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May 30, 2011

'Hipster Hitler' sends RedBubble's law firm fleeing

Leading law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler has refused to work again with former client RedBubble over the listing of "Hipster Hitler" merchandise on the art retail website, writes StartupSmart editor Oliver Milman.


Leading law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler has refused to work again with former client RedBubble over the listing of “Hipster Hitler” merchandise on the art retail website, citing its “deep roots in the Jewish community”.

In a statement, ABL’s senior partner Mark Leibler, who is also national chairman of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, says that a post on the Firm Spy website implies that the law firm “condones the distribution of pro-Hitler merchandise” by being associated with RedBubble.

“Arnold Bloch Leibler has had a long and unswerving commitment to fighting discrimination and protecting human rights, and any implication that the firm is supportive of attempts to ‘reinvigorate Nazi ideas’ is false and unacceptable to the firm,” he says. “Furthermore, the firm has deep roots in the Jewish community and is extremely sensitive to the consequences of the Holocaust.

“Arnold Bloch Leibler does not currently act for RedBubble and will not act on behalf of RedBubble in the future; however the firm has previously provided corporate advice to RedBubble.”

Leibler called for the Firm Spy post, and accompanying reader comments on the matter, to be removed. At the time of publication, however, the post remains published.

ABL has distanced itself from RedBubble in protest to the website’s decision to continue acting as a sales portal for several T-shirts featuring artwork from an online comic called Hipster Hitler.

ABL says that it was only made aware of the merchandise on Monday, although Hipster Hitler has been listed on RedBubble since September 2010. The New York-based comic says it satirises “hipster culture and the exploits of the Third Reich” through its artwork.

T-shirts sold via RedBubble, which acts as a shop window for the work of more than 150,000 artists, feature slogans such as “Stalingrad Class of 1943”, “I Love Juice” and “Eastside Westside Genocide”. Other T-shirts feature drawings of Adolf Hitler as a scarf-wearing, cardigan-wearing Brooklyn hipster.

Martin Hosking, CEO and co-founder of RedBubble, told StartupSmart that the issue had caused “some disturbance” among the site’s user base over the past six months, but defended the decision not to withdraw the artwork.

“Art has always been controversial, whether it’s Lichtenstein or nude photos,” he says. “We have a commitment to art and creative expression, within guidelines.

“This is a genuine parody and not anti-Semitic. We looked at this work six months ago with Jewish groups and we concluded it was a parody. I don’t know where you end up when you start taking down art because someone doesn’t like it.”

Hosking, who was previously a diplomat in Egypt and is a former secretary of the Australian Arabic Council, adds: “I do not support Nazi material. I have fought for human rights for the past 20 years and I find any suggestions to the contrary personally offensive.”

Hosking says that “tens” of RedBubble users have deleted their accounts in protest at the featuring of Hipster Hitler. But he denies allegations made by commenters on RedBubble that users who voiced dissent have been censored or blocked from the site, or that the Hipster Hitler artwork has the support of far-right groups such as Stormfront.

Hosking says that RedBubble is currently in “productive and friendly discussions with a range of Australian-based Jewish organisations, including the ADC (the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission)”.

“Together we are working to craft a solution which balances the right to free expression against the legitimate restrictions on this,” he says. “These discussions are ongoing and are drawing to a fruitful conclusion.”

Hosking adds that he “anticipates a change” to RedBubble’s guidelines following the spat, although he refuses to be drawn on whether Hipster Hitler merchandise will be withdrawn from the site.

Currently, RedBubble’s guidelines on “Inciting Violence, Hatred or Racism” state: “Any work or behaviour where the intent of the artist is to incite hatred, violence or racism is not permitted. Consequence: Account suspension and six-month probation.”

ABL referred to its statement published on Firm Spy when contacted by StartupSmart. Firm Spy hadn’t responded to an emailed request for comment at the time of publication.

*This article first appeared at StartupSmart

Disclaimer: Crikey stocks Red Bubble manufactured t-shirts at the Crikey Shop.


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18 thoughts on “‘Hipster Hitler’ sends RedBubble’s law firm fleeing

  1. Shermozle

    Oh man I’m so glad these idiots did this. I never would have found such an awesome comic. It’s farken hilarious!

  2. bed82e3b2ba5826810e2a51bb336489f


    Agreed. I have just ordered a “Back to the Fuhrer” t-shirt.

    Though I have always wanted a t-shirt that said “If the Holocaust really happened, what are you doing here complaining about my t-shirt”. I am going to ask Red Bubble to make me one.

  3. Bam Stroker

    I nearly burst a pooper laughing at “Whose Rhine is it anyway?” and “Save the Panzer”. Brilliant.

