Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Neofolk, politics and "metapolitics"

(UPDATE: Our good friend The Dodologist has expanded on this theme a bit further).

Politics is a boring and complicated subject, and Lord Bassington-Bassington prefers to avoid boredom and complication. But these Chronicles write a bit about neofolk, one of Lord Bassington-Bassingtons favorite musical genres, and in neofolk political disclaimers are increasingly necessary these days.

This sad situation has come about because two groups of people are trying to portray the neofolk scene as some sort of fascist conspiracy. Yes, it's ridiculous, but still worth taking seriously, and Lord Bassington-Bassington feels the need to share some thoughts with the readers of these Chronicles.

Forms of music that are outside the mainstream tend to attract people that are outside the mainstream. Therefore neofolk, like musical subcultures such as hardcore punk, black metal and power electronics/industrial, has an overrepresentation of people from various unusual backgrounds – be they radical rightists, radical leftists, members of new religious movements or sexual minorities. Go to a neofolk performance, and there’s bound to be a far higher percentage of homosexuals, Satanists, traditionalist Catholics, communists and neo-fascists than at your typical U2 concert.

This is fine. In fact, it's more than fine. For this strange mix of eccentric and extreme personalities is not only an integral part of what makes neofolk interesting, but also a big part of what makes life itself interesting. Lord Bassington-Bassington hasn’t the slightest interest in limiting himself to associating with people he agrees with on every subject under the sun. Heck, he can’t even agree with himself half the time!

What is not fine is that certain people want to use neofolk to promote their own political agenda. And as mentioned above, two groups in particular are starting to cause problems for people who just want to enjoy some music.

The first group is composed right-wing extremists, the political heirs of Roderick Spode.



(Roderick Spode, amateur dictator and P.G. Wodehouse character)

These extremists see that some elements within neofolk are sympathetic to some of their ideas – and yes, there are a few neofolk bands and fans like that. So, desperate for anything to latch onto, they claim that neofolk as a whole is sympathetic to their ideas. The word "exaggeration" doesn't even begin to cover it.

This situation is particularily bad here in Scandinavia, where certain tin-pot politicians have explicitly (and, strangely, publicly) made clear their intention to infiltrate various underground music genres, including neofolk, and use them as an arena to make their politics more palatable to the public. This is called “metapolitics”, and is essentially a way to spread your political ideals without being explicitly political.

So if you are an artist, record company or similar who operates in the underground, and someone from Scandinavia offers you a concert, a record deal, distribution deal, review, interview or something similar, chances are that you might find yourself part of some “metapolitical” campaign. To make matters worse, these people have proved that they have a very – let’s be diplomatic and call it “alternative” – approach to concepts such as copyrights, moral responsibility and simply telling the truth.



(While not a big fan of T-shirts, Lord Bassington-Bassington nevertheless thinks this one is very appropriate).

This “metapolitical” strategy will fail. Not only will it fail, it will create (and has already created) the opposite effect of what it is trying to achieve. Instead of spreading the extremist ideas, the "metapoliticians" will create a backlash. Examples are anti-racist statements from leading bands, extremists being banned from concerts, and political statements like the one you are reading right now.

But sadly, the “metapoliticians” will still be able to cause problems for normal neofolk lovers. Especially because they work in tandem with the second group, which is composed of scholars or anti-fascist watchdog groups who overemphasize the fascist elements within neofolk to make themselves seem interesting, insightful and important.

One such scholar is Ukranian political science student Anton Shekhovtsov, who has had a few otherwise excellent people take his shoddy work seriously. There is a long tradition of anti-fascists and scholars who do good jobs of monitoring and understanding right-wing extremist parties, but go haywire when they try to understand musical subcultures. But Shekhovtsov is a particularily bad example.

Shekhovtsov’s approach seems to be to use modern definitions of fascism, especially as put forth by the eminent fascism expert Roger Griffin, on neofolk.

Griffin’s understanding of fascism is summed up as follows:

Fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism.

The strength of Griffin’s thinking is that it is flexible enough to allows you to see that fascism sometimes mutates, and when brown shirts or bomber jackets don’t cut it anymore fascists will think of new ways to sell their ideas. This is why fascists spend so much time and energy coming up with new things to call their ideology.

