Hatecore

When on Monday the Southern Poverty Law Center began providing background details about Wisconsin mass murderer Wade Michael Page, I confessed ignorance with respect to the “white power music scene” to which the creepy SOB belonged.

Well, now James Dao and Serge Kovaleski of the New York Times (wonder when Rolling Stone is going to get onto this story?) have penned an introduction to that scene which is chilling if informative:

Though data collected by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, shows that the number of ultra-right-wing militias and white power organizations has grown sharply since the election of President Obama in 2008, the movement is more decentralized and in many ways more disorganized than ever, experts and movement leaders say….

Yet the [Wisconsin] shootings also shined a light on an obscure cultural scene that is helping keep the movement energized and providing it with a powerful tool for recruiting the young and disaffected: white power music, widely known as “hatecore.”

For more than a decade, Wade M. Page, a former soldier who the police say was the lone gunman — and who was himself killed by a police officer on Sunday — played guitar and bass with an array of heavy metal bands that trafficked in the lyrics of hate.

Even in Mr. Page’s below-the-radar world, those bands — Blue Eyed Devils, Intimidation One and his own, End Apathy — provided a touchstone and a gateway to a larger cause, as they have for many others in recent years.

“It is one of the pillars of the white supremacist subculture,” Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, said of white power music. “The message can motivate people to action, cause them to be proud of themselves and their cause. It can aggravate anger levels. It can rouse resentment….”

Though what may have set off the rampage remains a mystery to investigators, Mr. Page’s life as a white power musician playing violence-inciting songs was surprisingly open. He did interviews, posted photos on MySpace pages (one shows him playing guitar with a noose in the background), performed at festivals and even spoke candidly about his beliefs with an academic researching the movement….

Racist and neo-Nazi rock began as an offshoot of British punk in the late 1970s, appropriating both its shaved-head style and so-called oi sound featuring slashing guitar chords and barked vocals. By the 1990s, the music had become heavier, louder and darker, featuring violent diatribes against blacks, Jews and, later, gays and immigrants.

And here’s the part that really freaks me out:

In 1999, the National Alliance, founded by William Pierce, author of the 1978 white supremacist novel “The Turner Diaries,” bought Resistance Records, the largest and most prominent label for white power music. The acquisition signaled the growing importance of the music to recruiting a new generation of white supremacists.

“The music became not only the No. 1 recruiting tool, but also the biggest revenue source for the movement,” said Devin Burghart, who has been monitoring racist hate groups for 20 years.

Well, so much for the image of rock-and-roll music as primarily a leftist phenomenon–or even as a coopted, commercialized and politically neutered profit center for corporate media. I’m glad I know a little about “hatecore” now, but hope the next thing I read about it reports its demise.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.