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Editorials - Random thoughts on metal, life, and whatever else we feel like talking about

Metal Nazis

by Sargon the Terrible

It's become a hot-button issue lately, with the rise of far-right, racist ideologies all over the place, to complain about the fascist leanings of some metal bands. In fact, there seem to be those who would be happy to fling the entire metal genre under the bus just to de-platform a few Nazis, and obviously that is something I have a problem with. Yes, there are bands that have implicit or explicit far-right attitudes, but I'm going to say right here that it's not many of them, and also that I don't think it's really that big of a problem—certainly not as big a problem as some people would make it out to be.

I'm going to use the blanket term "Nazis" for all this kind of far-right fuckery. All these guys would be happy to debate me and nitpick over what kind of racist bullshit they subscribe to, but really, nobody but them cares about that. I don't care if you are Christian Identity or Strasserite or whatever. I'm calling you all Nazis. Deal with it.

The first high-profile racist in the metal community was Varg, and while his early Burzum albums didn't have mention of it, his right-wing philosophies have become quite well-known since then, especially while he was in prison. Even if, lately, he has backed off on the fascism, he is still a kind of poster boy for the whole thing, and is probably the index case where neofascism was injected into the Folk/Black Metal bloodstream, which is still where the ideologies are found more readily.

It is unfortunate that racist beliefs have, in some quarters, become so well identified with neopaganism, especially Norse and Slavonic neopaganism. It unfairly implicates any band that uses pagan iconography as possible Nazis, even when they are nothing of the sort. Interestingly, bands like Nokturnal Mortum, Graveland, and Temnozor—who were explicitly NSBM bands in their earlier days, have now distanced themselves from earlier expressions of such views, and often seek to focus more prominently on paganism and their music, rather than neo-Nazi politics.

I have some personal experience with Nazi beliefs, both online and in my own life, and so I am going to talk about how that happened and what it meant, and to do it, I need to go back in time about fifteen years and describe a different world.

In 2003 I was newly getting back into the world of metal after a long absence. Like a lot of people, I had discovered the resources of the internet, and was finding out about how much was out there. I had just started writing for this website, and everything was new and exciting.

I myself had some rather desultory racist beliefs. I didn't go to rallies or wear a swastika, but I had a low-grade belief in the superiority of white Europeans, and was known to make disparaging remarks about the lack of achievements in nonwhite cultures and the poor state of the African-American in the US being due to their lack of cultural advancement. I am not proud of this, I am just being honest here. I was smart enough to know it was really not true, and it was a belief system the same way sports fandom is a belief system.

My point is that back then it didn't seem very important. A "racist" was a toothless old man in Alabama who spoke in a word salad of racial slurs. "Nazis" were skinheads who gathered in basements to rant about "mud people" and the ZOG. I didn't take any of it that seriously, and I think there were a lot of people who didn't. Nazis were cartoon villains, they were not a threat to the republic.

Around that time, in Toronto, there was a big fuss about a show that was to be played by Grand Belial's Key, who were a Black Metal band from Virginia. GBK may not have been explicitly Nazis, but they were all about the antisemitism along with the expected anti-Christianity, so they were definitely on the continuum there. There was a flap about whether they would be allowed to play that blew up into a real tempest in a teapot. It's too much to go into here, but one result was that a lot of Canadian metal forums and message boards banned Nazi content and known Nazi members.

The Metal Crypt was one that did not do that, and so we became a kind of refuge for them all. I remember we had a huge influx of avowed Nazis as board members, and while Michel's dedication to free speech remains an admirable ideal, it quickly ran into problems.

Because here is what the whole experience taught me about Nazis, and turned me away from any kind of right-wing ideology permanently. It taught me one fundamental truth, which I have not seen really related anywhere else: People who have a lot going on in their lives don't become Nazis. People may be racist as hell, but to be a real Nazi you have to devote a lot of time and energy to it, and that time and energy comes from other things. People with happy relationships, good jobs, and who are generally well-adjusted don't waste their time being Nazis. People become Nazis when they are unhappy, lonely, desperate, and cruel.

The problem became obvious, because we could not just have Nazis on the board and that was it, no, because Nazis are Nazis all the time. They don't talk about anything else or relate to things in any other way, they just barged into topics, getting their Nazi all over everything and being shitheads, until we eventually had to ban them all. We didn't ban them for being Nazis, we banned them because they refused to behave themselves, but those two characteristics are inextricably linked.

