I know it's only rock and roll - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #223

Good evening.

You are an idiot.

You are small minded, stupid, lazy, incapable of deciphering meaning, and incapable of holding an idea in your head without accepting it. You are easily lead, and incapable of telling the difference between fiction and reality. If you’re an adult, you’re an immature one, and if you’re a parent you’re definitely a very bad one.

I on the other hand, am an enlightened and intelligent critical mind who can carefully analyse the things I see and hear. You’re lucky I’m here to tell you what is and isn’t good for you, because otherwise you might expose yourself to something violent, like the dangerous rhythms of Jazz, or Lady Chatterley’s Lover with awful use of the word ‘cunt’. See, isn’t it an awful word? Cunt. You can’t read it, but I can. I can discuss it at length, even in a courtroom. In fact, I think I will, just so you can’t. Because unlike me, it might affect you.

Don’t even get me started on the latest round, you’ve got violent video games (I played, them, they are far too violent for you, trust me) and some video nasties (I’ve made a list of all the films you can’t see). Oh and music, so much music. You’ve got that dreadful hip hop, all the more dangerous because of them; and black metal is probably the worst. So you shan’t be having any of that.

Doesn’t sound so nice when censorship is explained thusly does it? That extended rant was inspired by the news that [sigh] ‘National Socialist Black Metal’ band Satanic Warmaster are currently scrabbling around Glasgow looking for a venue for their first UK gig. Lyrically repulsive and musically tedious, I don’t really care whether they find anywhere or not, but the black metal veteran’s first UK gig sold out before Audio, their original venue, dropped the band over their ‘views’, saying in a statement: “At the time of booking we were unaware of the bands views and only later came to full light after various people / sources contacted us and it was looked into properly. The venue hire was an external booking and the band were not booked directly by the venue.” This is also fine. Audio is a private business and if they don’t want to host Satanic Warmaster, our rights of free speech mean they can refuse to do so.

The much more troubling side of things is the apparent well-meaning but misdirected antifascist keyboard militia that has been roused by the show’s announcement. A statement from Gigs in Glasgow, the promoters, mentions “receiving a lot of hassle regarding the show. Not all direct but the show itself is being bashed extremely by other groups”, but nobly says: “we believe the UK and Central European Black Metal Community / Scene deserves such a rare / special event as these shows don't happen often.”

I suppose this article goes out to the courageous Antifascists who seem to have taken the internet pastime of shooting fish in a barrel. I have a question: do you think if we expended as much energy decrying the murder of every child that died in the most recent Israeli conflict with Palestine as we did Cecil the lion, we’d be closer to a peace process? I do. I think the reason certain stripes of internet activism are so keen to jump onto tiny bandwagon issues is that they can be won. Crushing the alarming rise of the hateful right wing across Europe is difficult, but putting the thumb on a venue and getting a band cancelled is short, sweet, and might actually work, and you get an uncomplicated victory to feel good about. Please don’t do that. By and large the metal community will be behind your anti-fascist activities but this band didn’t vote for Nigel Farage or daub swastikas on the supports of train bridges, and beating them will harden those already opposed to your cause and distract from the real activism that can really change things.

And for the antifascists, there’s a story about Cannibal Holocaust, how Marty Whitehouse and her group of wannabe-book-banners received a letter telling them about a repulsive new film called Cannibal Holocaust, and she frequently namechecked it in interviews and writings, and it became one of the hottest videos to collect. That original letter was from the films creators, and she gave them more mainstream publicity than they could ever have dreamed of.

And venues in Glasgow, you’ve got your own conscience to reconcile of course, but I’d advise you to take a punt on Satanic Warmaster, they’re a mucky, classic little band; but art can be troubling and difficult, and toy and play with themes not even the makers and audience is comfortable with; and deploy those ideas in a realm where they can be comfortably explored. It is possible to grapple with art without endorsing it, to experience a show without supporting it. Our freedom of speech protects Satanic Warmaster, in that if they express their ideas peacefully; and it protects your venues from being forced to be a literal stage for their views if you object. Culture isn’t monolithic, it’s a single evolving conversation and in a tiny way, the tinny racket of Warmaster is a vital and extreme part of that conversation. If no venue is comfortable with hosting them, or if no audience exists for the band, the market has spoken, but I hope this can be resolved amicably and a tiny part of the human experiment can be allowed to occur. In the words of another once-nearly-banned act: It’s only rock and roll.

Written under duress by Steven.

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