I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, but for those of you still waiting for your Uber there altogether, I’ll fill you in. Shortly after the election of Trump, MetalSucks released a site manifesto—the name alluding to Marx’s 1848 tour deforce—which basically proclaimed that they believe this, that, and the third, and won’t give much air time to bands who believe in x, y, and z. You can read it for yourself here: http://www.metalsucks.net/2016/11/16/metalsucks-manifesto/
A lot of political discourse has occurred since then. Bitches got their undercuts ruffled, Melania joined the sad girls’ club, and the GW failed to negotiate a plastic poncho – and the internet went wild. After reflecting on it all, I have finally been able to determine what it is about MetalSucks’ manifesto that I find problematic as a living, breathing leftist.
Just to highlight my point of view even more: I identify as an anarcho-communist ideally and democratic socialist realistically. I stood clapping passionately in a crowd before Bernie Sanders, who I proudly casted my vote for in the primaries. I’ve lived in various areas of Baltimore throughout my life where I’ve witnessed racially-rooted socioeconomic inequality that is impossible to ignore. I’m also a prime time Millennial, having given the middle finger to cable TV and napkins long ago so that I can afford my non-dairy latte that I can’t function without. Seriously, if you think you need to literally use your money dollars to buy something else that serves the same purpose as a paper towel you’re a little Walter Cronkite ass bitch who needs to be woken the fuck up.
I don’t claim to speak for all leftists. I also don’t intend to speak for everyone here in the Graveyard. Not only did my baby girl, Robin, have her own thoughts on this matter in her year end list, but having sitewide bibles that every writer adheres to is a bit too Cool-Aidey for our taste. So I, Jenna Giselle, believe this manifesto to be bad news with good intentions, and for reasons states:
- It’s alienating
Okay, so check it out: there’s this term in sociology called privatized liberalism, and you’re probably more familiar with it than you think. It’s that Whole Foods, re-charge your crystals enclave that lives in exclusivity despite preaching equality and acceptance. It involves a lot of preaching to the choir in lieu of constructive action, and it’s a bubble I’d like to distance myself from. I will admit, if you read my piece about neckbeards, you’ll recall that I repeatedly unfriended someone with different political beliefs after their continual re-adding, but some people are just little shits and trying to change that is time misspent (as highlighted by the fact that the man in question hit on me when I was underaged and likes to carry on like a rockstar primadonna).
But, that has not, and will not, be my main course of action when negotiating difference in political belief. Take, for instance, a good friend of mine — she professed thoughts on race that I found problematic, but I didn’t choose to combat them by tuning her out. One night when we were in my house talking, she broached the subject of her confusion regarding why white people can’t say the n-word without issues, while black people can. I had two choices. I could take the MetalSucks route and evict her from my bubble, or I could respectfully explain another world view. I drew a parallel to how a man calling a woman a bitch cuts much sharper than we call each other the same word out of affection or in jest, and then went on to explain how this reality fits into larger patterns of historical sexism. And you know what? She got it, and it was beyond cool (Editor’s note: It’s very hard to engage in any type of political discourse or education to someone when you are screaming in their face).
MetalSucks asserts that metal should be a voice for the disenfranchised, and I enthusiastically agree. Elitism within metal has gotten out of hand in my experience, and there should be dialogues about how inequality should be combatted within music, outside of music, as well as within their intersection. The issue here is this: stating we believe x, y, and z and we won’t tolerate your intolerance doesn’t create the prime environment for dialogue and discourse, which, in point seven MetalSucks claims they want to provide a home for. If anything, it makes the people we want to educate give us even less of a chance. Personally, I love a good, healthy back and forth, too, but that’s /why/ I refrain from unfriending Facebook friends who profess different political beliefs than my own instead of viewing troubling language as a trigger for the delete gun.
Hell, a rando white nationalist added me out of nowhere the other day. And you know what? I accepted, because accepting his online presence does not mean accepting his beliefs; it means welcoming a space to challenge them by leading by example. Maybe, just maybe, I might post or share something that’ll make him think twice about something. Maybe he’ll see me interacting amicably with my friends of diverse color, sexuality and gender and see that division isn’t the natural order of things, as many neo-Nazis profess. MetalSucks might argue that these are naive hopes; but, I would suggest that burying their heads in the sand about paradigms that conflict with their own by essentially “unfriending” bands from the MetalSucks site is even more futile.
