Countering Fascism in Black Metal in Olympia: An Analysis


“When you see misdeeds speak out against them, and give your enemies no peace.”

For those unaware black metal has always had a neo-Nazi problem. Extreme music attracted people with an affinity for extreme politics. It being infused with macho bullshit and with the boom of neo-Nazi music outside of Oi around 90s black metal and other dark esoteric scenes became a hot bed for esoteric neo-Nazi activity. With neo-Nazis being forced out of the punk scene they retreated into noise, goth, martial industrial, neo-folk, and black metal scenes. Often the main differences between black metal and other genres like grindcore have to do with instrumentation in a small part, but largely have to do with aesthetics and themes. Another appeal of Nazi imagery is the dangerous aesthetic and since the Nazi project and other fascist projects have been in part the aestheticization of politics it only makes sense that where the aesthetic lives so does the ideology.

Likewise “heathen” pagan circles and esoteric/occult/satanic circles have had a Nazi-sympathizing problem dating back to Julius Evola, Ragnar Redbeard, Aleister Crowley, Charles Manson, and event Anton LaVey. It’s most horrid incarnations being satanist neo-Nazi groups like the Order of the Nine Angels (some of whom are rumoured active in Vancouver BC), Aryan supremacist pagans like PNW local Thorfinn Odinson, and Evolian fash-sympathizing spiritualists who are increasingly common in this era.

Ever since I first moved to Olympia — Occupied Coast Salish, Nisqually, and Squaxin Land — I’ve been wary of the “dark bar” a.k.a. Cryptatropa or the Crypt. Burzum and other racist black metal and goth bands were readily available on the jukebox there, it employed sketchwads affiliated with more esoteric fash-sympathizing, and bands I’ve seen loading up gear there were rocking NSBM(Nazi Black Metal). Like many black metal or goth scenes with sketchy elements it seemed like a bunch of willfully ignorant liberals and some more clever fash-sympathizing elements.

In 2015 tensions seemed to come to a head with the bar and the intersection of liberalism and neo-Nazi apologism seemed to bare some especially bitter fruit. Neo-Nazis were out in bigger numbers in Olympia and a worker at the bar had taken down some antifa fliers while making all sorts of excuses for their Ur-Fascist friends. At one point in time a friend of mine got into an argument with some liberal with a Peste Noire patch who seemed completely unwilling to understand the bands deeply European Supremacist sentiment and totally bought into the “we’re not technically Nazis” smoke screen that bands like Peste Noire often use while actually being very much Fascist and Nazi aligned though of a specifically different incarnation of violent reactionary ideology. A recent Peste Noire interview clears all this right up.

Since then many of the songs have come off the jukebox, the staff have cycled through, and the bar seems less suss than it has been, especially compared the sports bar down the street or the West Side Tavern where Proud Boys and Hells Angels MC meet.

This highlights a trend that is common to Olympia and elsewhere in general: people’s unwillingness to accept things that trouble their relationships with bands and people in their scenes. And the persistence of liberals enabling the more clever Fascist and neo-Nazi organizing and falling for very basic rhetorical traps.

There is a fascist creep in anarchist and anarchist-adjacent milieus, but it’s not just in obscure egoist circles. This creep is exists in the hip DIY music scenes especially in Oly and people’s friendships make it hard for them to see what’s really going on. People who say they are anti-fascist have friends who are in bands that play sketchy festivals and make friends with sketchy people. Esoteric fash or Aryan Asatru are not uncommon in “heathen” music scenes and the overlap between neo-hippie metal punks and “heathen” scenes is substantial. These anti-fascists are thrown off the scent by basic turns of phrase and identity politics or an unwillingness to critically look at themselves and their friendships. They want the easy way out, but things are not so simple. Also, because so much of this is wrapped up in their subversive identity, and thus in their ability to feel comfortable as civilized capitalist subjects, it is hard for some in Olympia to accept the reality of the creeping fascists or reactionary tilts.

At the most recent Wolves in the Throne Room show in Olympia some entry level black metal goth was rocking a “White Power Cross” patch on his battle jacket. Someone who has in the past been an apologist for more esoteric fascist actually took action and removed this ‘neo-Nazi in waiting’ along with his girlfriend. The person taking charge of the removal reasoned that such a patch makes some feel unsafe regardless of what the intention of such a symbol is. This argument is not the most holistically sound or strongest, but it is valid. In reponse to this argument the “White Power Cross” wearer started listing off typical bullshit excuses that neo-Nazis came up with ages ago as they retreated from being able to say their most extreme view. This rhetoric was crafted in attempts to sway people just like this particular white man and his girlfriend. He also said he was being “White Shamed” and how the people who had a problem with his patch were being “intolerant of other ideas” and other side steppings that are really a defense of the use of NeoNazi and other reactionary white nationalist symbols and thus of allowing said groups to spread and organize.

