“There was no way to gather opposition to this lunacy without being incriminated…you couldn’t doubt the existence of the plot lest you be charged with trying to enhance the plot” – Arthur Miller.
About a week ago Black Metal band Taake cancelled their planned 2018 tour of North America due to mounting pressure from Americans – many of whom identify as “Antifa” – who consider Taake to be a ‘Nazi Band’ or a band with a White Supremacist and/or a racist agenda inside and outside of their music.
While even some of the band’s harshest critics admit that the band ‘are probably not real Nazis’(as written in commentary on Taake in metalsucks.com
) the general consensus among anti-Taake people is they are some bad Hombres who should not be allowed into America (and Canada) because to them, it is clear the band are a threat to their American society that is showing increasingly racist and fascist behaviour. (from a Canadian on the outside looking into America, it’s just business as usual, but that’s my opinion.)
The anti-Taakers organized and petitioned venues in a variety of cities on the tour route (sometimes under threat of violence) to cancel the booked gigs of the band because of their supposed White Supremacist and Racist behaviour/ideology. The smoking guns the anti-Taakers used as evidence of the band’s ideology were;
A) a picture of Taake’s singer, Hoest, on stage at a gig in Germany in 2007
B) a quote attributed to Hoest from a statement/apology he apparently made after the incident in Germany that said “…except for the Untermensch [subhuman] owner of that club; you can go suck a Muslim.” (I can find no corroboration online of the quote to Hoest…in many articles from the time, journalists claim to have read the statement Editor’s note: You can find references to these statements from 2007 (directly after the incident) here , and then Taake speaking directly about the statement as well here
, so to say you can’t corroborate this isn’t necessarily true. Sounds like he did say these things.
Taake live at Ruby Lounge in Manchester on April 8th 2017.
C) A t-shirts that Hoest wears occasionally on stage that features the Islamic crescent and star behind a ‘no’ symbol, and
D) Lyrics from a song that loosely translate from Norwegian to “To hell with Muhammad and the Muhammadans / Unforgivable customs.” (Editor’s note: There’s also the lyrics he did for Meads of Asphodel’s track, “Jew Killer”, which contain references to the phrase “sand nigga” which you can read here, the context here being that this album is about the death of Jesus Christ.)
One by one, venues at which Taake were booked cancelled their shows, leaving Taake no choice but to eventually call the whole thing off. The band issued a statement explaining their side of the story, and the long and the short of which is: you’ve made a mountain out of a molehill, spread misinformation and set a dangerous precedent for dealing with art you do not agree with.
During and after the campaign to cancel Taake’s tour, numerous reports, editorials, think-pieces and social media commentary emerged, and from my perspective, it seems the overwhelming consensus is that what happened to Taake is a good thing and something the band deserved.
I have literally been obsessed with this ‘Taake case’ and after having about a week to deconstruct my thoughts on the matter, I think I have finally reached a conclusion; with Taake, a paradox exists: everyone who is offended is right and wrong; everyone who thinks Taake shouldn’t be able to play in America is right and wrong…the protestors of the band are right and wrong…but ultimately, no one wins because nothing constructive happens when art is suppressed; and lets be clear, stopping Taake from performing IS the suppression of art.
So much of the controversy surrounding Taake is based on opinion, emotional response and misinformation (obviously people are entitled to their own emotional responses surrounding the band) that I wanted to break down some of the arguments.
There has been a lot of misinformation spread, stereotypes invoked and a basic lack of critical thinking on both sides of the Taake controversy, and it seems to me that the basic arguments of each opposing ‘side’ are:
Anti-Taake: Taake are Nazis and Islamophobic and their use of certain symbols, imagery and words are so vile, that context is irrelevant, and anyone who uses them is a de facto Nazi, and even if Hoest is not a Nazi, well, actions have consequences and now he is feeling them, and I am pretty sure that guy is a dick and a racist and Black Metal is inherently racist, so they deserve to have their tour cancelled.
(I’m not including the ‘untermensch’/suck a Muslim’ comment in this because its source can not be corroborated, and it falls outside the spectrum of art, and I am arguing for art in this piece. People say stupid things sometimes, and it is really a personal choice if these words offend you and in your mind convince you that Hoest is racist and if that comment has anything to do with the band’s music/art. In my opinion it does not, and if you want to know why leave a comment)
Pro-Taake: Taake are not a racist band. They use hateful rhetoric and imagery to express a bleak, nihilistic view of the world, their hatred of religion, and desire to provoke emotions and thoughts – good and bad. They are not National Socialists or Islamophobes; the ‘evidence’ touted to prove so is being taken out of context and special interest groups should not have shut down the shows. *** (I’m not including the obvious racists who have been using the ‘Taake’ opportunity to make preposterous claims about ‘Zionist’ plots, and who use hate-speech Argument Ad Baculum against people they disagree with and hate based on race).
Well, what can you say to either of those arguments? They’re both pretty reasonable in a casual way aren’t they? I can see merit in both, and who am I, especially as a white man, to tell anyone how they should feel or react to symbols and language that seem/are synonymous with racial hate? I’ve come to the realization that I have no business engaging with someone to tell them how they should feel or see the world.
