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Why Metalheads honor the memory of Sophie Lancaster

Introduction

9 years ago this month (August 24th, 2007), a terrible tragedy in England resonated throughout the sub-cultural (and mainstream) communities around the world.

Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend (Robert Maltby) were targeted by a group of thugs and brutally attacked. There was no provocation – they were chosen because of the way they dressed (as I understand it they were part of the English Goth community).

Although Goths and Metalheads are separate and distinct cultures, there is a good deal of crossover between them (as there is with a lot of sub-cultures). Enough crossover, in fact, that both the young men committing the criminal act and the witness who called the paramedics referred to them (among other things) as “moshers” (a pejorative term to refer to goths, metalheads, and other similar looking subscribers to sub-cultures in England, as I understand it).

And this wasn’t an isolated incident. I’m not saying anything sensationalist here – heavy metal and other subcultures aren’t under constant attack. But when you participate in any subculture/counter culture, it’s good to remember that there’s going to be a broad spectrum of reaction from the mainstream cultures (and other subcultures, for that matter) that’s going to include (but isn’t limited to) physical retaliation and violence.

Given the Dionysian, Hedonistic, Anti-Social (not Asocial, as most people tend to define it) cultural tendencies metalheads, goths, punks, emo kids, scene kids, etc tend to share – it’s not surprising that there is often a negative reaction from a predominantly Apollonian mainstream culture.

So, while I have absolutely no idea whether or not Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend actually listened to heavy metal or were part of the subculture – it’s a moot point. To someone who comes from a place outside of these cultures – they’re all one and the same. Ben Moores (a teenage metalhead) was attacked in a similar manner to Sophie 5 years later.

An American Perspective to Illustrate a Greater Point

And I have to admit, as an American Metalhead my knowledge is inherently biased towards my own experience and those of my peers. For example – I’m much more familiar with the cultural persecution of metalheads in America from the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s and early 1990’s and the subsequent cultural fallout.

Judas Preist and Ozzy Osbourne were both put on trial after young men who were fans of their music committed suicide. Christian youth behavioral modification camps capitalized on the satanic panic to “de-metalize” or “de-punk” rebellious youth. American police were trained to recognize and discriminate against metalheads. Censorship as a part of a multi-faceted attack on heavy metal that includes religious moral and political concerns from the dominant culture is nothing new. (Sound of the Beast, by Ian Christe, chapter 17)

When the Columbine tragedy occurred, mainstream culture and the media were quick to associate the young men’s association to heavy metal as the culprit.

Three teenage boys (dubbed the West Memphis Three) were scapegoated in a brutal murder case of three young boys on circumstantial evidence and held for 18 years. Even after they were freed (they were obviously innocent – this was the subject of several documentaries) – they had to agree to a plea deal where the state admitted no wrongdoing.

After the brutal rape and murder of Elyse Pahler, her parents (unsuccessfully) sued Slayer twice as the cause of the horrid attack.

In Arizona, when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot – the media was quick to point out Jared Loughner’s association with heavy metal music through his love of a single Drowning Pool song.

And, although marginalized, the demonization of heavy metal and it’s followers by the church continues in the United States to this day.

What Does this all Mean?

When a mainstream/dominant culture demonizes or vilifies a smaller sub-group on a large-scale/macro level, there tend to be individual manifestations of this within the interactions between members of those cultures on a micro/individual level.

If the church and the government in the United States had not brought mainstream culture to a state of panic concerning heavy metal in the United States (elected representatives publicly speaking against the music, media demonizing fans and musicians alike, congressional hearings spurred by the PMRC resulting in the censorship and subsequent economic sanctions that occurred as a result, etc), there most likely wouldn’t have been such a tendency towards blaming heavy metal for societal ills on an individual/micro level.

Applying this to the situation in England, I’m guessing that greater cultural norms had a significant impact on the social landscape of the country. Considering that the pejorative term “mosher” even exists to describe anyone who is a member of the subcultures being discussed in this article – I’d say that’s a pretty safe bet. The negative mainstream cultural connotations attributed to metalheads and goths (and others) can be seen as both an indirect and a direct cause of these brutal hate crimes. This sort of hatred didn’t come out of thin air – it’s a logical conclusion that a similar societal pattern existed in England to the one in the United States that led to where we are today.

So, the legacy of Sophie Lancaster is best exemplified through the Sophie Lancaster Foundation – which is focused on creating respect for and understanding of subcultures within communities.

