"It is art," says Hitler shirt design creator Ekachai Usapanitch of Seven Star in response to the international controversy generated by his shirts with the Hitler cartoons (video below.)
By now Ekachai has been informed about the seriousness of using this image, and yet he and it still persists. "It is art," is the only reason he gives to justify his standpoint. Just to be kind, we'll let him have that point.
Does the "It is art" standpoint shield him from criticism? Absolutely not.
Many times, artists have been criticized for the content of their work, some even invite controversy as a way of self-promotion or for purer motives like starting a discussion about an issue. Ekachai has expressed no reason behind using this image. While the image may gain popularity by Westerners' criticism of it, that's a risk that is worth taking if the alternative is to say nothing.
Once an artist's work goes into the World, it is then up to people to evaluate it. It can be labeled art and still be bad and/or offensive. By using this image and continuing to produce these shirts, we have every right to voice our opinions, and with the global market these shirts are not just a Thailand issue as some have been sold on eBay internationally. The Hitler Ronald McDonald sculpture was sold to someone in Germany.
Now that we've decimated the "It is art" argument, let's move on. This image spreads ignorance and gives a platform for hate speech. Anyone that has read more than a few YouTube comments knows that it does not take much to create a platform for racist and hate speech and even Thai videos about Hitler have attracted it. Why put more ugliness and ignorance into the World, it's already an abundant renewable resource.
Finally, the history and culture of this image does not belong to Thailand. While that does not mean that people cannot use images from other cultures, it is extremely important to be mindful when using images from them. It is perfectly acceptable to criticize McDonald's as it is a large chain in Thailand which effects the Thai people; Hitler did not directly effect Thailand. To use these images as thoughtlessly and profit from them is not okay.
One final thought for today from Elie Wiesel. The Gates of the Forest. Canada: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, Inc., 1966.
And I tell you this: if their death has no meaning, then it's an insult, and if it does have a meaning, it's even more so.