Nazi Metal Drummer the Focus of New York Times Feature on White Nationalism in the U.S.
In July of 2015 MetalSucks ran a story on Tony Hovater, a resident of New Carlisle, OH (near Dayton) — and a white nationalist with overtly racist views — who planned to run for a city council position on the Traditional Worker’s Party ticket. Hovater was previously the drummer of a terrible metalcore band, The Paramedic, and although he never ended up filing papers to run for election, the story attracted the attention of several metal publications and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Hovater now finds himself at the center of a national controversy as the subject of an in-depth New York Times piece released this weekend that aimed to shed light on the normalization of white nationalism in America in the age of Trump but has drawn harsh criticism for allegedly painting a benign picture of a Nazi.
While I certainly understand the criticism the piece is taking, I think it serves as an important reminder that evil doesn’t necessarily appear so on the surface, and that even folks who were previously liberal and are big fans of Seinfeld (for example) can become some of the most hateful people this country has ever seen. White nationalism is literally everywhere in America, and this piece serves to highlight one of the many forms it can come in. Plenty of other articles in the Times cover the victims of hate crimes and paint a deservedly disgusting picture of racist hatred; this one offered something else.
In any case, the article once again thrusts metal into the spotlight in a less than desirable way. It equates Hovater’s association with metal as just as “extreme” as his political views:
“Before white nationalism, his world was heavy metal. He played drums in two bands, and his embrace of fascism, on the surface, shares some traits with the hipster’s cooler-than-thou quest for the most extreme of musical subgenres. Online, he and his allies can also give the impression that their movement is one big laugh — an enormous trolling event put on by self-mocking, politically incorrect kids playing around on the ash heap of history.”
And it suggests metalheads are often disaffected, ordinary people likely to sympathize with white nationalism:
“His faith in mainstream solutions slipped as he toured the country with one of the metal bands. ‘I got to see people who were genuinely hurting,’ he said. ‘We played coast to coast, but specifically places in Appalachia, and a lot of the Eastern Seaboard had really been hurt.'”
I shouldn’t need to tell you the dangers this kind of language poses to the metal community; we’ve been dealing with it ever since Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris tore their way through a high school in suburban Colorado with semi-automatic weapons and were revealed to be fans of Marilyn Manson. Even before that, metal has often been linked with disaffected youth with inclinations towards violent behavior. The New York Times article does the metal community no favors. Here we go again.
Then again, Hovater’s old band The Paramedic does the metal community no favors either. Not only is their music terrible, but they don’t seem to be the brightest bulbs in the bunch. When Hovater was mulling seeking public office back in 2015, The Paramedic issued a statement in response to the backlash against their association with him, even though he was no longer a member:
“How can we be a white supremacist band when our vocalist isn’t white? Don’t feed into the bullshit. Some companies just have to stoop that low to get people to click on their stories. It’s a shame, really. There is so much going on in music that won’t get covered. There are so many amazing bands that deserve attention for all the right reasons. And no one will ever know, because these music ‘news’ magazines are too busy trying to shit on hard working bands just to get people to buy their new issue. We’re just going to say what’s up to our haters real quick and keep making music for the fans to love.”
Which strikes me as the wrong way to go about responding. If Hovater was no longer a member, what did they have to worry about? They simply should’ve said as much and been done with it. Their assertion that people who aren’t white can’t be white supremacists is also completely wrong. The Paramedic have not issued any statements in response to the recent New York Times piece.
We’ve all come to learn over the past several years that white supremacism still has a strong footprint in metal. Let’s work together to make sure it’s not the prevalent image of metal being painted in the national media.