Moving Forward

I would argue that there is a responsibility on behalf of the global community of such subcultures (metalheads included) to not only remember such horrible events, but to recognize societal patterns that have proven historically to lead to this sort of violence and intolerance.

Because it’s not limited to England and the United States (or Christianity) – I recently wrote a piece dealing with a situation in Romania where the church has caused a stir in the local community.

darkfuneralconvo

After receiving the blessing (sic) of Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral to use some of what he was saying/reporting on in the area, I wrote a piece detailing how the a Russian Orthodox Priest had petitioned the local government in protest of Dark Funeral’s recent concert in the area. the government, in turn, issued a vocal statement that they would allow the priest to decide who did or did not play at public venues in the area.

The problem with this is that in similar instances across the globe where a particularly fundamentalist religious population enlists and is granted government aide to strip a group of citizens of their rights leads to a societal marginalization that can (and has) led to individual incidents of violence against people of that particular group. And metal culture has been proven to be particularly susceptible to this around the world.

Whether it’s in Africa, South America, Latin America, the US, Europe, Russia, China, Malaysia, India, or anywhere else on the globe – it’s good for people to be aware that this sort of thing can and does happen.

Metalhead response to what happened to Sophie Lancaster has been a global phenomenon – it got a dialogue going where it was urgently needed, there have been metal festivals dedicated to her, Bloodstock Open Air has a stage dedicated to her, charity shows for the Sophie Lancaster foundation, a charity album, and most importantly – social change via legislation that classifies subculture abuse as a hate crime. And it’s something that, almost a decade later, still resonates with people on a very human level.

I think it’s safe to say this is, globally, something worth supporting.

 

Romanian Government Decrees all Metal Shows Must be Approved by the Church

Following a show by the band Dark Funeral at Rock Castle, Romania (a country that upholds the controversial figure Vlad the Impaler as a savior of Western civilization) has recently announced that all future metal shows in the area will have to be approved by the orthodox church. How ironic.

The first I heard of this situation was through the facebook posts of Lord Ahriman and his band Dark Funeral.

Dark Funeral

This is part of the greater narrative between metal and the church in Eastern Europe and Russia. With events such as arresting and then deporting Behemoth, sending a military unit to break up a cannibal corpse show while banning the bands lyrics and artwork, and more recently Russian Orthodox Priests spitting on metal bands at the airport – it’s safe to say the orthodox church has a stranglehold on both the government and culture of the area. Conflict between the church and extreme metal artists is not new – and often quickly reported on by independent metal media. And up until this point, the conflict has been centered on specific bands – and metal media has been quick to report on such things.

So why is it that now, when ALL METAL is being targeted by a cooperation between the government and church of Romania, is metal media silent about this? This isn’t targeted towards a specific band – they’ve literally declared that all metal shows must be approved by the church. This sort of censorship hasn’t happened in Western Culture since the fucking dark ages. Where is the metal media when it is needed the most? Where are the Social Justice Warriors/Hipsters who bitch about minor isolated occurrences in the metal scene and make them out to be such grand struggles?

I’ll tell you where they are. While parts of the world are working hand in hand with the church to ban metal music and oppress thousands of metal fans – sites like Metal Injection, MetalSucks, Blabbermouth, Pitchfork, Lambgoat, and the like are busy promoting a band that calls itself black metal while spewing a manifesto that goes completely against the spirit of the genre. They’re literally promoting a band that would see black metal reduced to a socially acceptable construct, free of the transgression inherent in the DNA of the genre.

I guess it’s only worth writing about if it effects a rich American white kid who pretends to be edgy and like transgressive art. It’s a sad day when the metal media is so self absorbed that they miss something as huge and culturally significant as what is going on in Romania right now.

Hornsuprocksdarkfuneral2016

Thank god the members of Dark Funeral have the fucking balls to stand up for transgressive art and freedom of speech and expression in an area that obviously needs it.

 

Both the Romanian government and metal media should be ashamed of themselves for their conduct (or lack thereof) towards this situation.

EDIT:

A note to the Romanian people,

I am not writing this in any way, shape, or form to insult the Romanians as a whole. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on a disturbing situation that is unfolding in your country.

Recently there was a festival at Bucovina Rock Castle with roughly 10,000 attendees. Following the show, the cultural association “Saint Metropolitan Dosoftei” caved to pressure put on them by a local priest.

The reaction was to grant him the ability to decide which bands are allowed to play in the town. This is in violation to several sections of the Romanian Constitution.

