Angry Metal Guy Speaks: On What We Don’t Promote, Why, and What’s Next

After having gone through a triumphant Listurnalia, where we here at AngryMetalGuy.com celebrated all the glory of the year that was 2021, everyone’s a bit tired. Unfortunately, this year we’re all a little extra tired because of an event that marred an otherwise glorious return to list-making, arguing about relevance, and playfully batting away criticisms from the peanut gallery. And these issues need to be addressed directly by me and publicly.

An Apology and a Policy Statement

AMGThe inclusion of a Nazi-associated band (via an out-of-year release) does not reflect what I want AngryMetalGuy.com to be. It made it on to a list and that list was published and that was wrong. I apologize and take full responsibility for this mistake. Ultimately, I am Angry Metal Guy and that means that I have to be able to stand behind our content comfortably. And when it comes to these issues, I don’t want the site to promote material that violates my understanding as to the harm that that Neo-Nazi, white supremacy and fascist movements pose to individuals and to society.

Furthermore, while we have (and have always had) a No Nazi Policy, that policy is partially self-enforced due to the assumption that authors at AngryMetalGuy.com are acting in good faith because they agree with the policy. As it has stood until today, our policy has been that (1) we don’t promote Neo-Nazi bands, but if we accidentally do, (2) we let mistakes stand, as removing them feels toothless once thousands of people have seen the post and we are fallible.

From today, the policy has changed. When mistakes happen, the text will be removed, but the page will remain in place with a statement from me as to what happened. Going forward, editors will reject reviews for Neo-Nazi bands out of hand and authors who knowingly violate this policy will be dismissed. And lastly, where we have previously allowed reviews to stand as testaments to our fallibility, we will instead remove historical content for Neo-Nazi bands or labels. This policy is derived from an academic understanding of the greater harm that can arise from the material support of white power movements. This, I believe, is the correct ethical standard for creating a policy with a consistent—that is, not arbitrary—standard.

Lastly, I want to apologize for my slowness to respond. I should have been aware of what was happening and acted more swiftly. Again, I feel personally responsible for the pain that this has caused people and I am sorry. I will work to respond more quickly in the future. All-in-all, this situation has really sucked and I wish that it had gone differently. You can read on for contextual information.

A Contextual Statement

On a personal note, it is now—and it has always been—my policy to avoid promoting, supporting, or apologizing for Neo-Nazi or Nazi-adjacent metal bands. However, enforcing this standard has always been difficult and this is a problem that starts with me. This is not because I do not care. I do care and have set up quite specific standards for myself in this regard. When I am aware of a band’s association with white supremacist extremism, I do not support them and I do not promote them. However, the difficulty has always arisen from the fact that I do not now (and never have) cared about the biographies of bands. I do not read them, other than to know where they’re from, and I have never been part of the cult of personality around musicians. I don’t read interviews with musicians or any of this stuff. Nor have I ever read lyrics for metal bands who don’t have clean vocals.1 You may note this from my reviews, I simply do not care about lyrics in metal.2 This means that I have a tendency to be personally lax with my own research at times and I’ve made some pretty big blunders. My policy has been to allow these blunders to stand. My reasoning was that we are all going to make mistakes, we will do our best to not make those mistakes again, and that I trust my writers to vet bands in ways that will reflect the values I have expressed about the website.

With the recent drama surrounding the inclusion of a band known to have been involved in Nazi bullshit, among other things, I want to explicitly acknowledge that I do not support a “but the riffs!” approach to dealing with the Neo-Nazi problem in metal. Ultimately, I am upset that the band was included, despite it being obvious that it shouldn’t have been. I’m saddened by the fallout caused by this. I understand that this is a growing edge of mine and I have struggled for a long time around the way to articulate the best way to deal with the diversity of metal and bands’ ability to be edgy, topical, and so on.3 I have wanted, for a long time, to be able to develop a moral/ethical standard regarding weighing potential harms against my belief in free expression, the relation between the art and the artist, among other things. Lastly, and brutally honestly, I have been very busy, struggled with mental health issues and financial stuff and, generally speaking, everyone at AngryMetalGuy.com has been aboard the “No Nazis” train (I thought…), so I wasn’t worried. Thus, I have prevaricated too long about stating a more explicit policy surrounding this issue.

So, here’s the why to this specific approach to a policy. Promoting, and thus potentially financially supporting, Neo-Nazi and Nazi-adjacent metal musicians and/or labels risks lending material support to a movement that has been shown [paywalled] to acquire material support not only from direct financial donations, but from the associated culture (such as white power music, festivals, and so on). It is my conviction, as an expert in the study of social movements and with a fairly solid grounding in radicalization, that the real danger posed by supporting Nazi metal is funding white power/Neo-Nazi mobilization, which can and does result in violence aimed at minorities and LGBTQ persons. On a societal level, therefore, material support can indirectly put real people at danger of physical harm and death, without getting into the political ramifications of it all. As such, I will not tolerate the promotion of, defense of, or apologies for Neo-Nazi and Nazi-adjacent bands on AngryMetalGuy.com. This, therefore, is not a discussion about “separating art from the artist.” This is not a discussion about enforcing some kind of ideological purity. This policy recognizes that fascist and Neo-Nazi movements pose an existential threat to people as a fundamental aspect of its ideology. It follows, therefore, that the chance of denying them financial support is worth denying coverage to bands or labels who ideologically promote or are involved in Neo-Nazism, white supremacy, or fascism (or associated organizations). Additionally, not covering these bands is an important signal that we support a community where minorities and LGBTQ persons should feel welcome.

It is my goal—as it always has been—to not let anything that is explicitly Neo-Nazi or Nazi-adjacent get through the net. We are working to come up with better ways to ensure that we have routines for dealing with this should it arise again. However, if things get through the net we will remove them and leave a statement of what we have done (rather than a 404), as the testament to our fallibility and a recognition that we shouldn’t allow the material to just stay there as though it’s not an issue. This will also be enforced retroactively to the best of our ability. We do not want to cover up that we make mistakes. But we do want to fix them.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Lyrics are also misleading. Back when I was playing one Swedish metal band for a new friend in Sweden, she revealed to me that pretty much any sense of nationalism in Sweden may be associated with white supremacist movements. In fact, traditionally, the use of Viking runes and the Norse gods is seen as associating you with Neo-Nazism in Scandinavia. She listened to songs from bands I loved and worried that these were Nazis and I had to do my own investigations after that.
  2. Metal bands are terrible lyricists. I think I pretty much quit reading lyrics once I discovered that even Opeth lyrics were nonsense in 2001.
  3. Is Slayer writing about Mengele in a way that glorifies him? How about Motörhead’s beloved Lemmy wearing Nazi gear in a German photoshoot?
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