High-Decibel Hate

New York Times/August 20, 2001
By Bob Herbert

You kill all the niggers, and you gas all the Jews, Kill a gypsy and a Commie, too. You just killed a kike, don't it feel right? Goodness gracious, Third Reich."

The hatemongers have gone global, aided by the Internet and the unmistakable drawing power of white power music. The music is mostly an amateurish mix of punk and heavy metal, with "vocalists" screaming and screeching lyrics like those above (from a song called "Third Reich," recorded by the Canadian band Rahowa, which is short for Racial Holy War).

White power music is a growing phenomenon. Hammerfest 2000 didn't get a lot of news coverage, but it was the most successful white power concert in the U.S. last year. It was held in October and drew racist skinheads galore to the town of Bremen, Ga., which has a population of 4,500 and is about 50 miles west of Atlanta.

Local officials are still embarrassed and reluctant to talk about the event. The two-day concert was a raging success for hard-core fans of Hitler and lynching and the developing ideology of "pan-Aryanism." A group called the Bully Boys drove the Nazi-saluting crowd into a frenzy with a song called "Six Million More." And all other references to the extermination of Jews and gays and the mass killing of blacks were warmly received.

The Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the activities of hate groups, reported that "Hammerfest 2000 drew fans from Austria, Canada, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as from across the United States. The concert culminated months of worldwide networking by sponsors Panzerfaust Records and Resistance Records, the premier neo-Nazi music labels in the U.S."

Call it the commodification of hate. In the new world order, everybody's an entrepreneur. It's just that some products are more egregious than others. The music helps the hatemongers in a number of ways.

Proceeds from concerts, compact discs and related items help finance the operations of major neo-Nazi and racist revolutionary groups. And in conjunction with the Internet and the cheap air fares that have eased international travel, the music has helped link racist groups throughout Europe and the Americas.

"The music has also been terribly, terribly important in bringing young kids into this movement," said Mark Potok, who edits Intelligence Report, a magazine published by the Intelligence Project.

More than anything else, he said, the music is luring the new recruits. The crowds at the concerts sing along, dance, hurl one another into mosh pits, salute swastikas and shout "Heil Hitler."

"I've talked to many people who have come out of this movement," Mr. Potok said. "To a man and to a woman, they say it was the music, more than any other influence, that brought them to the movement in the first place."

The latest edition of Intelligence Report notes that "Internet-based `radio' shows stream racist music around the world at all hours of the day. In the U.S., racist music from 123 domestic bands and 229 foreign ones is available online from more than 40 distributors."

Impressionable youngsters in Jackson, Miss., in Oldham, England (where race riots erupted in May), or in Krakow, Poland, can listen to the same racist music - songs about barbecuing Turks or hunting blacks or torturing Jews. The world is already ablaze with ethnic and religious hatred. So hate music, which deliberately encourages the violent tendencies of its practitioners and its fans, is fuel for an already raging fire.

In the United States this music is protected by the same Constitution that allows me to speak freely in this column. So this is not a call for censorship. What is important is that people of good will be made aware of a phenomenon so corrosive to a free society. It shouldn't be allowed to flourish in the dark. You don't want to censor this garbage. But you do want to throw a spotlight on it.

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