What was the purpose of punk rock
Right ideas, left gestures - What used to be punk is now alt-right
Reading time: 10 minutes
“The Kids Are Alt-Right” is the name of a much-clicked song by the US band Bad Religion from the summer of 2018. The musicians are no longer kids, more old-school punks, and they complain that nowadays kids are no longer left, but right . Far right - Alt-Right.
The new, alternative right in the USA is attractive for people who want to break away from the so-called mainstream. Especially for young, white men.
The punk veterans from Bad Religion come like the well-meaning left-wing liberal teacher, who is stunned to learn that his students have developed a weakness for fascists.
Alt-right movement in the US
The kids are suddenly alt-right, but they were always «alright». In 1965 The Who landed a hit with “The Kids Are Alright”, a hymn to the rebellious youth of the 1960s.
The slogan stands for the belief in the good in the rebellious kids. About the fact that young people who deviate from the mainstream automatically drift to the left. That her heart beats on the left, as it was called in political-romantic jargon.
The Who are now over 70 and play the song to this day. Your singer Roger Daltrey is in favor of Brexit. The fact that kids are no longer “alright”, but rather right-wing to right-wing extremists, is not an achievement of the alt-right. The coordinates of the pop rebellion have shifted.
In 1976 the Sex Pistols, the most popular punk band on the planet, sing of “Anarchy In The UK” and land their biggest hit with “God Save The Queen”, the title rhymes with “The Fascist Regime”.
The fact that punk was already flirting with Nazi symbols in England at that time primarily serves to provoke parents. They finally won the war against the Nazis, so the daughter in the swastika shirt or the son in the SS uniform is good for scandal.
Punk means demarcation
Historically, punk is primarily about demarcation. Differentiation from the hated hippies, who in the 1970s did the not-so-long march into the institutions: from the subversive counterculture into the new establishment.
If the established hippies describe themselves as leftists, then punks flirt with right-wing symbolism. Otherwise, the punk kids are “alright”: against racism, against the rabid neoliberalism of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
What is punk today?
40 years later the coordinates are shifted again. “She was punk rock!” Shouts an excited guy around 40 on a popular US talk show.
His name is Gavin McInnes, he co-founded Vice magazine and is one of the stars of the New Pop Right in the United States. "She" - that is Margaret Thatcher, Conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain, the favorite enemy of the punks in the 1980s.
Why does Gavin McInnes of all people posthumously rewrite Thatcher as punk? "Thatcher was Britain's most anarchist politician because she freed the market from state tutelage." This is how Gavin McInnes defined the anarchy in Great Britain in an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau.
In autumn 2018 he went one better: “I'm still the punk I was 20 years ago. Only that my target is no longer the bourgeois philistines from the suburbs, but the politically correct left elite. "
For Gavin McInnes, punk is a strategy to generate attention: crossing boundaries, violating taboos. If the limits of propriety and taboos are dictated today by an allegedly politically correct left elite, then the “punky” provocation comes from the right.
With this simple logic, the self-created fictional character Gavin McInnes becomes a media punk. So he made it to his own television show. To a very own show. There he stands in the studio - jacket, jeans, well-groomed beard - and lets his pants down to insert a dildo anal. What shoud that?
Formerly left media strategies
"At this point, McInnes was already faced with allegations that he was a right-wing radical," explains the author Bernhard Pirkl, an expert on the New Right in the USA.
With his performance, McInnes defended himself against allegations that he was homophobic and represented a toxic masculinity. "If you don't know what to think of him, you could think that it is a left communication guerrilla," said Pirkl.
We are also familiar with the adoption of left forms of action and media strategies by the right in Europe. For example through the so-called Identitarian Movement, which sometimes climbs the Brandenburg Gate to demonstrate.
Not only is the term punk being kidnapped and rededicated from the right, the term hipster is also going through its metamorphoses. Gavin McInnes, prototype of the right-wing hipster, founded the Proud Boys in 2016, "a kind of post-modern fraternity," says Pirkl.
The Proud Boys quickly developed into an important player in the culture war on the right. They cultivate a skinhead-punk aesthetic and oppose the much-vaunted crisis of the white man with exaggerated masculinism.
Gavin McInnes formulates the political, well, program of the Stolzen Jungs as follows: «Minimum state, maximum freedom, against political correctness, against feelings of 'racial guilt', for the right to firearms, against the drug war, for closed borders, against masturbation, Respect entrepreneurs, respect housewives. "
A concise program sounds different, but that doesn't detract from the success of the New Right, on the contrary. The sometimes ironic, almost playful way of dealing with supposed contradictions is one of the strengths of the new pop right - and what makes it so attractive.
McInnes sometimes plays with contradictions so far that one can speak of a paradoxical intervention.
Provocation against everyone and everyone
In the spectacular dildo scene in his TV show, he practically performs gay sex with himself and thus provokes the proverbial bourgeois stoop from the suburbs - but also many of his right-wing comrades with their notorious hatred of gays.