This person was not being shamed for happening to be of European or “White” heritage. We were literally at a show that was venerating all sorts of European heritages. Whiteness itself is the assault on these European heritages assimilating them into White Christiandom and arbitrary nationalisms that break and destroy cultural continuities. Whiteness is a position in a racial socio-economic hierarchy. It is hardly a cultural grouping beyond this. The first solidifications of europeaness was Christiandom and the Crusades as well as the tension between “dark and fair,” and whiteness began to intensify during the colonial period particular on the frontiers of empire such as in the Americas or the Congo. Sure there are such things as Irish culture Italian culture etc as arbitrary and generalizing as those conceptions may be, but whiteness itself is where those lived cultures go to die.

The “White Power Cross,” the “Nazi Salute,” and “wolfsangel” are not accurate celebrations of implicitly european heritages; they are explicit displays of affinities for white supremacist ideologies, narratives, and world views. The Nazi Salute is not an old roman salute or norse salute or anything like that it is a Nazi misinterpretation of a roman salute. The “White Power Cross” although derived from a a Celtic symbol and perhaps in other contexts a valid non-fash cultural print just as the Swastika can be, but in this context there is no denying that it is of the same graphical heritage and used in the same way as those who use it as a White Supremacist dog whistle. As for the wolfsangel it was a symbol that went out of popularity and would have died in relative obscurity if it wasn’t re-imagined and re-drawn by the Nazis and is used as a sort of less recognizable hakenkreuz (the Nazi symbol which is commonly unfortunately called a Swastika because it looks like the South Asian Swastika).

After doing some research it seems this couple were “Proud Nationalists” who were also explicitly white and harped on a great deal of alt-right talking points. Everything they did was a nerfed version of what neo-Nazis were doing both aesthetically and rhetorically. It was very clear they were in the first stages of indoctrination and still pulled on normative appeals to what could be considered liberal ideals, but as we know the shift between neo-Nazi adjacent and neo-Nazi can happen quick.

The idea that people who oppose neo-Nazis and their ilk are “thought police”or trying to get everyone to toe a politically correct party line is bullshit. We are not adverse to unpopular truths, meta-narrative shattering claims, harsh critique, visceral words or images, and we are not trying to enforce a mono-culture or hegemonic ideology. Reactionaries who put forward fascist or violent racist ideas are not just putting forward ideas in some imagined marketplace of ideas, these forces are building to further actualize a violent and oppressive ruling order. If we think that there are ethics worth holding and “anything goes” is not desirable then we also admit there are limits to what we will tolerate.

The reactionaries have retreated into free-speech because they have few good arguments left, but this shows that good critical arguments are not everything. They champion free-speech and supposedly free-thought in a horribly unfree ruling order and as they openly advocate for making the ruling order increasingly unfree. They happily ignore the repression inherent to the foundations of what they are putting forward. They say not just what they believe is true, but rather what needs to be true in order for them to continue being the reactionaries and bigots they are, as well as to justify future violence.

Combating reactionary organizing and existence in general is not about shutting down debate. The purpose of the reactionaries’ arguments, symbols, slogans, etc., are not — on the whole –meant to find some truth through discourse. These arguments are largely used to build and to defend the institutions of bigoted subjugation, whether they be racist or sexist or whatever. These arguments are also used to further the fash and their fellow traveler’s own violent projects such as the repression of rebels and attacks on undesirables like queers and migrants. The violence of national borders is intolerable. Sexual-assault is intolerable. Class-society is intolerable. Queerphobia is intolerable. Transphobia is intolerable. Ableism is intolerable. Colonialism is intolerable. Statecraft is an intolerable imposition. Racism is intolerable. Sexism is intolerable. Racism and sexism like many other intolerable things are not so easily dealt with. We are constantly debating among ourselves what the nature of these undesirable forces are and how they still have a hold of us. This is not to say there should never be debate with people who are implicitly or explicitly sexist or racist, but rather understand that if there is no hope of altering the situation with words then actions must be taken.

