Qualis artifex pereo, or Why we need Black Metal “edgelords” and don’t need antifa

Reactions to my personalized take on the psychiatrist-worthy witch hunt, “Black Metal Against Antifa”leave no doubt that they successfully antagonized the public by screwing up the concerts. Rare voices from the opposite camp, though, did their best to neutralize the message. Let’s quote one of them: “I found this neatly tucked away in the twilight zone between conjecture and apologism. Absolutely hilarious. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Edgelords get what they deserve.”

As befits such an anti-intellectual “movement” as antifa, the only way they can relate to the “politically incorrect” motives as symbols of misanthropy and unlimited voluntarism is labeling inconvenient artists as “edgelords.” Offensive content employed for shock value could fall under this definition unless they targeted true art which resonates with the archetypal depths of consciousness before anyone comes to reflect upon its meaning.

Moreover, as a genre, Black Metal has always existed on the verge between l’art pour l’art and music as a medium for something higher (philosophy, worldview, “cult,” etc.) to engage the masses. As a result, musically, it may be described as transcendence incarnate. In this respect, symbolism used by Black Metal bands should be taken seriously, which still does not entail legal liability.

When Black Metal bands praise Nietzschean immorality and confess their death wish for humanity and everything weakening, nobody cares whether they are “real misanthropes” or not: there is no respective article of the Western criminal codes. Extremist symbols, again, are banned only if they represent the official political agenda. There is nothing strange that they’re a good match for extreme metal music.

N3

However, what antifa simpletons fail to grasp, there is an abyss between the protracted teenage angst or nonconformism and the philosophical, literary, artistic and musical exploration of evil that has been on the rise since the age of Romanticism and reached a whole new level in the XX century along with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the climax of classic modern ideologies. Black Metal is revolutionary, but, to a great extent, it is simply responsive of the need of time.

Where is a thin borderline between aestheticization of Nero, another favorite of Black Metal “edgelords,” and aestheticization of Hitler or Stalin? Proximity in time and the number of affected people aside, basically, it is quite artificial. In the art world, the distance between The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius and the chronicles of modern Caesarism is little, just as, conversely, there is a huge gap between some edgy teenage crap and the conceptual masterpiece by Mayhem, The Grand Declaration of War. Indeed, last words of Nero, most infamously known for setting Rome ablaze to recreate the destruction of Troy, “Qualis artifex pereo! (What an artist dies in me!), could be an ironic epitaph for the Black Metal art as an apocalyptic answer to the modern Western decadence.

That being said, the obsessive drive to ostracize Black Metal is really disturbing as its humanistic criticism may be easily readdressed to Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy “beyond good and evil,” which, in fact, shaped modern humanities, including criticism of ideology. The “geistesgeschichtliche(the German term to designate the intellectual history) state of the modern West, as diagnosed by Nietzsche, is nihilism, or “the death of god.” The active-nihilistic response to the given condition (“That which is falling should also be pushed!”) as a phase in the transvaluation of all values, another key concept of Nietzsche’s philosophy, was readily appropriated by the Black Metal bands. This is the philosophical background of their artistic celebration of destruction and misanthropy, as well as blasting over the secularized Christian morality exposed by Nietzsche. Album titles of Gorgoroth band, “Antichrist,” “Twilight of the Idols” and especially “Destroyer, Or How To Philosophize With A Hammer,” are a recognizable homage to this “edgy” prophet-philosopher.

Nietzsche, who has always been at odds with any form of chauvinism, at the same time, invented the genre of metaphysical yet highly personalized polemic with political doctrines, among others, liberalism and democracy, religion, above all, Christianity, and, as an ethnopsychologist, the contribution of particular peoples to the history of ideas and, consequently, the historical course of the West (egalitarianism as “the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats,” slave morality” as a product of the Judeo-Christian resentment born in the late Roman Empire, and so on). Such philosophical conclusions would be definitely deemed politically incorrect by the same intellectual virgins who find offensive lyrics of the following kind:

A View From Nihil (Part I)

[Intro: Spoken Word]
For everything around me I experience is cold and dead
The blood of others is of a colder substance and taste
Therefore I must spill and serve the blood that in me runs vibrant
In the frost of the dying minds of western society I recreate
It will be the resurrection of the brotherhood of holy death
In the year of the Holy Roman Empire of night times to come and last
The day of which I shall lay my sword upon your throats
Upon the mighty warriors of the land of northern regions

[Verse]
Upon the shores of our desolate coast within the waves
I can see the wreckage floating ashore of the dying
Culture
And so I greet those who still have eyes to observe and
See
And who still have courage to break through into the
Dying light.

