Opinion Columns & Blogs

October 26, 2013

Judy Sly: Now, a word from ... Hitler?

Not everybody’s laughing at a YouTube video in which an image of Hitler is made to rant and rave over Modesto issues.

If you spend a lot of time on YouTube – and I don’t – then you’re probably familiar with the Hitler Reacts parodies. There are thousands of them.

They feature a clip from the 2004 movie “The Downfall” about the final days of Adolf Hitler’s reign over Nazi Germany, and with this app people can type in their own subtitles, creating parodies on almost anything that might make a person mad. You can see Hitler reacting, with fury and contorted facial expressions, to email spam, to the Facebook IPO, to the original iPad. There’s a Hitler reacts to the Broncos trading Tim Tebow and another that I could agree with – Hitler reacts to bad grammar. Of course there was a parody of Hitler reacting to the recent federal government shutdown.

You get the idea. Hitler-reacts videos are ubiquitous. Depending on your sense of humor and your technical ability, you, too, could create one as a way to release a little pent-up anger about something, someone or some event. That brings me to the local politics angle. There’s a Hitler-reacts parody done about Measure X, specifically Hitler reacts to learning The Modesto Bee opposes Measure X, as we did in our editorial position in last Sunday’s paper.

Former City Councilwoman Janice Keating, who opposes the 1 percent sales tax increase, fully acknowledges that she put together the parody, with some input from others and help of her tech-savvy husband. She doesn’t try to hide it; her name is visible on YouTube.

So for just under four minutes, you see an outraged Hitler seeming to react to all sorts of city missteps and controversies from the last couple of years, from SCAP’s wasteful use of federal housing dollars to the current issue over the courthouse site. Parental control alert: It contains some profanity. It isn’t in any way kind or fair.

Until last week, I’d never seen any of these parodies, so my initial reaction was shock. Some supporters of Measure X, however, are outraged and offended. Humor, like so many things, is in the eye and ear of the beholder.

My final take: I hate hyperbole that compares anything we’re experiencing today in this country to the Holocaust, but this is a meme from a movie portrayal of a man in a rage. It’s irreverent, but not a campaign mailer. I don’t think the outcome of Measure X hangs on how many people see this on YouTube and either laugh or, well, react like Hitler.

One of the legitimate arguments over Measure X has to do with the fact it is a general tax whose revenue can be used for anything, despite what the council promises. Section 8-2.1117, Section 2 of the measure spells this out. I doubt many people read the full text, which appears in the Sample Ballot, but at least one retired educator did.

He pointed out that the section actually reads “....The City may use the revenue from the tax for any general governmental purpose, including without limitation those spending priorities adopted by Resolution of the City Counsel.” Those last two words are, well, an oops. The city has an attorney and it has a council. The entity that adopted the promise was, of course, the council.

I talked with City Clerk Stephanie Lopez about the typo and she said that if X passes, it would be a technical amendment only. It doesn’t change anything.

Money continues to flow into the Modesto Irrigation District races. Paul Campbell, in Division 3, had the most contributions, $31,168 as of Oct. 19.

Finance reports show Jim Mortensen with $25,133, Jake Wenger with $24,299, John Mensinger with $10,918; Carmen Sabatino with $3,504 and Ted Donham with $1,605. The Chamber of Commerce political action committee donated $2,000 to each of the candidates it supported (Campbell, Mortensen, Mensinger). Earlier, John Duarte contributed $2,000 to Sabatino. Wenger received a total of $3,000 from three firms connected to Martin Ruddy – TRS Enterprises, Joe Ruddy Corp. and Ruddy & Associates LLC.

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