The weakness of Griffin’s thinking is that it can take you to where Anton Shekhovtsov is: A place where people who don’t say fascist things, don’t do fascist things, aren’t members of fascist groups, or indeed have anything to do with fascism, can still be labeled fascists if you don’t like them. And if you, like Lord Bassington-Bassington see problems with slapping heavy labels like "fascist" on young people (a label which can have serious consequences for peoples' lives), then you probably won’t be reassured by Shekhovtsov’s approach to ethics in research. “There are no ethical issues involved,” as he commented when Lord Bassington-Bassington tried to argue with him.

In such a climate, where both fascists and scholars (however shoddy) of fascism seem to consider anyone involved with neofolk as a potential fascist, it’s important to make clear where one stands. So this is where the Lord Bassington-Bassington Chronicles stand: Lord Bassington-Bassington is a caninist, and his political views tend to be very moderate. As they say in skinhead circles, he is "neither red nor racist". Human racism, he thinks, is kind of silly, as the true master race is white, black and brown.



(The real master race!)

But, as he doesn’t think he has the monopoly on what people should think, he also supports freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. In short: Democracy. Not because democracy is so great. But, as it says in one declaration Lord Bassington-Bassington supports:

He does agree than no one has invented a better political system than democracy – but still doesn’t like it.

Because Lord Bassington-Bassington sees democracy as the lesser of many evils, he rejects all anti-democratic and totalitarian systems. He is therefore an anti-fascist, an anti-communist and firmly against all mixture between religion and state, be it a state church or an Islamist theocracy. One of his main hobby-horses is freedom of religion, which of course includes the right to freedom from religion.

Furthermore, despite being old-fashioned and grumpy Lord Bassington-Bassington supports things like gay rights (as long as homosexuals follow certain traditional norms). Actually, despite thinking fur-less, tail-less half-apes are slightly silly, Lord Bassington-Bassington still thinks they are entitled to human rights (this also applies to women).

And as for being enlisted into any sort of extremist political or "metapolitical" project, Lord Bassington-Bassington prefers to take his cue from that most eminent of bipeds, Mr. Reginald Jeeves.

13 comments:

  1. Ah! The British Knee!

    The British knee is firm, the British knee is muscular, the British knee is on the march!

    Good old Spode. :-)

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  2. Even the most ardent ant-fascist should find it in his heart to let out a small "Hail Spode!" now and again.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. No, he shouldn't be mocked. But sometimes one has to call a Spode a Spode!

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  5. The future lies ahead!
    Well, that's the next album title sorted out.

    The only thing that stands between us and victory is defeat!
    Ageless wisdom!

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  6. And I have my British-made umbrella ready!

    With whangee handle, for extra John Steed points.

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  7. I have long since declared myself an avid follower of Roderick Spode. A greater political genious the Western world has never seen!

    HAIL SPODE!

    Why hasn't any responsible neofolk bands put together a Spode tribute album? That ought to confuse those "scholars" ;-)

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  8. Hail the Spode!

    I started writing a comment to this post, but it is morphing into a blog post of its own, so I think I'll rather present you with a link when it has been posted.

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  9. We may have started a Spode renaissance. The next time I'm asked some boring question about bloody Evola I may have to name check his Spodenes

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  10. Tony: Like a phoenix from the ashes, rises His Spodeness to once again preach the gospel of The Britsh Knee!

    And thus to show the way forward for the lost people of The Dying West, as the shadow of Gorgomorrahgoth hammers its Foreign beat on The Gates Of Vienna!

    Let us manly walk in the footsteps of His Spodeness on the Path To The New Tomorrow!

    And no man shall of course look in a decadent way on the knee of another ...

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  11. Then my own post on the subject is up and running (standing? sitting?):

    http://thedodologist.blogspot.com/2010/01/neofolk-and-palingenesis-of-paranoia.html

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  12. Arnfinn: When we start our own movement to liberate Norway from the Plague of the East - i.e. Swedes - you'll be the principal speechwriter!

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