The way white supremacy groups use music and gigs like the Hammered Festival is genius! People think they are just listening to music for entertainment, when in reality there is a lot more going on.
Music is a powerful tool for influencing people and spreading propaganda messages. Shopping centres and advertisers literally spend billions of dollars each year on music to make people buy their products and feel positive about brands. White supremacy groups know and use this same powerful technique.
How music influences people:
Have you ever found yourself feeling annoyed and agitated when stuck in a situation where you had to listen to music you didn’t like? Have you ever put on music because you were in a bad mood and wanted to feel better? Or put on music to feel energised before going out?
Music has the capacity to make us feel all kinds of emotions; anger, sadness, euphoria. In turn, our emotions affect our decisions and judgements. Think about the last time you made a decision when you were really angry, only to regret that decision when you felt calmer. The fact is, music can be really influential, affecting both our emotions, and our capacity to reason and make judgements. There is lots of research to show that people’s thoughts and feelings are influenced by repeated exposure to music with violent or aggressive lyrics.
Think about it – listening to music about how those groups of people are to blame for your problems makes you feel better doesn’t it? It makes you feel angrier, more righteous and justified in hating them. It also makes you feel more bonded to your mates who feel the same way, doesn’t it? It’s one thing to make up your own mind, but it’s another to be manipulated isn’t it?
Pairing a message with music is a really clever way of manipulating people to respond to a message in a certain way. This is because it can make you associate a message with the emotions that arise from listening to the music. Take John Lennon’s song Imagine, because the music for this song usually makes people feel calm and peaceful, people interpret the lyrics as saying they should work towards achieving peace in the world. But what if these lyrics were being sung by a thrash metal band, stirring up feelings of anger and rebellion? Suddenly the message of the lyrics could change to become a call to fight against a type of future. This is how music is used to spread messages and influence people to feel certain emotions in response to a message, and the amazing thing is that people usually aren’t even aware that they are being influenced.
What White Supremacy groups use music for
White power music is used to create or take advantage of negative feelings that are twisted to support white supremacist ideology and messages. Many white power songs aim to create a feeling of belonging and solidarity among white supremacists. Some aim to stir up emotions of hatred, resentment and anger. Others aim to create feelings of pride and euphoria.
In order to get people feeling the desired emotions, white power music tends to stick to certain genres, such as death metal, hard core punk and nationalist folk music. Basically, death metal is more likely to make a person feel angry and rebellious than jazz is!
White power music also manipulates people’s emotions by using very specific propaganda techniques:
- Repetition – the more you hear a message the more it can influence you
- Demonising – making out that Jewish, ‘non-white’ and gay people are bad and evil
- Spreading fear – stating that the white race is under threat from its enemies
- Spreading misinformation – making statements that aren’t true
- Exploiting people’s’ desire to belong – using melodies and lyrics that inspire a sense of belonging and solidarity
- Tempo, volume and accompanying symbols or images – designed to increase adrenaline, blood pressure, heart rate, and other biological responses that prime people for conflict
- Mass concerts – give the impression that these emotions are universal
- Free CD/MP3 giveaways – this is the same as being given a free sample at the supermarket – it actually makes you more likely to buy the product without critical thinking.
The emotional response to the music reinforces and normalises the messages found in the lyrics of the songs.
Check out the example below. In just one verse this song demonises people who aren’t white; spreads fear; encourages violence; includes a call to action and paints the vigilante white people as being righteous. Combine the messages of these lyrics with feelings of anger and hatred and this song could have a pretty big influence on your thoughts and judgement.
‘Muds are raping, looting, stealing, mugging, robbing, shooting, killing
Breeding more infesting cities spreading drugs with all their deals
Gonna go out on the town lock and load lets have some fun
Gonna shoot your whole brood down and send the others on the run
Vigilantes on the street, we won’t stop until we’re done.
Might makes right now it’s time to fight
It’s the law of the land and the law of the gun’
(‘Lock and Load’ by Definite Hate, as quoted by the Anti-Defamation League)
The role of White power music festivals
White power music festivals (such as Hammered music festival) are used to strengthen people’s emotional connection to white supremacy and its ideology. The combination of being with others and surrounded by the atmosphere of a music festival can lead to people having a much more intense experience than if they were listening at home alone. Add alcohol and/or drugs and this can intensify the experience even further.
Arno Michaelis, the former leader of a white power band called Centurion, recalled being swept away when he heard racist music from the British skinhead group Skrewdriver in the 1990s.
”Listening to that music was an essential part of how we rallied around the idea of racism…It made me feel I was part of something greater, that I had purpose and that my race was something very special and was something I needed to defend.”
How you can avoid being manipulated
OK, so you might agree with the messages that white power music promotes, and that’s your choice. But maybe you want to make up your mind about what you believe without being manipulated. If you do, the following tips could help you get better at recognising when you’re being unwittingly influenced.
- Remember that anyone can be a victim of propaganda – even you!
- Remember that music almost always creates an emotional response in people
- When you’re having an emotional response, ask yourself why? Look for tricks used to stir up particular emotions e.g. anger or fear.
- Ask yourself if you felt like this before you started listening to the music?
- Choose a time when you are in a good mood and ask yourself if you agree with all the messages in the white power music. Maybe there are some that you don’t fully agree with?
- See if you can put the message of the music into normal sentences and see if it makes sense without the hype, the vibe and the music. Reality-check this message with someone you respect who isn’t in the White Power movement.
Just as clothes shops use music to recruit you as a customer, white power groups use music festivals to recruit new members and strengthen old ones. It’s all just advertising. The message here is to think for yourself and make your own choices.