There’s been a bit of digital thinking aloud with regard to The Guardian’s abortive @911tenyearsago experiment (although not in The Guardian, oddly enough). Ian Hepburn at False Doorway explained his unease: “We lack neither the immediacy of the events happening now, nor the distance of – say – the World War 2 tweets in a similar vein put out by the National Archive.”
Distance is key it seems, both chronologically and geographically. But as Hepburn suggests, it’s not simply a case that the further away you are (whether in three- or four-dimensional terms) the more you can get away with. I’ve previously discussed the pervasive view of Hitler in Asia, that he was a historical figure who was probably a nasty piece of work, but not really the absolute archetype of evil that he might be in the west. And as such, the idea of dressing up as a Nazi doesn’t seem quite as terrible to Japanese or Indian people as it might to the British (let alone the Germans). Yes, of course people still do it, but those in the public eye rarely avoid a public flaying, as that amiable halfwit Prince Harry discovered to his cost a few years back.
The odd thing is that as the events of the Second World War grow more distant, the public reaction against this sort of behaviour gets not more indulgent, but less. And then a friend (who happens to be half-British and half-Japanese, which may or may not be significant) reminded me that in 1986 it seemed rather amusing that a cricketing hero should doll up as a Colditz commandant. I doubt his heirs in the current squad would be let off so lightly. Although the Indians might find it moderately amusing.