How marketing is destroying heavy metal

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A strange thing happened during the years of 1965 to 1975: advertising morphed into marketing, or the science — and rest assured, it relies in objective data™ in Excel spreadsheets — of designing products to fit people.

Never mind the old days of trying to explain to them why they need something; figure out what they will buy, and modify your product to the simplest, cheapest version of that which they will pay the most for. If a good burger costs $9, but they will take a half-soy knockoff for $6, the latter is the better product.

As a result, advertisers became scientists of a sort. They queried consumers, studied them on videotape, analyzed their purchases and made lists of “features” that customers demanded. Always their goal was to find out what the largest group would purchase at the highest price, while keeping cost lowest. Statistical mathematics had come to business.

Since that time, astute observers might note, this mentality has steadily crept into just about every field. No one is immune. And each time it does, product satisfaction jumps — but quality takes a nosedive. Beer is now sugar water, but people claim to like it. Cigarettes are ashy hot air, but they sell steadily. Heavy metal music has become angsty self-pitying radio rock, but it has more fans than ever before.

The product has improved; the object itself — in this case, the music and the artistry behind it — has degenerated.

Metal does not face this alone. Literature produces endless favorites, but no classics (or even any books that outlast a trend). The car industry cranks out limited editions but no legends. Even classical music emits a panoply of avant-garde “innovators” but none endure. The same condition even affects cigars. As blender G.L. Pease relates:

Not all change is good, or welcome.

My journey down memory lane with these old smokes is not simply a waltz with nostalgia, but something a bit more purposeful. I’ve sampled many very good cigars over the past few years, and a great many more that have not much impressed me. But, even among many of the better smokes, as much as I’ve enjoyed them, I’ve continued to find something missing, a fundamental aspect of what caused me to go geeky over cigars in the 80s, and is almost universally absent in most of the modern cigars I’ve been smoking.

…In what, to me, is a ludicrous arms race where so many makers are chasing adjectives like fatter, longer, stronger, spicier, powerful, they seem to have lost track of some of the adjectives I might apply to these old beauties; sultry, seductive, provocative. This wasn’t a rare quality, either; it was almost commonplace amongst the quality marques 30 years ago, but it’s all but gone missing in too many of the modern mash-ups of multinational leaf, rolled into burrito sized spice-bombs with enough “power” to stop a stampeding rhino dead in his tracks.

This “ludicrous arms race” comes about because, like the Clinton campaign or a user satisfaction survey, manufacturers pay attention to polls. They listen to user feedback and then plug it into computerized analyses to find out where low margin, high price and average desired features intersect. They run the calculations and out pops the ideal product. It addresses the middle segment of the Standard Distribution (a.k.a. “bell curve”) that applies to most human tendencies in most groups. The far-right of the curve, which favors quality over quantity, hates these products; the middle of the curve grudgingly finds them acceptable and in a flurry of despondent why-mes purchases them, and the far-left is both too inconsistent and too miserable to reliably purchase anything, so their patronage is entirely defined by local availability.

How might this happen in heavy metal? Every generation, marketers add up the trends of the last decade and hybridize them. In 1975 it was hard rock, blues and heavy metal combined into heavy rock; in 1985, it was heavy metal, punk and heavy rock; in 1995, it was rap, alternative rock and speed metal; in 2005, it was indie-rock, emo and underground metal. They make the product that the audience cannot recognize is a cheap alternative disguised as the New Latest Best Coolest Thing, and pump it out the door. Profits go up, quality goes down. We see it most prominently in metal, but this mentality is everywhere, and will continue to be everywhere until elitism asserts itself.

Elitism is a simple formula: quality > quantity. This cliché, while irritating, also carries a grain of truth. You can have only one or the other because to have either trait is to take things to extremes. Waffling in the middle does not work. Either the music is quality, which reduces its audience, or it is accessible, which increases the quantity of sales by expanding its audience by lowering “cognitive barriers” to appreciation. That means complexity, artistry, technicality and even relevance. The audience loves the same old thing in new clothing. People buy the same albums their grandfathers did, but with new tempi, textures, lyrics and other surface changes. This is one reason why some of us allege that rock ‘n’ roll has always been nothing more than marketing.

With elitism, people at the top of the cognitive chain — radio hosts, writers, musicians, superuser fans — gravitate toward the best stuff and everyone else imitates them. On the left end of the bell curve, confusion reigns anyway and so they just go along with the flow. On the right side, people follow others who they look up to and learn to appreciate the music that way. A few of those on the left side of middle feel left out and get angry, resentful and bratty. But, they are that way unless fed moronic pap anyway, and everyone else gets better music, so the outcome is better this way.

