On first dates and communist restaurants


A first date tonight.

She likes Vietnamese.

Not too many options in Brisbane inner north.

Her: “What’s that Vietnamese place that was named after some dictator that attracted all the attention just recently?”

Me: [blank stare at my iPhone] “The only Viet dictator I know is Ho Chi Minh, but I don’t know any Ho restaurants, though I’m sure there are some lower case ho restaurants.”

What would you know? (this is a rhetorical question – if, unlike me, you bother to read newspapers – you would probably know this.)

Owners of a new Vietnamese restaurant in Brisbane say they have decided to change the name from Uncle Ho after a protest and death threats.

The name refers to the communist North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, and about 100 Vietnamese protestors turned up at the Fortitude Valley restaurant on Sunday to express their anger.

They protested peacefully, but said the restaurant’s name had links to a dark and terrifying past in Vietnam.

The owners closed the eatery on Sunday, and told the ABC that people had threatened to burn it down.

On Instagram yesterday, the restaurant posted that it had closed due to “death threats”.

Uncle Ho director Anna Demirbek said they had always been “fully conscious that the brand Uncle Ho would be sensitive”.

Some people seem to be “fully conscious” that their actions will be “sensitive” but somehow that never seems to actually affect their actions. For the record, death threats and threats of property damage are not on, no matter how strongly you feel about an issue. For the record, too, people should be able to call their businesses whatever they like. Perhaps though, just perhaps, they should have better judgment and some decency not to.

This is the perennial story of double standards. Somehow you never hear stories of “Il Duce Italian Trattoria” or “Hitler Beer Hall” opening next door, and no one seems to think that wearing a Reinhard Heydrich t-shirt would be cool and edgy. But the world is full of people who think that communism, its imagery, its propaganda, and its heroes, make for some great decorative choices – from the ubiquitous Che t-shirts, through commie-themed eateries, to KGB Locksmith in Brisbane (yeah, I know they were pretty good at the whole spy craft picking locks stuff; they were also directly responsible for the deaths of some twenty million people and untold suffering of innumerable others).


Maybe if the Second World War didn’t turn up quite the way it did (paging Robert Harris’s “Fatherland”), and the Nazism decayed and fell mostly of its own accord like the Soviet communism did after 1989, maybe we would be now debating the good taste of opening ironic hipster SS-themed restaurants. Maybe if Marxism and all its legions of fellow travellers did not hold such an intellectual sway over our modern capitalist world, maybe we wouldn’t need to have discussions about the wisdom of naming a restaurant after a totalitarian leader, whose war of aggression resulted in deaths of up to 2 million of his fellow countrymen and women. Maybe.

By the way, the owners renamed the restaurant Aunty Oh – probably because feminists would have firebombed Aunty Ho.

And no, we’re going to another Vietnamese restaurant tonight.