Downfall: BP refinery worker sacked over Hitler parody wins job back

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Bruno Ganz’s depiction of Adolf Hitler in Downfall has spawned countless parodies

A BP refinery worker in Australia has successfully won back his job after being sacked for parodying the company in a well-known Hitler meme.

Scott Tracey used the popular meme, from the 2004 film Downfall, to portray scenes from company wage negotiations, posting it on a closed Facebook group.

He later lost an unfair dismissal case which ruled the video was offensive.

But an appeal judgement on Friday found it was unreasonable to say the parody had likened BP managers to Nazis.

“Anyone with knowledge of the meme could not seriously consider that the use of the clip was to make some point involving Hitler or Nazis,” the Fair Work Commission wrote in its decision.

The meme takes Downfall’s climactic scene – in which Hitler confronts his generals in his bunker – and replaces the subtitles with topics of parody.

There are thousands of other examples online.

BP fired Mr Tracey in 2018 after deeming the video to be “highly offensive and inappropriate”, a position that was upheld in the original unfair dismissal case.

But Mr Tracey argued he had not intended to offend anyone and that the video was meant to be humorous. He added it did not identify BP or anyone specifically.

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In siding with him, the Fair Work Commission found the meme had been “culturally dissociat[ed]” from real events.

The commission added it had been used “thousands of times over a period of more than a decade for the purpose of creating, in an entirely imitative way, a satirical depiction of contemporary situations”.

“What it does do is to compare, for satirical purposes, the position BP had reached in the enterprise bargaining process as at September 2018 to the situation facing Hitler and the Nazi regime in April 1945,” it added.

Australian Workers Union spokesman Daniel Walton welcomed the decision, saying employees should be able to lampoon bosses in their own time.

“The day that right is lost would be a very bleak day for Australia,” he said.

Mr Tracey’s lawyer, Kamal Farouque, told local Nine newspapers: “He is really pleased to get his job back and is looking forward to going back to work at BP refinery.”

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