- Reichsrock: The International Web of White-Power and Neo-Nazi Hate Music by Kirsten Dyck, and: Trendy Fascism: White Power Music and the Future of Democracy by Nancy S. Love
In December 2016 the Southern Poverty Law Center reported a sharp increase in “bias-related incidents” in the United States following the presidential election. During the subsequent month, the center compiled 1,096 such events across the country and also reported that “37 percent of all incidents directly referenced either President-elect Donald Trump, his campaign slogans, or his infamous remarks about sexual assault.”1 While many of the perpetrators of these and many subsequent racially biased incidents have clearly felt emboldened by the election of a demagogue who spouted racist rhetoric and also waffled when pressed about enthusiastic support from the Ku Klux Klan and other overt white supremacists, some have also likely been spurred on by a vibrant yet largely unacknowledged source: white-power hate music. As Kirsten Dyck and Nancy S. Love demonstrate in their timely and important studies, music has served white-supremacist organizers for decades as a highly effective tool, enabling both recruitment and incitement. While Dyck and Love take widely divergent approaches to this music’s contexts and effects, both demonstrate the increasing vitality and dangers of a burgeoning cultural formation too often dismissed as marginal and fading and thus as insignificant.
Dyck’s Reichsrock and Love’s Trendy Fascism work especially well when read together. Working with a relatively basic theoretical framework, Dyck, who teaches history at James Madison University, provides a straightforward, highly detailed account of the historical backgrounds, key players, and current permutations of white-power music scenes in numerous countries. In an accessible, nearly journalistic mode, Dyck delineates the music’s spread and transformations, from its origins in 1970s Britain to ongoing scenes in many other settings, including not only the United States and Germany but also Greece, Spain, Poland, Belarus, and Latin America. While Love also examines the origins of white-power hate music in Britain, she focuses primarily on recent permutations in the United States. A greater difference from Dyck’s approach is Love’s unabashedly theoretical stance as a political scientist; as Love writes early on, “This is first and foremost a work of critical theory” (x). Love primarily uses the music to work through various sociopolitical theories, rather than the other way around, an approach that could be heavy going at times for those not already immersed in such discourses. Nevertheless, her study often provides new ways not only of situating white-power hate music and its adherents within current societal contexts but also of thinking more generally about how to work more effectively against the pernicious fictions of race and [End Page 537] the white-supremacist ideology that created, sustains, and instrumentalizes them.
In her opening chapter, Dyck provides a quick primer on her working conception of white-power music, a term she prefers because it describes music that provides its fans with a sense of empowered racial pride. The music also enhances a sense of community. Ironically enough, this community constitutes a safe space, comprised of similarly ethnoracially obsessed, patriarchal and homophobic others. Dyck rejects the term “white nationalist” because, as she demonstrates throughout her book, a mutually supportive “international web” has arisen since the 1990s, with participants unified not by nationalist patriotism but rather by hatred of others and obsession with their own supposed racial purity of (largely Western) European origin. The Internet obviously strengthens and changes this racialized community, and much of Dyck’s exhaustive supporting research consists of postings on white-supremacist web sites. Dyck has found over a thousand bands in numerous genres that have performed such music, and as it does with...