It violated article 15 (All citizens enjoy the rights and freedoms granted to them by the Constitution and other laws, and have the duties laid down thereby) by giving the priest and his congregation the freedom to take away the freedom of the 10,000 concert attendees.

Article 15
(1) All citizens enjoy the rights and freedoms granted to them by the Constitution and other laws, and have the duties laid down thereby.

It violated Article 16 (Citizens are equal before the law and public authorities, without any privilege or discrimination) in the same manner as article 15.

Article 16
(1) Citizens are equal before the law and public authorities, without any privilege or discrimination.

(2) No one is above the law.

It violated Article 29 almost in it’s entirety by forcing the religious ideals of one group on the masses.

Article 29
(1) Freedom of thought, opinion, and religious beliefs shall not be restricted in any form whatsoever. No one shall be compelled to embrace an opinion or religion contrary to his own convictions.

(2) Freedom of conscience is guaranteed; it must be manifested in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.

(3) All religions shall be free and organized in accordance with their own statutes, under the terms laid down by law.

(4) Any forms, means, acts or actions of religious enmity shall be prohibited in the relationships among the cults.

(5) Religious cults shall be autonomous from the State and shall enjoy support from it, including the facilitation of religious assistance in the army, in hospitals, prisons, homes and orphanages.

(6) Parents or legal tutors have the right to ensure, in accordance with their own convictions, the education of the minor children whose responsibility devolves on them)

It violated article 30 by allowing censorship of the freedom of expression of the 10,000 concert attendees:

Article 30
(1) Freedom of expression of thoughts, opinions, or beliefs, and freedom of any creation, by words, in writing, in pictures, by sounds or other means of communication in public are inviolable.

(2) Any censorship shall be prohibited.

(3) Freedom of the press also involves the free setting up of publications.

(4) No publication shall be suppressed.

(5) The law may impose upon the mass media the obligation to make public their financing source.

(6) Freedom of expression shall not be prejudicial to the dignity, honour, privacy of a person, and to the right to one’s own image.

(7) Any defamation of the country and the nation, any instigation to a war of aggression, to national, racial, class or religious hatred, any incitement to discrimination, territorial separatism, or public violence, as well as any obscene conduct contrary to morality shall be prohibited by law.

(8) Civil liability for any information or creation made public falls upon the publisher or producer, the author, the producer of the artistic performance, the owner of the copying facilities, radio or television station, under the terms laid down by law. Indictable offences of the press shall be established by law.

It restricts access to culture guaranteed under article 33…

Article 33
(1) The access to culture is guaranteed under the law.

(2) A person’s freedom to develop his/her spirituality and to get access to the values of national and universal culture shall not be limited.

(3) The State must make sure that spiritual identity is preserved, national culture is supported, arts are stimulated, cultural legacy is protected and preserved, contemporary creativity is developed, and Romania’s cultural and artistic values are promoted throughout the world.

It opens the door to economic restrictions on local metal bands not approved by the priest, and allows for the possibility of future violations of your citizen’s rights by limiting their access to the local economy in violation of article 45.

Article 45
Free access of persons to an economic activity, free enterprise, and their exercise under the law shall be guaranteed.

And the town council members are in violation of articles 54 and 57 through this act…

Article 54
(2) Citizens holding public offices, as well as the military are liable for the loyal fulfilment of the obligations they are bound to, and shall, for this purpose, take the oath as requested by law.

Article 57
Romanian citizens, foreign citizens, and stateless persons shall exercise their constitutional rights and freedoms in good faith, without any infringement of the rights and liberties of others.

So, while I might not live in Romania – the internet allows access to your laws. And your constitution is obviously based on the United States constitution (which I am very familiar with).

Maybe instead of getting angry at a person you will never meet over the internet you can focus your energies on protecting the rights of the 10,000 people who had multiple constitutional rights violations perpetrated against them to silence a dissenting priest and his congregation. Nothing about this action is OK.

Council of Suceava

When anyone acting under the authority of a government (even a public arts council who appropriates government funding) – they are acting for that government. The Suceava Council (elected officials) have responded to a letter from a pastor – stating they will allow him to have some say in who does and does not get to play in the country. So, when I say “Romanian Government decrees” that is exactly what I mean, and it is 100% true. Because, until your government says otherwise – this is the will of the Romanian government and people. You’re allowing the church to remove the rights of taxpayers, and to dictate the use of your tax dollars into cultural events that have to be approved by the church. That’s not democracy – that’s oligarchy.

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