Kittens and Moomintrolls – Study shows how the “cute” is utilised in eco-fascist propaganda

Maria Darwish i universitetsbiblioteket

“Moomintroll and Snufkin are both cute, but here they represent something threatening,” says Maria Darwish.

Hitler petting deer and armed men in black face masks – holding kittens. These are images linking something cute with eco-fascism.
“Eco-fascists seek to portray strong men ready to defend nature, women, and children using violence. At the same time, these men want to show a soft and loving side,” says Maria Darwish, a doctoral student, in a study of how emotions and the ‘cute’ are a strategic part of fascist propaganda.

In eco-fascism, a salute to nature and a clean environment is mixed with a violence-endorsing extreme right-wing ideology. Men should govern and protect women and children of their own people against other ‘races’ and fight a society that, in their view, has become feminine and, therefore, weakened.

Maria Darwish has analysed over a hundred images on Telegram – the social media platform popular among extreme-right organisations – published after October 2020. The sample includes images from 1930s Germany, including one with Adolf Hitler feeding a baby deer from his hand and another of two kittens in a German war helmet.

“Part of this male hero worship is that men should be kind to the innocent and defenceless. These men are combining strength with taking care of the weak,” says Maria Darwish.

Vikings replace the swastika 

Her study focuses on today’s Nordic eco-fascism, having its roots in Nazism.

“To create a more palatable message, Nordic Nazis have replaced World War II symbols like the swastika with images of Vikings. Another method is using childhood in their propaganda,” says Maria DarwishMaria Darwish shows that the Moomintroll is common in eco-fascist propaganda. One image shows Moominpappa, Moomintroll, and Snufkin, armed and masked, marching towards a synagogue. Another image depicts Snufkin and a black sun, a symbol of Nazism.

“Moomintroll and Snufkin are both cute, but here they represent something threatening,” explains Maria Darwish.

Using Moomintroll in eco-fascist propaganda is not only to target a group to gain trust. It is also utilised to insult opponents by desecrating fairy-tale characters, usually good and friendly.

“This is especially provocative since Tove Jansson was a devoted anti-fascist during the Second World War and would have despised how her characters are misused.”

Propaganda merges  with childhood experiences

One specific target group is the youth. Fascist propaganda suppresses factual events from World War II, while the knowledge among young people may tend to diminish. Propaganda merges political messages with positive childhood experiences – things considered cute are mixed with a violence-endorsing political ideology.

“Eco-fascist propaganda and its effects must be taken with utmost seriousness by those having regard for our future,” says Maria Darwish.

Text: Maria Elisson
Photo: Maria Elisson
Translation: Jerry Gray