April 25, 2008

L'ETRE

More mailbag:

*****
i think you missed an important point on why white
hipsters (i say white hipsters cuz hipster is one of
many terms that was african american in origin that
was corrupted/co-opted by euro-american culture) don't
call out current hip-hop for all of it's fucked
up-ness. from the beats on the majority of hip white
culture has been based on black syles (musical and
otherwise). part of the reason for this is that it
briefly allows white males to adopt the mythical
sexual power/prowess of the black male, from kerouac
to the MC5 to the beastie boys this as always been the
case. this is how you get a room full of dudes who
own, and endorse the ideas behind, bikini kills entire
back catalog gleefully singing along to NWA's "a bitch
is a bitch." it allows the listener to indulge, guilt
free, in their not-so secret misogynist fantasies. it
is a classic case of other-ing, the ideas come outside
from another 'primitive" culture so they can't
possibly reflect the higher class opinions of yr
average upper middle class hipster.


******

Long-time reader, first-time (I think?) correspondent.

I'm following the ongoing Nachtmystium conversation with considerable
interest, because this is a circle I keep trying (with little success) to
square for myself. I listen to a lot of music made by problematic artists,
and can reel off other styles of music besides black metal where supposed
left-wingers are willing to give a pass to loathsome ideology: neo-folk
(Death in June, Der Blutharsch), power noise (Sleep Chamber, Whitehouse),
the morbid fascination with Ted Bundy / the Process / Charles Manson held by
Genesis P-Orridge, the self-consciously retro pose of new-school hard techno
acts like British Murder Boys and Female (who are really just coöpting the
transgressive moves of earlier noise artists like Whitehouse and Sutcliff
Jugend). Not to mention the full-spectrum misanthropy and misogyny of metal
acts like Deicide and Eyehategod -- and if we're being strictly honest, even
ironic hipster heroes Slayer can't be given a pass, because "Angel of Death"
really blurs the lines between decrying, describing, and celebrating Josef
Mengele.

Is it OK to be a Satan-worshipper but not OK to be a Nazi? Where do you draw
the line between transgression (which is certainly childish, and
reactionary, but not evil per se) and actively supporting or promulgating
distasteful ideologies? And how much does does it have to matter that
artists are often stupid, hateful people?

I'll take the position that Emperor's _In the Nightside Eclipse_ and
Dissection's _Storm of the Light's Bane_ are, in their own modest way,
artistic achievements on par with Leni Riefenstahl's _Triumph of the Will_
-- a movie that is still taught in film classes everywhere -- yet both bands
had as members men who did time for murderous hate crimes. Does the hate
invalidate the quality of their art? If so, I'd have to stop listening to
two of my favorite albums.

Or, to bring it back to something that has caused, and continues to cause,
me genuine discomfort, how *does* one deal with Death in June and their
fans? Death in June made some fantastic albums early on, but everything
about them, from their totenkopf insignia to their supposedly "ironic" use
of "Horst Wessel" and other bits of Nazi ephemera in their songs and
packaging (the totenkopf banner, the use of German camouflage, German
marching songs as backing tracks, etc) makes me uncomfortable (I go into DiJ
and their purposeful attempts to blur their beliefs here:
http://driftglass.org/music/articles/2008/03/13/death-in-june-are-or-are-not
-nazis).

The fact that many of their fans like to wear fully buttoned black shirts
and jackboots isn't helping. I'm acquainted with the guy who promotes Death
in June's shows in San Francisco, and I've never made it to one of those
shows despite his repeated invitations, mostly because the idea of dealing
with Death in June's fans fills me with angst (above and beyond not wanting
to give my money and time to asshats).

I don't think you have to admire the people who create the art to admire the
art, and I think it's entirely possible to love the first few Burzum records
while thinking that Christian Vikernes is a loathsome twat. I think, to be
consistent, people who like music made by assholes have to be call said
assholes on their stupidity, and we all owe it to the world to think hard
before giving money to people who might use it to advocate hatred or
violence. I personally have no idea how or where to draw the line, though. I
continue to listen to and like a lot of black metal, but I won't buy albums
by certain artists (Forest, Graveland, Nokturnal Mortum) because they've
explicitly expressed neo-Nazi sentiments in the past (or, in Forest's case,
put storm troopers all over their cover art).

I'm fully willing to admit that I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too;
_In the Nightside Eclipse_ is right up there with _Loveless_ and Swans'
_Great Annihilator_ on my list of all-time favorite albums. However, I don't
think my fervor for that album -- or my enjoyment of Thorns or Zyklon --
contaminates how much I deplore Bård Eithun for being a homophobic murderer.
He's a hateful asshole who's produced some art I love.

I guess I could just listen to my old Immortal records instead. Blashyrk is
made up and Immortal are way more worried about getting their face paint
right than getting involved in politics.

****

Posted by Jessica at April 25, 2008 11:42 AM | TrackBack