A gym in Dubai called The Circuit Factory posted an ad on its Facebook page featuring a photo of the entrance to Auschwitz with the headline, “Kiss your calories goodbye.”
Predictably, the response was good for business.
British owner Phil Parkinson told Arabian Business, “A huge number [of] people have researched or Googled … our YouTube channel has shot up, our group page got a hundred extra members in minutes and we have had about five times as many inquiries as before. It has got to the point I am nervous that I can’t cater for demand.”
Although Parkinson publicly apologized (via twitter) and took down the offensive ads, he says he used the Auschwitz photo to advertise his signature weight-loss and exercise class because “it’s like a calorie concentration camp”.
That this campaign was created doesn’t surprise me and the Anti-Defamation League hits on the very point of why that is:
“We are increasingly troubled by both the ignorance and mindset of a generation that appears to be so distant from a basic understanding of the Holocaust that it seems acceptable to use this horrific tragedy as a gimmick to bring attention to promoting losing weight.”
Parkinson took down the offensive ads and offered a public apology, but as one commenter named Momrules posted yesterday, “Phil Parkinson is 32 years old. I doubt that during his school years the holocaust was even mentioned. Maybe it is time for real history to be taught in schools again.”
By contrast, I do think Parkinson learned about the Holocaust in school, which is precisely why he knew it would cause the shitstorm it did. It’s a highly charged topic with live embers that are easily stirred. And he was well aware of the kind of reaction it would provoke. To wit, he told ThePostGame, “The way branding works is … you want people talking about your business. We want them talking about us, but we don’t want people to take offense at it.”
That last clause is disingenuous at best.
My concern is that Holocaust education today is suffering not so much from Holocaust fatigue as it is from genocide fatigue. Genocide isn’t something that happened 66 years ago in Europe, it continued to happen after that and continues to this day. Desensitization is a dangerous thing.