by Craig Anderton
I recently received an email asking me to lend my support to a petition intended to kick some “alt.nazi.music.whitepower” or some such usergroup off the Internet. Apparently the people who are part of this group promote an ideology that just anyone would find repugnant (I don’t know, I haven’t checked it out…I have better things to do with my time, like watch paint dry).
I think the concept of “white power” is really dumb, and naziism proved itself to be a totally failed ideology. The idea of “nazi-rock” I find about as appealing as…well, “John Wayne Gacy rock.” Having lived in Europe as a child a decade after World War II ended, I know what kind of destruction nationalism gone wild can wreak. In fact, it left such an impression on me that back when I was editing Electronic Musician, I voted against having a cover whose colors were (coincidentally, of course) the black, white, and red colors of the Nazi flag. I didn’t want that image associated with the magazine, even subconsciously. Besides, there are plenty of other colors in this world.
So it would be logical to assume I signed the petition, right? Wrong. Because if there’s one thing worse than a repugnant political philosophy, it’s trying to *repress* a repugnant political philosophy. I truly believe that with a few exceptions people are basically good, and want to do the right thing. For example, I’m glad to see that although the majority of Americans are against abortion, the majority of Americans also favor a woman’s right to choose. This means that people are willing to put aside their personal preferences in order to accommodate those of a differing philosophy.
To me, the concept of free speech means that anyone’s voice can be heard. I believe in this because if nothing else, it allows the fools in this world to make fools of themselves. Think of it as the “Bob Dole” effect: although he’s not a fool (and he seems like he’d be an excellent dude to go have a beer with), he was clearly lacking many of the qualities needed to become president. Every time he opened his mouth, he proved he was lacking those qualities, and his approval ratings went down.
Now, what is going to give Nazis more power in this country: letting them say whatever they want so they can trivialize themselves to the majority of Americans, or censoring them so they can be martyrs? People tend to be suspicious of groups that are suppressed, because this government has a relatively well-documentated record or trying to destroy organizations that rocked the status quo, even something as relatively benign as what Martin Luther King was trying to do. Hey, he even preached non-violence — no “blow up whitey” stuff — and maybe that’s precisely why the establishment considered him dangerous. He was not spouting off lunatic talk, so people listening to him would think “You know, this guy’s on to something…”.
I think that overall, it’s best to let every political philosophy have its soapbox. One of the first things the Nazis did was try to limit freedom of expression I already have nothing in common with Nazis, and I don’t want to start now.
Oh yes, and this is a music channel, so why I am I bringing this up? Because cyberspace is still a frontier, a place where everyone can have their say. Among the words of genius are words of stupidity, but you can’t really have one without the other. People who spend a lot of time in the SSS forums know that I am very reluctant to censor any posts, even some that appear to be a waste of time (e.g., flame wars). But you know what? Every time there *is* a flame war, others jump on and tell the participants to knock it off, and the flame war goes away. That’s the way it should be: let peer pressure, etiquette, and common sense dictate the flow of a board. You’ll also notice that I never remove posts that are negative about me. If someone has a problem with something I do, I want the opportunity to respond. And you know, sometimes (even though it’s not fun to admit) they have a point, so I learn something.
As we head into the holiday season, let’s reflect on the virtues of being more tolerant. No one has all the answers, but by interacting with one another we have a much better chance of at least increasing our own personal knowledge base. The more we know, the better people we will be…and better artists as well.