Now that you know that Wade Michael Page, the man alleged to have killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, played in a white-power punk rock band, you’re going to want to read Crispin Sartwell (warning: lots of offensive language) on this not-often-discussed underworld.
The anarchist philosopher excerpts from his book Political Aesthetics:
It is worth worrying about the use of fascist or Nazi symbolism in punk music and about explicitly white supremacist and anti-Semitic punk music of the kind issued by labels such as Die hard or Victory. When punks defined themselves as the opposite of hippies, they took on a right-wing politics by default, and many of the fundamental hardcore bands had moments that could be construed as right or white-wing. [Ian] MacKaye talked about being a “white minority”; DC was Chocolate City. The song was later appropriated by European white supremacists. Black Flag did a song called “Guilty of Being White,” in which they made fun of leftist guilt about racism. Seminal New York hardcore bands such as Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags flirted more enduringly with anti-pc themes, though they could not be termed fascist. The early LA hardcore band Fear featured hilarious and appalling racism and sexism …
Were I to try to give a serious reading of such material, it would go like this. It is parodic in the sense that it is not produced without an intentionality and distance that gives it the whiff of irony; it is specifically constructed or tailored as a provocation or an anthology of offenses, of forbidden words. On the other hand, the views expressed are not without effects, and one would be rash to say that the person who wrote this is not a potentially violent homophobe.
In the Ramones documentary End of the Century, the late Johnny Ramone explained frankly that he wanted the band’s music to be “white”: no minor chords, no hint of the blues tropes that defined mainstream rock-and-roll in the 1950s and which were deified by the Brits in the ’60s. Punk rock, in this sense, was supposed to be an all-American white-boy music. Johnny was intellectualizing, though. One can easily imagine how this self-styled white-boy music, in lesser hands, could degenerate into something more repugnantly literal-minded. And it did.
While researching “England’s Dreaming,” he recalls noticing the concurrence of the Sex Pistols’ single “Holidays in the Sun” with the 1977 hijacking by the Baader-Meinhof terrorists of a Lufthansa airlines flight.
“I thought, if I had been the same age in Germany at that point, would I have actually gotten involved in that?” wonders Mr. Savage. “I was absolutely appalled. And I was glad about the fact that in Britain at that particular point, we didn’t have a youth culture of political extremism. We had a youth culture, if you like, of aesthetic extremism. That was the crucial difference.”
The social space for aesthetic extremism is something that neither conservatives nor p.c. progressive liberals are crazy about tolerating. As Sartwell notes, it’s a space that confusedly jumbles notions of left and right. And every so often, someone like Wade Michael Page comes along and confirms everyone’s worst suspicions about it.