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The Sound of Whiteness Under Siege:
Punk Rock Viewed From the Right

2,103 words

whiteminoritySteve Sailer recently compared the Alt-Right to punk rock. It’s an apt analogy in more ways than one, and as someone whose adolescence was informed by that music, it’s one that I readily appreciated. I’ve long thought of writing an essay about the implicit whiteness of punk and hardcore music, especially since it’s a rather under-appreciated genre on the AltRight. 

That’s partly understandable since a lot of punk rock is utterly nihilistic and degenerate — indeed, punk got its start by unabashedly wallowing in the filth of New York’s urban decay of the 1970s. But it can be seen in the larger context as a reaction to an already degenerate society, much the way Julius Evola regarded the Beat movement a few decades prior.

Music journalist Simon Reynolds writes:

In ‘The White Noise Supremacists,’ a controversial Village Voice essay published in 1979, Lester Bangs pointed out the uncomfortable connections between the near total absence of black musicians on the CBGB scene, punk’s penchant for using racist language (all part of its antiliberal, we-hate-everybody-equally attitude), and the perilous ambiguity of punk’s flirtations with Nazi imagery. Factor in the sheer unswinging whiteness of punk rock and most New Wave music, and you had a situation where, for the first time since before the 1920s hot-jazz era, white bohemians were disengaged from black culture. Not only that, but some of them were proud of this disengagement. Just a week before the Bangs essay, the Village Voice profiled Legs McNeil of Punk magazine. Writer Marc Jacobson discussed how McNeil and his cohorts consciously rejected the whole notion of the hipster as ‘white negro’ and dedicated themselves to celebrating all things teenage, suburban, and Caucasian. Years later, McNeil candidly discussed this segregationist aspect of punk in an interview with Jon Savage: ‘We were all white: there were no black people involved with this. In the sixties hippies always wanted to be black. We were going, “fuck the Blues, fuck the black experience.”’ McNeil believed that disco was the putrid sonic progeny of an unholy union of blacks and gays. Punk’s debut issue, in January 1976, began with a rabid mission statement: ‘Death to Disco Shit. Long Live the Rock! I’ve seen the canned crap take real live people and turn them into dogs! The epitome of all that’s wrong with Western civilization is disco.’ (Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again, Chapter 9: “Contort Yourself: No Wave New York”)

If you watch the documentary American Hardcore about the ’80s hardcore scene, you’ll hear this same sentiment about white kids wanting to move away from black culture and have something of their own. Of course, it’s always couched in anti-racist language, made out to be about not wanting to culturally appropriate black music or some such thing. But even if that is the legitimate sentiment, whites will find themselves in a double bind, since rejecting black culture can easily be seen as racist in motivation, just as embracing it is also racist since it’s usually characterized as a kind of theft (such as with the recent denunciations of Justin Timberlake). Whites are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and this impossible situation is no small cause of the present discontent.

The manifestations of anti-liberalism and white racialism in early punk rock ranged from merely failing to pay heed to the absolute prohibition of the swastika (The Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys) to songs like Black Flag’s “White Minority” and Minor Threat’s “Guilty of Being White,” the authors of which vehemently insist that they were completely tongue-in-cheek, ironic, satirical, or whatever other description allows them to keep their antifa credibility and avoid having to acknowledge the legitimacy of the feelings they expressed. (In contrast, non-white journalists like the New York Times’ Kelefa Sanneh are more honest in saying that 1980s hardcore punk was “among other things, the sound of whiteness under siege.”) And because such songs could never be written by anyone remotely near the mainstream today, in a culture that has moved considerably leftwards since 1980, they continue to haunt their creators, who keep having to “whitesplain” them to new generations, much to their chagrin and embarrassment I imagine.