Where I break from the pack however, is that I do not support the suppression of art (no matter what) and though I feel people are well within their rights to protest and I support them for doing so, I can not condone shutting down the Taake shows because it was done using a misrepresentation (no matter how noble the intent) of the ‘facts’, it assumes that special interest groups have the right to make decisions for everyone, it is not supportive of artist expression (which should be granted to all, not just some) and finally, and most importantly in this case…it accomplishes absolutely nothing, and in fact, only helps to enhance, provoke and embolden racism and hate in the real world.
Islamaphobia bad, Anti-Christianity Good
I’ll get to Hoest’s ‘no Islam’ shirt in a minute, but I wanted to make a special section to talk about a very troubling element of the Taake persecution.
I have seen a lot of people using the argument Islamophobia is inherently inseparable from Racism, because most Muslims have black and brown skin.
This type of thinking employs so many logical fallacies, biases and conflations that I barely know where to begin. I think people are confusing geography and nationality with religious belief. Are we really going to make assumptions about a person’s beliefs based on the colour of their skin? If I said most Christians are non-white, and it is therefore inherently racist to be anti-Christian would that be supported?
Also, when looking at Muslim Americans (the demographic many special interest groups claim to be protecting) it was found, again by the Pew Research Center, that “No racial or ethnic group makes up a majority of Muslim American adults. A plurality (41%) are white, a category that includes those who describe their race as Arab, Middle Eastern, Persian/Iranian.
Maybe for inherently racist people, personality and belief can be assumed by the colour of one’s skin, but there is no credible evidence to support that claim.
Taake are anti-religion. I have not ever see the band conflate religion with race.
To accept the hatred of one religion because it is assumed most of its followers are a certain race. and not accept the hatred of another religion based on the assumption that most of its followers are a certain race is hypocritical.
What Has Actually Been Accomplished in Shutting Take Down?
Before I explain my thoughts on why all art should be permitted in the public sphere. let’s think about what these special interest groups actually accomplished. (I use the term special interest groups, because I have been told on multiple occasions that “Antifa” is just an idea and concept…it does not exist…there is no leader or rules of membership or organized structure. I find this ironic since many of the special interest groups and politically motivated journalists and bloggers writing about the case refer to Black Metal as if it is some official group.)
1) roughly two-hundred people in various “A”/“B” markets who wanted to see the band in a private venue and had bought tickets will not be able to see Taake play.
2) a handful of venue owners now believe that Taake are a Nazi band and a threat to a safe civil society
3) The special interest groups have accomplished the goal they set out to achieve, which is good for self-esteem.
4) Prevented a band from entering the USA based on their artistic content and beliefs.
I can’t really think of much else…the only productive thing I can think of that the special interest group may have prevented, is certain staff members of these clubs who may have been there because it is their job, from getting offended by Taake’s lyrics (assuming they play the “To hell with Muhammad and the Muhammadans” song and assuming the staff can understand Norwegian).
Has any act of racism or hate been thwarted? Has anyone been made ‘more safe’? Has anything been done to curb hateful behaviour? I don’t think so. In fact, if anything, the constant lobbying of this special interest group against Taake and Black Metal has caused the widespread display of swastikas across music sites and news organizations. It has caused use of the word Nazi to be bandied about recklessly and proficiently across social media and music sites. I know these special-interest groups are claiming victory but what have they won?
Most people will counter these arguments with ‘hey man, the marketplace of free ideas has spoken…fair is fair.” That might hold true for Taake’s record sales – (though again, I am positive the band has probably sold more merch and records in the past month BECAUSE of all the lobbying, not in spite of it), – or if the venues cancelled shows due to poor tickets sales because everyone decided they didn’t want to support the band. Instead, special interest groups wrote venues privately, sometimes using threats of violence, to convince club owners, one sidedly, that they were hosting a show of Nazi music. The free market is based on transparency not secrecy, not deception and not crony capitalism. This never happened here.
Another popular argument against Taake is ‘actions have consequences’. That is a truism and assumes that no other evidence or proof is required to ‘convict’ the band. It’s also cherrypicking as tons of bands do things that should have consequences and nothing ever happens, and most importantly, it fails to assign what consequences are appropriate for specific actions. Were any Deafheaven shows protested or the band condemned at all for guitarist Kerry McCoy’s use of the word f*ggot on twitter? Not that I really saw. (https://www.spin.com/2015/09/deafheavens-guitarist-used-homophobic-slurs-on-twitter/
) . Metalsucks.com has been one of the more vocal music advertorial sites speaking out against Taake. However, less than a year ago they were willing to give the singer of Myrkur a forum to explain herself and a free pass on what some consider to be Islamophobic remarks. http://www.metalsucks.net/2017/09/27/op-ed-on-the-myrkur-muslim-issue/
Why the double standard?
