Every year for the past 25 years in Wunsiedel, a sleepy town in the northeast corner of Germany, neo-Nazis have marched through the streets in honor of a Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess, who had a family plot in the area until 2011, when his body was exhumed and cremated. Still, the German fascists of today have a real thing for Hess, so the lack of a monument hasn't stopped them from showing up for the past three years, much to the consternation of the Nazi-hating locals.
So when the 2014 march happened two days ago, the townspeople contrived a sort of walk-a-thon, the twist being that for every meter that the neo-Nazis walked, the townspeople would donate an amount of their choosing to an organization called Exit Deutschland, a nonprofit that helps reprogram fascists after they stop being fascists. Donations totaled 10,000 euros, or about $12,000.The organizers didn't inform the neo-Nazis in advance that this was going on. Instead, they welcomed them to their town and put up huge, technicolor banners, informing them of what would happen with each step, along with other signs and spray-painted lettering to encourage them. Signs featured slogans like "Quick like a greyhound, tough like leather, and generous like never before." (It sounds better in German.)The elaborate, multi-stage prank included markers on the ground to indicate how much money had been donated and a snack station called "Mein Mampf" (My Munch), which was mainly just a table stacked with bananas—a comedy snack if there ever was one. Clearly, no expense was spared.You've likely seen this kind of counter-activism before. It was used beautifully when Fred Phelps died and people donated to LGBT causes in his name. It was used dickishly when blogger Maddox spited vegetarians with that oft-shared graphic that says: "For every animal you don't eat, I'm going to eat three." It was used for laughs when 50 Cent pledged to donate money for every word of Harry Potter that Floyd Mayweather read "without stopping or starting or fucking up."It's becoming so common, I've given it a name: "trollanthropy."The philanthropic aspect of the Wunsiedel neo-Nazi walk-a-thon was symbolic, of course. Would they have only donated half if the march got interrupted by a rainstorm? I doubt it. Would they have still donated the money if they neo-Nazis had backed off at the start? I'm sure they would have. The important part was that the marchers looked idiotic. The cameras caught delightful shots of their confused faces, and their slow walking made them seem ridiculously self-important, while the townspeople look like they're actually having a good time. If Hess still had a grave, he'd be spinning in it.Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.