“White Minority” was a song by Black Flag (named after the anarchist symbol) from 1980, written by founding member Greg Ginn. It goes:

We’re gonna be a white minority
All the rest will be the majority
We’re gonna feel inferiority
Gonna be a white minority!
White pride –
You’re an American
I’m gonna hide – anywhere I can.
Gonna be a white minority
Better believe it’s a possibility
Just wait and see
We’re gonna be a white minority.

Ginn has always said that he wrote the song to ridicule the concern that it expresses, and there is no reason to doubt him on that, especially since the song was usually sung by a Latino singer before the band settled on Henry Rollins as their main frontman. The irony is that, regardless of intent, the lyrics proved to be prophetic, as a 2015 Washington Post article about American demographic change since 1980 shows. Indeed, in California, where the band was from, whites already are a minority. If young punks thought it was funny to mock concerns about impending white displacement because it seemed like it could never happen, the joke was ultimately on them.

Black Flag can be seen performing the song in Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 documentary about the L.A. punk scene, The Decline of Western Civilization, recently released on DVD. The Spenglerian title of the film came from Germs’ singer Darby Crash, who was heavily influenced by Spengler’s magnum opus, and who openly called himself a Fascist.

Around the same time, on the other side of the country, Minor Threat recorded “Guilty of Being of White.” Written by Ian MacKaye, the lyrics stem from MacKaye’s experience as a white minority in a majority black school in Washington D.C., an experience he shared in common with Henry Rollins:

I’m sorry — for something I didn’t do
Lynched somebody — but I don’t know who
You blame me — for slavery
A hundred years before I was born
Guilty — of being white
I’m a convict — of a racist crime
I’ve only served — nineteen years of my time

MacKaye now describes the song as “anti-racist” since he felt that blacks were being racist against him. Apparently, he didn’t get the antifa memo that blacks can’t be racist no matter what, and everything they do is an appropriate and excusable response to oppression. Indeed, MacKaye has been taken to task by the Punk Rock Thought Police for the song’s lack of political correctness ever since he wrote it.

In a 1983 roundtable discussion with two other musicians, including the leader singer of the far-left band MDC (Millions of Dead Cops), MacKaye explained why he wrote the song:

I live in Washington D.C., which is 75% black. My junior high was 90% black. My high school was 80% black, and throughout my entire life, I’ve been brought up in this whole thing where the white man was shit because of slavery. So I got to class and we do history, and for 3/4 of the year slavery is all we hear about. It’s all we hear about. We will race through the Revolutionary War or the founding of America; we’d race through all that junk. It’s just straight education. We race through everything, and when we’d get to slavery, they’d drag it all the way out. Then everything has to do with slavery or black people. You get to the 1950s, they don’t talk about nothing except black people. Even WWII, they talk about the black regiments. In English, we don’t read all the novelists, we read all the black novelists. Every week is African King’s Week. And after a while, I would come out of history class, and this has happened to me many times, like in junior high school, and you know that kids are belligerent in junior high, and these kids would jack my ass up and say, ‘What the fuck, man, why are you putting me in slavery?’”

And I’m just saying I’m guilty of being white — it’s my one big crime. That’s why I get so much fucking shit at school, that’s why I cannot get on welfare in Washington, most likely. That’s why when we took the PSATs, when Jeff checked off the black box, he got awards, he got scholarships, he got all kinds of interest, but when he admitted he was white, all that was gone. Just like that. It’s ridiculous. I don’t think it’s fair.

MDC vocalist Dave Dictor then goes on to comment about the history of slavery and the oppression of the black race. MacKaye responds:

MACKAYE: But what is guilt going to lead to? . . . if someone made you constantly feel guilty, what do you think that may result in?

DICTOR: A resentment . . . 

MACKAYE: Thank you. And what would that resentment lead to? You just go right back. They’re going to beat me over the head about African kings and stuff to the point where I’m going to say “well, fuck the African kings. And fuck the black people too. Fuck all this shit.’ . . . It’s an unfortunate thing, but when I’m in Washington D.C., I’m the minority, so I have a totally different view. . . . [I]f I’m walking down the street and I see a whole lot of black kids coming up the street, I know from my experiences, I know that there can be trouble. I know someone can say, ‘Oh, you’ve been bred to hate black people.’ But if I’m walking down the street and I see a bunch of rednecks coming down, I know even more that my ass is about to get fucking kicked. But people don’t jump on me for hating rednecks . . .

