Would Anne Frank Have Been A Belieber (A Follower Of Justin Bieber)?

This was reported at The Daily Beast today:

[Justin] Bieber visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam this weekend, where he is performing a concert, and wrote a humble little note in the museum’s guest book: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” 

(Beliebers, as what Bieber’s alarmingly devoted fans call themselves, are all furiously googling “Who is Anne Frank?” right now.)

The Anne Frank House, understandably touched that an international pop supernova like Justin Bieber would stop by the museum, posted Bieber’s note on its official Facebook page. BBC correspondent Anna Holligan discovered the post and spread it through Twitter, eventually tracking down the museum’s press office to confirm that he really did write the statement in the guest book. As the Bieber’s quote spread, so did incredulous indignation that the singer would venture that the global icon, had she not died at a concentration camp in 1945, would turn to writing “I❤ Justin” in her diary.

My head is spinning (and not from Justin Bieber fandom). For a bit of perspective, here’s Anne with other Jewish children posing in a Purim holiday photo, February, 1934:

Anne Frank is the little girl to the left (in a dress in the front row). Margo Frank, Anne’s older sister, is with the taller kids in the back row, and is wearing a dress similar to her sister’s. Margo is the one on the right. Both Anne and Margo died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in March, 1945. Bergen-Belsen is near Hanover, in northwest Germany.

Here’s an image from Bergen-Belsen (taken in 1945):

In a bit of defense of Justin Bieber, perhaps his comment was an inarticulate way of saying that he’d like to think that Anne Frank would have been happy with the global pop culture and optimistic about our collective human future. We’ve come a long way since the 1930s and 40s. At least it would seem so. Whether we are brown, red, Asian, black, white, Jewish, atheist, etc., we can all hold aloft our cell phones together at a Justin Bieber concert, sway beneath the evening stars, and be happy together–be “beliebers.” 21st century irony and superficiality is kind of comforting after the unironic and ideology driven horrors of the 20th century. A Justin Bieber concert is certainly a better sign of a culture’s health than a Nazi night rally, that’s for sure.

On the other hand, how do you end up with leaders like Hitler in the first place? Don’t they arise by manipulating masses happy to be group-thinkers (believers)–people content not to think for themselves, to think neither critically nor historically, but to follow the same earnest fellow that everybody else is?

My sense is that if Anne Frank were a teenager alive today, she wouldn’t be a follower of anybody.

__________

Source for both photos: U.S. Holocaust Museum Photo Archive

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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5 Responses to Would Anne Frank Have Been A Belieber (A Follower Of Justin Bieber)?

  1. Staffan says:

    “On the other hand, how do you end up with leaders like Hitler in the first place? Don’t they arise by manipulating masses happy to be group-thinkers (believers)–people content not to think for themselves, to think neither critically nor historically, but to follow the same earnest fellow that everybody else is?”

    Yes and no. Most people are tribal and conformist. But if you take millions of ordinary middle class people and throw them out on the street while people of one easily distinguished group live in luxury and even make money on their misery – then you’re begging for group-think and trouble. The major guilt is on the Allied Powers and those Jews – a small minority – who took part in sucking Germany dry.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Antisemitism in Europe is a phenomena going back to the Roman Empire. Gentiles erected their hate on Jews over a very long period of time. It didn’t emerge out of a vacuum between WWI and WWII, and it wasn’t because some urban Jews were rich.

      The Allies were too retributive after WWI, and it certainly set up conditions for scapegoating. But the Jews weren’t asking for it. Resentment trumped reason when rural people visited (or heard about) a prosperous and culturally vital and diverse city like Berlin in the 1920s.

      The engine for long-term prosperity (then as now) is a nation’s urban centers (where minds can think and produce freely and trade internationally). The best of Germany and Austria in the 1920s were Berlin and Vienna. Hitler ruined them. Berlin and Vienna in the 21st century are once again vital. Hitler fought urban vitality with a rural resentment constituency. Rural constituencies were larger than they are today. Jews were the scapegoats for that fight.

      Just as Muslim fundamentalists today and Christian fundamentalists of the fifth century used the scapegoating of Jews and “decadent” urban-dwellers and the rich to justify their cultural wreckage of Alexandria (once a source of enormous cosmopolitan hope in the Mediterranean with the largest library in the world), so Hitler tapped his own peculiar mythic inanities to justify ruining the cultural vitality of German cities.

      It’s an old game.

      –Santi

  2. Staffan says:

    Well, my aim wasn’t to explain the history of antisemitism but rather why someone like Hitler could come to power. And I didn’t say the Jews asked for it, only a small minority of them.

    And it may be an old game but if people have this tendency then maybe that is the price to pay for urban vitality – along with higher crime rates, more pollution, and lower subjective well-being. That last one is especially hard to reconcile with words like “prosperity” or “vitality”.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      I don’t think even “a small minority of Jews” invited the antisemitic stereotypes and genocide upon themselves, But setting that aside, your other points are good ones. We’re in a bad existential situation. Even when we do good things to ameliorate it temporarily (such as make urban centers for trading and creativity), we’re not particularly happy animals. It’s because we’re sublimating death and following our desires often lead us into suffering. (I subscribe to Becker’s and the Buddha’s basic theses about the nature of desire and the problem of death for human psychology.)

  3. Pingback: VIDEO Would Anne Frank Have Been A Belieber (A Follower Of Justin Bieber)? | Reclaim Our Republic

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