On Tuesday, Germany demolished the host nation Brazil in a 7-1 World Cup win that will go down in history. It was an astonishing victory for the Germans, and an epically humiliating loss for the Brazilians. For observers, it was at the very least remarkable.
After the game, Malaysian MP Bung Mokhtar Radin, a member of the dominant United Malays National Organization, decided to tweet to congratulate Germany.
He did so by congratulating Hitler.
WELL DONE..BRAVO...LONG LIVE HITLER...— Bung Moktar Radin (@MyKinabatangan) July 8, 2014
Celebrating a man who died almost 70 years ago for his country winning a sporting event would be odd at the best of times: Few people invoke Franklin D. Roosevelt when the U.S. team wins a game, for example. Of course, Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany and one of the great scourges of history, is a special case.
Bung's tweet has sparked a flurry of controversy in Malaysia. One rival politician said that Germany would have jailed Bung for his tweet, while Twitter users called the Malaysian MP "sick" and a "disgrace" for his comments. Germany’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Holger Michael, said that while his team appreciated the statement of support, they "strongly reject the unacceptable allusion to the fascist regime of Adolf Hitler."
The MP himself seems unrepentant. “I don’t know what’s wrong with people sometimes. Hitler is part of history and the German team fought like how he did,” Bung told The Star Online. Given his reputation for controversy (he once called a rival a "big monkey" during a parliamentary debate and has some interesting thoughts about female drivers), it's tempting to believe the tweet was simply trolling.
The bluntness of Bung's language and his high stature may make his tweet seem remarkable. But in many ways, they were not. During the game, "Nazi" was trended on Twitter for a period. This chart from social analytics firm Topsy shows how tweets that mentioned "Hitler" and "Nazi" skyrocketed on July 8, the day of Germany and Brazil's game.
Over at New York Magazine, Joe Coscarelli collected some of Nazi-referencing tweets during the game. And amazingly, the tweets didn't just come from angry anonymous trolls – well-respected journalists and comedians were pulling out their Third Reich references as Brazil got annihilated.
Of course, one of the key uses of Twitter during big communal events is to allow everyone to publicly air their most terrible jokes without fear of violent recrimination. Unfortunately for Germany, those jokes are still about Nazis, no matter the context.