Except… uh oh… for labels. Labels make money not so much on the big scores as by putting out a few albums a month that consistently rake in the sales. Ever wonder why artists past their prime are still puking out albums and those albums make it into the press and stores? They sell because of name recognize. Egbert Q. Findley of West Los Angeles will keep going to his job as a middle manager at a warehouse chain and will keep on buying whatever is put out by the bands that were hip when he was 18. He wants to stay current, you see. Millions of people kept buying Neil Diamond, Liberace, U2 and REM when they drifted into pure drivel. Why? Because they’re fucking morons. — well, yes, but also because they are creatures of habit. They want something new to listen to. They do not really care what it is, or if it is good. Just something new to keep their minds off the exciting world of multi-level sales or whatever the hell it is people waste their irreplaceable time on nowadays.

Right now metal is winding up for one of its Revolutions. Each time industry comes out with its new super-product, it takes about a decade for artists to react and strike back with something new. Glam metal created speed metal, blues-metal created death metal, and now, indie-metal will force the creation of a new genre. Either that, or metal will perish, and become another flavor for rock bands of all type. Want to have a song about being a rebel? Make the chorus riff a metal one. They’ll even put a setting on the audio workstation software to do it for you, all to help you make the perfect product and live the dream — of early retirement.

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Interview: Oovenmeester of Noordelingen (2015)

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With the recent release of Kaeck Stormkult, it seemed a good time to look into the members of the band that is leading the charge toward primal yet melodic black metal. Two members of the group come from Noordelingen, a black metal band from the Netherlands, and were placated with the carcass of a fresh-killed hipster for long enough to conduct this interview.

When did NOORDELINGEN begin?

Oovenmeester: I think it began in 2010 as a spontaneous project. I had the lyrics already and Swerc was up for a new project.

I believe Swerc is going to put the Noordelingen album Vaelt on YouTube soon. A real release would be cool though.

What does the name mean?

Oovenmeester: The name means “those from the north” Or “dwellers of the north.” We both live or have lived in Groningen which is a province and city in the northern part of the Netherlands. And I have a lot of affiliation with both city and province. The lyrics used in Noordelingen are stories based in a medieval, fantastical version of this region. Where drunk horses graze under a brown moon, giant homarids look for the rare and valuable substance known as URFT and de kattenmepper van Groningen (the cathunter of Groningen) can be found stalking the streets.

It is different from the term “Noorderlingen”?

Oovenmeester: I think Noorderlingen is the official Dutch spelling, but that’s just not right for us. Just not right… It doesn’t have the right taste.

Who is in the band?

Oovenmeester: Just Swerc and the Oovenmeester that’s enough!

What were your musical influences, and how did that change as you began writing?

Oovenmeester: I think Lugubrum is a very important factor for me. They have absurd lyrics which I really like. With a similar smell and feeling.

Musically you can’t compare it to them, while Noordelingen is more melodic and faster.

What material have you released, and how do people get it? Is there any source of news or information on the band?

Oovenmeester: just follow your nose. Furthermore, there is nothing official out, but I believe Swerc is going to put the Noordelingen album Vaelt on YouTube soon. A real release would be cool though.

I understand you’re now involved with KJELD / SAMMATH members in a project named KAECK. How did this come about, and how is it different from NOORDELINGEN? Will NOORDELINGEN continue?

Oovenmeester: I was asked by Swerc to provide lyrics and vocals for Kaeck. Its content and style are very different indeed. Kaeck is about visiting dark places in your mind. And has a more to the point aggressiveness in it. Where Noordelingen has more of a filthy vibe to it. We will probably continue Noordelingen at some point. But we have nothing planned yet.

We do this for ourselves. If others like it as well, then it’s just a good bonus.

Is it hard for quality black metal to get noticed these days?

Swerc: Depends of what you mean with ‘noticed’ actually. If you want interviews, tours and lots of releases, then yes. But I think the scene is very active and always looking for new quality music. If you are good enough, you will be noticed. But that’s not our priority. We have a very busy normal life, so ‘getting big’ isn’t our goal. We do this for ourselves. If others like it as well, then it’s just a good bonus.

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The differences between politeness and political correctness

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When our society fell apart, we lost politeness. In our modern view, politeness consists of validating other people whether they deserve it or not, especially if what they are doing is stupid or destructive. “It’s all good, man,” is the refrain of our time, inspired by our hippie grandparents.

Politeness originally evolved as a way to disagree without making it personal. With its replacement, Political Correctness (PC), everything is personal. Under politeness, you could disagree vehemently with a fellow citizen and then go on your way and still be friends. With PC, you have no reason to disagree with him unless he is bad — which used to be reserved for pedophiles, rapists, thieves and the like — but being un-PC is reason enough to consider him bad.

