On November 18th, Aaron from Roots Rock Rebel radio interviewed Nora from Turn It Down: A Campaign Against White Power Music…
In a written intro to the interview, Aaron said:
Yes, this beautiful/miserable planet of ours is a racist racist place. In
Canada, migrants are being deported by the thousands every year while we
talk about “reasonable accomodations”, indigenous land is getting
swallowed up for the winter Olympics and to build condos for the rich, and
no, Palestine still ain’t free.
But luckily, people in the punk rock and ska community are fighting back.
Our special guest on the show this week was Nora Flanagan, who is the
project coordinator for the Turn It Down campaign against white power
music. Nora spoke with us about how her group is using community
organizing as a tool to counter a new rise in racist hate music, and also
about the new “Northern Agression” compilation, recently released on
Insurgence Records. Northern Aggression brings together some of North
America’s finest anti-racist punk, hardcore, and hip-hop acts to give a
big middle finger to racists everywhere. From the dirty rock from whence
they crawled, to the halls of the House of Commons in Ottawa, NAZI PUNKS
A transcript of the intervew can be found behind the jump.
RRR: On the line with us from Chicago we have our special guest for the evening Nora, Project Cooridinator with the Turn It Down Campaign. Nora, welcome to the programme.
TID: Hi. Thanks for having me!
RRR: Thanks for coming on. Let’s get right into it. Why don’t you tell us what the Turn It Down Campaign is?
TID: The Turn It Down Campaign has been around for 10 years, based out of Chicago, but we work all over the country, responding to the efforts of white nationalist and white supremacist groups to spread their ideology through music. So, essentially, what we do is keep track of what they are doing, and then as we go along, we figure out the best way to respond to their efforts.
And their efforts include putting out music targeting kids as new recruits, putting on shows in our cities without anyone really knowing what is going on, I mean, we handle pretty much anything they can throw at us.
RRR: OK, well, it’s a great initiative! One of the things I wanted to talk about, when I was getting into this music – punk rock and ska – in the early to mid-90’s there was a real rise in the extreme Right in North America that was visible to a lot of people, what with George Burdi and Resistance Records coming out of Southern Ontario. At the same time there was a rise in the number of anti-racist groups in Canada to counter that; of course you had the ARA coming up around that time. In your opinion, this rise of the extreme Right, is this a problem that eventually went away after the 90’s or are we seeing a resurgence of hate music right now?
TID: No, it didn’t go away. It kind of shifts and reshapes itself and hides out for a little while and then comes back. I’ve heard some people theorize that it goes directly in line with recession, that when we have a recession we have booms in white nationalism, and I can see the logic there, but there is a little more to it.
One of the reasons we are seeing growth right now is that they are making absolutely the most of the internet. With social networking and things like that we are seeing white nationalist groups grow just by virtue of knowing how to use the internet. There is more to it than just economics. As I’m sure you’ve read, there was a huge uptick after the election of Barack Obama. Websites like Stormfront boasted that thousands and thousands of new people had joined since we elected a Black president. I’m not sure how much of it to credit to something as simple as that, or maybe that is more complicated and we need to look at it more. But, it’s a number of things and it pops up in all sorts of different of ways.
You remember the militia movements of the mid to late 90’s? They didn’t totally go away, but that is what it looked like in the mid 90’s with all the wacky militia people on weekends convinced that we were about to have a race war. So, give it a couple of years, they’ll find a new way to pop up.
RRR: You sent me an article today which is detailing a racist advertisement that is promoting music downloads for white power bands that found its way into a San Francisco high school newspaper. Could you talk a little bit about this incident and what it represents kind of in the larger picture as to how racist bands are promoting their music amongst youth?
TID: They are getting really savvy. One of the labels here in the States that is seeing a lot of growth – when I speak to large groups I always throw their website up on the screen and ask people to show me anything on the front page of the website that suggest white power, and it doesn’t – they are making themselves seem more innocuous at first and this ad that was placed in the high school newspaper, the website does not indicate ‘white power’ whatsoever. So all the students were like, “Something about victory? I’m there!” And, then they want to the website and it was a free white power download site.
How it got past the newspaper editorial staff, let alone the Faculty Advisor is beyond me. And that’s really the core of the story to a lot of people. But, when we look at it we see, OK, here’s another way that they are kind of sneaking things past. They don’t slap swastikas on everything anymore because that shuts everybody down right away. They’ve found that if they are a little bit more subtle – I don’t know how subtle you can be with white power though – if they are a little bit more subtle and they try to sneak it in under the radar, they can get a bigger audience that way…which means we have to try and work a little harder to keep an eye on them. But, yeah, that’s one of their new tactics, to try and sneak in the side door.
