Doom and the normalization of metal

Main menu from Doom (1993)

The year was 1993, and Western society’s appetite for ultraviolence was steadily growing, as perhaps evidenced by our knowledge of the period’s death metal. Besides the music industry, other forms of entertainment embraced this, including Id Software, which at the time was a small but successful video game developer who increasingly specialized in first person shooters. Doom used much of the same technology as Id’s previous games in the genre, but due to better technology and marketing, it sold enormously more copies and understandably exerted more influence on game culture. Particularly interesting to us at DMU was Id’s decision to incorporate metal music into Doom. This wasn’t the first video game to showcase a straight up heavy metal soundtrack; that honor most likely goes to Rock’n’Roll Racing on the Super Nintendo, six months before the release of Doom. Rock’n’Roll Racing used synthesized covers of several popular heavy metal and hard rock tunes, but Doom arguably went a step further by using nominally original music. Robert Prince’s compositions for the game (and its immediate sequel, Doom II) are split between these ‘metal’ tracks and more ambient, downtempo tracks.

The music of Doom is definitely inspired by contemporary popular metal works to the point of near plagiarism; Prince mentions on the fan site Doomworld that Id initially asked him to do a contemporary metal soundtrack. Other sources mention that Prince relied primarily on the game’s design documents to inform his efforts and had limited contact with Id’s employees during the process. Regardless, tracks here are often just a few notes off from literally being rehashed Slayer or Metallica or one of the other popular bands that inspired this music. Song structures and everything else is understandably simplified, as video game music generally has to loop and can’t afford to be too prominent or obnoxious lest it be muted by an irritated player. It is still a reasonably appropriate backdrop to Doom‘s mixture of gun combat and labyrinthine exploration, although some players here will just use their death metal collections instead.

While streamed, sampled audio was common in video games by 1993, Doom initially used sequenced music, presumably to save on storage space and to avoid locking out potential buyers without access to a CD-ROM drive. The soundtrack was originally composed for General MIDI-compatible devices like Prince’s synthesizers, but on the average computer of the time, it’s most likely the soundtrack’s metal simulacra would play through one of Yamaha’s FM synthesis chips. The main problem with the OPL3 version of this soundtrack is a hardware one – while capable of producing a wide variety of sounds, the OPL3 suffers from severe anemia, particularly because of its weak percussion abilities, and therefore this version belies the music’s instrumentation.

Doom was, however, quickly ported to many other computers and consoles in light of its commercial success, where it would run into all sorts of technical limitations. Everyone involved in the ports handled the soundtrack differently, ranging from the complete omission of music on the Atari Jaguar, to rearrangements of various quality, including the infamously bad Sega 32X version, and even the Playstation port, notable as its main composer (Aubrey Hodges) contributed his own, original soundtrack of dark ambient music instead of using Prince’s work. The most “authentic” way to experience the soundtrack is probably Prince’s Doom Music compilation, which showcases much of the music performed on its original synthesizers; any additions are at least intended by the original author, although I still find the ability of mid-90’s electronics to mimic a distorted guitar underwhelming at best.

I doubt Id was specifically planning to popularize metal music when they released Doom, but they probably did a great deal in that regard, even though by 1993, mainstream metal was on the verge of commercial collapse and/or Pantera. The correspondence between common metal imagery, and the game’s demon-slaughtering violence and hellscapes is too obvious to ignore, though. Doom presumably sold more copies for pushing computers to their limit and being graphically violent, but the soundtrack’s decisions definitely paved the way for more and better-known works to feature metal as a soundtrack. In the process, it’s won such fans as Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel, who even made his own content for the game (although unfortunately, he didn’t bother to include his band’s music).

 

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How marketing is destroying heavy metal

exorcist_phantasm

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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Scale The Summit – V (2015)

Scale The Summit - V (2015)

Everyone has at least one person in their network who is obsessed with “smart” music; your local government will provide you with a complimentary one if you have any doubts. You can tell music is “smart” by the fact it’s either instrumentally complex, aesthetically gimmicky, or even merely composed of band members who agree with some of your socialpolitical opinions. V is not the first to the best of my knowledge, but its ties to the djent and “progressive metal” scenes give Scale the Summit a built in audience full of such people. The relatively clean guitar tones and otherwise frequent moments of gentle strumming make me question the metal label, but I’m not yet the type to judge music solely by its genre. It does mean, however, that I’ve mentally shelved this on the progressive rock shelves along with acts like Camel and Yes, which admittedly are radically different in overall approach, but at least give this album some stern competition which it desperately needs.

V is actually a collection of jazz fusion instrumentals that presumably took some time to practice and learn even for the band’s technically skilled musicians. Much has been written on the idea of jazz-metal fusions, but Scale the Summit seems quite archetypal in that regard, relying on thorough-composed songwriting with distinct sections over improvisation, but favoring lighter, cleaner tones and sounds even at their most intense. One thing that divides me is how rigidly and academically the band approaches song structure – tracks here are full of obvious “We’re going to vary the song by modulating to another key or changing the drum pattern” type moments that probably look well-planned if you consult the corresponding tablature, but don’t work out in practice for being too jarring or too frequently followed by an obvious pause. This might be something to expect from such a rhythm-heavy style, but it still strikes me as a notable weakness, and one that makes some of these songs so self-conscious that it interferes with their overall memorability and impact.