Ideas do not exist in a void, especially those pertaining to the value of the autonomy of living beings, especially in a society where said ideas will motivate people to project force to bring the consequences of these ideas to life. It’s not that these things should not be talked about and discussed in depth or detail, but when one idea is given the stage it inherently pushes others aside and there are far more sound and important ideas than those of confused racists or bigots trying make a case for ethnic cleansing. By all means debate with sexists, racists, and homophobes. Some of our dearest comrades were once far more gripped by these things and we too in the present and past are gripped by them. However, if you give them a platform you are tolerating their position and if you tolerate their position you are legitimizing their position and thus legitimizing the existence of their violent projects and trajectories as well as allowing them to recruit for such things.

If we flip the script what is revealed? There are systems of racial and gender subjugation and they target non-whites and non-men. The reactionaries are the ones beating people in the street for burning flags and expressing their ideas. The reactionaries are the ones that are flipping out when someone challenges their uncritically and deeply held narratives surrounding their identities. The reactionaries are the ones who are regurgitating their parents morality albeit sometimes in their own pseudo-rebellious way. Theirs are the ideologies fundamentally in line with and reinforced by the ruling order. The reactionaries are the ones stoking the flames of authoritarian Islam. The anarchists and socialists are effectively combating groups like the so-called Islamic State. The anarchists and socialists are the ones who are helping to forge desirable and autonomous paths for those children of migrants and alienated youth whom have seen the awful visage of “Western” bigotry and apathy who IS recruits from.

There are those on the left that do want to uphold a party line. There are those on the left that do want to shut down debate to control the narrative and suppress critical engagement. There are those that want people to unquestionably obey orders given by people based on identitarian criteria in a way that is extremely problematic. These people are also getting in the way of realizing more desirable life-ways.

Critical thought and engagement is the life blood of desirable ethics. Oppressed groups are not monolithic. There is not one opinion held in common by all of one race or gender or other marginalized identity. Reality is also complex and perspectives can create barriers in discussion that are hard to get through. In order to be more critical we must also be more autonomous and more free. This means liberation struggles are crucial to the struggle for critical and free thought.

What strategies can be used to plant the seeds of critical interrogation of meta-narratives within reactionary people? How can we stop them from growing their toxic projects?

Debating them is not as simple as they would make it seem with their constantly moving goal posts and if certain identifications trigger them to shut down having an actual conversation. Tracing the trajectory of the rhetoric has been helpful in my experience, but it may take years for them to actually get how fallacious their arguments were and who actually benefits from the narratives they push. Like most reactionaries they state what needs to be the case for them to continue to operate in ways they see fit.

We already possess the critiques to destroy all racist and sexist arguments I know of. Most would agree with most of said critiques. Reactionary violence continues to grow. The fash continue to creep. Spaces continue to allow these groups to organize formally and informally albeit less and less explicitly. New rhetorical maneuvers continue to bamboozle would-be allies in the fight against oppression.

The other option is sometimes seen as the classic. Lump them up. Send them packing. Some would say this could make them escalate, but mostly it’ll make those who aren’t already itching for a fight or aren’t true believers stay home and second guess wearing that sketchy patch to make a small point. Now, if you’re dealing with militant armed neo-Nazis increased tit-for-tat violence may be more likely, but with pleb tier black metal reactionaries or Pepe posting alt-right youth who’ve never been in a fight and have been isolated from the violence of their actions and what they support it’s another story entirely. A pampered alientated N.E.E.T., liberal-at-heart posers who just hang around fash to look cool, or some other person caught up in passive-nihilism will likely fall away from the scene or never come out in public to spread their toxic project again if they experience visceral blow-back for the violence of their actions and beliefs.

In France, in the 80s, reds and anti-racists cleaned up the rock scene by forcing largely ignorant rockers to remove their Confederate-flag patches and in doing so open racism diminished along with racist attacks, etc. However, on the larger level this symbolic violence pushed the Fash underground and forced them to get more organized which broke a lot of their popular power, but also did create a violent and specialized reactionary force and with a new wave of reactionaries in France they aren’t making the same mistakes in terms of imagery and blatant Nazi-Sympathizing.

People ask, “How did the alt-right happen?” and one of the answers is GamerGate and the answer to how that happened is that a space was created where people didn’t seriously challenge bullshit and that space was “gaming.” Likewise alt-right and neo-Nazi sentiments have proliferated in black metal because it is not seriously challenged.