Another Minor Threat song with a lasting influence on the punk scene was “Straight Edge,” which has the distinction of spawning an entire social movement from just one song. Straight edgers were a fixture of the hardcore scene in the ’80s and ’90s, and represented something very different from the punks of the 1970s.

From Punk to Hardcore

If punk was ultimately a nihilistic reaction to the decadence of the 1970s, then its transformation into hardcore punk in the ’80s was a step towards positivity, towards creating a scene with healthier values, rather than merely wallowing in self-destruction as so many of the original punks were wont to do. Straight Edge, for example, rejected punk’s ethos of alcoholism and drug abuse in favor of an ethic of sobriety, self-care, and moral uprightness (even if that was sometimes confused with moral uptightness and all-around priggish behavior, as anyone ever accosted by a straight-edger for drinking a beer or smoking a cigarette can attest). Considering the huge problem of drug abuse and addiction among poor white youth today, the fundamental message of Straight Edge is as relevant as ever.

Furthermore, many hardcore bands’ lyrics often contained messages of encouragement and hope, of keeping it together in the face of adversity, of standing strong and proud, of not giving in to the decadence and decay all around, but rather building something positive. The audience for these words was mostly poor white kids, utterly lacking in any kind of wise guidance from their family or environment. Whatever its faults (including lack of musical ability, aversion to melody and beauty, and a general tendency to YELL! instead of sing) hardcore was an attempt by a neglected generation – the children of the baby boomers – to create some sort of structure amidst the chaos, to salvage something positive amidst the ruins of the sixties.

Another sub-genre of hardcore was, of course, Oi! and RAC (Rock Against Communism), explicitly pro-white and usually associated with the skinhead movement. I’m not an expert on this scene, and so I’ll refrain from commenting on it here, as I’m sure there are plenty of more qualified writers on the subject than myself. But the flip side of the emergence of explicitly racist hardcore punk was the emergence of explicitly anti-racist and anti-fascist punk at the same time. Anyone familiar with the genre can see that this is the form of the music that came to predominate. While being illiberal may have been an acceptable anti-establishment pose during the Carter administration, anti-conservatism became the new order of the day (or rather, disorder of the day) during the Reagan years. By the time the ’80s ended, ten years of growing older while hating Reagan and Bush led easily and effortlessly into becoming full-fledged ’90s liberals. A good example of this transition is Henry Rollins, who I’ll critique a bit in Part Two of this article.



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  1. Randy
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Insightful article. Punk/Hardcore was shot through with Jews. Exhibit A: look at Rollins today. Take that for what it is worth.

  2. Don
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Interesting. I always knew about this stuff, but no one is writing about it.

    Hardcore today is very white. It’s dead now. Bourgeoisie whites gravitate towards it now. It’s a way of feeling “hard” and masculine. I’m thinking of bands like Blacklisted, Pissed Jeans, and… well. Wearing plaid and fucking tattoo white girls on the weekends is their job. These “hardcore” events using means someone bringing their girlfriend and guys trying to get her. They lost their edge.

    I remember in the 90’s Once Life Crew was the center of alt-right trolling. They were good. And then there was the really extreme noise music of Whitehouse, flirting Nazi imagery and pedophilia. And then the mainstream Atari Teenage Riot, noisy dance music that was very far-left (Jewish and multicultural too).

    It seems like when one band breaks the political ethos, another band has to “queer” them out and fight for the ethos. I will say that the left has been trying to reserve punk rock music for a long time. White teenagers are too obsessed with being queer and fighting for social justice at the same time. It just doesn’t work. Some guy like Jack Donovan will come their way and they will get scared.