Ultimately, I find Scale the Summit to be aesthetically pleasing, and I can derive some intellectual satisfaction from piecing together the theoretical level of their music, which is more than I can say for a lot of so-called progressive metal. I can’t guarantee that I won’t plunder V for some of these technical ideas. Employing this prowess towards more interesting and less obvious (less formulaic) songwriting is going to be quite a challenge, though. I can’t guarantee you that Scale the Summit will do the same, since they seem pretty content with their current technically proficient but otherwise ephemeral style.

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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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Darkthrone to rerelease Soulside Journey on September 25th

Darkthrone - Soulside Journey (1990)

Even Peaceville Records is getting in on the compact cassette revival. While Soulside Journey is far from stereotypical for Darkthrone, and furthermore already saw a cassette re-release in 1996, this is still a fine addition to your collection in its various forms for the strength of its content. Prior to creating several genre-defining works of black metal, Soulside Journey showcases the band performing a musically literate and melodramatic variant of death metal. It’s an admittedly sparse and atmospheric take on the genre that takes some acclimation to fully understand, but one that rewards attentive listeners. Funnily enough, this dodges the convenient upcoming 25th anniversaries of Darkthrone’s upcoming material, but those are likely too obvious for the record labels to ignore in the coming years. In the meantime, Darkthrone will probably see a great deal of reissues – the questionable Black, Death, and Beyond compilation, for instance, was recently reprinted on compact discs.

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The differences between politeness and political correctness

duel

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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Skepticism – Ordeal (2015)

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Our previous editor got his hands on some version of Ordeal and was not particularly fond of it; in particular he criticized it for being “self-referential” and lacking in well thought out composition. In doing so he cast a great shadow over my hopes for this album, but one I could not even acknowledge until I had listened for myself and determined whether or not his criticisms were accurate. It was a very persuasive argument in the mean time; the very title of the album, the fact it contained two rerecordings of previous Skepticism tracks, the gimmicky recording technique, and so forth come together to predict validity without actually being sufficient indication of the contents within.

Actually listening to the album immediately put me into mind of one major lesson I derive from my own personal review efforts: I respond more quickly to music that reminds me of my own efforts as a musician, and Skepticism with their funeral doom style is the antithesis of myself. While my experience with the band’s previous efforts is limited, their particular take on the subgenre is still interesting on some level, as their overall choice of tonality and instrumentation seems to absorb all the doom and depression one might expect and replace it with the musical equivalent of barren, but sublime natural landscapes – mountain peaks, desert canyons, and so forth. That’s the ideal, at least; given that Ordeal‘s sloth makes it superficially resemble ambient music, and that plenty of both metal and ambient musicians turn towards Earth’s ecosystems for inspiration, it seems a reasonable goal. Still, something deeper and more fundamental wasn’t clicking, and in an attempt to more quickly absorb the structures of this album into my mind, I turned to pitch-shifting algorithms.

While playing Ordeal at three times its intended speed ended up making everything sound daft, it helped to reveal the underlying structures of Skepticism’s music. It turns out that, at least from a mathematical perspective, these compositions are definitely janky, as they are full of sudden shifts to subtly different material at odd intervals. In a style as slow and orderly as this, that seems a poor fit and makes for anything but an organic approach. This exercise also suggested, rather more sinisterly, that Skepticism’s compositions are perhaps assembled at a higher speed and then stretched out as necessary to create longer tracks. While I can’t confirm anything about how the music was constructed, I would not be fretting about it so much if the end result was not held back by its own awkwardness, and if the laggardly tempos didn’t make appreciating any musical moments a chore.

Since the rest of the band’s discography is at least superficially similar to this, I can at least extend Skepticism a hearty congratulations for making me doubt the value of the rest of their discography. That, if anything, is a (dubious) honor, but hardly one worthy of praise.

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Ore.fm launches underground heavy metal discovery platform

orefm_promotional_banner

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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Satan to release Atom by Atom on October 2nd

Satan - Atom by Atom (2015)

Since we quite enjoyed Satan’s previous album (Life Sentence), it only makes sense to give their latest a mention as well. Satan’s musical style is understandably descended from the popular NWOBHM styles of the late ’70s and ’80s, but also showcases some musical techniques that would become influential in the speed and power metal camps, and their most recent albums adopt a similar style with understandably better studio polish. While this followup is not set to officially release for a few weeks, the band has released a track for promotional purposes. “The Devil’s Infantry” changes little if anything from Satan’s recent past, and hopefully the rest of the album will live up to the high standards it and the previous album set for the band.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQrtNA2VIMo

 

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News of the Censorship – September 17, 2015

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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