Intellectually, I’m with David Boaz and Radley Balko: it’s outrageous that communism is not treated with the same revulsion as Nazism when people wear its symbols on their skin and clothing. But emotionally, I’m in tune with Jim Henley and Julian Sanchez: somehow the commie stuff doesn’t bother me as much.
Julian seems to think that intentions make the difference: communism just turned out to be bad, whereas Nazism had evil goals from the get-go. This rationalization doesn’t quite work for me. Maybe it would have worked as an excuse in 1945. But in 2007, anyone who doesn’t understand that communism is murderous and brutal is either willfully blind or woefully ignorant. Besides, even Nazism can also be understood as an outgrowth of ignorance: the belief that economics is a zero-sum game, so that if the Jews are getting wealthy it must be at “our” expense.
If I had to justify my differing emotional reaction to commie iconology, I would appeal to the possibility of irony. When someone wears a hammer & sickle on a hoodie they bought at Urban Outfitters, I can at least imagine the wearer recognizes how ironic that is. But when I see someone sporting a swastika, it’s hard for me to believe it’s just a goof (“No, I wear this as a commentary on the idiocy of racism” – yeah, right). And my emotional reactions do seem to track the irony; when I suspect someone wearing a Ché T-shirt actually might support Ché-like behavior, I experience a revulsion very similar to that which I’d have for a swastika.
Of course, Nazism is not just about racism – it’s also about government control of the economy (remember, Nazism = National Socialism) – but that’s not its primary mental association; racism (or anti-Semitism) is. Communism, however, is primarily about the economic system, and thus Soviet icons on consumer merchandise create immediate dissonance in a way that Nazi icons cannot.