The main enemy of McInnes, however, is what he calls the politically correct left elite - which in turn rejects homophobia, but is likely to feel provoked by a right-wing dildo dandy.
In the right worldview, the "dictatorship of political correctness" invents new word creations in the name of justice, it constantly establishes new taboos and prohibitions on speaking.
The New Right masters the codes of pop culture and reacts to alleged taboos and speaking bans by deliberately crossing boundaries and deliberately breaking rules. And with the same refrain over and over again: You can still say that!
Like defiant little children, pop rights cultivates an obsessive urge to use forbidden words. On his television show, Gavin McInnes entertains his fans with a staccato of ostentatious incorrectness.
"I say nigger all day long," proclaims a white man on the McInnes show. His satisfaction is unmistakable, just as if he had passed a test of courage. With Gavin McInnes himself, the mood of satisfaction turns into hysterical joy when he lets the crazy Nazi run free and shouts “Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil” - and bursts into roaring laughter.
Against today's taboos
Yes, Gavin McInnes sounds like a crazy sectarian, but he's a big part of the New Right in the US. When alt-right people shout “Sieg Heil” or use the N word in their mouth, then they break taboos.
Taboos that were mostly established in the 1960s and 1970s - or were fought for in the course of revolts and emancipation movements.
We are dealing with a dialectic: First, taboos are broken in the 1960s, especially sexual ones. No sex before marriage, sex only between man and woman, sex only for the purpose of procreation: these taboos are pulverized by the so-called sexual revolution.
New rules, new taboos
To this end, new taboos are being established - to protect minorities, the weak and the underprivileged. Nobody should be disadvantaged because of their gender or sexual orientation. Nobody should be discriminated against because of their skin color.
Liberal America, liberal societies all over the world, has agreed on these rules. Anyone who breaks these rules is breaking a taboo.
The US author Angela Nagle has analyzed the media strategies of the New Right in a much discussed book “Kill All Normies”. "If you look at the good reputation of disinhibition in the art world, among leftists and numerous theorists, the phenomenon of the alt-right is instructive," she says.
Here you would see what it can lead to if taboos are not an issue. "We should be very critical of this 1960s idea of the unconditional progressiveness of breaking taboos and impulsiveness."
The healing power of breaking taboos?
As a “60s idea”, Angela Nagle criticizes the almost unbroken belief in the healing power of breaking taboos. A belief that stubbornly persists among many leftists and left-wing liberals.
The crossing of borders, the violation of rules per se, is celebrated without making any major differences, said Nagle. This overlooks how counterproductive and reactionary border crossings can be in art.
In musical subcultures in particular, breaking the rules was often a step backwards, “a blow against the supposed feminization of culture”.
Behind this is the idea of a sentimental, feminized mainstream, which must be countered with a masculine, cross-border, unsentimental counterculture.
Shimmering poster boy of the New Right
“If you want to provoke today, if you want to shock your parents, then you have to vote for Donald Trump. Trump is the new punk, Republicans are the new cool. "
Milo Yiannopoulos proclaims this at every opportunity. Like Gavin McInnes, Yiannopoulos - "Milo" for his fans - is a multi-colored media figure and an idol of the new pop right.
Milo Yiannopoulos knows what makes Trump great: “The dissident, punk, provocation, disrespect. All of that is better expressed these days with a Make America Great Again cap. "
Trump's phrase as the new punk is less absurd and marginal than it appears at first glance. It is not only put into the mouth by right-wing sectarians.
From punk to angry citizen
John Lydon, for example, as Johnny Rotten singer of the Sex Pistols, now lives in the USA and is often asked whether Donald Trump is a “political sex pistol”. He then smiles mildly, adjusts his fire-engine red "Make America Great Again" cap, and takes a long drag on his cigarette.
The fire engine red “Make America Great Again” shirt hangs around the stomach, Lydon carries his weight without remorse. As he sits there and demonstratively puffs, the fear of the citizens of yore gives the caricature of the fat, white, angry citizen.
The politically correct left elite do not allow him to dictate what he can eat, drink and smoke. No hamburgers? No cola? No cigarettes? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that. Especially now. That is the message of these photos, the symbolic finger for Michelle Obama with her vegetable garden in the White House. Or inventions with left-green slogans such as Veggie Day.
"The working class has spoken"
On British television, John Lydon expresses his sympathy for Nigel Farage. The former head of the right-wing UK Independence Party was a driving force behind Brexit. The author of “God Save The Queen, The Fascist Regime” is asked how he feels about Brexit.
"The working class has spoken, and since I belong to the working class myself, I am also for Brexit," says the man who has been a pop star for over 40 years and has sold millions of records.
Donald Trump is the new punk. If you want to fight modern rights, you have to understand this lesson first.
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