The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

When It Comes to Peddling Hate Music, iTunes Appears to Be Selective

By Sonia Scherr on August 24, 2009 - 9:02 am, Posted in Racist Music

“Let’s see out the Fuhrer’s dream/To break the back of the eternal jew/Rid the world of the evil we’ve seen/Make it safe for me and you.”
— From “Under the Hammer” by Brutal Attack

“When the battle is over and the victory is won/And the White man’s lands are owned by true white people/the traitors will all be gone.”
— From “White Warriors” by Skrewdriver

If you thought such unabashedly bigoted music was available only from underground sources, you’d be wrong. With a few clicks at Apple’s iTunes website, Internet users can buy albums and songs from white supremacist groups such as Bully Boys, Final War, Stormtroop 16 and H8Machine.

But what has one iTunes customer particularly incensed is that the website has apparently removed homophobic songs by reggae artists, but left the white supremacist music. Galen Andrews, who lives outside Des Moines, Iowa, told Hatewatch that he thinks all hate music should be pulled from iTunes. “It made me sick,” he said of the white supremacist music. “I think it’s irresponsible of iTunes to offer that kind of music. I don’t like the fact that they’re selling racism for profit.”

Among the anti-gay songs no longer available on iTunes are Buju Banton’s “Boom Bye-Bye” and T.O.K.’s “Chi-Chi Man,” Andrews said. ITunes, which bills itself as “the world’s most popular digital media player,” did not respond to several phones messages and E-mails seeking comment. However, it’s not the only mainstream music distributor selling racist and offensive tracks.

Although Amazon.com did not return a phone message, it also peddles music from many of the same white supremacist bands. An Amazon.com spokeswoman told Fox News earlier this year that third-party companies were selling the tracks through its website, but declined to elaborate. A spokesman for CDBaby, which distributes independent music, told Hatewatch that the company doesn’t ban artists based on content, though it donates profits from music it deems racist to anti-hate organizations.

“My impression is that online music distributors currently aren’t banning racist music,” Paul Becker, a sociology professor at the University of Dayton, wrote in an E-mail to Hatewatch. “I suspect that if you asked them they would justify it because there is a wide range of music that people find offensive and how do you decide what bans you’ll implement.”

Andrews, the iTunes customer, said he doesn’t buy the argument that banning racist music inhibits freedom of speech, because artists can simply sell it elsewhere. And he disagrees that it’s difficult to determine what to ban. “You can tell straight off that it’s pretty racist,” he said.

White-power music broker Bryant Cecchini, who uses the alias Byron Calvert, also hopes racist music gets banned — but for a different reason. “Shut us down,” he said. “Make it illegal tomorrow. It would be great.”

Cecchini — whose recent ventures include Project Schoolyard Volume II, a campaign that targets teenagers with a 25-song sampler of white power music — believes that prohibiting racist content would compel artists to find subtler ways to express the same message. That, in turn, would help them reach mainstream audiences. Moreover, he told Hatewatch, it’s human nature to be attracted to the illicit. “What we do is illegal in Germany,” he said, “and it’s fifty times more popular.”

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