Members of the cult of PC will drop friendships with people who disagree with them. Where an impolite person would be simply shunned, in the PC mindset the only way to lose someone is to make them out to be a villain or enemy. They achieve this status by failing to universally validate all of the people they encounter. Dislike of someone’s behavior is considered dislike of the person themselves, and reason enough to exile the person who dared notice the bad behavior.

Consider this conversation:

Person 1: You’ll like Sally, she’s nice.

Person 2: Everyone here is nice.

Person 1: Yeah, but I know Sally.

Person 2: Why do you hate most people?

Under politeness, it was understood — and this is too complex for PC people — that saying Sally was nice was a way of vouching for her. But PC does not allow you to selectively approve of anything. Either it is all good (“, man”) or you are an enemy who targets some people by the simple act of not approving of them. In the same way, PC people demand that you relinquish any personal preference or opinion other than a positive one.

Person 1: I really like tech-deth.

Person 2: Which bands?

Person 1: Oh, anything, really. All of it is good.

Person 2: I only like Shove This Microphone Into My Rectum.

Person 1: Only? There’s a lot more good than that. Lighten up, citizen. Expand your calm.

Politeness allowed people to converse on the basis of exchanging information. This meant that an answer could be reached, or at least viewpoints could be fully articulated and people could mull it over later. Under PC, the right answer is always the same answer: everyone is right, we just really like one answer (but the others are fine, too, not that there’s anything wrong with that). It is essentially an agree to disagree for all debates, factual questions, logical questions and preferences.

Person 1: Incantation is the best old-school death metal band.

Person 2: Naw, I like Death better.

Person 3: We all have our preferences and all of them are good.

Person 2: That’s just your opinion, man.

Needless to say, PC is the defense of people who are underconfident in their beliefs. If they honestly thought that being a slut, being a hipster or liking stupid music was acceptable, they would not be trying to force you to validate it through universal acceptance. They would be instead proudly liking what they like and would be able to articulate why. PC replaces the need to have a why (or facts, or logic) for any belief. Instead, they simply regard everything as a subjective preference …except… when someone has a negative preference, then they gang up on that person and wreck his life.

When we shifted from politeness to PC, we lost the ability to have principles and get to a right answer at the end of a discussion. Instead, everything is now a Facebook wall: people spouting off about whatever they encounter, hoping to appear different enough to stand out, with nothing being wrong but also nothing being right, and so nothing is decided and nothing is acted upon. In this state of entropy, we sit decisionless and await some fortunate apocalypse which will deliver us from this utter tedium of being alive.

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Ore.fm launches underground heavy metal discovery platform

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As the music industry adjusts to the rise of online music at a glacial pace, streaming services have taken over from the traditional model of radio. Into this field leaps a new competitor, Ore.fm, a “heavy metal only music discovery platform” that hopes to connect fans with bands — in the underground.

We were lucky to get a few minutes to chat with Vincent Minichiello, a founder of this new service.

Ore.fm claims it targets the underground. Why do you think this is a viable market, considering that most metal is rather “above ground” now?

All members of the ORE.FM team are either metal fans, musicians or music lovers in general. We feel that the underground scene is where we wanted to throw our support behind because there is such genuine, untapped, raw talent in a place that gets overshadowed by the bigger “above ground” bands and since no one else seems to want to showcase them, we took it upon ourselves to do so.

The metal community has proven itself time and time again to be the most supportive and tightly knit groups of any genre of music.

Are you a heavy metal fan? What do you (and/or your staff) listen to?

I am definitely a fan of heavy metal, as is most of the ORE.FM team. I grew up playing guitar and listening to bands like: Pantera, Slayer, Black Label Society and anything else that involved double bass, distorted guitars and bad-ass lyrics. Some of the music currently being listened to by the rest of the staff ranges from bands such as: The Sword, Havok, Mastodon, Jim Croce and YJY. ORE.FM has also exposed us to bands like: Ferium from Israel, Darwin’s Theory from LA, Strict Vincent from Australia and Archaeologist from San Jose.

How hard was it to get Ore.fm started? What did you have to do?

At this point, we have been working on ORE.FM for just shy of two years. We started where most bands start, in the basement of our parents’ house and it’s just been a steady climb up since then. There have been battles and obstacles along the way (as to be expected with anything) but overall I’d say the process has been not as difficult as we thought it would be. We lucked out and found a great developer who really understands our vision of what ORE.FM should do for the community. We all work very well together, bouncing thoughts off each other, working out kinks, evolving ideas, etc. It’s been a fantastic and exciting experience so far.

Why do you think heavy metal fans are a desirable audience? Most people think we’re dirty, smelly, uncouth and loud.

