17 October 2009

Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

Wikipedia says that the US punk band (and I would say the best US punk band) Ramones' eponymous album (1976) featured presumably the first references to Nazi themes in punk music. Significantly, these very first references were 'tongue-in-cheek'. One song from the Ramones album is of particular interest to me -

Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

I'm a shock trooper in a stupor, yes I am
I'm a Nazi schatze, y'know I fight for fatherland
Little German boy
Being pushed around
Little German boy
In a German town
Today your love, tomorrow the world!

Originally, however, the song was titled "I'm a Nazi, Baby" and it started with "I'm a Nazi baby, a Nazi, yes I am". The Ramones' producer insisted the lyrics were changed, but the band turned back to the original lines on live versions of this song (check the 1977 CBGB video). The Ramones' vocalist, the late Joey Ramone, was Jewish, y'know.

The song was covered many times by other bands, most notably Metallica, although there exist even more unusual versions of the song (check, for example, the amateur piano version). Quite recently "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World" was covered by the US band Cult of Youth, and I consider their version most interesting. The thing is that the Cult of Youth is a "metapolitical fascist" band, so when they play the Ramones' song they actually deprive it of any irony.




If you enlarge the image of this Cult of Youth guy, you will see an element of the tattoo on his left hand. This is a Star of Chaos. Although this symbol originates from Michael Moorcock's fantasy books, it was actually popularised through role-playing games, especially the Warhammer 40K series. It is also interesting that the Star of Chaos is now widely used among the European New Right (who can be considered "metapolitical fascists"), see for example Troy Southgate's Tradition & Revolution forum or Aleksandr Dugin's International Eurasian Movement's web-site.

19 comments:

  1. So Mr. Rogan has a tattoo that props up in all kinds of circles (you forgot to mention occultism, which Mr. Rogan seems to be interested in), including some two-men-and-a-dog political groups that actively try to appropriate symbols that have no political connotations.

    Thus, he is a "fascist".

    I choose to interpret this blog post as a brilliant parody of the logic and reasoning used by certain watchdog groups. Thanks for the laughs!

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  2. Did I say that I considered Cult of Youth "metapolitical fascist" because of that symbol?
    There's a whole article written on this type of music -
    Apoliteic music: Neo-Folk, Martial Industrial and “metapolitical fascism”.

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  3. I read the entire article, where Cult of Youth is not mentioned. The symbol on Mr. Rogan's arm was the only thing you mentioned that could in any way be seen as as an indication that Rogan is a Fascist. How else was I to interpret the blog post? That Rogan is a Fascist because he plays Neofolk music? That would be even more tenuous.

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  4. Seriously, though, I don't doubt you abilities as a political scientist. I'm just skeptical of your methodological approach. I think using your scientific background to analyse music subcultures like this is bound to end up in confusion. I hoped, upon reading the longer article, that your background as a music writer could be an advantage, but sadly I can't say that I think it has.

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  5. My methodological approach is based on a dominant school within fascist studies. And I think that your "skepticism" is just a defense reaction aimed at avoiding overt identification with fascism.

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  6. I know full well where your methodological approach comes from, and it works well when applied to Fascist movements and organizations. However, I think it doesn't work so well when applied to music subcultures, as much of the political analysis of youth subcultures attest to. It’s some of the things I see when I read magazines like Searchlight: They’re good at keeping track of and understanding Nazis, but their coverage of youthful subcultures often end up lacking.

    There is certainly a Fascist element with what can loosely be called Neofolk, and they are clearly overrepresented when compared to the amount of Fascists in the wider population. However, this is something that is common within "extreme" music subcultures: An overrepresentation of extreme rightists, extreme leftists, new religious movements, sexual minorities.

    However, there is also a lot play with Fascist symbols, a lot of fetishism, and the majority of the people involved with it have very little time for Fascism. Here in Scandinavia, extreme right groups have tried to approach the Neofolk scene, and the results have been that virtually all important bands in the (miniscule) subculture have made it clear that they want nothing to do with this. My club in Oslo, which occasionally books Neofolk performers (but mostly lecturers, like Mark Sedgwick) has a strict policy of no admittance for Nazis.