  3. MK Lane
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    The hardcore scene has been thoroughly taken over by xenophilic “antifa” types, hence why I barely ever listen to this genre of music anymore. It is actually quiet funny; you have these mean looking tattooed guys playing agressive, I would say relatively masculine music, but they stand for the most pathetic and beta-male things; gay rights, refugee acceptance and ethnomasochism. It is a style of music best avoided, though to be certain there are some great pro-white bands of this genre (Burning Hate, Moshpit, Fear Rains Down, etc).

  4. Big Dave
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I read an early interview with Greg Ginn probably in Flipside where he said he meant what he said in White Minority. Having a non-White sing it wasnt to mock the message. It was simply because their singer wasnt White. They werent a racist band.

  5. IA
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    The sound was implicitly white. Especially compared to other types of pop music at that time. Lyrics really aren’t that important it seems to me in pop culture. It’s the sound. And don’t forget the style of dancing that emerged from punk/new wave. Very different than the other stuff. Then you had the interest in 50s fashion. There was an attempt to reconnect to the pre-hippie sensibility.

  6. JuleighHowardHobson
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Great article—as someone who was there, I think you got it completely right. Straight Edge was the kiss of death as far as I was concerned—it empowered the kind of self-righteous mealy mouthed worms (who later morphed into anti-apartheid soft-reds who then became vegan anti-fa) who wouldn’t have had a place in the scene before self-appointed self-importance was introduced.

    • Posted September 28, 2016 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Juleigh. I know what you mean about where Straight Edge led. But the irony is that even though straight edge kind of led to antifa punk, which aspect of the scene would the National Socialists have looked upon more favorably: the clean living vegetarians, or the beer-swilling louts? Some of the straight edgers even ended up embracing Hinduism because it was the religion that best accorded with their beliefs about purity. Whether they knew it or not (and mostly they did not) they were embracing what is arguably a purer form of the Indo-European tradition, as I wrote about in an earlier article called “Wisdom of the East?”

      • Big Dave
        Posted September 29, 2016 at 12:05 am | Permalink

        Actually Hinduism is the most perverted form of former Aryan thought as it is run through with Dravidian animal worship. The Edda and Sagas provide the most accurate Nordic worldview. Greek and Roman would provide a close second.

    • Big Dave
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      On the West Coast sXe wasnt really a thing. Jews were there at the bigginning trying to tone police and run Whites out of the scene. Nyna from the VKTMS told me that Tim Yohannon (Jew) from Maximimum RockN Roll and Jello Biafra (gay) got her run out of the scene for the 100% White Girl song. Then Biafra wrote the Nazi Punks Fxxx Off song. Also in England they started Rock Against Racism. Watch the documentary L.A. Surf Punks and youll see Jews starting stuff even back in ’81. That documentary shows how different it was back then.

      Today National Socialist Straight Edge is helping kids get off drugs and become proud healthy White men.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Henry Rollins is a disgusting creature. I remember watching his stand up as a teenager and being totally sucked in by his pathetic jokes about wanting to be black, the enjoyment he derived from listening to fags sodomise each other in the next door apartment, and mocking a white security guard for trying to stand up against LA/ Rodney King rioters. He finished that show with an account of how his best friend was shot in the head by black home invaders. Irony lost.

    I was thirteen and thought Rollins was so cool. It’s no surprise, though, that my school friends at that age were mostly going over to the hip hop side: better a wigger than a masochist.

  8. Obscurist
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Johnny Ramone of The Ramones was a stand-up right-winger and openly hostile to white kids fawning over black music. No apologies or back-paddling that I’ve read. Glenn Danzig of The Misfits did a great late solo tune, only later released as a neglected track in his boxed set, “White Devil Rise” which was his response to Nation of Islam invoking the “white devil” in their rhetoric. Lee Ving of FEAR has always been pretty clear in bashing PC and lefties. The list goes on and on. Punk was the voice of rebellion for thousands/millions of disenchanted white kids. This article hits the nail on the head. I look forward to future entries.