Having grown up with metal, going to shows and playing in bands, it was fairly easy and obvious to us that the metal scene is where we want to continue to be a part of. We are the people we are making this platform for. We are the fans looking for that new band to follow around and support. We have been called, “dirty, smelly, uncouth and loud” and frankly, we don’t care. The metal community has proven itself time and time again to be the most supportive and tightly knit groups of any genre of music. After having done so much for us and shaping who we are as individuals, we wanted to give something back to the metal community and ORE.FM is the perfect way of doing so.

We are the people we are making this platform for. We are the fans looking for that new band to follow around and support.

What music and experience can a user expect to find on Ore.fm? How does it compare to other services like Spotify and Last.fm?

There are so many sub-genres of metal that exist today and we want them all to feel welcome and included on ORE.FM. Listeners can expect to hear sounds that they’ve never heard before, from places they may never thought to look. Before starting ORE.FM, I would have never thought that the Middle East would have such brutal and technical metal bands. Now I find myself using ORE.FM’s Discover map to scan the globe to find new music daily from literally anywhere on Earth. This is what makes us stand out against competitors. Features such as this help bands get their music out to a world-wide audience, through a range of devices and platforms. Where they might be a drop in the vast ocean someplace else, on ORE.FM they stand out like gold.

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News of the Censorship – September 17, 2015

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As long as there are human societies, people will attempt to control the information that goes out to the group. People can be easily manipulated, especially in groups, and that creates both a fear of unnecessarily incendiary material on the positive side, or subversion of the dominant paradigm and narrative on the dark side.

Here’s what happened this week with censorship and the response to it.

  • Angela Merkel wants Facebook to censor dissent on immigration.

    Former East German politician Angela Merkel, now the putative head of the European Union, has made the statement that Facebook should censor racial commentary including speech against the recent immigration surge into Europe:

    Politicians and celebrities have voiced concern about a rise of xenophobic comments in German on Facebook and other social media platforms because of the refugee crisis.

    “When people stir up sedition on social networks using their real name, it’s not only the state that has to act, but also Facebook as a company should do something against these paroles,” Merkel told regional newspaper Rheinische Post.

    The problem with this of course is that it includes both the rude and cruel speech of those who fling racial slurs, and those who merely mention the issue and possibly critique it. Merkel did not say “ban racial slurs”; she argues for the banning of “racial commentary,” which in theory could include this post. She reveals her East German roots with this one.

  • Reddit censor Ellen Pao fails to appeal failed gender discrimination suit.

    Former Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao, who tried to implement the banning of controversial content by topic and not texture (such as slurs) on Reddit and was partially successful, was working at Reddit after being fired from a law firm which she was suing on the grounds of gender discrimination. They said she under-performed; she said they discriminated against her. Most suits of this type get settled to avoid publicity, which means that many people get a payout for simply bringing the suit. The firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, fought back instead and won. Pao appealed and was widely hailed as a hero by SJW journalists, even as she was acting on Reddit to shut down any speech on certain topics, even if factual, logical and polite.

    Ellen Pao is dropping her appeal of the gender discrimination suit she lost against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao sued KPCB in 2012, claiming that women were not given fair consideration in the male-dominated workplace. She also said that a male colleague with whom she had an affair unfairly cut her out of e-mail correspondence and upper management did nothing about it. She was fired soon after filing her suit. After a bruising month-long trial in which her personal character and work performance were repeatedly brought into question, a jury of six men and six woman ruled that there was no evidence of gender discrimination.

    The failure of her appeal means that Pao is out for the legal costs of her initial suit. This shows a court (and jury) spanking down such spurious suits by not only denying her victory, but also forcing her to bear some of the cost of making the accusation. This perhaps reveals the amount of damage such unnecessary profiteering has cost firms.

  • Cartoon exhibit fights back against censorship and terror

    Pittsburgh City Paper reports that a cartoon exhibit is fighting back against censorship and threats to speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Jyllands-Posten cartoon fatwa, and a shooting at a “Draw Mohammed” cartoon contest in Texas which seems to have been designed to provoke Muslim fundamentalists. The exhibit touches on many issues related to free speech and free expression:

    Slinging Satire: Political Cartoons and the First Amendment, curated by Rob Rogers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist and ToonSeum board president, courageously takes on civil rights, racial inequality, terrorism and the impact of art on politics.

    The provocative exhibit features digital prints donated by 20 renowned artists from newspapers and online publications across the country, including the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe.

    The most striking part of the exhibit is “Je Suis Charlie,” a tribute to those fallen in the Al Qaeda attack at French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo this past January.

    It is unlikely that this event will be popular among the extremist set but it aims to re-establish certain liberties taken by writers and artists in the past that are currently threatened by censorship or violence from many sides.

  • Gentleman’s barbershop fined for not cutting woman’s hair.