    If you’re implying that I’m skeptical of your approach because I’m afraid of being associated with Fascism, well, then you’ve proven my point: You throw the label around very easily.

    I’m skeptical of your approach because I think it stands in the way of true insight.

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  7. No, I do not call you a fascist: I do not know anything about you.

    However, I must say, sometimes fascists do not recognise their identity themselves, while sometimes they just try to conceal it. The second case is always sad.

    It is much more pleasant to see steadfast people (even if their views are unpleasant) -

    http://www.lastfm.ru/group/Neofolk+Against+Tolerance
    http://www.lastfm.ru/group/Intolerance

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  8. Well, to not conceal MY identity, my name is Didrik Søderlind. I was a journalist for 15 years, the last years specializing in science and research journalism, but I now work as an advisor for the Norwegian chapter of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. I have worked a lot with issues relating to political extremism, and I’ve been interested in Neofolk for about two decades. I’m not very popular with the Fascist element in Neofolk here in Scandinavia, who call me things like “Norway’s biggest anti-Fascist”, “a ZOGster”, “anti-national” and other things that, coming from them, I consider to be compliments.

    My opinion is that what you’re doing is use political theory on a subject where other approaches would work far better, and that the result is to paint Neofolk as far more political than it really is. Your concept of “apoliteic music” is also a way to say that even if people don’t propagate Fascism, do Fascist things or associate with Fascists, they’re still Fascists if you have a hunch that they are. (On what grounds do you label Cult of Youth Fascist, if the tattoo didn’t have anything to do with it?)

    And if people come along and challenge your labeling, you call it a “defensive reaction” and start talking about how Fascists don’t always realize it themselves, or try to conceal their Fascism. I see this as an implication that because I’m critical of you labeling people as Fascists, I must be one myself. No wonder you see Fascists everywhere.

    The greatest weakness in your work is not that you’re overstating the Fascist presence in Neofolk.

    What you’ve developed is a technique to paint people as Fascists on very weak grounds. As being labeled a Fascist by a researcher connected with a university can have serious effects on peoples’ lives and careers, I think this is unethical.

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  9. Am I right that you are the Didrik Søderlind who co-authored The Lords of Chaos together with Michael Moynihan? The latter is an extremely interesting case. It's him, isn't it? -

    Photo 1
    Photo 2
    (Together with Boyd Rice and some other guy.)

    I presume you would not call your co-author, Michael Moynihan, a fascist, would you? Even if he promoted Oswald Mosley?

    Well, I would, and there is an interesting article, which you doubtlessly read, 'How Black is Black Metal?' by Kevin Coogan. Although I do not agree that Throbbing Gristle "stood on the cusp of a revival of a "counter cultural fascist" turn in segments of haule bohemia", Coogan's article does make sense when he, first, admits that Moynihan does not "fit easily into the more conventional definitions of fascism", and, second, characterises him as a "countercultural fascist". Coogan's concept of "countercultural fascist" music is really close to my concept of apoliteic music.

    In my article I argue that in apoliteic music one finds an ideological message that contains obvious or veiled references to the core elements of fascism, and this is exactly the reason why I call some of the Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial artists apoliteic, or "metapolitical fascists". Metapolitical, not political; and apoliteic, not apolitical. Fascism can manifest itself not only through parties, organisations or groupuscules. It is ultimately clear, when one turns to White Power music -

    As i march out of battle, my comrades i hail,
    Tonight the white race prevailed;
    We brought death by our swords to the vile,
    alien hordes, their every resistance has failed.
    Now our future is secure, our sacred blood kept pure,
    And by the splendor of the rising sun,
    The racial holy war has been won.

    (RaHoWa)

    Apoliteic artists are more sophisticated, though not always smarter.

    >> As being labeled a Fascist by a researcher connected
    >> with a university can have serious effects on peoples’
    >> lives and careers, I think this is unethical.