Mayhem, “Grand Declaration of War” (2000)

So, undoubtedly, it is not something to be “excused” or “tolerated”; each time when the artist manages to push even further the boundaries of the cultural imagination of evil, the audience applauds. For a very simple reason: imagination is a domain where freedom dwells, where not only legal but even moral restrictions are not valid, and the forbidden jouissance (the concept of Lacanian psychoanalysis meaning the surplus symbolic aspects of “enjoyment” in contrast with pleasure as mere psychophysical satisfaction) is something all of us need.

Ideally, those on the Left should be familiar with the studies of Alenka Zupančič, Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalytic theorist who made Ljubljana Lacanian School widely popular in North America along with Slavoj Žižek. The following excerpt from the interview with her (“On Evil”) could help those struggling with the “edgelords” to lift the veil of secrecy around the normies’ fascination with the sociopolitical and metaphysical evil:

The philosophical category of evil can also introduce some distance and reflection into what is—and always has been—an inherent bond between evil and the Imaginary. Evil has always been an object of fascination, with all the ambiguity and ambivalence that characterize the latter. Fascination could be said to be the aesthetic feeling of the state of contradiction. It implies, at the same time, attraction and repulsion. “Evil” is not only something that we abhor more than anything else; it is also something that manages to catch hold of our desire. One could even say that the thing that makes a certain object or phenomenon “evil” is precisely the fact that it gives body to this ambiguity of desire and abhorrence. The link between “evil” (in the common use of this word) and the Imaginary springs from the fact that we are dealing precisely with something that has no image.”

Metaphysically, attractiveness of evil lies in the intrinsic relation to freedom and its radical manifestations. However, today, the political camp that vowed to hold the freedom banner high seems to have arrived at the dialectic opposite of freedom again. This risk is common for all ideologies resting on “positive anthropology” (human is an essentially good being who has been oppressed throughout the centuries by the aristocracy, church, state, traditional morality, etc., and it’s enough to minimize the pressure of social institutions to achieve a heaven on earth), that is, modern derivatives of the classical liberalism and the Left which cannot maintain themselves without the state machinery of media, corruption and the police.

This is the reason why the most profound among the contemporary alternatives to the status-quo have nothing in common with the conservative reaction, focus on the strong state, and censorship. To quote Ernst Jünger’s futuristic dystopian novel “Eumeswil,” which is a parody of a modern society, “liberalism is to freedom as anarchism is to anarchy,” meaning that both of them fail to embody basic values they claim to advocate. As follows from this laconic dictum, anarchism poses no threat for the police establishment, too. Anarchist, in Jünger’s words, “is sociable and must get together with peers”; besides, “objectively unfree,” he “starts raging until he is thrust into a more rigorous straitjacket.” True freedom, as well as independence from authorities is the prerogative of Anarch, the concept introduced by Jünger to contest the idea that mainstream politics, and no less mainstream “rebellious” movements, are on guard of freedom.

Anarch is a lone wolf and a sovereign who reigns within himself and shows the true starting point for a change. In the age of unprecedented alienation, he mastered his will and thus avoids the trap of artificial needs and fake secular cults, the skills not uncommon to Black Metal fighters against religion taken broadly. Bearing a striking resemblance to the guidelines given in Max Stirner’s “The Ego and Its Own,” as well as Friedrich Nietzsche’s aristocratic individualism, both often addressed by Jünger, this concept was adopted by the New Right that abandoned reactionary approaches of their predecessors.

Similar intuitions, though, are shared by aforementioned Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, “the superstar messiah of the New Left,” who is also credited for insights into the ideology-based art of his fellow countrymen, Laibach, famously singing in “Das Spiel Ist Aus” that modern “freedom is no longer free.”

Back in 1996, Žižek made it clear that the very question of whether Laibach take themselves seriously or their creativity is meant in an ironic way rests on wrong assumptions. The problem is that a contemporary political system does not take itself seriously, too, so developing an ironic distance to it is in no way subversive. For instance, Žižek goes on to say, in a Western world, one may violate the public law, including beating the blacks, unless he solidarizes with the Ku Klux Klan, and still be a part of the system. He argues that keeping silence about these inherent transgressions, which vary in different parts of the world, is what real conformism is all about. Laibach, in turn, bring to light these hidden transgressions which every system needs in order to reproduce itself, and that is why their strategy is revolutionary. Similarly, questioning of political correctness by Black Metal bands does not fit into the simplistic dilemma of “irony vs. extremism.”

I will summarize the main theses, but the video below, in which Žižek explains why there is something very fake about political correctness, is worth a full watch. As always, philosophical Slovenian iconoclast is too funny to miss it.

