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We Respectfully Disagree with Decibel‘s Guest Column About How SJWs are Destroying Extreme Music

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The conversation about politics and political movements within the metal scene is, in my opinion, an important one. It’s an ongoing discussion about which I’ve written multiple editorials, and which I think needs to continue as metal music and the culture surrounding it evolves. There’s no single right answer (except perhaps, “Priest rules”), and I’m not sure there ever will be.

But yesterday, Decibel posted a guest column by Jeffrey S. Podoshen, who is an Associate Professor of Business, Organizations & Society at Franklin and Marshall College, titled, “Does The Underground Metal Scene Really Have A Social Justice Warrior Problem?” And in it, Podoshen entirely misses the point, and perpetuates a stereotypical idea which displays a lack of nuance or analytical thought.

Podoshen’s column seems to be written as a supplement to the latest column by Krieg’s Neill Jameson, in which Jameson discusses a recent Taake show where a self-sworn member of Antifa, an anti-fascist action movement, set off some sort of pepper spray bomb. The action was, we assume, in response to the questionable past of Taake frontman Hoest–we don’t know, because the pepper sprayer ran off like a coward (there are some great digs at him/her in the column).

Jameson’s argument is that this did nothing to help the discussion of inclusivity and politics within extreme metal; instead it could have caused a dangerous rush for the door, and if anything it only hardened extreme music fans’ resolve against organizations like Antifa (who, for the record, have distanced themselves from the pepper sprayer):

This isn’t in defense of Hoest’s alleged ranting or the picture of him with the swastika. I’m entirely for freedom of speech and expression, I think it’s one of the only principles this country was founded on that will always apply. But I’m also a firm believer that freedom of speech does not come without freedom from consequence. If you spout off something someone finds grossly offensive, then don’t be surprised if they don’t shove your teeth down your throat. But this didn’t really hit its target, did it? Instead it punished people who were there to see a few bands, get drunk and probably piss in their Uber on the ride home.

It’s a really good column. You should definitely read it. The thing is, where Jameson’s column is smart, honest, and gets to the point, Podoshen’s column is vague, cliched, and willfully ignorant.

Podoshen begins by using the scene from Until The Light Takes Us where Satyricon’s Frost brutally cuts himself as an example of why extreme metal is “dangerous art,” and then talks about how Social Justice Warriors are trying to destroy free speech with self-serving politics. But this totally ignores context, and it’s lazy in its descriptions.

First of all, Frost harms himself in that footage–he doesn’t go after a group of historically-marginalized people, or promote the harm of such a group. There’s a difference between seeing a performance that’s shocking and one that suddenly makes you scared to be in the venue where it’s happening due to the color of your skin or your sexual orientation.

More so, he uses Social Justice Warrior in a way that illustrates that he didn’t take the time to research the culture he’s talking about. The term ‘SJW’ is, these days, usually just a replacement from ’emo kid.’ And hey, if you want to argue that metal has a problem with people being pussies, you might be on to something. But instead, Podoshen declares that these SJWs are in fact a growing plague within extreme music, ready to snuff out good art for the sake of their own agendas:

“Many of these folks fall into the ‘scene tourist’ category, merely moving from scene to scene with the stated goal of increasing diversity—yet are closely appended to a myriad of politicking activities. The ultimate goal for many of these individuals is to cleanse the scene of the aspects they find objectionable, congratulate themselves and move on… with a maybe a promotion or three towards their blogs, zines, books, politics and events.”

That scene tourist argument is bullshit. The majority of the people I know who fight for political change in metal culture–the MetalSucks staff included–are active members of the metal scene. We go to shows, promote bands we love, and talk shit about bands we think are bigots and assholes. Jameson makes a point of mentioning about how the pepper sprayer at the Taake show was a dickhead, no matter who he allied himself with, and that he was giving inclusionary politics a bad name. Podoshen, meanwhile, creates this image of the SJW as a false metalhead and millennial who just cares about his social media accounts. It’s a tired, cheap, and sensational way of describing a group of people.

Podoshen closes by implying that it’s on the listener if they feel uncomfortable when listening to certain bands, throwing in another overused catchphrase when he says that real life is “often without trigger warnings and without a place to run to” (yeah, I saw that episode of South Park, too). But honestly, the metal scene ain’t the real world. It’s a culture of our own design, an artistic sanctuary from the shittiness of everyday life and the normal people in it. So it’s understandable why plenty of people who love it are sick of being discriminated against, or told it’s not for them because of who they are, or shown symbols that stand for movements intent on harming them. They have everyone else doing that to them all the time–what’s wrong with wanting metal to be different?

At the end of the day, you’ve got to take people in extreme metal on a case-by-case basis. Anyone who’s been involved in the culture long enough knows that the whole “brotherhood of metal” thing is bullshit; some metalheads are good people, and some are jackasses. The pepper sprayer at the Taake show was a jackass, no matter what political movement he allied himself with. But Podoshen wants us to believe in this polished, hackneyed image of the SJW, the kind of black-and-white ideal we’re already fed by politicians and religious groups. He wants to defend free speech, but he’s too lazy to engage in an actual dialogue.

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