White Power Music Festival Hammerfest 2000 Draws International Fans to Atlanta
Close to 500 racist Skinheads gathered in a small town outside Atlanta last October for Hammerfest 2000, the largest white power music concert held that year in the United States. While headliner bands Brutal Attack, Hate Crime and Extreme Hatred played furious "hatecore" music, men dove from the stage into a mosh pit of raging, tattooed Skinheads.
Georgia newspapers didn't cover the concert at all, and local authorities didn't show up at the remarkable gathering in Bremen, Ga., either. For neo-Nazi Skinheads, though, the show was world famous.
Hammerfest 2000 drew fans from Austria, Canada, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as from across the United States. Four bands flew in from Britain for the weekend. The concert culminated months of worldwide networking by sponsors Panzerfaust Records and Resistance Records, the premier neo-Nazi music labels in the U.S.
The growing white power music industry, now valued at millions of dollars in annual sales, is not just the largest source of money and recruits for the Western world's most dynamic racist revolutionaries. It is also astonishingly international.
Thanks largely to the Internet and cheap air fares, racist music has spread over the last quarter-century from Britain to the rest of Europe and on to the United States.
Today, racist compact discs might be recorded in Poland, pressed in the United States and sold via the Net in Sweden. A German neo-Nazi might see his favorite American band at a concert in Switzerland.
In many ways, this remarkably violent music is accomplishing for the radical right what decades of racist theorizing didn't: It has given Skinheads and many other extremists around the world a common language and a unifying ideology — an ideology that replaces old-fashioned, state-based nativism with the concept of "pan-Aryanism."
"In the last decade, white power music has grown from a cottage industry to a multimillion-dollar, worldwide enterprise," says Devin Burghart of the Center for New Community, which has studied this music extensively.
"Along the way, the music scene has created international ties where there were none, and has inspired an ideological pan-Aryanism that has broken down the walls between racist groups."
It has also spawned a culture of violence.
In internecine disputes, neo-Nazis in the music industry have been willing to stomp each other with boots, to beat each other with baseball bats, and to torture each other with hammers. They have hired hit men and burned down buildings. Racist music fans have bombed children and bludgeoned people with iron pipes; they have drowned LGBT people and executed police officers.
In Europe, where such music is generally illegal, governments have started deporting racist aliens, raiding white power CD caches, and banning neo-Nazi music organizations. Such pressure has driven racist music underground even as profit margins have shot up — and increasingly, it has made the United States, with its unusual First Amendment protections of even neo-Nazi speech, a haven for the racist music business.
Picking Up Teeth
The violence begins with the music. "You kill all the niggers and you gas all the Jews," George Burdi sang with his band Rahowa, short for Racial Holy War. "Kill a gypsy and a commie too. You just killed a kike, don't it feel right?
"Goodness gracious, Third Reich."
And it is contagious. "The concerts were crazy," recalls Burdi, a former neo-Nazi who now says he has left the movement (see Present at the Creation). "Friends would beat each other up and then laugh about it afterwards, with their eyes swollen shut and their noses broken and picking their teeth up off the ground."
Such blind anger might not appear conducive to starting a moneymaking business or even building up an extremist political organization. But the foundations are there and growing.
Internet-based "radio" shows stream racist music around the world at all hours of the day. In the U.S., racist music from 123 domestic bands and 229 foreign ones is available on-line from more than 40 distributors, according to the Center for New Community.
The leading U.S. label, Resistance Records (started by Burdi in 1993), reportedly expected to sell 70,000 CDs last year, meaning more than $1 million in potential gross revenue. Industry profits go to political neo-Nazi groups like the National Alliance and Hammerskin Nation.
The anger and violence that characterize racist Skinhead groups like the Hammerskin Nation may actually help the cause. "All too often we turn [our anger] against ourselves," writes Resistance owner William Pierce, who heads up the National Alliance, America's premier neo-Nazi organization.
"We need to give a proper direction to that anger. ... [Resistance Records will distribute] music of defiance and rage against the enemies of our people. ... It will be the music of the great, cleansing revolution which is coming."
'Running the Show'
If white power music is big business in the United States, it is even bigger in Europe (where it is largely illegal) — and especially in Eastern Europe. Interpol estimated in 1999 that the European neo-Nazi music industry was worth $3.4 million a year, and it has only grown since then.
With the cost of producing a CD little more than $2, Interpol said profit margins were better than for selling hashish.
In Poland, some racist bands sell as many as 30,000 albums, comparable to successful local pop bands. In that country of 39 million people, there are 15,000 individuals intimately involved in the racist Skinhead scene, according to Rafal Pankowski of the Polish anti-fascist group Never Again.
Though there is no reliable count of the American racist Skinhead scene, it is at most a fraction of that size — in a country with seven times as many people.
In Germany, before the neo-Nazi music organization Blood & Honour was banned last year, there were about 180 white power concerts a year — or one every other day — according to Antifaschistische INFO-Blatt (AIB), a German anti-fascist organization. In Sweden, a 1997 survey showed that 12% of young people aged 12 to 19 listened to white power music "sometimes" or "often."
Racist music is found in every one of Europe's 30 countries, but it is especially widespread in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Serbia and Slovakia, among others.
Perhaps most frightening is that racist Skinhead culture, which has always sought the extreme, has even come to seem normal in places. In Germany, where the neofascist National Democratic Party (NPD) has openly sold white power music for election funds, racist Skins boastfully call some neighborhoods "National Liberated Zones" — no-go areas for any foreigners, blacks or Jews who want to avoid a beating or worse.
"White power music has reached far beyond the hard core of the neo-Nazi movement," said a representative of the German anti-fascist AIB, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals. "In some places, neo-Nazis are running the show."