WASHINGTON — Last weekend’s shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin has thrown a spotlight onto the white power rock scene in the United States and bands like Definitive Hate, Attack and End Apathy.
Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old former psy-ops soldier who killed six worshippers in Oak Creek before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, had been involved with a number of underground skinhead bands.
Such groups and have been “instrumental in the formation of a white supremacist sub-culture,” said Marilyn Mayo, who monitors hate groups for the Anti-Defamation League.
“Hate music helps bring haters together into a shared community,” she told AFP, even if the lyrics have “little to offer followers except extreme rhetoric.”
Events such as the Hammerfest gathering, underpinned by the Hammerskin Nation movement, attract “racist skinheads … from all over the country,” providing an opportunity for networking, she said.
Mayo said Page was a member of Hammerskin Nation, which describes itself on its website as “a leaderless group of men and women who have adopted the White Power Skinhead lifestyle.”
Page founded a band called End Apathy in 2005, but he had been involved with white-power rock for some time, playing with bands with warriors names like Celtic Warrior, Radikahl, Intimidation One and Blue-Eyed Devils.
There are about 130 such groups in the United States, Mayo said, typically playing concerts for audiences of up to 300 people as well as festivals often attended by like-minded European skinheads.
In 2004 the Anti-Defamation League published an introduction to what it called neo-Nazi hate music, explaining its importance in binding the subculture that listens to it.
Whereas right-wing extremist leaders in the 1960s had little to offer besides rhetoric, it said, music has made it possible for their followers to feel they are at the heart of a community.
“A lot of the songs are attacks on black, Jews, minorities, building up the white race, preserving the white civilization,” Mayo said. “A lot of lyrics are violent, filled with hate and violence.”
“Most of the recording labels are very small and they don’t make very much money,” she added. Some, like Resistance Records, made good profits at one stage, but that is no longer the case.
“Racist music is what keeps the movement young” and sets it apart from the image of white-hooded Ku Klux Klan members “sitting on the front porch with a shotgun,” said one-time skinhead Frank Meeink on MSNBC television.
“Driving in the car with a bunch of skinheads, listening to music about kicking people’s heads in, you know, finding people of other races to destroy is to feel it is time for action,” Meeink explained.
Expressing sorrow for the Wisconsin tragedy, Maryland-based Label 56 said it was pulling all End Apathy images and products from its website, and denied using “shock value” symbols and ideology to seek attention.
“We do not wish to profit from this tragedy financially or with publicity,” the record label said in a press statement on its website.
It added: “In closing, please do not take what Wade did as honorable or respectable and please do not think we are all like that.”
Speaking to the Washington Post, Byron Calvert of pro-white label Tightrope Records asked: “If my art form is responsible for this shooting, how come no other art form is responsible in all of the other shootings?”