TINTIN; Racism, Nazis and Sweden Democrats
A couple of months ago, it was before Coronavirus nCoV-2019 had appeared, I boarded a bus here in Rome and ended up sitting next to a young man with an unusually brutal appearance. He was big and burly, had a broken nose and looked like the caricature of a hooligan. I consider myself to be a relatively open-minded fellow and a long life has taught me not to judge people by their appearance. Accordingly, I hesitantly sat down on the unoccupied seat next to him (well ... there was no other seat available). However, after a quick sideways glance I became slightly worried since I found that on his neck the beefy lad had a tattoo of a fascio, a bundle of rods with a protruding ax head. As the swastika is a symbol of Nazis and the Wasa Sheaf was for their Swedish counterpart (and perhaps still is, along with the Solar Cross), the fasces is a symbol of the Fascists.
My fears seemed to come true when the sinister looking Fascist; with his crew-cut hair, gray bomber jacket, camouflage pants and Doc Martens boots, brought out his mobile phone and obviously demonstratively revealed its profile picture – an official portrait of Der Führer himself. My bus companion began to devote himself his telefonino, though he repeatedly almost imperceptible glanced in my direction. Did he want to start a conversation? Was his indications of his faith and convictions intended to lure soul mates to his lair? Perhaps he assumed that, like Degrelle, I was a bourgeois older gentleman who, like the former SS soldier on his book cover, dreamed of a Fascist/Nazi Europe. Maybe he intended to introduce a senior Nordic Aryan to his terrorist cell, an old man who could provide a link to a by-gone more heroic age?
For me, King Ottakars Sceptre, became an even more overwhelming Tintin experience than the Unicorn, perhaps because my reading abilities had increased to such an extent that I recognized the exciting environment from one of my favorite novels, The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, an adventure novel that actually holds the measure and even for an adult like me, who recently reread it with almost the same appreciation as a book-devouring eleven-year-old who furthermore found pleasure in novels that I now find embarrassingly bad. Two years later, Tintin reappeared in with an adventure among Egyptologists and and drug-smuggling cartels, Cigars of the Pharaoh. Shortly after that Kamratposten vanished from my life. Maybe I had grown away from it, but I assume the ultimate reason was that schools stopped distributing the magazine. Thankfully, Tintin reappeared, this time in the comic magazine Banggg, where he featured in another riveting adventure called The Calculus Affair. Then he appeared in various comic books I borrowed from the library.
As an adult, I have occasionally read a thing or two about Tintin's creator the Belgian artist Georges Prosper Remi, Hergé, and have then come across the criticism he suffered for his racist clichés, especially those that made an appearance in his early comics. Hergé often tried to apologize for such ”slip-ups”. He later re-wrote and re-draw several of the most eye-catching prejudices, though it cannot be denied that such a relatively late comic album as The Red Sea Sharks from 1958 still suffers from a quite ludicrous depiction of Africans. Hergé's explanation for such ethnocentrism was that since childhood he had grown up with moronic stereotypes of other people and surreptitious racial innuendos. Something that certainly applies to a Swedish boy who was born fifty years after Hergé.