THE AUSTERITY PROGRAM’S JUSTIN FOLEY ON THE GOLDEN DAWN PARTY, NAER MATARON, AND THE PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF METAL MUSIC
TL/DR: Political pals of a moronic black metal guy are steppin’ up the hate in Greece. This makes other folks think that all weird metal just may have right-wing totalitarianism in its DNA. Justin calls shenanigans on this link but notes that the only way to make folks understand is to be vocal that stupid people are being stupid. Also, at least half Van Canto have soulpatches now and they are still terrible.
A week or two ago, the New York Times ran a depressing article about Golden Dawn, a right-wing nationalist party that has a small but growing presence in Greece’s fractured political landscape. You may remember these guys from a piece that Axl wrote about one of their newly-elected parliamentary members, Giorgos Germeni. Giorgos also happens to play bass for a black metal band called Naer Mataron. Well, the main point of the NYT article is that immigrants in Greece are now facing physical threats and even beatings from folks who are pretty well associated with Golden Dawn, even as party spokespeople deny their involvement and minimize the seriousness of human beings getting bullied by witless vigilantes.
First, a brief aside to quickly laugh at how dumb Giorgos and his band come off. Exhibit A: He claims that illegal immigrants hold 3 million jobs (in a country of 11 million people and a 22.5% unemployment rate). “So if we deport all of them – BAM! – 3 million jobs for Real Greeks!” Dumbass. Not to muddy up his economic argument with obscure ideas like “supply and demand”, but what role does he imagine those alleged 3 million “illegal job holders” currently play in the Greek economy? You know, to their landlords or to the people who sell them groceries or babysit for their kids? What evidence does he have that deleting their participation in the economy would be anything other than a disaster for those ‘True Greeks’ who actually do business with them? Exhibit B: The band’s statement saying “we are non-political and we will sue you if you say otherwise”. Uh, no, you’re not non-political. Your loudly-broadcasted political orientation is to be a fucking crybaby who will go bawling to Mommy Police State when someone calls you names. You love the status quo so much that you can’t wait for it to swoop in and solve your perceived problems for you.
Anyway, back to Golden Dawn. Some of the commenters on Axl’s article mealy-mouthed along, trying to draw a sympathetic parallel between thorny issues in US immigration policy and Golden Dawn’s defining xenophobia. Fuck that. These guys are crypto fascists with a hard-on for the Third Reich, despite their weird attempts to sugar coat it. They adopt the symbolism and language of past reactionary totalitarian movements. They appeal to fantasy ideas of racial/cultural purity to divide and conquer. And as the most recent article shows, they’re just happy to try to win their way with a baseball bat as they are at the ballot box. Others have sold this snake oil before and they always try to use the ambiguity of particulars to mask what it is: right wing fascism that was most heartily employed by Germany’s National Socialists. Same shit, new vintage and categorically wrong as always.*
If you’re still with me and you agree that this is a bad thing (and the fact that some folks give consideration to this clown’s arguments means that I’m not talking to everyone) you may ask: so what’s the point? Greece is in the goddam soup at the moment; it’s sad but not surprising that there’s an audience for reactionary hate-mongering. Why point out the obvious – that fringe political elements gain a wider audience when resources become scarce?
What’s funny is the way that some other folks are reacting to this fool being in a black metal band. This Public Radio International article notes that the Greek media are scrambling to find the connection between fascism and metal. This (Spanish)article in El Mundo comments on Giorgos’s musical life after noting that he was used as a bouncer/bully at a GD press conference. (He apparently insisted that members of the press stand in deference when the party’s top bozo entered the room and then kicked out at least one journo who wouldn’t comply). This Athens News article presents ‘heavy metal makeup’ and ‘smiling pictures next to an Auswitchz oven’ as equivalent reasons to be very, very afraid of Golden Dawn’s ascent.
They all are wrong in making this association. Despite the sciolism** of some of the genre’s early Scandinavian pioneers, there’s nothing that inherently links black metal (or any kind of metal, or any kind of music) to being a racist dickhead. Music is not embedded with a morality or political orientation. Even the strong cultural ties associated with a music sound or scene are malleable. Skrewdriver, for example, broadcast their racist dickheadedness over a mutated form of rock music, the roots of which come from African slave music that incubated in the markets of New Orleans. And even if every black metal pioneer was as firm a believer in the glory of Nordic purity as Count Grishnackh (they weren’t), that doesn’t mean that Deafheaven should now be on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s watch-list. As much as rabid fans of 80’s DC Hardcore may not want to hear it, the music is not the message. (Deafheaven are awesome, by the way.)
But while this is clear to the erudite and stunningly good-looking folks who write for and read Metalsucks, it is not so obvious to others. Big, fancy accredited colleges like the University of Melboune make unfounded claims linking heavy metal to anti-social and sick behavior. So most folks who hear about Greek dude’s bullshit politics and then see a picture of him in corpsepaint are likely to make an association like “weird metal = neo-Nazi”. And although black metal and noisy abrasive music may deliberately, intentionally repel almost everyone, this dissociation is not due to or indelibly tied to being a bigoted scumbag.
Point is that it is up to us who understand this to make our case. Like it or not, people are intellectually lazy and like to rely on things like guilt by association. Sure, you may love in the scornful looks you get when you wear your Unlubricated Sodomy shirt to the Mall of America because you hate squares. Whatever, that’s harmless. I’m much more bothered about being association with buffoons like Germeni just because we happen to like some of the same bands. The best way to stop others from wrongly making this link is to call out racists for what they are and make it clear that their politics have no claim on the music that’s important to us. Hopefully Greece will come to a place soon where this barrel-chested ignorance will die quickly on the vine and GG can go back to working on his kabuki makeup full time.
* I guess I didn’t have to say ‘as always’ since I already said ‘categorically’, but consider it a deliberate mistake for stylistic emphasis.
** I just learned this word and have been using it lately every chance I get.***
*** Yes, I appreciate the irony.
Justin Foley plays guitar and sings for the Austerity Program. Their record Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn is out now. Visit them online at www.austerityprogram.com. All messages about urban bike riding, vegetarian BBQ, and monetary policy will be answered first. You can also get a list of their upcoming tour dates here.