Ever since the infamous August 2017 “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, far-right extremism has been a worryingly relevant topic in mainstream political discourse. Although white supremacists have toned down their public Nazi flag-waving since Charlottesville, it is still not uncommon to encounter people online proudly displaying fascist propaganda and sentiments. In the physical world, neo-Nazi groups like the Proud Boys, Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement and Patriot Front continue to vandalize communities of color with their hateful iconography.
The reason I bring this up is because “National Socialist Black Metal,” or NSBM, is once again becoming a hot topic in the metal scene, most notably with Werewolf Records’ disturbing Facebook rant vehemently denying any connections with the genre despite publishing known NSBM bands.
NSBM, as one might guess, is a subgenre of black metal that espouses Nazi ideology. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers it to be a movement of hate. I don’t intend to write a comprehensive history of the genre, but in short, NSBM started in the 1990’s as an offshoot of black metal and has since been linked to multiple murders, arson, and other acts of hate and violence.
These acts of violence can be characterized as “stochastic terrorism,” which anarchist YouTuber Emerican Johnson defines as “vague and structure-less [terrorism] with no clear leaders and no direct calls for violence” that nevertheless incite lone actors to violence by “making individuals more extreme over time, making it more likely for these extremists to commit acts of terror.” NSBM bands incubate their fans with hateful rhetoric, radicalizing them in the process to the point where any one of them can, at random, commit acts of terror for the white supremacist cause.
In his video, Johnson examines what he calls the “PewDiePipeline,” a phenomenon in which seemingly innocuous, “edgy” comedians and influencers inadvertently send their viewers down a rabbit hole towards genuinely hateful ideologies. He convincingly argues that while “edgy” influencers like PewDiePie are likely not Nazis themselves, their insensitive content and refusal to condemn bigots within their fanbase contribute to the growth of the alt-right, as evidenced by the 2019 Christchurch shooter’s reference to PewDiePie in his manifesto. While Johnson doesn’t argue for deplatforming PewDiePie, NSBM’s bigotry is far more overt and extreme, and our analysis must change to reflect that.
When NSBM bands promote Nazi ideology, whether in their lyrics, their statements or their imagery, they are directly inciting violence. That is to say, their ideology itself is an incitement to violence, without the need for a specific call to action. Nazism’s logical progression invariably leads to genocide, meaning that anybody who promotes such beliefs is calling for the murder of myself and all other marginalized people. All NSBM bands actively, knowingly, unapologetically promote stochastic terrorism.
To the metal scene’s credit, multiple bands and community members have spoken out against NSBM. A notable example would be the entire lineup of Black Flags Over Brooklyn, a music festival organized in 2019 by journalist Kim Kelly featuring antifascist bands and even a book fair.
However, it’s not enough to just condemn NSBM; condemnations ultimately do not prevent these bands from sowing the seeds of stochastic terror. How do you, then, prevent further stochastic terrorism from happening? One proven method is to interrupt extremists’ capacity to disseminate hateful propaganda, thus decreasing potential opportunities for radicalization. In other words, we should destroy the ability of NSBM bands, labels, and publications to publish anything at all.
This is called “deplatforming.” Deplatforming works. By kicking NSBM out of social media platforms, or any other platform virtual or physical, we reduce the movement’s ability to proselytize. This curbs its growth and its ability to create stochastic terror.
Opponents of deplatforming generally make one of the following arguments:
- Deplatforming is a violation of free speech, and it is therefore wrong.
- Deplatforming isn’t an effective strategy to combat hate, because it drive hateful communities underground and feeds their victim complex, turning them into even greater zealots.
I will not even entertain the first argument, because social repercussions for bad behavior do not constitute censorship under the First Amendment.
Regarding the second argument, it may be true that hateful actors will often find alternative underground platforms, bringing some of their audience with them. However, these audiences tend to shrink significantly after deplatforming. The fewer people are consuming this hateful content, the fewer people will be inspired to terrorism. Even if we grant that this smaller audience will be a much more zealous one, we need to keep in mind that NSBM bands are already inspiring violence from their fans at their current level of zeal. We should not focus on trying to make Nazis less enthusiastic Nazis; we should be focusing on reducing the number of Nazis.
So, what does deplatforming look like for fighting NSBM? We already know that reporting hate speech to the social platforms will not work – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms regularly ignore reports of hate speech against racial minorities, LGBTQ people, and women. We need a multi-pronged approach to purge NSBM from mainstream live. Here are my suggestions:
- Publicly pressure the social media companies to deplatform NSBM bands, labels and pages with a massive, prolonged effort. Do not give them rest.
- Brigade all posts on all NSBM pages with antifascist rhetoric.
- Once COVID subsides, publicly pressure all music venues to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on NSBM, and boycott all venues that don’t agree.
NSBM may still be a fringe community for now, but it is up to decent people in the metal community everywhere to make sure it stays that way.
Matt is a metal and punk musician based in Washington, D.C. He plays drums in a Richmond-based melodic death metal band called Event Horizon, and plans to get a new pop punk band off the ground in D.C. He writes hardcore/metal music about left-wing politics for his solo project YELXPERIL (pronounced “Yellow Peril”).