    In a desire to provoke denial and create a sense of personal injury, a woman entered a barbershop which advertises itself as specializing in the cutting of men’s hair, was as expected refused service, and has now invoked Government to force us all to be nice precious snowflakes who get along with each other. Never mind that barbershops for men have existed for centuries much like their female counterpart. The state imposed its demands with an investigation:

    Now, the business is at the center of a heated debate after owner John Interval was fined $750 for refusing to cut a woman’s hair.

    She filed an action with the state’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

    That agency imposed the fine for gender discrimination after a state investigator visited the business and interviewed Interval.

    This continues a habit in American and European law of forcing people to serve every other conceivable customer, even if illogical, and limits both their speech and free expression in how they run their businesses. While this is being argued as a victory for freedom, in fact it deprives people of freedom to operate a business for a specific clientele.

  • Charlie Hebdo could be sued after mocking refugee death.

    No stranger to controversy, and recovering after the slaughter of most of its upper staff by extremists, French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo faces a new foe: government. According to its detractors, the magazine has crossed the line into full-on racism, which is illegal in France despite being a matter of free speech:

    But barrister Peter Herbert, Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers and former vice chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, was among many who said Charlie Hebdo had overstepped the mark.

    Mr Herbert alleged on Twitter that the magazine was a “racist, xenophobic and ideologically bankrupt publication that represents the moral decay of France”.

    He added: ‘The Society of Black Lawyers will consider reporting this as incitement to hate crime & persecution before the International Criminal Court.’

    This will have chilling effects for speech as the definition of racism expands at the convenience of government and media. It seems ludicrous on its face to assume that criticism of someone who is of another race must naturally be racist, instead of assuming that they are being treated just like anyone else, since Charlie Hebdo somewhat ineptly mocks everything and anything.

  • SJWs attack RPG-style games, causing companies to adopt censorship policies.

    RPGs are for hardcore nerds who love Dungeons & Dragons and related games. SJWs however insist that everyone obeys their maniacal doctrine… even when those people are already obeying it. A game called Tournament of Rapists aroused SJW ire, but apparently no one read anything about it, because in the game players battle these rapists, SJW-style. SJWs could not be bothered to do the research and attacked, causing at least one company to adopt an official censorship policy:

    Steve Wieck, CEO of DriveThruRPG, issued his final response to the controversy on Tuesday. In a long blog post, they explained that they had come to an agreement with the publishers of Tournament of Rapists, and that the title would be removed from the store.

    Wieck also announced a new policy on offensive content, whereby RPGs reported as offensive would be screened on a case-by-case basis. Wieck announced that he would be the “final arbiter” of what was deemed to be too offensive for the store, and informed readers that he would “err toward including content, even when it challenges readers and deals with sensitive issues, so long as it does so maturely and not gratuitously.”

    This continues the assault on free speech in games on the basis of “moral” grounds known as Social Justice, which apparently holds that everyone must tolerate and pretend to like everyone else at all times, or you are all very racist. As with other forms of speech restriction, this plays right into the hands of governments and corporations who wish to find a way to restrict criticism of their immigration, H1-B or other policies.

  • The Supreme Court has made it harder for local governments to crack down on political advertising.

    You know those political signs that pop up like mushrooms or exhumed corpses on lawns during election season? One local community regulated them, and the ensuing lawsuit made it to the Supreme Court, which ruled that not only was there nothing wrong with the signs in question, but that local governments did not have the power to regulate advertising of that nature.

    From the New York Times:

    Though just two months old, the decision has already required lower courts to strike down laws barring panhandling, automated phone calls and “ballot selfies.”

    …The key move in Justice Thomas’s opinion was the vast expansion of what counts as content-based. The court used to say laws were content-based if they were adopted to suppress speech with which the government disagreed.

    Justice Thomas took a different approach. Any law that singles out a topic for regulation, he said, discriminates based on content and is therefore presumptively unconstitutional.

    On the surface this appears a win for free speech, but may experience pushback as it ties the hands of localities to stop nuisance behaviors like panhandling and automated phone calls. Time will tell whether the court is accountable like elected politicians are supposed to be, or if this type of restriction is permanently gone.

There’s our roundup for this week of juicy censorship and speech rights related stories for you. Hang tight for more anarchic fun in the weeks ahead.

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Resist the “gentrification” of metal

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Metal theorist and critic Old Disgruntled Bastard unleashed an accurate tirade at the “gentrification” of metal, the process by which hipsters, journalists and indie labels wear down the extremity of metal to make it more like shoegaze, jazz, emo and alternative rock. He says:

People need to look inside themselves and find out why they listen to this music in the first place. If you don’t have a raging fire inside of you regardless of age or sex, if you don’t have real demons in your past or your present, if you don’t share anything more than a surface fascination with the topics the music talks about, then what the fuck are you doing here? Beyond flowery words and pretentious descriptions and the need to pose and be accepted into a group, beyond simple enjoyment on a musical level even, this is extreme music for a reason, and it has nothing to do with having the world delivered to you like comfort food on a platter.