Now fast-forward to today, and everything is different. Neo-Nazi politics are almost mainstream, the internet being used to radicalize the plentiful hordes of unhappy, lonely, desperate people who just want to know what they should be doing to make their lives better and getting terrible advice on that. Because here's a real truth: Nazism will not make you happy. I mean it. It is not designed to do that, and no Nazi has ever become a happy, fulfilled person. If being a Nazi makes you feel better about yourself, then you really need to look at the reasons why you felt that shitty to begin with, because I guarantee Nazism will not help with that.

I stopped believing in even the low-key kinds of racism I was involved in because I realized those beliefs were stupid and hurtful to everyone involved, including me. I may be a lot of things, but I am not going to the wall for a belief system that is demonstrably wrong. It was one thing back when it all seemed like harmless internet bullshit, but it's not that way anymore, and we have to take all of this more seriously.

However, one aspect of this whole shift is something I cannot support, and that is the way certain corporate-controlled corners of the metal scene have begun to turn on the rest of us. Every week, some band or other are being declared "Nazis" and venues are being pressured to not allow them to play, labels pressured to drop them. My problems with this are manifold.

For one, the main impetus from this is coming from websites who are corporate whores of the first order, and no real metalhead should pay attention to anything they say. They are engaging in this behavior solely as a way to attack bands that are not signed to their RIAA masters and thus make the "metal" they promote more marketable. They don't care about Nazism, they care about profitability.

For another, the bands they are attacking are not actual Nazi bands. Horna are not Nazis, Pestilence are not Nazis, they are simply more visible appendages of the underground who have members who may or may not have said some questionable things over the years. They are being targeted because they are convenient, while bands that might still espouse genuine fascist beliefs are ignored. If you want to go after Nazi bands, fine, but go after real Nazi bands. The problem with that is, of course, that then you would be denouncing bands no one has heard of, and you would not get the publicity that is the real goal.

This tactic—of trying to get venues and labels and news outlets to refuse to deal with those you deem "problematic"—is called "deplatforming", and it is a valid and important tactic to be used against political speech you want to silence. The government, by law, cannot do this, but private individuals can do this all they want—it is an expression of their own free speech to do so.

But I have a problem using this tactic against the arts in any way, shape, or form. Using it against political speech is one thing, using it to silence artistic media is a dangerous step to take. There are those who will claim that art is also political speech, but policing art is not the way to go if you value a free society.

These people claim to be "antifa," but they are not, they are just kids who are "anti," akin to the ones calling each other pedophiles over which of their favorite imaginary characters are allowed to bang each other. Real antifa gets out there in the streets and blocks Nazi marches, punches Nazis in the face, and deplatforms Nazi speakers and ideologues. Calling a band "NSBM" when you don't even have a working knowledge of the term proves you are not fit to be deciding what art people are allowed to enjoy. In fact, no one should be considered fit for that.

Going after a band with a spiky logo because some corporate-shill website told you they were Nazis is the lowest form of activism—in fact it is not activism. You are buying into a corporate-controlled program intended to weaponize social media to control artistic output by seizing the mechanisms of artistic expression: publishers, distributors, labels, advertisers, venues, stores. They may tell you there is a good reason for it that you are attacking fascists—but the very fact that you are not means they are just testing to see if you are paying attention, and next time they will aim your manufactured outrage where they want it, because they will have learned that you are not.

Political speech and artistic expression are not the same thing, and I will fight anyone who tries to treat them as interchangeable. If you want to "purify" a genre, then you are actually trying to destroy it, and you are an enemy of all art, because by its nature, that kind of thinking can only lead to a barren wasteland of pre-approved, sanctioned, mindless product, which is exactly what the media corps are selling. The use of the current zeitgeist to try to suppress art they don't control or like is deeply disingenuous, not to mention disgusting.

If you're offended by this piece, then you are probably part of the problem. If it's because you are a Nazi, then you should probably examine your life and try to figure out why you need to cling to whatever it is that is making you miserable. If it's because you are one of the "antis" making a fuss about metal Nazis, then I need you to understand that you are not helping anyone. Your zeal can be directed in better ways to serve actual purposes and help people, rather than just feeding your egotistical need for ideological purity. And if you want to dismiss everything I have said because I admit to having once held racist sympathies, then I will just point out that I grew the fuck up, which is exactly what I encourage you to do.

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