Eruditorum Press

Christmas and Easter nihilists

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

20 Comments

  1. mr_mond
    May 10, 2016 @ 6:55 pm

    So NaB will not only tell me all I need to know about Yudkowsky, Moldbug and Land, it will also explain to me why everyone’s so crazy about Ligotti? If I wasn’t a backer already, I would become one now.

    (I have nothing against Ligotti, except for the fact that the very IDEA behind The Conspiracy Against the Human Race provokes a visceral NOPE reaction in me – I guess I’m just not cut out to be a nihilist.)

    Reply

    • Jack Graham
      May 10, 2016 @ 7:26 pm

      The irony is that the very energy required to commit to nihilism is actually too much like optimism for Ligotti.

      Reply

  2. Kate
    May 10, 2016 @ 11:03 pm

    capitalist acceleration towards the bionic horizon

    album name rights: mine

    Reply

  3. Gavin Burrows
    May 11, 2016 @ 5:36 pm

    I’m enjoying this series and wouldn’t want to shunt things off into a sideline. However, just for the record…

    ”…neo-folk band Current 93, whose relationship with white nationalism…”

    Current 93 traversed both the neofolk and the industrial music scenes, both of which were rife with what we might now call neoreaction. And during that time David Tibet – who to all intents and purposes is Current 93 – did not always show the best judgement in his choice of buddies. Most infamously he not only collaborated with Douglas Pearce, but wrote a song which eulogized him – ‘A Song For Douglas After He’s Dead’. Pearce is perhaps best described as a ‘fashion fascist’, more likely to be found parading before the mirror in his bestest uniform than out attacking refugees. But a fascist, nonetheless. The name of his band Death in June is a reference to Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives. Tibet could and should be criticised for that association.

    But while Tibet may have had relationships with white nationalists he’s never really done so with white nationalism. The same album also contains a track likening Hitler to the Antichrist, and is dedicated to Tibet’s father for having fought the Nazis. It should also be noted Tibet’s collaborators also include Steve Ignorant, and in the British music scene you don’t get much more anarchoey than that!

    My guess would be that Tibet is someone only able to perceive things aesthetically, and that blinds him to realities sometimes. He sings about Pearce as some latter-day John Dee, using “swastika” as an alternate term for ‘occult symbol’. Which may well be taking things a little too close for comfort. But to suggest an ongoing relationship with white nationalism makes him sound a little too much like the singing Vox Day.

    Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      May 11, 2016 @ 6:09 pm

      Well, that is why I phrase it as a kind of gruesomely messy question as opposed to making an accusation. But yes, the correct reaction to Tibet isn’t so much “white nationalist” as “wince really dude?”

      Reply

    • Devin
      May 12, 2016 @ 6:23 am

      I hesitate to defend Douglas Pearce (some of his aesthetic works for me but he’s definitely in the “really dude?” box), but he’s actually been pretty clear on a number of the points you cite: No, “Death in June” is not a reference to the Night of the Long Knives (and even if he were for some unexplained reason lying about this, given his outspoken interest in Ernst Roehm he’s pretty clearly on the side of the victims there).

      He’s also explicitly disavowed fascism even while owning his own fascination with it, which… That fascination might take him places I wouldn’t go, but personally there are subjects I find both fascinating and morally repugnant, so I can’t condemn that.

      If “fashion fascist” means “someone who does not take fascist actions and does not advocate fascism but who persists in wearing clothes that make me uncomfortable,” I guess he is one?

      Reply

    • David Gerard
      May 12, 2016 @ 11:27 am

      Industrial, and particularly its neofolk offshoot, has been infested with unfortunate fascination with fascist symbolism right through to actual 14/88 24/7 neonazis approximately since the seventies. (Rant one, rant two.) As someone who does know the area, I don’t think Phil’s one-sentence summary is at all unfair. (FWIW, I suggested the “post-1933”.) There’s a reason the SA neofolk thread is titled “David Tibet Did Nothing Wrong”.

      (Socialist diatribe synthpop is an obvious counter, but Depeche Mode did that and it was crashingly dull except the singles and even they’re earnestly tedious. OTOH some DM album tracks or B-sides from that era as socialist neofolk would probably work. Martin Gore did demo everything on a guitar at the time. Imagine Leonard Cohen doing “Love in Itself” at about half speed.)

      Reply

      • David Gerard
        May 12, 2016 @ 11:29 am

        (and of course for socialist industrial, Test Dept totally delivered. Ideologically sound and cacophonically perfect, just the way we like it.)