жижексталинElaborating on the video title, Political Correctness is a More Dangerous Form of Totalitarianism,” Žižek exposes the danger of postmodern or non-traditional totalitarianism which is as hard to combat as a boss who behaves like your old pal. In contrast with classic totalitarianism which tells you what is to be done and does not care how you feel about it, non-traditional totalitarianism compels you not merely to obey certain rules but also to love doing it, like a postmodern father who tells his son that he has to love visiting his grandmother.

Furthermore, in Žižek‘s opinion, political correctness is a form of self-discipline which, instead of “fighting racism,” creates conditions for its perpetuation. Oppressive racist jokes, he surprisingly claims, may be prevented only by means of so-called “progressive racism,” and gives a number of examples. He described how sharing “obscene solidarity,” namely, exchanging racist obscenities with his friends from different countries of ex-Yugoslavia, helped them to establish a real contact, and even believes it to be the only way of achieving authentic cross-cultural understanding in general.

Next, Žižek remembered the encounter with an African American, which is a term he doesn’t like, admirer of his work who instantly got Žižek‘s punning on political correctness and confidingly said, You can call me a nigger.” Another example mentioned a “stupid old lady” who reported Žižek for making fun of crippled people during his lecture when he jokingly compared the gestures made by a sign language interpreter to imitation of a sexual intercourse, which in reality, again, made them instant friends. At last, Žižek, who is a non-smoker himself, stressed the barbaric consequences of political correctness in Perth, West Australia, where the local opera house prohibited staging of Carmen because the first act takes place in front of a tobacco factory.

Is it surprising that political correctness itself becomes a target for Black Metal blasphemy as an irrational oppressive cult which should be mocked and trampled?

The best example here is Impaled Nazarene, Finnish pioneers of Black Metal well-known for their “punk attitudes” even towards the leftist holy of the holies. Impaled Nazarene have always had a distinct reputation of the reckless militant apocalyptic band, which corresponds with aforementioned Nietzsche’s active nihilism. Conceptual Ugra-Karma album glorifying the destructive forces in the age of Kali is the recognized classic of the genre.

Not incidentally, an album recorded precisely under this title (“Nihil”) has become the reason for the band’s prohibition at several festivals. In particular, songs like “Zero Tolerance,” as well as “Cogito Ergo Sum” videoclip, which is quite a witty vizualization of the destructive other side of Rene Descartes’ rationalism (“I think, therefore, I am”), were condemned for sexism and homophobia. Needless to say, passions got heated by the nationalist themed albums like “Suomi Finland Perkele,” which naturally includes anti-Soviet motives (“Total War – Winter War”), and “Pro Patria Finlandia.” Legendary vocalist of the band Mika Luttinen, though, was well-aware of the artist’s right to ridicule political correctness and, overall, underlined that lyrics of Impaled Nazarene were far from humorous.

In the 2007 interview for the UK’s Zero Tolerance magazine he commented on the issue as follows:

I was kind of thinking that these things will fade away, but it seems that I was completely wrong. I just don’t understand how it’s possible that some left-wing punks can have such influence and such power, that they can actually cancel whole tours. I mean, they just say that this artist is right-wing and everybody will say, ‘Yeah yeah, that’s true, let’s ban them.’ One of the foundations of the European Union is that you’re supposed to have freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The basic rights in the last three or four years are completely destroyed in Germany, completely destroyed in Poland, because in Poland there’s an extreme Catholic government and this government attacked us. If the EU is supposed to have these basic rights, how is it possible that the individual governments can then abuse them? It makes no sense to me, this is supposed to be a ‘united Europe,’ so how can all these countries come to completely different decisions? I can still somehow understand the German paranoia about the far right, with their past. But now we are talking about fucking music.

In this respect, Impaled Nazarene were also pioneers of the inevitable clash between the counter-system vanguard of Black Metal with the latter’s petty guardians, antifa. A variety of reasons to dismiss political correctness, as briefly discussed above, no doubt, is an issue too complicated for their minds. Their latest award-winning exposure” of Marduk as a band that supposedly draws inspiration not only from the history of Third Reich but also agitation materials of Nordic Resistance Movement is yet another proof of their laughable inability to grasp that even if the band confirmed these rumors, it would change nothing. I say this as a person who keeps in touch with journalists and political organizations ranging from liberal to far right, which does not mean that my convictions and projects which I represent are as fluid. Artists, obviously, have even more freedom.

