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Temple shootings thrust 'hate rock' into wide view

Aug 8, 2012 - MCT News Service

LOS ANGELES -- The guitar riffs come from punk rock, the lyrics from fascist ideology. Bands stake their territory with names like Aryan Rebels and Definite Hate. And when the Blue Eyed Devils sing "White Victory," you can bet that it isn't a love song.

This hate-filled subculture of neo-Nazi bands has been around since the early days of punk rock in the 1970s, but has edged uneasily into the spotlight following the shooting deaths of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin by alleged gunman Wade Michael Page.

Page spent years playing bass and guitar in bands that railed against a racially integrated America. His last endeavor, End Apathy, sang of compassion as a weakness and called America a "sick society."

"There is a whole underworld of racist bands unknown to the public," said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks right-wing extremism "Music is their single most important recruiting method, more than any other factor."

Page is typical of the scene's regulars, said Arno Michaels, a Milwaukee-based writer and peace activist with the group Life After Hate. Michaels played in white-power punk bands for years, leaving after the birth of his daughter and after seeing friends die in street clashes.

"When I got into the punk scene, I enjoyed the aggression and rebellion," Michaels said. Wearing a Nazi swastika "created an environment where the world responded with hate and violence, which to me justified what I was doing."

Page became involved in white-power punk after attending 2000's Hammerfest, a fascist-punk festival hosted by the Nazi group Hammerskin in Orlando, Fla., according to an interview with Page posted on the website of Label 56, which released his albums.

In 2001, Page joined a Nazi band called Youngland that was based in Orange County, Calif., playing with the group for about two years, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

"Orange County is a huge white power music scene," said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the ADL. "There are a lot of white power bands and there are a lot of places they can play. It's a hotspot."

Exact figures for the secretive scene's reach are difficult to come by. Potok estimates there are several hundred bands, including ones based in Europe.

Most performances are underground and unadvertised, to avoid drawing attention from authorities and to prevent adversaries from disrupting the event and attacking show-goers.

An invitation to a white-power punk show more often comes as a phone call or text message.

"Most common is they announce the event, and they say if you want info, contact X," Pitcavage said. "If you contact X, they will contact you back if you did not raise any flags with them. They have learned the hard way to evolve."

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