    If people are free to express their ideological message, scholars are free to interpret them accordingly. There are no ethical issues involved.

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  10. Yes, I am the same Didrik, and that is the same Michael. So what? I try to discuss your methodological approach and ask what criteria you use to slap a very heavy label on someone, and you keep changing the subject.

    I am pretty familiar with White Power music, as I’m interested in how radical political and religious groups use music to spread their message, but I don’t understand what extensive RaHoWa quotes have to do in this discussion.

    Yes, I’ve read Coogan’s article. He develops a hypothesis, looks for things to strengthen it, ignores the facts that don’t fit, turns to pure speculation when it suits him, and gets things spectacularly wrong, as even you point out when it comes to his thoughts about TG. These thoughts, by the way, are pretty indicative of the rest of the article. I’ve discussed it with him, he called me up on the phone right after it was published. I pointed out his errors to him, but he didn’t seem very interested in improving his understanding of the subject.

    I’ve read your article, so there’s no need for you to recap its arguments here. I do understand what you mean by “metapolitical fascist”, and these people exist. I just think your use of methods make you see many more of them than there are, overstate their importance, and therefore that your research ends up lacking.

    More worrisome, though, is that a scholar working with a subject that can have very negative implications for peoples’ lives thinks there are “no ethical issues involved” in his work. Well, I guess I should thank you for your frankness. Your approach is to call people Fascists left or right without really explaining what you base it on, and you don’t care if that has consequences for them.

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  11. Allow me to butt in;

    You still haven't answered the question about what makes The Cult of Youth fascist, metapolitical or not. A tattoo is not enough. In particular as this same symbol appear in non-fascist context as much anyplace else, as you yourself point out. Or is Warhammer 40k, fascist?

    Lord Bassington-Bassington appears to be making to points; neither of which you address adequately. One being that you are very free in your usage of the fascist-label. Slapping it on anything you, subjectively believe should carry this label. Your longer article on the matter is a case in point, where you deal mostly with the likes of HERR and Von Thronstahl, bands which are blatant in their appeal to old fashioned fascism and nationalism. An honest, and sober, approach to this theme would have you include some of the myriads of bands in the genres who do not conform to your perception of them. But that would ruin your point, wouldn't it?

    You have talked to Eric of Gae Bolg. Good! I think he's a damn fine musician, and I tend to agree with much of his philosophical stance. Though, I would like to see you be in personal contact with more people. This is a small community, with plenty of interpersonal strife. And fascist-labeling has become a sport even here.

    The second point, which is the one he started out with; is that you can't use the same methodology in approaching a political movement or organization as you can a subcultural milieu. Especially not when this milieu is not only defined by their artistic aspirations, but when they in many ways are descendant from the bricoulage of punk culture.

    This is counterculture. They are opposed. Few, if any answers, can be found here, but you'll find a helluva lot of questions. In many ways they pose philosophical and political questions to its audience.

    How come you are the final judge of when a musician is really a fascist, when he uses it ironically or when he is pressing a point of some sort? A neofolk-project I myself was involved in, but that never got off the ground, had planned a performance of the International sung to the martial pounding of drums, with men in black uniforms carryint torches. In the background, samples of a populist right wing politicans were to be played.

    Tell me... was this fascist? Socialist? Communist?

    The same goes for bands like Laibach? Are Laibach fascists? According to themselves they are as much fascists as Hitler was an artist. Let's go get our pitchforks and rally the mob.

    Fascist aesthetics have been a predominant theme in popular culture for 60 years. No wonder it is being problematized by radical subcultures and the counterculture, whether right wing or left wing.

    So I have just one advise for you; you have apparently done your share of reading, now it's time to do legwork. I come from an academic tradition where fieldwork is gold. Get to know the people, before you start labelling them. I've been involved with several neofolk concerts (some of them controversial), but I've always taken the time to get to know the artists before final arrangements are made. It's a lot more efficient than just judging them by their looks, or what books they have read.