Kill the gentrification of metal or you’ll kill metal itself.

In every society, there must be some regions which are reserved as frontiers. In these, the normal rules do not apply. They are both anarchy zones and, by necessity, the type of self-managing places found in the Wild West and feudal Japan. A code of honor regulates the warriors who apply discipline when needed to an otherwise lawless place. These societies are not easy to live in like the big cities, but they offer fewer rules and no dominant social attitude about what is the “right way” to do things. For people who think society is mostly held together by human pretense of how good and moral people are, when people are in fact mostly selfish, these areas keep the herd at bay.

Heavy metal takes the form of these societies. It has no rules other than a code of honor and “no city rules.” We aim to choose another path. As a result, metal celebrates all the things that society aims to deny, starting with death and consequence and stretching further to extreme fears like apocalypse and disease. Metal should be scary and an outsider to human settlement. It gains its power from its flexibility to think without first worrying how that will look to others, or potential customers. As one of the few cultural free spaces, metal is naturally a target for various ideological and religious groups. If they take over, its spirit dies, and the music will fade out as well as people flee the collapsing ruin.

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Uncensorship is still censorship

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Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider, who famously spoke at the PMRC-induced Senate hearings regarding obscenity in music during the 1980s, recalled the era with a warning toward our current time of the dangers of what we might call “uncensorship,” or the use of “soft” pressure to eliminate speech that is perceived as dangerous:

Sadly, the aftermath of the debacle was even worse than I feared. Our First Amendment constitutional right to freedom of speech had been eroded, yet the average record buyer was apathetic. The most typical comment about the sticker was, “Now we know which records to buy!” The music consumer just didn’t understand how that sticker would be used against them. (And used against them it was.)

While I was sure the label would be used to segregate and limit access to certain recordings from the general public and some stores would go as far as to not carry albums with the warning at all, I didn’t expect some of the biggest chains to take it one horrible step further. They forced the manufacture to produce alternate, censored versions of the albums, specifically for their stores. The average adult or young-adult record buyer (and even parents buying them for their younger kids) had no idea that the album they were purchasing from Walmart had content either “bleeped out” or completely removed. The “stickering” of recorded product wasn’t giving the buyer the knowledge to make an educated choice, it was being used to decide for the record buyer what they could or could not listen to. This is the subversive nature of ultra-conservatism. If they can’t manipulate you overtly (through the passing of laws, regulations or restrictions) they’ll do it without your knowing it’s being done to you.

The history of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) showed us an important pattern: by creating mass fear, people can compel even large corporations to essentially censor their material. As Snider points out, stickered albums quickly became second-class citizens, much like controversial speech on the internet today is flagged as “offensive” and removed or quietly hidden on social media. This happened not through laws but through actions of the market once they realized that a large enough group of people would complain.

We have seen this before. Think about how American buildings rarely have a 13th floor, not for any logical reason but the perception that thirteen is an unlucky number. Or the Great Vaccination Debacle of 2013. People, like a herd of cattle, can be stirred into terror by a few loudmouths. Companies fear this. For that reason, they bow down to any group that can show it has victim status. With the PMRC, the victims were children. Now there are more groups — gays, ethnic and religious minorities, women, neckbeards — in whose name an outrage can be fabricated.

This misses the point of free speech, which is that what we do not want to hear is often what we should be hearing. Not always, since nonsense is perpetual within humanity, but often. History is full of examples of good ideas being shot down because they were unpopular or offended some group, even if that group had relatively little power in society at large. Make yourself a victim and you can force others to pay attention to you. That means that you can tell others what they cannot say be implying that they are mean, cruel, extremist, fundamentalist, bad, whatever. In fact, we often need opinions that scare us and the irascible, ornery people who promote them.

In Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America (2010), Barbara Ehrenreich maintains that getting rid of all of the “negative people” in your life is a recipe for disaster: “What would it mean in practice to eliminate all the ‘negative people’ from one’s life? It might be a good move to separate from a chronically carping spouse, but it is not so easy to abandon the whiny toddler, the colicky infant, or the sullen teenager. And at the workplace, while it’s probably advisable to detect and terminate those who show signs of becoming mass killers, there are other annoying people who might actually have something useful to say: the financial officer who keeps worrying about the bank’s subprime mortgage exposure or the auto executive who questions the company’s overinvestment in SUVs and trucks. Purge everyone who ‘brings you down,’ and you risk being very lonely or, what is worse, cut off from reality. The challenge of family life, or group life of any kind, is to keep gauging the moods of others, accommodating to their insights, and offering comfort when needed.”