        Reply

        • Gavin Burrows
          May 12, 2016 @ 5:06 pm

          I’m not quite sure how to respond to a claim that Pearce has “disavowed fascism”, which cites as evidence an “interest in Ernst Roehm” as being “on the side of the victims”. You do know the Night of the Long Knives were when one fascist faction murdered another, don’t you?
           
          Yes, like Roehm before him Pearce is a Strasserite. (Actually the most common stance among fascists today. It allows them to say they don’t support Hitler with a straight face, while playing the class=race card. “Unlike those politically correct lefties, we truly care about the white working class” and so on.) I’ve always assumed, though I’m not sure I’ve ever specifically read it, that the band name commemorates the betrayal and defeat of those he sees as the ‘true’ fascists.
           
          Pearce has frequently resorted to spin and obfuscation, particularly when he made things too hot for himself. I don’t think he’d know “clear” if it put on an armband and saluted him. I hadn’t heard of him denying the Night of the Long Knives connection before, but I’m not surprised. Unfortunately for him it directly contradicts other things he’s said, and these days stuff gets written down. So his evasion has failed to ever really convince anybody.
           
          A fashion fascist isn’t someone who happens to like wearing fascist clobber (that would be Lemmy), but someone who takes on fascist attitudes like a set of clothes. There is a genuine debate over how much time should be spent opposing him, the guy is after all a prancing prat with a very limited fan base. But over which side he’s on? That’s not a debate that’s ongoing. (Should anyone want corroboration see here.)
           
          This is also a good piece, on industrial and neofolk in general. John Eden was part of that scene, while also participating in community anti-racist campaigns in his local London neighbourhoods. He increasingly felt it was hurtling in the wrong direction and that he was being made to choose between the two. He ended up picking anti-racism. Perhaps significantly, of all the bands he cites as part of the problem only C93 stir any real debate in the comments section. The others are pretty much an open-and-shut case.
           
          ” I don’t think Phil’s one-sentence summary is at all unfair.”
           
          I felt concerned that the original line could have been read as suggesting C93 were themselves a white nationalist band. But I’m fine with Phil’s clarification. I may be a fan of Tibet’s music. But if he does stuff that draws criticism then he’s going to get criticised.
           
          Test Department, yow! That’s not a name I’ve heard in years.
           
          Okay, derailment over. Sorry Phil, what were you saying about neoreaction?

          Reply

          • Gavin Burrows
            May 12, 2016 @ 5:08 pm

            Hopefully its clear when I was replying to Devin and when to David.

          • Devin
            May 12, 2016 @ 8:33 pm

            “I’m not quite sure how to respond to a claim that Pearce has “disavowed fascism”, which cites as evidence an “interest in Ernst Roehm” as being “on the side of the victims”. You do know the Night of the Long Knives were when one fascist faction murdered another, don’t you?”

            I certainly do. You do know that the guys who got murdered were Roehm’s guys, don’t you? (I’m not offering that as any kind of “oh, he’s definitely anti-Nazi” evidence, mind. But… Look, if you name your band in honor of Himmler, that’s some Nazi bullshit. If you name your band in honor of, say, the White Rose, anti-nazi points. If you go for the time some Nazis killed some other Nazis, and you’re clearly over on the side of the (Nazi) victims, especially when it’s not just about Strasserism but also homosexuality… Complicated.)

            I should also be more clear about what I mean by “disavowed fascism:” From time to time, he’ll mumble something to the effect of “no, kids, don’t re-enact Krystallnacht, that’s bad.” He’s not enthusiastic about it, but I’ve never heard of him saying the opposite (just of people assuming from his samples or his outfit that he must believe it, which… eh.)

            I think I was clear about my belief that one can be interested in something without supporting it. For instance, you and I are both quite clearly conversant with the history of the Third Reich and of neo-folk to a degree well above the average. Yet I’ve not accused you of being a Nazi or a neo-folk fan because I think it’s very possible to be interested in those things without embodying them.

            I’m much more comfortable with your revised definition of “fashion fascism” as it applies to Pearce. He’s definitely been (intentionally) vague about this stuff. If that makes you uncomfortable, well, I think that’s kind of the point? He seems to be pretty interested in the role of discomfort in art. He can’t then complain when people find him uncomfortable. (He can, perhaps, complain when people call him out as a supporter of things he never voiced any support for.)

            Laibach is kind of my touchstone here: I think a subtle reading of Laibach makes it very clear that they’re anti-fascist and anti-totalitarian even while they’re interested in totalitarianism and totalitarian art. However, a lot of the same knives that get sharpened any time Death in June comes up would cut just as well against Laibach: they make vague statements, use Nazi imagery, etc. So if your critique isn’t precise enough to exclude Laibach, I worry.