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  12. Oh, well. Cult of Youth then.

    I assume you both know that the phrase "cult of youth" itself refers to Italian Fascism and German Nazism. Zeev Sternhell wrote that -
    "Fascism promoted the cult of youth, brutality, and violence, and aimed to create both a new type of man and a new civilization in which a modern knighthood would have supremacy over the liberal bourgeois and the decadent, conservative aristocrat" (Zeev Sternhell, 'Fascist Ideology', in Roger Griffin, Matthew Feldman (eds), Fascism: The Nature of Fascism (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 125).

    See also Ruth Ben-Ghiat -
    "[Fascist] ideologies gave political voice to the cult of youth, the primacy of myth, and the modernist idea of history as malleable, but also represented a response to long-standing anxieties about modernity" (Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 8).

    The band Cult of Youth refers specifically to the fascist cult of youth, and even makes its reference unequivocal, by decorating two of their recordings by the images of a fascio -

    - A Stick To Bind, A Seed To Grow (LP)
    - Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World (CDr)

    The song titles such as "Train To Kill", "To The Floor!", "A Question Of Will", "A New Dawn (On The Rise)", "We Will Rise", and "The Final Myth" point to glorification of violence and palingenetic mythology. The same palingenetic thrust is expressed in Cult of Youth's flier -

    "Nihilistic post-industrial Neofolk to guide us through these dark times and into the light".

    Also note that the three triangles (on the flier) form a triskellion, a symbol used, in particular, by the 27th SS Volunteer Division "Langemarck" and Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging.

    Add the use of the star of chaos, a cynical cover of Ramones' "Today Your Love" (similar to Von Thronstahl and Blood Axis covering Joy Division's "Walked in Line"), friendship with Luftwaffe, and other things I could overlook.

    Well, Sean Ragon is not a conventional fascist, but rather a "metapolitical fascist", while his music can be considered apoliteic.

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  13. Dear Sir

    I take the liberty to join the battle, on the side of my friends The Mad Mullah and the one with the long ears.

    As far as I understand your analysis, you are convinced that the BAND Cult of Youth uses the term "cult of youth" as a way of signposting their own "metapolitical fascism", because academic analysts have used the term to describe an aspect of fascism. Am I right?

    With that kind of logic you really have no other choice than to brand Joy Division and New Order as metapolitical fascists as well. The only difference being that they use concepts taken directly from Nazi institutions, rather than analytical terms being used to describe those institutions.

    If on the other hand you accept that these bands are not fascists, meta or not, I have a hard time seeing why you are so convinced Cult of Youth are. (Cult of Youth is, by the way, a band I haven’t heard before today, and then only thanks to your posting.)

    I accept that their song titles and aesthetics point to a fascination with fascism, a fascination I, though being an ardent anti fascist, confess to share. But concluding that they thus ARE fascists, again meta or not, is jumping to conclusions.

    I agree with The Mad Mullah: This is indeed a very testable hypothesis: Interview them. In person or, it is after all a long way to New York for the both of us, by e-mail or through other channels.

    Until you have at least tried to do that, I am of the opinion that you are labelling people in rather odious ways on insufficient basis.

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  14. There are several reasons why I consider Cult of Youth's music apoliteic. Not just the name, the song titles, or anything, but the final "product", a sum of parts.

    As for interviews. It is always good, and I did several interviews. However, I must say, apoliteic artists quite often are cowards or hypocritical. They use to omit political questions or ignore interviews altogether after they agreed to answer questions.

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  15. Have you interviewed the Cult of Youth?

    There might be a reason why they are avoiding your questions. If you came around my place to question me about my politics, you would probably get a bucket of cold water. Especially if I had reason to believe you were going to label me a fascist.

    You are allowed your opinion. You may dislike the Cult of Youth, because the strike you as overtly fascist. That's still a far away from actually proving that they are fascists, and not just... well... artists?