  4. 65761654ac569217075325f1b25166b5

    If it is good enough for Taylor Swift and her friend…


    EASTSIDE WESTSIDE GENOCIDE or THREE REICHS AND YOU ARE OUT t-shirts just what is normal youth culture these days. RedBubble is no more to blame than the DJ for what is in the music

  5. 7098b899f7e399011913467f7e3ca9b0

    Whoa!!! You sure have some readers with either a seriously deficient sense of humour or otherwise too young and too uneducated to be aware of the issues involved in this!

    BED8etc – if you truly think that “Back to the Fuhrer” is funny and something you’d just lurve to walk around wearing on your body, then the best I can probably wish you is a true life “back in time experience” to life as it really was during the 3rd Reich. Then you’ll be able to see for yourself whether the holocaust actually happened or not. Hope you enjoy the trip.

    Hosking must be delusional to STILL keep on referring to this hh stuff as ART. At least he’s apparently given up comparing the pitiful talents of the “initials” behind hipsterhitler with the comic genius of Chaplin and Mel Brooks – but seems it’s now Roy Lichtenstein’s turn to be rolling in his grave.

    He also neglects to mention that the only reason he managed to land hipsterhitler as a “member” of RedBubble was because a couple of other POD sites chucked their merchandise as too offensive. Guess that is the client base he hopes to target with his business plans for RedBubble in future?

    Pretty basic journalistic job here at Crikey that you can can copy and paste an article out of StartUpSmart (via a couple of other sites), but you don’t bother to even link to FirmSpy, who originally “broke” this story.


    Lots more information available on the FirmSpy piece, as it has stood on the net now since 13th May.

    If it comes down to a choice between Hosking or Mark Liebler AC’s opinion re whether this merchandise is “true parody” or anti-semitic hateful crap, I know whose opinion I would value more highly. Guess anyone else is free to make up their own minds.

  6. Hoolie


    A few points

    – the Holocaust is not the only instance of large scale human suffering and should not get special exemption from comedy
    – the Palestinians have suffered enormously but they are still waiting to get their own country and will be waiting for a while if the Israeli government has any say in it
    – these are just t-shirts we are talking about, for goodness sake, nobody has done any harm here
    – some of the t-shirts on offer are actually quite clever
    – humour makes people laugh and laughter makes people happy, who can complain really about this?

  7. Plane Jane

    Hipster Hitler is funny and edgy. It achieves edginess by occasionally crossing the taboo line by being good to the Fuhrer and gently mocking the Holocaust. Good humour often crosses such taboo lines. BACK TO THE FUHRER and some of the others are not t-shirts for everyone to wear but I bet they are super-popular with teenagers. For the same reason that teenagers used to smoke or wear tight jeans to be rebellious, teens now show they are renegades by expressing admiration for Hitler or for the Holocaust on a on t-shirt. Offensive? Of course, very much so but this is the whole point. Kids want to be offensive. It’s part of growing up. Remember Sid Vicious and his appeal as well as many others like him before and since? Should these offensive t-shirts be banned or should the company promoting them be denied legal representation? Absolutely not. They are just servicing a market.

  8. Jezza

    The thing I find hilarious is not the moustache and glasses on a t-shirt nor the funny slogans that go with this harmless image. It is hilarious that Arnold Bloch Leibler would make such a fuss about not acting for this company. A close look at the website of Arnold Bloch Leibler shows that their partners are involved in Zionism and Zionist movements upto their necks. So this firm would represent a t-shirt company making merry of illegal settlers on the West Bank or admiring Benjamin Netanyahu without any prick to their conscience. These double standards plague supporters of Israel and its policies of harm against the Palestinians. Good riddance to these lawyers for plucky litte Red Bubble. Long may it produce its t-shirts with other lawyers to help as need be.

  9. 7098b899f7e399011913467f7e3ca9b0

    I disagree that “GOOD humour often crosses taboo lines”. You bring attention to the fact that seriously GOOD humour is defined by the fact that it manages to NOT cross those taboo lines. Only piss-weak, poor and incredibly unintelligent and uninformed attempts at so-called humour do.

    Attempts at “edginess” fail when they in fact “fall off that super narrow edge”. If heaps of teenagers are running around wearing “Back to the Fuhrer” shirts I damn well hope they get sat down for some decent history lessons. Some things are simply not funny.

    I remember Sid Vicious really well. I also note that he never attempted to mock a genocide.

    So – “servicing a market” means anything goes? What if I put together a start-up selling under-age kids for sexual services to whoever can pay? So – that would just be “servicing a market” and I should expect any reputable law firm to keep me on as a client for that too? Pretty damn obvious there IS a hell of a “market” out there for kids to be used for sex by sadists and pedophiles and other perverts – so by your argument – why not?

    C’mon Jane – that is the weakest argument seen in ages. That a company is simply “servicing a market” by hosting, printing and profiting from offensive material – and by your argument even if it was illegal material that would be OK too – so – a company is a totally morally and ethically inert entity that holds no responsibility for what it does????

  10. Kevin Herbert

    How come Arnold Block Liebler & the Aussie Jewish community generally have never made a complaint about the very successful Mel Brooks movie ‘Springtime for Hitler’? which parodied Hitler in such a fashion which made me a little uncomfortable when first I saw it.

