We’re getting into the swing of 2018 but partying like it’s 2016. As many people who’re glued to their phones have probably seen; Antifa has put pressure on venues in NYC and Chicago to cancel performances of the Taake/King Dude tour. While I think it’s a step in the right direction to go from lobbing tear gas into a show to a more peaceful method of disruption (if you forget the threats to venues about ruining their livelihoods, but baby steps, I guess) it’s still not doing the organization any favors with public perception. While I’m aware that’s not their goal, it’s certainly an important bullet point they should discuss at their next meeting, probably in between coffee and book burnings.
It’s been a busy few years for Antifa and with good reason: America elected a pack of orange-flavored Viagra with literacy dysfunction into office, which has emboldened many sub-literate underachievers in this country to believe that the lie their teachers told them that they could be anything might actually be more than something to reassure their crying parents their kids are special, just in that derogatory way. The sales of white polos and khakis have risen but the money from this hot new fashion trend hasn’t trickled down to job growth. Every time we turn on the news, it’s something toxic. Every time we get on Facebook it’s either unsolicited pictures of dicks (if you’re female) or the lack of response if you’re the male who sent it. It’s also a morass of misinformation, memes, people who think because it snowed this year that the climate is fine and that it’s somehow not the NRA’s fault that mass shootings keep happening. It makes 2016 seem quaint almost.
What I’m getting at is that there’s a lot to fight out there and both sides are aggressively pushing their agendas. Which makes something like having the Taake shows cancelled because of one idiotic act that happened years ago seem like a misfire. Or an easy target with an easy victory. A cheap shot. Energy that could have been directed elsewhere, especially during an election year.
I’ll admit, I was a bit surprised by this development. Taake has toured here way too much in the last few years with the only incident being the one I outlined two years ago. I even thought they took King Dude on the tour with them as an insurance policy in case something like this was brought up. Am I sympathizing with Hoest for painting a swastika on his chest trying to be shocking? No. Plus, he’s an adult and probably should have figured that shit wasn’t the best judgment call, but I don’t expect much from a man who is totally fine with his dick poking through his jeans like that’s what Levi’s original design plan was meant to do. At this point Taake’s known just as much for having a mouth harp as they are for the shock rock antics of their frontman, sort of a Carpathian Forest for the iPhone generation. But seeing people demonize him while posting GG Allin memes like that’s somehow different and acceptable behavior is goddamned infuriating. So is seeing people who have tried to explain they’re morons but not Nazis over and over again every year or labels trying to explain they didn’t vet absolutely everything in their distro for offensiveness. There’s actual Nazi rallies in this country now. I think that’s more of a threat than a mediocre band that did something stupid to be provocative years ago, but that might just be me.
Antifa has a pretty striking public image these days. For people who are less of an organized group and more of an overarching socio-political philosophy, I can understand how demoralizing it is and how potentially damaging to that philosophy it may be. It wasn’t even a matter of hours before people started spreading disinformation that the Florida school shooter was a member of Antifa. Same with various other violent instances in the last 18 months. Antifa has become a strawman for the far right, which then gets fed through that lens to the moderates and centrists to spread fear of anyone left-leaning. And instances like this, or Marduk shows being protested, or the numerous other disruptions aren’t helping anyone EXCEPT the far right.
You see, metal — black metal, especially — already has a weird relationship with punk culture and politics. And while not everyone involved is a ride-or-die “HAIL METAL \m/” kind of slow, not everyone is either educated or interested in politics on either spectrum. This doesn’t mean they’re not open to it, they just aren’t there yet. By shutting down shows for popular bands you’ve just increased the motivation of the people who were stoked for the show for weeks to turn against you. At minimum, it means you’ve lost ears to speak to and try to convince; at worst, you’ve given people on the fence about right wing politics a reason to walk that way. To use an analogy that’s both entirely inappropriate AND appropriate, you’re basically using a drone strike to take out a few tactical targets but creating villages of enemies through it.
People wanted me to write about the Graveland incident last year in Montreal and I declined, even though nothing fills the void in my life more than reading myself think. While I didn’t personally agree with the action, it made a lot more sense for Antifa to go after a Graveland show than fucking Morbosidad or any of the other bands that had nothing to do with the NSBM sideshow. I’m not writing this as a defense for Taake or Graveland or even the stupid shit I’ve done in the past. Our freedom of speech means that we need to be accountable for what pours out of our head, from the most genius ideas to our most bed-shitting abortions of thoughts. As artists we’re all big girls and boys when it comes to this. I’m speaking directly to the Antifa collective this time: This kind of shit isn’t going to win you any new fans in this scene and is just going to make you more of the go-to boogeyman when someone with an American Flag emoji in their Twitter handle needs someone to scapegoat. And in a time where progressive thought is in high demand but short supply it just seems like a misuse of resources. Unless your goal is to have people absolutely fucking hate you. If it is then you’ve won and will be added to Webster’s definition of “irony” unless all of them are burned first for containing offensive language.