    Like Arnfinn Pettersen I have had no prior interest in this particular band. They might even be blood drinking, child molesting satanic nazis for all I know, but unless I see something that's a clearer indication of this, I won't accuse them. That's just a matter of decency. Not to mention ethics when one is involved in scholarly work.

    You can't discern this band from New Order, Joy Division or even David Bowie at some points in his career. Neither can you throw the fascist label at most of the popular neofolk bands out there, without giving artistic lisence a bit more thought.

    I'll grant you that HERR and von Thronstahl are as suspect as they come, but there you have pretty overt signs. Not just playful use of symbols or nihilistic lyrics.

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  16. By "cowards or hypocritical", you sholdn't happen to mean that they wouldn't give you the answers you wanted?

    They might simply "... omit political questions or ignore interviews altogether after they agreed to answer questions" because they aren't all that interested in politics or are as unable to keep any appointment as quite a few of my counter cultural friends are.

    The main point here is this: The counter culture is a world of it's own. It's a topsy turvy world where things seldom mean what they seem to. Taking things at face value may lead to interesting but entirely wrong conclusions.

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  17. Arnfinn and the good Mullah have said most of what I wanted to say already. Just let me point out a couple of things.

    You write: “Also note that the three triangles (on the flier) form a triskellion, a symbol used, in particular, by the 27th SS Volunteer Division "Langemarck" and Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging.”

    Those “three triangles” you’re talking about is a Valknut; it’s used in all kinds of contexts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valknut It was popular with Bifrost, the Åsatru group I was a member of before I became a Humanist. Bifrost had, and has, a strict no-Nazis/racists policy (Scandinavian adherents of Åsatru tend to be left-leaning). Another band that likes the Valknut is Of the Wand and the Moon, who have played in Norway twice under an anti-racist umbrella.

    Yes, there’s a triskelon in the Valknut if you look really carefully. But surely now we’re on the level where the word “Rorchach” springs to mind?

    That Americans, with the economy in shambles and Bush in the White House, felt they were living in “dark times” – damn, I don’t blame them. The flyer you quote also describes Cult of Youth’s music as “Nihilistic”. Again, you see what you want to see – you see the Fasces, but not the references to an ideological stance that would be hard to combine with some sort of palingenetic project.

    Anyone familiar with underground music would have noticed that symbols like the Iron Cross, Fasces, SS Totenkopf etc. have long had a life outside of their political meaning and in many contexts are used as symbols of rebellion and individuality. A bit like the Che Guevara T-shirt – or actually, exactly like the Che shirt. One could, of course, insist that everyone wearing a Che shirt is a part of a Communist plot, and that there’s a revolution brewing, but it wouldn’t be very good political science.

    I would recommend the book “Looking for Europe” by Dieter Gerten and Andreas Diesel, which is the most important source on Neofolk ever produced (even if it is not, of course, above criticism). In fact, I’m surprised that you don’t mention it in your article.

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  18. If Didrik Soderlind is said to be "Norway's leading anti-fascist" then Norway's fascists must be quite stupid or the anti-fascists quite a joke. After all our same Didrik also wrote a book review for Michael Walker's well-known fascist/Nouvelle Droite/Neue Rechte/New Right journal, Scorpion. But maybe Michael Walker didn't know he was publishing the work of Norway's leading antifa?


    Didrik aside, might I mention a new documentary movie on Norwegian black metal which includes extensive interviews with Varg Vikenes? In the film, VV makes it perfectly clear that his acts had nothing to do with "Satanism" and that this was a complete misrepresentation of his views. He was not a Satanist for the obvious reason that Satan implies a belief in Jesus. Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan and his sidekick Didrik tried to argue just the opposite of course. And of course they got it wrong.

    The film for those interested in learning something is "Until the Light Takes Us." Varg Vikenes is extensively interviewed about all this so the reader can judge for him or herself the value of Lords of Chaos as an accurate depiction of what happened in Norway.

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  19. There's a good review of Lords of Chaos by Kevin Coogan -
    http://oraclesyndicate.twoday.net/stories/605560/

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