Incite Politics

Public necrophilia

One of the more lamentable tendencies of political and media culture is to invoke certain recently-deceased as fetish objects in service to some cultural or political cause célèbre. Safely unable to speak for themselves, the dead become a sort of macabre rhetorical soapbox for the obsessions of cynical politicians and activists.

This is not new, of course: John Brown’s body quite literally became a rallying-cry for the Union army in the American Civil War. Horst Wessell’s corpse inspired the Nazis’ favourite anthem. In modern times, death transforms petty criminals into saints of civil rights . . .

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