Editor’s note: Some of the images and concepts below might be too extreme for some readers, but we believe they’re important enough to expose, and that the man behind the memes is important enough to interview.
Many of us are patriotic in a healthy way and proud of our countries. But even in the U.S., racism and intolerance exist, and humans turn on their own kind because they harbor hatred for the color of someone’s skin, or they disagree with others’ religion, political beliefs, or sexual orientation.
It is no different in countries such as Germany. Sadly still, even 70 years after World War II ended and Adolf Hitler was defeated, the nation is riddled with extremist neo-Nazi groups as well as discontent in the general population regarding people from other cultures and countries.
One man fights the intolerance and racism using cats — namely, humor in the form of Internet cat memes. He calls himself Paul Katzenstein, and we talked to him about his efforts.
Barbarella Buchner for Catster: Tell us about yourself.
Paul Katzenstein: My real name is Philipp, I am 27 and am studying social anthropology and geography at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Apart from that, I work as a freelance journalist for various local daily newspapers.
My dad is an American and my mother grew up in France, so I have been exposed to different cultures from an early age. I particularly like Southeast Asia. My hobbies are cooking, music, pen and paper role playing, computer games, and, of course, cats.
Are you an animal/cat lover, or do you just find them useful in fighting racism?
I love animals, and I have a cat and a dog at home. In our fight against racism they have, of course, been of great help, but that is not the only reason why I love them so much.
Tell us about your pets.
I was owned by two tomcats, but sadly, one of them has not returned home since the beginning of August. Below is a picture of Sherlock and Loki. Itchy the dog is too distinctive and doesn’t wish to be recognized, so I better not post a photo of him.
Why cats? Why not dogs or guinea pigs?
The Internet is a series of tubes — filled with cats. And well, the words “Katzen” and “Glatzen” do rhyme so beautifully!
For quite a while I had already suspected that cat content in our fight against racism would work really well, and with “Katzen Gegen Glatzen” [roughly translated as “Cats Against (White Power) Skinheads” and the name of the Facebook page where memes are posted], which originally started as a fun/joke project, this is now confirmed to be true.
Can you change the world with cat humor?
No, I don’t think so. But it’s certainly worth a try! If I can save only a few people a day, that is a good start.
Has your cat humor been too extreme for some folks?
That’s absolutely possible. However, controversial pictures always have a very good reach and impact across the Internet. My goal is to entertain and to get people to think and use their brains.
Long before the attack on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo has it been discussed what satire is allowed to do and not allowed to do. I believe that people in general are smart enough to realise and see “KaGeGla” for what it is: a satirical page that ridicules Nazis. If I was too extreme, I don’t think it would be as successful as it is.
Do you receive hate mail from people you have attacked with cat humor?
Yes, I do, but much less now than when I started. This is actually a little bit strange, because I had expected that more fans would mean more haters too. But maybe they simply realized that it would not be very clever to verbally attack me, because in the end I often manage to tie a verbal noose around their neck!
What are your plans for the future? Will we see “Katzen Gegen Glatzen” merchandise?
Yes, and I have been working on this for a while. I got in contact with various other websites to start collaborating with them, but it is way too slow going for my liking. Apart from that, I have a real life I have to take care of. But there will definitely be more “KaGeGla.”
Apart from Facebook, where can we find “KaGeGla” in the social media? Do you have a website?
At this moment in time “KaGeGla” is only on Facebook (German language), but a website is also in the works.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I sincerely hope that the refugee crisis in Europe will be solved by the mutual efforts of all governments working together, and that fascism will stop being socially acceptable.
There are so many people who commit themselves to helping others and to build a better future. If I can contribute to that with “KaGeGla,” I would be very proud and happy about it.
About the Author: Barbarella Buchner — Ailurophile. Geeky Goth Girl. Ex-Musician Singer/Songwriter. Photographer. Web Designer. Fibromyalgia + RA Sufferer. And totally mad. She originally hails from Hannover (Germany), then moved to London, and since 2004 has lived on the tropical island of Lanzarote, together with her tabby twins Lugosi & Spider, and ginger queen Ruby Akasha. Apart from being an avid hobby — and sometimes even paid. — photographer, she works as a freelance web and graphic designer and occasional Catster / Dogster contributor.