The same concerns “Nazi” imagery and references associated with Inquisition. Probably one could agree with the concluding sentence of the article on Metalinjection.net So INQUISITION Nazis? I Don’t Know. Who Cares?”, “the only difference between Inquisition and the countless other punk and metal bands who’ve done the same thing is that they got swept up in the music blogging community’s news cycle.” Though only with the concluding one, for there are many other legit ways to use extremist symbols apart from shock value.” Troubles with antifa have become possible at all solely because of feeble-minded venue owners and passive fans.

Again, where is the thin borderline between fascination with evil and “promoting” it? Should we suspect that renowned Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who’ve lately gained even more fame by portraying Dr. Hannibal Lecter, cannibalistic serial killer, is a “sympathizer” of something “banned”? An excerpt from the interview-based article about him, Mads Mikkelsen: The Danish actor brings Hannibal Lecter to the small screen,” might seem disturbing for the “keepers of humanism” like antifa.

hannibal1_2553735b

I am ashamed to say I knew quite a lot about that before, because I find it fascinating,’ he admits with a slightly sinister chuckle. ‘I also have a tendency towards biographies of Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Khan, people like that.’

While Hannibal bills itself primarily as psychological horror, there’s no escaping the fact that the action gets grisly – one episode features no fewer than 39 corpses, while in another, a field of young women’s dead bodies is turned into a mushroom farm.

But plenty is also left to the power of suggestion, particularly when it comes to what ends up on Lecter’s plate. Is there really nothing Mikkelsen has been faced with while filming that he hasn’t been able to stomach, I wonder?

Let’s leave the ambiguous response to Klaus Kinski, another prominent cinematographic “edgelord” classically reciting in Jesus Christus Erlöser” (Jesus Christ the Savior), as always, controversial performance of the latter‘s role, “Ich bin nicht der offizielle Kirchenjesus / Ich bin nicht euer Superstar!” (“I’m not the official Church Jesus... I am not your Superstar!”)* The sample of his voice, this time, used by industrial “edgelords” Feindflug, may be heard in their track entitled “Glaubenskrieg” (war of opinions, faiths, creeds), which is quite reminiscent of our situation except for the fact that there is nothing intellectual on the part of antifa.

* “Controversial” character of Kinski’s performance, among others, consists in the contrast between the declared revolutionary, otherwordly and “anarchist” image of Christ (“I am not the official Church Jesus who is accepted by policemen, bankers, judges, executioners, officers, church bosses, politicians and similar representatives of power. I am not your Superstar who keeps playing his part for you on the cross, and whom you hit in the face when he steps out of his role, and who therefore cannot call out to you, “I am fed up with all your pomp and all your rituals! Your incense is disgusting. It stinks of burnt human flesh. I can’t bear your holy celebrations and holidays any longer. You can pray as much as you like, I’m not listening. Keep all your idiotic honours and laudations. I won’t have anything to do with them. I do not want them. I am no pillar of peace and security. Security that you achieve with tear gas and with billy clubs. I am no guarantee for obedience and order either. Order and obedience at reform schools, prisons, penal institutions, insane asylums. I am the disobedient one, the restless one who does not live in any house. Nor am I a guarantee for success, savings accounts and possessions. I am the homeless one without a permanent home who stirs up trouble wherever he goes. I am the agitator, the invoker, I am the scream. I am the hippie, bum, Black Power, Jesus people. I want to free the prisoners. I want to make the blind see. I want to redeem the tortured. I want to cast love into your hearts, the love that reaches out beyond everything that exists. I want to turn you into living human beings, immortals.”) and his real Kinski-style tyrannical and exclusivist attitudes that undermine declared values and an “official” image of Christianity in general, which was immediately exposed by the audience:

“<Kinski> First remove the plank from your eye,
and then look how you pull out the speck of sawdust from my eye.

Jesus strips of his shirt,
kneels down before the first available
and wipes him the dusty feet with his shirt.

I am not the official church Jesus
who is tolerated among police, bankers, judges, executioners, officers, church bosses, politicians and similar representatives of the power.
I am not your super star –

<aside:> shut the hell up so you can hear what I am going to say now.
and first of all, do come right here, having such a large mouth!

<man from the audience:> Folks, I am not a great orator, and maybe it is possible that some of you are searching Christ, but I believe he isn’t it, because Christ was – as far as I know – indulgent, and when someone talked against him, he tried to convince him, didn’t say “shut up”.

<Kinski again:> No, he did not say “shut up”, he took a whip and smacked in his face. That’s what he did! You stupid bastard!

And if only one single person remains who wants to hear that, then he must wait until the other bloody riff raff has gone away.” (taken from Quora.com)

Kinski’s portrayal of Christ, again, may be viewed as a dark reflection of the “political correctness” secured by improved and internalized police control methods, as well as the rebellion against the humanist utopia.

 

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