            (Unless, of course, your critique is “eh, can’t see anything that’s, like, actually evil, but smells a little too Nazi for me, so skip the show.” That’s 100% legit.)

            Oh, and “that would be Lemmy” killed me. Well played.

          • Gavin Burrows
            May 12, 2016 @ 10:57 pm

            I’m sure you’re not saying that if a fascist gets offed by another fascist they’re kind of exonerated or something. But that leaves me completely unclear what you are saying…

            And it’s not like a marginal issue, is it? It tends to keep coming up with them. When the left argue, which admittedly they can do to a self-parodic degree, they argue. When the far right do it, they try to kill or injure each other. The amount of times I’ve been on a counter-fascist demo where everyone’s said we were going to stop them marching. Which we’ve manifestly failed to do, only for their march to get halted anyway when it turned into one great punch-up between them.

            You can be interested in something without supporting it, of course you can. But you can also be interested in something and support it. The link I posted spells it out really, with telling quotes from Pearce in a section handily titled ‘Douglas Pearce Quotes’ – including on the origin of the band name. There is really no need to go over this again at this stage in his ‘career’.

            Laibach are a different kettle of fish… in fact I’d say they’re a red herring here. But then they didn’t come out of the same neofolk scene. Conceptually I think they’re most similar to something like the Residents’ ‘Third Reich and Roll’ era. Rather than rock music being like totally free of the man, dude, a gig is more like a Nuremburg rally. The band on stage pumps up and manipulates the crowd’s emotions in the same way. Laibach are about exposing those overlaps by blowing them up. It’s a critique of rock music, or at least the way it’s commonly perceived in bohemian circles, which incorporates fascist tropes to make its point.

          • Devin
            May 13, 2016 @ 7:15 am

            I’m actually having a hard time putting my finger on exactly what I mean about the Night of the Long Knives. I guess trying to be concise, I’d say that I think it complicates the picture. I mean, if you just love Nazis and Nazi shit because you’re a big ol’ Nazi, you name your band, I don’t know, “Himmler Rules OK” or something. Naming your band after the time some other Nazis killed your favorite Nazi for (among other, more important, reasons) sharing your sexual orientation… Well, even if we assume Pearce is some kind of Nazi-lover*, it suggests a more complicated relationship to Nazis than just emulation or adoration.

            The article you linked actually doesn’t quote Pearce on the origin of the band’s name. His quote about the Night doesn’t mention the band or the name at all, though the article makes that claim elsewhere without attribution. I vaguely recall a different origin, but I could be wrong and it really doesn’t matter.

            In general, I’m not very impressed with that article. There’s a lot of guilt-by-association (collaborated with Boyd Rice, therefore a nazi. Even more hilariously, “according to a promoter, fascists came to his show,” therefore a nazi) a bit of post-hoc-ergo-prompter-hoc, and just generally a lot of “this makes me uncomfortable, therefore it is clearly wrong.” I came away convinced that Pearce makes a lot of decisions I find quite uncomfortable (which I already knew), but not even slightly convinced that he’s ever done anything actually harmful, unless you count the time he gave money to a hospital which the article claims was a “fascist hospital,” which… I think they’re trying to imply some Dr. Mengele shit, but since I see no information on why this hospital is actually sinister, I’m going to go ahead and read that as “a basically okay hospital attached to a bad government.” Am I wrong?

            Ultimately, I think Pearce is pretty much what he says he is: a guy who likes a lot of discomfort in his art, who has a serious hard-on for a lot of Nazi shit, but doesn’t actually advocate fascism. That’s consistent with his words and actions, including the way his disavowals are all kind of mealy-mouthed and half-hearted (because he doesn’t think he should have to explain his art, and because in some ways he likes the additional discomfort that accrues to his work).

            I can certainly understand why you’d read one of those disavowals and think he was lying, because they are kind of shifty, right? But on examination, that doesn’t actually make any sense. If you were a secret nazi and you wanted to keep your nazism secret, would you really issue an unconvincing denial and then show up on stage next week in an SS uniform?

            He’s not shy about the uniforms or talking about how much he loves Ernst Roehm, so what’s his supposed motive for repeatedly claiming (if half-heartedly) that he’s not a Nazi and doesn’t advocate fascism?

            A nice analysis of Laibach (though I’d argue that they’re a critique of state power/ideology as often as of pop music). My point was just that they’re playing with the same toolbox in a lot of ways, and that many of the condemnations of Pearce could be applied to Laibach, at least if you don’t get what they’re actually trying to accomplish.

