CNN caused an uproar earlier this week when it ran a hastily-slapped-together story on racist hate bands in knee-jerk reaction to Sunday's utterly reprehensible Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In the story, columnist Lonnie Nasatir lumped Cookie Monster-metal band Hatebreed in with various white power acts, and boy, were Hatebreed and their fans ever unhappy.
Which is, of course, perfectly understandable; nobody wants to be lumped in with a bunch of backwards-ass goose-stepping illiterates if they can possibly help it. CNN has printed a retraction, but Nasatir has yet to offer his own apology. He's in an awkward position, but we think most people would understand if he just owned up, said "my bad" and moved on, don't you?
Of course, there were steps he could have taken to keep from making the mistake in the first place. For instance:
1. Not Every Band With "Hate" In the Name Is a "Hate Band"
A very superficial mistake to make. After all, there are plenty of ways to hate. Our favorite has always been misanthropy, the equal hatred of all homo sapiens, regardless of what color they happen to be.
Luddite bands who hate technology are big right now, mostly because scouring second-hand shops for antique celestas and old reel-to-reel four-track recorders is super fun. The fact of the matter is, most forms of hatred have nothing whatsoever to do with race.
2. Racist Bands Love Big, Tough German Words
Neo-nazis make up a huge section of the modern racist movement, so naturally you gotta figure they'll be all about where Nazi-ism sprang to life in the first place: Germany. But hold the phone -- not just any German word will do; neo-nazi bands only want the tough words, like the word for "blood" (blut) or "corpse" (leiche) or "sword" (schwert) or "totally awesome badass tiger that breathes fire and hates minorities and is also half-robot but a robot built by white people" (translation pending).
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Self-Defense Note: if confronted by neo-nazis, reminding them that they're soft, suburban Americans who have never even been to Germany will make them physically deflate by at least 50 pounds.
3. Racist Bands Love Nordic Shit, Too
Skinheads and neo-nazis alike share Hitler's affinity for the Nordic people, who to him embodied the genetic "perfection" of the Aryan race. The terminology they use will be something to do with either vikings, the Norse gods, or both.
They never delve too deeply into the storied, proud history and culture of the Nordic people because if these goons were into genuine cultural learning, they wouldn't be a bunch of ignorant fucking racists. References to valkyries and more than one guitar solo quoting heavily from Wagner are big red flags.
4. See Skinheads? Make Sure They Aren't SHARPs
When people hear the term "skinhead," they usually picture your garden variety shorn-pated white nationalist. However, the original skinhead subculture that began in England in the late 1960s had significant influences from the soul, mod, ska, and reggae movements, often going arm-in-arm with ska-loving Jamaican rude boys. Nobody understands the skinheads' multicultural origins better than the SHARPs, or Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, a group of people who dress in the skinhead style but who are devoted to returning the skinhead image to its multiracial working-class beginnings.
Rocks Off's young 15-year-old mind was blown when, while attending a hardcore oi show at notable punk cesspool The Abyss, he spied several black skinheads and several white skinheads show up right after one another. Expecting violence, we were instead treated to a beautiful display of brotherhood when the differently-hued skinheads began hugging one another in greeting and slam-dancing arm in arm. To this day it remains one of the most life-affirming moments we've ever witnessed, only slightly tarnished in our mind's eye by The Abyss' ever-present vomit odor.
The term "SHARP" once referred to a specific organization, but now seems to apply to anyone who takes on the skinhead style but opposes racism. This, of course, makes uninformed assumptions iffy at best.
5. Seriously, Though: Research Is Your Friend
The rules above are good guidelines, but none of them are foolproof catch-alls, so if you think you have a likely candidate, you've still got to research the living shit out of it before you start making accusations.
For instance, many people accuse the band Rammstein of being racist due to their military-evoking beats and video imagery -- plus their name means "ramming stone" in German, I mean, come on -- yet a little bit of research shows that not only have the band repeatedly disavowed any association with racism, they've even released songs which refuted the claims and identified themselves in no uncertain terms to be on the "left" side of the political spectrum. We're talking far-left, workers-of-the-world-unite, communist kind of political leanings, and guess who killed the most Nazis of anyone? The Commies.
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Plus Rammstein's stage show is more than homoerotic enough to make any devoted Nazi's skin crawl. Yes, despite an affinity for shirtless muscled dudes stomping around in combat boots together, racists remain steadfastly anti-gay. Somebody else clue them in, please, Rocks Off doesn't have the patience today.
We shouldn't have to say this, but if you're going to write a sentence like "racist bands such as" and then start listing bands, you should be well and truly versed in the exact nature of each and every band on that list. Forget to do that, and you'll find yourself owing apologies to a guy who sings like Cookie Monster because he totally sounds like a demon, bro and it's totally way scary. That is not a position you want to be in.