Out of all the people who were planning on attending the Taake show, who was actually at risk for some unspecified threat from Taake (Editor’s note: I wouldn’t say that the threat was from Taake, similarly so to how the threats of white supremacist rallies like Charlottesville didn’t have direct threats from speakers like Richard Spencer, etc – it’s what happens when two groups with different ideas meet together and typically violently clash)? How many people have these special-interest groups “saved” or protected?
Art as Metaphor
The whole crux of the ‘Taake case’ for me rests on the belief in the freedom of expression. Do you believe all artists should be able to express themselves without threat of, or actual, suppression? Or do you believe only some artists should be able to express themselves? Are all artistic concepts permissible, or only some? If only some, who makes the decision? Do you believe that anyone who ‘consumes’ art is automatically complicit/supportive of the artist’s personal beliefs? Do you believe art can corrupt or brainwash? If I listen to Taake, am I a Nazi? If I listen to Christian music am I a Christian? If I listen to Ani DiFranco am I a feminist? If I listen to Daft Punk am I a robot?
As Northrop Frye posits….. In real life, yes a swastika is the symbol of the Nazis, an evil and reprehensible regime of fascism who believe in a master race and that anyone outside their insane ideology should be exterminated. But in art, a Swasktika is not a Swastika. A tree is not a tree. A Wookie is not a literal representation of any creature that exists in the real world. The world is inside art as its content, not outside as its model. In art, a swastika is a metaphor for well, whatever the artist wants it to be. You may find the artist’s metaphor to be a poor one, to be in bad taste. You may hate it, be offended or disgusted, but at the end of the day, that is between you and the art. Be offended, maybe that is the point…what does blocking other people from seeing accomplish it? Is there any proof to suggest that by listening to music or looking at a painting or watching a movie, the audience is somehow complicit in the politics/beliefs of the artist? Even if you accept the premise that Taake are racist, can you accept that by listening to their music you are somehow enhancing or accepting of their beliefs?
“But drawing a Swastika on your chest is not art” most people will counter. It was done on a stage, as part of a performance (once, eleven years ago) so yeah, I do think it counts as art. Nazi imagery does not appear on any of Taake’s album artwork, nor do they have any lyrics promoting any Nazi (or any other) ideology. “But Hoest wears a t-shirt with a ‘no’ Islam sign.” Again, this is only worn on stage as part of a performance and is part of an anti-religion expression within the confines of art. He doesn’t wear it around on the street or in public except for on stage. “But they have lyrics ‘To hell with Muhammad and the Muhammadans / Unforgivable customs.’” Again, this is within art and a generalization against religion. Hoest is not calling for the death of actual people who follow the religion of Islam, and in fact, the song and album it appears on speak to organized religion far outside the mere boundaries of Islam.
Generalization/Double Standards/Lunacy/The End
A huge part of the whole Taake thing is the false presumption, but increasingly accepted opinion, that Black Metal – particularly Norwegian Black Metal – is an inherently racist and unethical genre of music, and a ‘scene’ that somehow accepts and promotes racism in many forms. This false narrative makes it easy to convince people that Black Metal is ‘bad’ and must therefore be suppressed. The music press is mainly to blame for this notion through lazy reporting, the acceptance of stereotypes and generalization. Most of the so-called reporting on Taake use the words ‘Norwegian’ , ‘Black Metal’ and ‘problematic’ as if those terms are interchangeable. It causes music journalists, bloggers and fans to feel the need to either call out, or apologize for someone else’s politics and beliefs (that are false.) How can a genre of music be racist? How can art be inherently anything, let alone unethical? What does the band’s nationality have to do with anything? How can a genre of music be discriminatory?
Also, these special-interest groups are protesting a band because the singer drew a swastika on his chest, once, ten years ago, and the swastika is verboten no matter what the context because of what it represents. But a lot of these special interest groups that are against Black Metal use Soviet/Bolshevik symbols to represent their politic beliefs. And they do this outside the scope of art. I guess they feel the Sickle and Hammer is benign and the swastika harmful…that seems extremely hypocritical to me, though I guess it makes sense, as the person who commissioned the Sickle and Hammer, Lenin, destroyed the free press in the nascent Soviet regime…a free press that was not restored until the fall of Soviet Communism 70 years later. By aligning themselves with the truism of being ‘anti fascist’ these special interest groups, who are enemies of free art, give themselves a free moral pass to do whatever they want because all their actions are ‘against fascism’. Also, why do special interest groups get to use whatever imagery they want, but Taake are not granted the same freedom?
So as special interest groups and detractors of Black Metal celebrate what they feel is a victory, I still have to ask what has been won? Suppression of free expression? Suppression (sometimes under threat of violence) of others’ rights to attend a concert? Whether or not you like Taake’s music, or agree with metaphors used in their art, are you willing to say ‘yes, this art must be surpassed, but that art does not have to be suppressed?’ Does ‘this is hateful and distasteful art’ automatically have to become ‘I must stop this art from existing?’
I believe that by attempting to block and ban any type of art, special interest groups are creating a zero sum game.
The paradox is people are right to be offended by Taake, and people are right to not be offended by Taake – but when the outcome is the suppression of free expression…well, I just don’t see how anyone wins.
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