- It’s fuel for the alt-right fire
Real talk: when fighting fascism, it’s generally good to not make ourselves look like the fascists. Unfortunately, MetalSucks brazenly states in point five that “artists who espouse our values will continue to get preferential coverage.” Such a tactic can be perceived as a form of censorship, and censoring the arts is precisely what the Nazis did. Yes, censoring nazi rhetoric is certainly better than the alternative, but alt-righters could easily brush over that part and use evidence of censorship, period, to make us look like the bad guys. As crushingly difficult it is to suppress our urges to be petty, we can’t stoop to other people’s levels. When we proclaim ourselves to be “proud SJW’s” who don’t want to fuck with anyone who doesn’t believe as we do, we are perpetuating the stereotype that all leftists are wimps who want to sanitize culture to meet our personal standards of political correctness.
Not only does working within this stereotype make people take us less seriously, it’s simply ineffective activism; closing your eyes and wishing something away isn’t going to bring disappearance into fruition. I mean shit, look how well that turned out in Bye Bye Man. Spoiler alert: everyone dies. Instead, we need to put in the proper work in order to produce meaningful change. SJW is also a term we should be distancing ourselves from due to its negative connotations. If you want to hijack it and turn it into a badge of honor, then you can’t go around espousing rhetoric that lives up to every keyboard warrior stereotype.
To further illustrate this point, I’d like to offer a case study. Back around election time, a Facebook friend of mine posted a picture of a young woman cheesing big in a Graveland shirt with the caption “aw, what a cute little Nazi.” He went on to accuse her of obliviously wearing the shirt only for fashion. But, as another user pointed out, perhaps she is aware of Graveland’s alleged white nationalist leanings but doesn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater because hey, she still enjoys their music. Fuck, I listen to Graveland occasionally(Editor’s note: I do too). I listen to Burzum, too (Editor’s note: Varg unfortunately writes for this site. I view music as the jumping point for all discussion. It’s a common ground, a great unifier that I don’t intend to waste by investing in airs of moral and intellectual superiority.
Because I respect, say, Varg (who always seems to be finessing his way into my column somehow) as a musician, I feel like I can go offer my thoughts on his political YouTube videos in away that doesn’t regress into ad hominem attacks. When I offer retorts on his videos that tote white supremacist views—and I acknowledge my white privilege here when I say this—I demonstrate that I don’t need a safe space. Rather, I walk onto his turf and have the uncomfortable yet necessary conversations. I do not wish to be a racial extremist like him, but I also do not wish to be perceived as another cog in the liberalized system that he rails against, as that is simply counterproductive to my interests. I’d rather transcend what it means to be a liberal instead of confine myself to its pigeonhole.
- It’s limited to addressing personal racism
Throughout the manifesto, bigotry is primarily defined in terms of hate speech, particularly in point ten, but also in six, where it is stated that “artists who actively do not espouse our values will continue to get called out for it.” This here is what we call blameworthy racism and is what spurred the hot poker chase after Phil Anselmo about a year ago. It’s commendable to want to call out the Kid Rocks of the world, but you have to do so with more than just a smear campaign on the agenda. The school of THIS PERSON IS A BAD PERSON AND YOU SHOULDN’T LIKE THEM BECAUSE THEY’RE BAD AND IT’S WRONG TO LIKE BAD PEOPLE isn’t the most productive route we could be taking, especially since it immediately makes his followers tune out anything else we have to say (Editor’s note: Perhaps it’s the punk rock in me, but anytime someone says I shouldn’t have something or shouldn’t watch something or shouldn’t listen to something, I immediately wonder what their agenda is. I’m not 6 – I can make decisions for myself about what’s acceptable or not.) . At least in my observation, people tend to fight to the death to defend who they love. Admittedly, while rallying against a common in-the-flesh enemy may prove useful in certain scenarios, it’s also a key tool of white nationalism and therefore one that I feel uncomfortable utilizing. Where does Rock fit into structural racism? How did his environment mold his thoughts, and how can these factors be addressed so that they don’t continue to breed problematic world views? These are the questions that we should be asking.
In other words, in addition to contributing to alienation, focusing mostly on personal racism simply fails to paint the whole picture. One example that illustrates this idea is the deplorable response to Hurricane Katrina. Does George Bush care about black people? I mean probably not, but I’m pretty sure the only thing Bush dedicates his energy to is scarfing down pretzels in between painting dachshund portraits. Far beyond any hearts, there were factors written into the structure of the city of New Orleans itself. Poorer areas of the city were also more flood prone. Those without cars saw a limited shot at evacuation. Having a ready mode of transportation is a taken-for-granted form of white privilege in and of itself as the racial wealth gap persists alongside the closure of income disparity. So, you want to be more than just a straightforward metal site, MetalSucks? You want to make a difference? Radical! Then start contextualizing your content within these bigger pictures.
So, MetalSucks*, I respectfully suggest you knock it off;
(Editor’s note: *MetalCucks)