In the wake of the Aurora Theater shooting, newscasters and reporters were scrambling for details on the shooter, in an attempt to make sense of the tragedy as well as in attempt to scoop other news outlets. During that time speculations were raised from both ends of the political spectrum that the shooter, James Holmes, had been a member of the Tea Party, as well as a registered Democrat. Neither of which had any bearing on the shooter's actions whether or not they were true.
In the wake of yesterday's Sikh Temple shooting however, a connection was readily made to Page and his racist motives - notably that he had been in two racist skinhead hardcore punk bands, End Apathy and Definite Hate. Described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (an organization that tracks hate groups), Page was "a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band," and it's evident that, in addition to these two, his connections to white power groups and bands have been longstanding.
Page was signed to Label 56 Records, a label which bills itself as producing "Independent Music For Independent Minds," but is, in all actuality, a record label that releases and promotes racist music with a white supremacist agenda.
Label 56 is attempting to distance itself from Page by removing his work from their site and releasing the following statement:
Label 56 is very sorry to hear about the tragedy in Wisconsin and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who are affected. We have worked hard over the years to promote a positive image and have posted many articles encouraging people to take a positive path in life, to abstain from drugs, alcohol, and just general behavior that can affect ones life negatively. Likewise we have never sought attention by using “shock value”/ symbols and ideology that are generally labeled as such. With that being said, all images and products related to End Apathy have been removed from our site. We do not wish to profit from this tragedy financially or with publicity.
In closing please do not take what Wade did as honorable or respectable and please do not think we are all like that.
Thank you, Label 56
That's all well and good, and I might buy it if his releases were a random piece of large catalog on an independent label, but this is a label that's built around releasing white power music. This removal of Page's work does little to change the label's agenda, nor the nature of all the hate-filled releases they still carry. Instead it's simply an attempt to separate them from the specific incident and any backlash from being associated with providing this particular person with a forum for spreading his message of racial hatred. (I'll not post a link to their site, as I don't agree with giving them the traffic.)
From the beginning, the racist skinhead portion of the punk scene has been a dark spot that has infiltrated and corrupted a proud group with a history of wonderful music and racial integration. In it's earliest incarnation, the skinhead scene was a subculture in London in the '60s, populated by a mix of white and black (specifically Jamaican) working class kids, united primarily by a love for shaved heads, ska music and Dr. Martens. It wasn't until later that the scene was infiltrated by nationalist groups like the National Front, groups that saw this large group of disaffected poor white working class kids as a ready-made army, and recruited them for their goals, directing their anger toward immigrants and minorities as the reason for hard times, rather than economic conditions.
It's not as if this break in the punk scene happened without response from the other side, much of the political Oi! and street punk scene operates with politics that are left of center and often in open defiance of the racist scene. And the ska scene has continued its anti-racist message to this day.
Here in Amsterdam, we have the luck of having a thriving anti-fascist skinhead scene, something I witnessed firsthand at a Hard Skin show here at the Occii a few months back. A band from the UK, Hard Skin is an Oi! band that recently did an interview with Scannerzine, where frontman Johnny Takeaway laid out his stance so:
We have no ties at all with those neo-nazi nobends and if people can't work that out for themselves then they are thick as dogs**t. I know that a lot of skins say they're not political either. Sometimes that means lazily avoiding the issue that the far right is something that needs to be confronted and prevented from ever rising again. (The full interview is here.)
The skinhead scene here is a small but strong one, with a solid sense of racial equality and unity with the scene, an image made even more powerful when one realizes what they stand opposite of.
Punk is, almost by definition, blatantly political. There are bands elements of the scene that seek to address virtually any issue one can imagine, from issues of gender and race, to politics to environmental issue. Scenes like Riot Grrrl and Queercore rose to address issues related to gender and sexual politics, and the anti-fascist and leftist skins have done the same for race. Sounds and groups arise when a need is perceived or a void needs to be filled.
Similarly, punk is also, again almost by definition, all-inclusive. It's a sound that was born among the poor working class in response to a feeling of being excluded from the larger part of things. It's meant to enact change, and to create a scene where all are welcome. It's a scene where, on the local scale, benefit shows have been organized at the drop of a hat to help out those in need, while recent actions, such as the Mike Virus release Aceh Calling for the punks in Aceh as well as everyone coming together in support of the imprisoned punks of Pussy Riot show that this belief expands to the idea of a global scene, united by electronic connections.
And in order for this scene to grow and thrive, there's little room for elitism or infighting, and even less room for exclusionary politics, especially those espoused by racist groups.
In the wake of every tragedy perpetrated by any extremist, it seems to fall upon the members of the more moderate portion of the assailant's group to apologize. After 9-11, it seemed that Moslems were required to step forward and say "we're not all like this," because of the attention and examination their religion was receiving from the media, as well as the perpetuation from various sources (including folks like Label 56 and its "artists") that we were at war with all of Islam. And while I accepted the idea that not all Moslems wanted to wage war on the US, I can't buy this apology from the fine folks at Label 56. When they say "please do not think we are all like that," I simply hear "please don't think we're all crazy enough to storm into a temple and start shooting, even though we preach hatred, and we have room and record deals for anyone who wants to help spread the word and help recruit the next piece of racist trash who will do it."
But at the same time, I have to apologize for punk rock in general. When people like Page, his label, and the bands that are part of his particular dark corner of the musical world get lumped in with punk in general, I do feel obligated to say "please don't think all punks are like that." And then I want to add "really, none of us are like that, because we don't include those guys as part of our scene, either."