Just as ecosystems become less resilient, and more fragile, when you reduce their biodiversity (by eradicating species), epistemic communities become less resilient, and more fragile, when you reduce their intellectual and ideological diversity (by eradicating radical ideas). Numerous studies have demonstrated that the only thing worse than thinking through important political matters alone, is thinking through important political matters amongst people who share all of your assumptions. We need to be exposed to challenging unorthodox ideas on a fairly regular basis. But social media (and search engines like Google) are making it easier and easier for us to silence radical voices (by dismissing them as “trolls”), and retreat into homogeneous online echo chambers.

The problem for us now is that we live in a time ruled by commerce, not governments. You buy your music from somewhere; you find it through some search engine, on some streaming site. What happens if Google receives a few million complaints about Satanic or un-PC music? Or if Bandcamp does? Or Facebook? These large corporations fit into a role a lot like that of government because they are the sole providers of a service valued because everyone else is using it. Sure, you could hunt down a Facebook alternative, but it has 1/10 of the people there. So you go to Facebook. If they decide, based on complaints by a small angry group, that what you are trying to say is “bad,” then you will not be heard.

In the same way, free speech has become a mockery as the amount of information has risen. The question now is not whether you can publish your free speech, but whether it will find an audience. The people who control that audience — now a “big six” of corporations — can decide at will to censor your content through a process called uncensorship because it is not direct censorship like through a government, but it silences voices from reaching the audience they need nonetheless. Companies react to complaints even if they do not represent what most people want or need, simply because small highly vocal groups can create a media frenzy and cause a tacit boycott of those products.

We already know there is reason for concern when companies merge and one of the parties has a strong political agenda:

Rupert Murdoch has just bought a controlling interest in all of National Geographic‘s media properties. The move turns the long time non-profit into a for-profit media corporation in the process….Murdoch has famously not been quiet about his denial of climate change. National Geographic gives grants to scientists… so, is anything going to now change with the focus of National Geographic‘s organization?

If we worry when a media magnate who opposes global warming buys a science magazine, we might worry as well about companies that do not have an explicit agenda, but can be manipulated by people who have an agenda and a voice, such as the one that victimhood bestows. We already have worries about corporations and their control of information. This can be most challenging when their control intersects with the ability for an audience to request removal of information anonymously, as happened with Google in Europe:

The Guardian protested the removal of its stories describing how a soccer referee lied about reversing a penalty decision. It was unclear who asked Google to remove the stories.

Separately, Google has not restored links to a BBC article that described how former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive Officer E. Stanley O’Neal was ousted after the investment bank racked up billions of dollars in losses.

Anonymous complaints — or complaints by anonymous groups — can tear apart public information. If, as is the case with Google or perhaps Bandcamp, most of the public uses a certain service, this means a loss for us all. This “uncensorship” means that a group of Offended Victims™ can easily yank down any data they find fails to support their point of view. Even more, they can destroy anyone who fails to agree with them, even bringing major media outlets to obey the raging herd:

Nicole Arbour, the YouTube personality whose “Dear Fat People” video sparked a massive online backlash, has been fired from an upcoming film she was working on…

“‘Dear Fat People’ is an unfunny and cruel fat-shaming video that guises itself about being about ‘health,’ ” Mills said. “It’s fat-phobic and awful. It went on for over six minutes. I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

“I’m gay. I was bullied a lot as a kid,” Mills added. “I am no stranger to ridicule and loneliness.”

When a large corporation finds itself under assault by victims groups, the best strategy is to find another victim, which is what this producer is doing here. Most likely the higher-ups had a conference, decided that they did not want to risk alienating the plus-size audience, and dispatched this little guy to remove the problem. Our future under corporate information control resembles this situation more than we know, and thanks to “uncensorship,” can silence us without even the recourse that Dee Snider had back in the 1980s.

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Even Barack Obama disagrees with SJWs

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They called him a secret Muslim, and they called him a crypto-Socialist, and those may or may not be true, but even America’s most liberal president thinks SJWs are bunk:

Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too. I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, “You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.” That’s not the way we learn either.

It would have been even better if he expanded the scope of his comments beyond college to the everyday life, watercooler talk, casual discussion, public debate, politics and even The Blighted Internet. We either can talk about anything, using polite language and structured argument, or we become an echo chamber. Polite language means that you use synonyms for the angry words you might want to use; structured argument means offering fact and logic instead of emotion and impulse. With those, we can have any conversation and, as our society plummets downward into chaos, clearly we need to.