            *Which I think I’d agree with at least in a limited sense… Not necessarily that he’s “a fascist” or “a Nazi,” but the man’s definitely enthusiastic about some Nazis, right?

          • Elizabeth Sandifer
            May 13, 2016 @ 7:38 am

            I dunno, I just kind of feel like if you dress like a Nazi, work with Nazis, and attract a whole lot of openly Nazi fans then fuck you.

          • Devin
            May 13, 2016 @ 10:29 am

            Legit.

          • Gavin Burrows
            May 13, 2016 @ 5:12 pm

            Brief summary of argument – I agree with Phil. But should anyone still be interested in reading more about obscure people who may well have better gone unmentioned…

            Pierce says he has an “interest” in the Night of the Long Knives in that ‘Sounds’ quote. And I don’t remember that being a standard music press question of the time. “So Steve Lillywhite is producing your new album. Anyway, what do you reckon to the Night of the Long Knives?”

            And the name doesn’t suggest anything complicated at all. In mainstream British political discourse “the Dunkirk spirit” means everyone pulling together. The fact that everyone was actually pulling together to retreat is widely known, but that doesn’t change the meaning of the phrase.

            Similarly, an Eighties anarcho-punk band were called Krondstadt Uprising and I’ve lost count of how many anarchist social centres and the like have been named after it. This doesn’t mean they have a “complicated” relationship to the Russian Revolution, it’s the very opposite – it’s them nailing their colours to the mast. The fact that Krondstadt was for them a defeat changes nothing. They’re aligning with a political faction via its best known instance in history.

            Now if someone was to name their band after the best known instance in history of a faction within… okay guys, surely we’re there by now.

            And homophobia is a red herring here. The Night of the Long Knives were factional killings, which used homophobia as a post-hoc excuse. It’s not like homosexuality within the SA suddenly became known at that point, it just suddenly became useful. Significantly, if you were SA but not gay, you still got skewered. But mostly – being a gay fascist doesn’t excuse someone for being a fascist any more than being a dead fascist does.

            The most generous reading of your comments I think I can make is “perhaps he is just art pranking as a fascist to annoy people”. Even if that were true, my response would be “couldn’t he try to not be annoying?” The best-case scenario would seem to be ‘trolling as life mission’. The Gamergaters and Vox Puppies who sometimes post here, couldn’t some of them be art pranking in the same way, goading to get a reaction? And the obvious answer to that question is – who cares? They’re still slinging toxic swill, whichever way.

          • Devin
            May 14, 2016 @ 6:12 am

            I think you’re considerably overstating my support for Pearce, though with admirable generosity: I absolutely agree that Pearce is a bit of a shithead. I just wouldn’t quite drop him in the same category as, say, Skrewdriver, or David Duke. Comparison to Gamergate trolls is pretty fair (though maybe not the swatting/rape-threat sort: I think they’re more Boyd Rice’s crowd, so I guess that maps pretty well.)

            I guess it’s an “asshole vs. actually evil” question, for me.

            Interestingly, while I agree that homophobia was more or less a rationalization for a factional power struggle, it was not in fact a post-hoc one. Himmler actually tried to press that argument with Hitler earlier in his campaign, and was rebuffed with some line about how the SA were a warrior organization and could be forgiven a little debauchery. So, y’know, ahead of his time I guess: we didn’t get around to DADT for decades.

          • Gavin Burrows
            May 14, 2016 @ 9:34 am

            “I guess it’s an “asshole vs. actually evil” question, for me.”

            For me, life has more pressing questions.

  4. David Gerard
    May 15, 2016 @ 7:03 pm

    [outdent]

    The big problem with totally-not-Nazis in industrial and its neofolk offshoot is that the music is frequently excellent. Death in June are a really good band! White nationalist music is frequently laughably terrible, but this stuff actually isn’t. If they sucked it wouldn’t matter.

    I was quite pleased to discover, after Throbbing Gristle’s blatant edgelordery, Coil explicitly repudiating Boyd Rice on the grounds that racism is prima facie evidence of blithering stupidity.

    But it was all much more deniable back in the day. I slightly boggle in 2016 that an ardent leftist like Fad Gadget made an album with Boyd Rice. We didn’t have the whole Internet providing the full and inarguable collection of receipts at your fingertips.

    Reply

    • Gavin Burrows
      May 16, 2016 @ 5:38 pm

      That is a cool quote from Coil. If only everyone on that scene had shown such common sense. But then I suppose there’s no automatic connection between artistic ability and sensible politics. One of my favourite albums has a tribute track to a fascist on it, which is pretty weird when I think about it. But then there was never any cast-iron reason why that wouldn’t be the case.

      Reply

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