The Cult Is Dead: The Alt-Right and Black Metal

After Charlottesville I would love to think, even for the second, that the end has begun for twenty-first century Fascism. I’d like to think that after an attempted mass murder, teenage boys whose critical faculties have been destroyed by South Park, who make up the bulk of what we call the Alt-Right, would desert. No such luck. The Alt-Right is an identity first, a political project a very distant second, and identities don’t go down easy.

Even if this isn’t the beginning of the end, there’s historical precedent that suggests that it may be the end of the beginning in another group of angry, sad, young, white men who took nerd culture and nationalism far too seriously: The Norwegian Black Metal scene centered around the Helvete record store in Oslo, a group of musicians and hangers-on who sometimes, perhaps ironically, referred to themselves as the ‘Black Circle.’

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YPJ in Syria

Anarchists vs. ISIS: The Revolution In Syria Nobody’s Talking About

The Middle East today is the last place anyone in mainstream western thought would think to look for progressive political thought, and even less to see those thoughts translated into action. Our image of the region is one of dictatorships, military juntas and theocracies built on the ruins of the former Ottoman Empire, or hollow states like Afghanistan, and increasingly Pakistan, where anything outside the capitol is like Mad Max. The idea of part of the region being not just free, but well on its way to utopian, isn’t one that you’re going to find on mainstream media.

But you’re not on the mainstream media right now, are you?

Along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Northern Iraq, lies a mainly Kurdish area with a population of 4.6 million where a huge social experiment is taking place at the centre of a crossfire between Syria’s dictatorship, ISIS’s collective insanity and Turkey’s ongoing hostility towards the idea of Kurdish autonomy, with the US and NATO looming large in the background. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC) established in the region of Rojava a society that mixes fierce libertarianism (guns are everywhere and there are no taxes – none) and Occupy-friendly anarchist thought with a healthy dose of feminism. While most Kurdish groups, especially those the US is friendly with, would some day like to establish a Kurdish state, in Rojava they have leap-frogged over the idea of the nation state into a more advanced system that they call Democratic Confederalism.

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Beyond Syria: Life After the State

Several weeks ago, when I wrote this piece for CVLT Nation, my aim was to make people aware of something hugely important happening in a part of the world that the press won’t touch. Understandably worried that they’ll end up in the next ISIS beheading video, news agencies don’t have people on the ground in Rojava, embedded amongst not the people fighting for their freedom, but those living it day to day.

The original article got a lot of comments. Probably as many as if I’d written the article ‘Liturgy: Greatest Band Ever or Just Greatest Metal Band Ever?’. Most pointed out, quite correctly, that I was leaving out the subtleties of the conflict in Syria and post-state politics in general (which I reduced to the term ‘anarchism,’ though there are a lot of ways that what is happening in Rojava isn’t anarchist). The huge range of ideas that can be called ‘anarchist,’ even broadly, create the same problem that always comes up when discussing metal. So many contrary ideas are contained within these two words that every time they are invoked, everything inevitably devolves into a replay of the most incisive thing ever written about revolutionary politics: this Monty Python bit.

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(Image © Zoriah www.zoriah.com)