This extends to me. Metal is offensive because it rejects social pretense. It wants to talk about everything you fear, the spectres that haunt your dreams, the yawning emptiness of death below, and the thought that maybe — just maybe — Charles Darwin was not wrong and we still live in times of strife, predation, extinction, warfare, violence and parasitism. Metal trusts nature more than humanity. It looks at the big picture, tens of thousands of years and the world beyond our immediate locality, and it does not care if old Aunt Mabel (or even little sister SJW Susie) is offended. Reality is reality. Human pretense contradicts reality and must be destroyed, whether that pretense is hippie-yuppie 1960s love-jive, yuppie-consumer 1980s job propaganda, hippie-consumer 1990s peace out palaver, or even 2010s special snowflake individualism. Reality is greater than humanity. Metal is the messenger of that idea, and it will never be flattering to the herd, therefore will always be opposed when found in its whole form.

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Elitism is Darwinism for heavy metal

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If you are a false, do not entry. – Sarcofago

Elitism gets a bad rap because it has been appropriated by hipsters to justify their interest in low-quality but obscure bands. The obscurity of those bands makes them rare, which makes them valuable in a social situation, as you can always one up someone else by suggesting something more obscure, connoting greater knowledge, experience and “being in the know” on your part. This is the inverse of elitism however which is a simple formula of quality > quantity, which hipsters confuse with simply measuring by quantity alone in order to find the least popular and equate it with the highest quality.

Inferior substitutes replacing quality originals is after all a trope if not the defining feature of what happens over time in our society. A good idea becomes edgy, then hip, and so a dumbed-down version is made for the masses to democratically share in the hipness, at which point declining quality (dumbing down) destroys whatever made the idea important in the first place. One needs look no further than the progression of Metallica from their second album to their fourth to see this in action. Over time, the complexity and intensity erodes and is replaced by a friendly, vapid and appearance-based substitute. The story arc of black metal shows this most clearly, moving from an outlaw genre that upended all rock and pop conventions to a pale imitation in the form of indie rock with incomprehensible screaming.

It is no wonder the hipsters want elitism misunderstood. It would eliminate the entirety of hipster bands by pointing out that, instead of being quality because of their rare quantity, they are impostors and pretenders. Poseurs, if you will. Then again, what defines hipsters is the formula appearance > reality, so that entire genre of people are by nature poseurs, scenesters, day-trippers, tourists, pretenders and the like. Elitism offers cynicism with hope: that by raising our standards, we can raise quality. World-weary observers may note that this has something in common with the theories of Charles Darwin, which held that better adapted creatures reproduce more and thus over the years their traits predominate; on the other hand, traits which are not used die out. Cynicism by itself leads to a dark place where nothing has value, but cynicism with hope leads out of the confusing harangue of nonsense that most people rationalize themselves into liking, and shows instead a chance to clear the clutter, value the good, and spend life on more meaningful pursuits than what is new or obscure.

Darwin gave us a warning, however. Humans now control the index of selection, and so if we value the wrong things, those will predominate over other traits and exclude those traits. For example, in black metal it became fashionable to like the novelty of hybrids with indie-rock, and those sold more as a result, and this displaced most of the original material. In turn, the originalists attempted to preserve their music through exaggerating its external characteristics, which led to self-parody and low quality. Elitism is recognition of what our ancestors could have told us: most people, most of the time, are engaged in useless or stupid activity in order to appear important. The self-importance of the individual is the death of humanity, perhaps, but it certainly forms the death of music. One needs look no further than a thread of favorite bands where each user busily types in the most obscure bands he can think of in order to appear wise.

Misanthropy has long been a trait of metal. Compassionate misanthropy would be much like cynicism with hope, or a recognition that most people are busy with the useless, but that some are not, and if we value those good, we get more of the good; on the other hand, if we ignore them, they die out. Darwin would nod and smile at this implementation of his theory. Unfortunately for humans, only some — those with the intelligence, experience and honesty/aggression to pursue the truth — can articulate the difference between gunk and glory. These are opposed by the rest because these tastemakers will point out the the Emperor has no clothes on at all, which invalidates the posing and posturing of the majority. This in turn renders the hipster, scenester and try-hard irrelevant, and they fear this and as a result fight hard against any quality > quantity assessment, which leads them to try doubly hard to find the obscure but mediocre and champion it as the apex of the genre.

Majorities however determine the order of the day. They have more money and in democratic societies, political power; their misery is that by “winning,” they self-destruct by replacing quality with inferior substitutes. The last twenty years of heavy metal reflect this anti-Darwinian approach and quality has declined proportionately. Even record labels find that following the most recent trends — the way to success in a mass society — has stopped working for them as consistently as it used to. This intensifies the desire to replace quality with quantity, especially by claiming that a small quantity or being ironic, different, unique or contrarian signals quality. On this point, hipsters join with the bourgeois mass consumer marketers in the same theory, and through two different pathways, produce the same inferior result.

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