    • Posted September 28, 2016 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Obscurist. The stuff you mentioned is all stuff I could or should have mentioned, but didn’t for brevity’s sake. The Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away” is Joey Ramone whining about how Johnny, a right-winger as you said, stole his girlfriend. It ought to become the Cuckservative anthem.

      Danzig is an interesting character, worthy of a separate article himself. Even better than “White Devil Rise,” in my opinion, is “Bound By Blood,” because it’s far more melodic, and because it’s an ode to racial kinship, or at least that’s one way to interpret it. The Samhain song “Lords of the Left Hand” is probably the coolest metal song about the Nazis I’ve ever heard. (The demo version from the box set, not the slower version.)

  9. The Leveller
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I have to give props to one straight edge band, Earth Crisis. They took their straightedge vegan beliefs to their logical conclusions and are now illiberal second amendment, Constitutional types. Of course we are beyond that in WN but they seemed to be the one SXE band that went into a different direction than the other disgustingly left wing bands. Many of their songs have lyrics that are extremely anti-lumpenprole and espousing vigilantism, which logically would point to racial minorities. Their home town of Syracuse is a typical upstate NY shithole so there had to be an awareness somewhat.

    Yeah, I know they are more metal in sound than punk..

    Henry Rollins,..the epitome of white guilt(not his of course) while trying to market it into some hipster/masculine presence. I never will forget when he made excuses for the black thugs who murdered his friend in an article in Spin magazine. What kind of pathetic weakling says something like this?!

    Nice article, It may be degenerate music but it is a part of my development for better or worse. There are positive traits that can be distilled from it in a sort of Bowden-esque dialectic.

    • Big Dave
      Posted September 29, 2016 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      Earth Crisis actually burned down a drug den. Im glad to hear their patriotards. I already liked them for thebdrug den thing. Straight Edge was New England Puritanism reaction posing as punk and I love it.

  10. Racoon Melson
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Great article. May I ask where you think Bad Brains fit in to your argument of hardcore music being an implicitly white sub-culture? They are very influential in the scene (some bands like Cro-Mags consider them the founders of New York Hardcore) and they are very much black men. As I understand ideas of PMA, vegetarianism and spirituality in the Hardcore Movement originate from them to a large extent. Happy to be proven wrong!

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      There are always exceptions, and they prove the rule. Heavy Metal was a white phenomenon, but Living Colour was a black heavy metal band. Hip hop is a black phenomenon, but there’s Eminem. I never listened to Bad Brains, but from what little I know of them, they eventually became Rastafarians. To me, this illustrates that they needed something that they weren’t getting from the hardcore scene, because it was a fundamentally white scene and not in accord with their biological and spiritual identity. I recall seeing in American Hardcore that they were probably the first or among the first to talk about Positive Mental Attitude, so perhaps they deserve credit for that. But it also illustrates that having a positive mental attitude can mean different things for different people, depending on their identity. Perhaps for them, being Rastafarian is positive because it’s an affirmation of their African identity. But it’s hardly a positive thing for a white kid to become a Rasta.

  11. Big Dave
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    Fun fact. The chick in the Black Flag picture played with Adam and the Ants and then ended up in the mega huge 1980s band the Go Gos.

    • Big Dave
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:25 am | Permalink

      Never mind. I couldve sworn I read this in an interview in the 80s but when I wikipedia the names it doesnt match up.

  12. Mel Gibs
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    I grew up in the early 80’s hardcore scene in a small town, and also skateboarded for years back when it was called “hey faggot”. Lots of fun times seeing so many all-ages shows, skating around all day and night, fighting and being a basic degenerate. One redeeming value I picked up from that scene was to always question narratives- more than I can say for most ex-punks my age whose most controversial, anti-establishment beliefs include tranny rights in girls bathrooms sanctioned by the state.

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