It seems like we are entering an era in Olympia and possibly elsewhere where people have to first posit that they are “not fash” or “not pacifists” while being apologists for their sketchy friends or condemning direct action in their backyard. This could be a good thing. It could mean once people are able to get over the personal bs making them more willing to come out in support of future anti-fascism or direct action. It could also mean they will never be more than face-value anti-fascists or direct-actors. It could mean that we are more and more entering a recuperative and crypto era. Recuperative meaning seemingly positive projects used to make subjugating projects more pernicious and crypto meaning obscured or obfuscated true beliefs.

Fascist affinity is not always even very well hidden. Groups like Operation Werewolf (think cross-fit meets neo-Nazi black metal) have easily slid by in mainstream and alternative media let alone in supposedly radical and hip scenes despite being euro-supremacist etc. Eco-extremist knights-of-faith have gained many apologists in anarchist and nihilist circles, and some online egoists have been pulled into a sort of throw-back Nazi-sympathizing and bigoted reaction.

Recently, at a benefit party, a metal dude rocking Thor’s hammer and a battle-jacket with a Burzum back-patch was spotted (and) confronted by comrades about his Burzum patch. He sidestepped valid arguments that Varg Vikerness, the man behind Burzum, is a racist who demeans “mongoloids” etc., complains about arabs, and is a neo-Nazi sympathizer who routinely references Nazi groups etc. After this the Burzum fan began to show his cards and rant about how real diversity means keeping races separate yadda yadda yadda openly saying he was against “race-mixing.” People explained that they too were against assimilation into a mono-culture, but were also for desegregation, free association, and that being against race-mixing is racist because it devalues other races based on fallacious race theory. It was also argued that while cultural autonomy is a valid concern it is not relevant to “whites” as a whole both considering that they are the dominant group and that “whites” are hardly a coherent cultural unit. It was further explained that xenophobia and defense of culture are separate project and that multiculturalism is not about the destruction of autonomous cultural trends, but the proliferation of cultural trends and that “euro” cultural protectionism is a form of culture policing. When people countered with bio-diversity being about cross-pollination and such things, he again changed course and said something about European cultures being on the ropes. This argument was quickly shot down by someone who noted that European-ness is an advent of the solidification of Christian empire, and whiteness itself is the swan-song of autonomous European cultures whom were on a continuum with cultures throughout many continents. He began to make a counter about “the thing about Christianity is…” but this is where he was cut off and people insisted that he leave, but was no doubt going to talk about some sort of anti-semitic conspiracy. He then went outside the venue where heated arguments continued. One person said something along the lines of “I speak to the same gods as you, and they tell me you’re a racist motherfucker.” This continued until the reactionary metal-head’s friend who joined him viciously called someone a “faggot” and the rest is not my story to tell.

The idea that new people moving in, inherently threatens your cultural autonomy seems like a joke to anyone who has actually had to struggle to defend their culture. Our comrades who come from a long line of German Jews, Irish freedom-fighters, and so on are often the first to tell us the need to defend black liberation against the threat of segregation and anti-black racism. They also tell us of the need to welcome refugees drawing from their own histories as examples. Likewise turning a blind-eye to McDonaldsization and the culture-war tactics of picket-fence WASPs seems ridiculous. The reactionaries even act as if beckoning in the authoritarian police state required to enforce cultural norms and borders on the level they desire would not lead to an attack on free thought and free speech let alone the proliferation of freer life-ways.

These forces may not be as powerful as let’s say the state or capitalism, but they can poison our spaces and creating breeding grounds for our more lateral enemies. They can also become participants in statecraft or operate in tandem with the state like the proto-Nazi FreiKorps did or even what cops and neo-Nazis do today.

Also, let’s remember that it’s not just the right whom these ills spawn from; racist Odinism was revived, according to historian Goodrick-Clarke, in the 60s by an anarcho-syndicalist named Else Christensen.

Let us push these conversations and conflicts.

Let us take action to not allow authoritarian reactionaries to exist unchecked in our spaces and neutralize them if possible.

Let our banner be the blackest.

Let our fire be the hottest.

Let our blades be the sharpest.

Let our wisdom be the deepest.

Let our spirit be the wildest.

Let our will be the most indomitable.

Against the moralism of the reaction and the subjugations of nation-states and race.

Against priest-craft and state-craft.

Against the fash and their false critics.

Let’s not tolerate the subjugating control of authoritarian leftism, the passivity and friendly exploitation of liberalism, nor the oppression and repression of the right.

Chaos and Cosmos

Solve et Coagula

hurrah for anarchy

Stay tuned for a joint report on BMBS in Seattle eventually.

Further Reading

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