SBS show slammed for swastika comedy sketch

A television comedy sketch that featured the Nazi swastika has been described by a prominent civil rights advocate as “vulgar” and insulting.

Last night’s instalment of SBS youth news show The Feed included a segment poking fun at bold new haircuts people might get during coronavirus quarantine.

In it, comedians Jenna Owen and Vic Zerbst were given buzz cuts by Alex Lee, with Zerbst’s skinhead ‘do revealing a distinctive birthmark in the shape of the swastika.

“Okay, can I just say, I do find that symbol very racist and we do not tolerate that sort of hate here,” Lee, playing a celebrity stylist, says in the skit.

Zerbst’s character replies: “But I’m Jewish!”

“I’m a freakin’ bald Nazi,” she adds, before her character explains that she now has to wear a hat “otherwise I get bashed”.

After it was uploaded to the show’s Facebook page last night, several viewers pointed out the offensive nature of the content and its poor taste.

Dr Dvir Abramovich, Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, today slammed the “thoughtless, immoral and insulting skit” and called on SBS to apologise.

“It’s hard to believe this vulgar material actually made it to the airwaves and that it did not raise any red flags,” Dr Abramovich said. “SBS should have known better.”

He described the swastika as a “symbol of pure evil and mass murder” and said using it to generate “cheap gags” showed a lack of understanding and respect.

“The Nazi swastika represents not only the unimaginable suffering of the victims, but the industrial liquidation of six million Jews in gas chambers, in death camps, in ghettos and in open fields.

“To squeeze hurtful comedy at the expense of those who have endured enough and to place this satanic emblem of on the head of an actor playing a Jewish person is indefensible.”

The Holocaust remains a deeply painful memory for survivors and the families of those who were murdered at the hands of Nazis, Dr Abramovich said.

“This is the mocking and debasing of the Holocaust of the lowest kind, and it makes no difference that the people involved in this ‘joke’ are comedians to whom we usually give a lot of leeway.

“It is disheartening that I have to say this, this but comedy should not make fun of the unprecedented destruction sowed by Hitler and his collaborators across Europe, including the massacre of 1.5 million children.”

Making light of the swastika is also dangerous at a time when “homegrown neo-Nazis” are reviving its use.

Several communities have seen a spate of vandalism attacks using the swastika over the past 18 months. A suburban Melbourne retirement home for elderly Jewish people was defaced with the symbol in 2019.

Dr Abramovich claimed white supremacists are inspired by the swastika and so its use anywhere should be discouraged.

“Those responsible for this sketch need do to do some soul-searching and apologise for this serious lapse in judgment. The bottom line – such ‘comedy’ is never acceptable.”

A number of Facebook commenters seemed to agree.

One wrote: “People who think this is even a little bit funny or OK, need to get educated as to why it isn’t funny in the least, its outright insulting and disgusting.”

Another said: “No. No. And NO. The Feed really needs to have its switch flicked … OFF.”

And one added: “Funny? No. The symbol will never be funny. Disgusting? Absolutely.”

SBS was approached for comment for this story.

The Feed has been on air since 2013 and many of its documentary and investigative stories have won multiple accolades, including the prestigious Walkley Award and a Logie nomination.





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