I’m pleased to be able report that one of my favorite television shows has joined the counterfactual bandwagon. I’m sure the Daily Show with Jon Stewart has employed “what if?” scenarios before (I just haven’t bothered to do the research). But this week, the show’s reliably hilarious host invoked one of the all time classic counterfactuals: the Nazis winning World War II.
In my new book, Hi Hitler!, I point out how in contrast to the much of the postwar period, when the scenario was portrayed as an unalloyed nightmare, in recent years it has been played for laughs. (See, for instance, the film Jackboots on Whitehall).
The Daily Show is clearly participating in this normalizating trend. In a madcap piece on recent media revelations about “Nazi cows” (which is brilliantly spun into an allegory on Islamic radicalism), Stewart opined as follows:
“Look, I don't know if anyone has pointed this out before, but the Nazis obviously were a little cuckoo. I mean, let's breed a race of super cows is crazy. It strikes me, people have always wondered,what would have happened if Hitler had won the war. Well, now we know Channing Tatum would be starring in a very different movie.”
The punch-line is only mediocre (Cowcatcher as a spoof of the recent film Foxcatcher will have very little shelf-life as a joke).
But it still reflects the growing tendency to view the Nazi era as a source of humor instead of horror.
For the full clip, click HERE.