- Performing The Homo-Nazi Effect: Gay Neo-Nazism, Digital Drag Attack, and the Postcinematic Cultures of Crisis
In 1992 Nicky Crane, an iconic figure of a London-based neo-Nazi movement, came out as gay in the TV documentary OUT. This was not his first appearance on screen: a few years ago, the same man starred in a series of amateur gay porn films. Both of these visual performances—documentary and porn—brought to the spotlight a kinky dimension of the gay universe: the beastly style of skinheads turned into a costume of cinematic hedonism. Crane’s stylistic armature— narrow trousers, boots, and braces—restaged the politics (of cruelty) on a catwalk of porn. The body image of the homo-Nazi became a site of a semiotic blender: the politics of violence mingled with a libidinal celebration of fetishism on screen. Far-right extremism was now a genre of visual pleasure. This bizarre retranslation of horror into sex brought to the foreground an odd chapter of the encyclopedia of lust— one that relegated prohibition to pleasure. By uniting the identities of the victim (homo) and the violator (Nazi), the figure of the homo-Nazi confirmed but also disrupted the stereotypical understanding of homophobia as a twisted indicator of oppressed homosexually: Richard Hornsey noticed how in the 1950s public commentators portrayed anti-gay moral panics as a reverse mirror of homoeroticism.1 Filtered through the language of the psychologist, homophobia was reinterpreted as a defense mechanism, a “projection.” [End Page 108] This interpretative mode transformed “the most aggressive opponents of homosexuality into those most likely to be its sufferers.”2
The art project discussed in this article, The Homo-Nazi Effect, points in an opposite direction. Drawing on the episodic testimony of an Athens-based gay neo-Nazi, it shows how the homo-Nazi theatres of transgression—that is, the exhibitionist rituals of power, violence, and humiliation— do not “displace” or “oppress” a hidden world of sexual instincts—they rather expose, stage, and play out a world of queer self-expression. “Brutality” does not “disguise” sex—it is sex in itself. Homo-Nazism is here retranslated as a psychovisual effect—the word “effect” referring both to a style of spectacle and a public, digital, and popular mode of speaking about the psyche and sex.
After admitting his porn career, Nicky Crane retired from political life and some years later died of AIDS. When the scandal of his double life erupted, the press playfully appropriated the phobic language of Nazis to make fun of a Nazi—The Sun announced that “Nazi Nick is a Panzi.”3 In addition to the image of the “porn-star,” a series of photographic portraits portrayed Crane as a warrior machine—a dark anti-hero who performed ninja kicks in the air. In all these postures, the profile of the Hitlerian leader intersected with the posturing of a B-movie star. Just like other violent street cultures, this explosion of action seemed to transform the proletarian identity into a dark work of art. Seen through lens of violence, everyday life was now indistinguishable from the splendors of trash cinema.
This dialogue between political horror and visual entertainment is not historically or culturally unique. The similarities between Crane’s hyper-masculine cinematic aesthetic and the media profile of Golden Dawn—the neo-Nazi group that came into prominence in crisis-hit Greece—are glaring. Members of the Golden Dawn also present themselves as street-warriors, avenging superheroes, and film stars. They continuously mix politics with “trash glam,” posing interchangeably as emancipatory leaders, tabloid celebrities, and punky provocateurs. They happily piss at the entrance of TV channel, slap queer politicians at live breakfast shows, and stab immigrants and hip-hop artists to death on the streets.4 Despite these analogies, any generalized equation between the stardom of violence and some form of “repressed” sexuality would be highly misleading. As stated above, the costume of the neo-Nazi did not “disguise” a form of desire—it did the opposite: it brought it out in the open. It was an instrument, a material conditioning and outward vocabulary of sex and sexuality. Moreover, the mere use of the...