with his three-year stint as the harmless SS-man.

By contrast, people who don swastikas for the purpose of spouting overheated verbiage and general scary posturing tend to reinforce stereotypes. Don’t do that.

As a matter of fact, if you intend to engage in rational communication about political ideas, it is better not to use a swastika or any shocking symbol, because it will tend to stop people from thinking about what you are saying, and of course it increases the difficulty of having one’s ideas taken seriously. For maximum credibility, national-socialist ideas should be articulated by somebody who appears fundamentally mainstream.

But if you are in a situation where you have no intention of discussing anything, perhaps at a state university where you have other things to do than devote your time to political discussion,where such discussion would mean being dragged into endless arguments with people who share none of your interests, a symbol can be a good substitute for speech, just to demonstrate that you have the right to your view.

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