    Oh yeah…i just remembered….Mel Brooks is a Jew as are its 2 leading men, Zero Mostel & Gene Wilder. So despite Hitler’s direct responsibility for the deaths of more than 30 million Europeans including millions of Jews, only Jews are allowed to mock him. I just don’t get it.

    Finally, I’m with JEZZA on this one. Aussie Jews knowingly provide financial & in-principle support for the successive apartheid Israeli governments of the past 64 years, and yet expect us to tune in to their flawed version of public morality.

  11. Crikey Shopper

    Am I the only one who has noticed that Crikey and StartUpSmart where this article was first published are both owned by Private Media Pty Ltd which is in business with Red Bubble via the ‘Crikey Shop’?!



    Not declaring this sort of thing makes me wonder whether this report is fairy floss spun to help Red Bubble minimize a scandal. For example the journalist has not even mentioned the fact that Red Bubble is selling “Back to the Fuhrer” t-shirts (I mean, wow!!) nor reported what any of the people complaining on Red Bubble are saying. It smells of fish to me.

  12. Heidi

    So the t-shirts are “pro-Hitler” and mock genocide a bit. Oh, really? Dear me. What about all the pro-George W. Bush and his illegal war in Iraq t-shirts? RedBubble has just exposed the double standards that apply. [Moderator: this comment has been slightly edited to fit in with the Crikey code of conduct.]

  13. The Man Behind the Bar

    Note to eds: “Redbubble has balls” should have been the headline of this story.

    Support for Hitler and Nazism on t-shirts is no more beyond the pale than what is already seen on many popular heavy metal t-shirts praising death and gore.

  14. Matt Hardin

    Having had a look at some of the comics – the jokes are weak but I don’t think they are trying to portray Hitler in a positive light. It is satire – just not very funny. On a Tshirt out of the context of the cartoon they do appear to be repackaging and hence become offensive.

    To me it seems simple. Any deliberate attempt to wipe out a group of people is not funny and the people who perpetrate it are not edgy or cool. Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, those responisible for the Aremnian genocide, the “ethnic cleansers” of the Balkans, Idi Amin, those responsible for the Rwandan genocides and so on (add your own names – I am sad so many could roll of the tips of my fingers) should not be looked on as cool. They should not be repackaged. The Tshirts definitely fall into this category.

    The difference in The Producers is that the play “Springtime for Hitler” was meant to be awful was meant to have no redeeming features and was meant to fail. The fact that it was so bad elevated it to the plane of satire and hence made it successful. If you recall the author of the play was not happy with the result.

  15. Art Girl

    However you beat around the bush about it, some of the tees pro-Hitler and some mock the victims of the Holocaust. You cannot get much more pro-Hitler than “Back to the Fuhrer” and “Death Camp for Cutie” or “Three Reichs and you are Out” and some of the others do poke fun at the victims of the Holocaust.

    The more interesting issue is why there is supposed to be something wrong with this 66 years after Hitler’s death. It’s OK to many people to be pro-Mao Tse Tung or pro-Stalin, both of whom killed as many or more than Hitler and lived longer. It’s OK to mock victims of other terrible tragedies.

    What is the principle that puts Redbubble on the defensive with these t-shirts but not with others?

  16. Kuhnie

    I don’t know about whether there is parody in the t-shirts, but there is parody enough in this comical story. Of all the people to get into this line of risque Hitler tees, who but a former Secretary of the Australian Arabic Council. Of all the law firms he gets to represent him doing it, who but Arnold Bloch Leibler. A spit-out-your-coffee-all-over-the-keyboard special to remind me why I keep reading Crikey. There’s got to be more. More, please! More!!


    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

    Martin Hosking says these t-shirts “meet our guidelines”, using the Royal “we” because he means his guidelines – he is the final decision maker at RedBubble. Debating the issue with him is like debating with Humpty Dumpty what “guidelines” means.

    Hosking has been told 1941 was when Hitler announced his prediction of the annihilation of the Jews in Europe, so his tee “1941 – a race odyssey” references the start of the Holocaust. Hosking has been told the significance of Laskarzew as the first place Jews were massacred in WW2 by the Nazis, so his tee “Fear and Loathing in Laskarzew” is about this. He is not interested. These tees and less subtle slogans like “Back to the Fuhrer” or “Death Camp for Cutie” meet his “guidelines”. His “guidelines” allow support for Nazism expressed in these tees. He has had the Holocaust explained to him and yet his “guidelines” have stayed the same allowing these tees expressing approval of or making fun out of the Holocaust.

    The ADC may get the “guidelines” changed where so many others have failed.


    The ADC did succeed in the end but what an extraordinary amount of public pressure was needed to get the correct decision made.

    Just read that it is the same Martin Hosking in Redbubble as the Martin Hosking who runs Aconex.



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