RRR: Up on the website for the campaign, which for our listeners is turnitdown.newcomm.org, there are a lot of different tools that are up there that can be used by people who want to counter this rise in racist music.
One of the sections I really liked was tools for parents, because, of course, we are talking about kids who are going to school and who are being directly targeted by recruiters or by musicians and artists who are trying to spread hate through their music.
For parents who are listening, what can parents do when there kid are coming home and they are being exposed to racist music that’s being fed to them through schools.
TID: I come at this issue from so many different angles. I am a parent – I have a 3 year old who is in Two-Tone phase by the way, his favourite song is Monkey Man – I’m also a High School teacher, and I’m a punk and ska fan and I grew up in the anti-racist scene in Chicago in the early 90’s, so I see it from all these different angles. And, as a parent, like anything with your kids, talk to them, talk to them about everything, any chance you get. But as far as keeping an eye on things, as far as that parental obligation to kind of ‘mind the store,’ there’s resources on our site for symbols for hate groups; as a teacher and as someone who goes to shows, that’s always the first thing I see, the symbols. And it’s not always just the swastika. There are a bunch of different symbols for hate groups in America and Canada that jump right off of a t-shirt once you know what you are looking for, or jump right off of the patches on a jacket. So parents can take a look at stuff like that. Or if they see band names appearing in their kid’s music collection that they haven’t seen before, look them up on our site or Google the band name and see what’s out there. Parents do need to look into this, because it can get out of hand really quickly.
RRR: It’s interesting, the kinds of things you are trying to do with the Turn It Down Campaign to counter the rise of white power music and I’m sure for a lot of people there could be a debate that goes on for the whole night about what is the most effective tactic to use to counter this music, but I wanted to ask you, in your opinion, what are some of the most effective tactics that we can use for fighting this rise of the extreme Right and their music?
TID: Honestly, we’ve had the most success with gathering and sharing information. And, it’s a lot of work, actually its more work – not to denigrate people that participate in direct protest, I’m a big fan of direct protest, but the work involved in getting all the information together and getting it out to everybody that needs to have it – it takes a lot of time, but it’s yielded a lot of results. We’ve had great success getting shows and fests cancelled from hate groups and white power bands.
And, that’s not to mistake us for being against free speech by the way. We are not out to ban anybody’s free speech rights, but what we find, when we get all of the information together, a lot of these events, for example, are being held in venues that are not aware of what they are about to host. So, some poor VFW Hall in Boston, was about to host a festival of white power bands and they thought that it was a financial planning seminar.
So we gather the information and share it with them and share it with community groups, for example, in and around Boston, and, all of a sudden, the right hand talks to the left hand and , the event gets cancelled and they get relegated to somebody’s basement. That’s great. Fine. Just keep them out of sight. VFW Halls and Elk’s Lodges, and we had one in the Chicago area at a Lithuanian Cultural Centre. The Lithuanians – not happy about that.
Once we get everybody talking, that’s what we’ve found to be the most effective thing, and once we get information into people’s hands. Schools are ecstatic to hear from us, because they don’t really know about this. They see it popping up, they don’t want to violate anyone’s free speech rights, they don’t want to make anyone a martyr, but they honestly don’t know how to handle it, so our Resource Kits and talking to someone from the campaign has been a great help. So, info sharing is the biggest thing.
RRR: Speaking of info sharing, on your website you guys have done a great job in terms of mapping out exactly where people can find white power music and white power bands across the US, with the goal of making people aware to stop this. I wonder if you could talk briefly about what you know the situation in Canada to be like as far as white power bands goes?
TID: We have built this amazing relationship over the past year or so with Insurgence Records. You all have the best resource ever with them, because they know everybody and they know everything. Every time I’ve ever needed to know anything about Canada, and a lot of time when I’ve needed to know something about the States, the guys at Insurgence Records and Rebel Time Rebel Time Records have been the ones to talk to. And they are the ones that first suggested us working together on a compilation CD. And their efforts – I mean, it was a joint effort – but really all the credit goes to them for putting this together. Because, what I’ve found with those guys and the folks that work with them, is that they get it done… They say,“All right, we’re going to do this? All right! Done!” And they put out a record. They gathered like 15 or16 bands and put together this amazing compilation CD. So, as far as resources go, get yourself subscribed to their blogs, visit their sites, get a hold of the comp, friend them on every social networking site, because they are awesome, awesome people.
RRR: Cool. Let’s talk at little bit about this compilation that just came out. It’s called Northern Aggression, Project Boneyard II, released on Insurgence Records. Can you talk a little bit about how the idea for this compilation came together and how this project came together?
TID: Yeah, an email got fired back and forth, one of us wrote to the other and said hey, did you hear that the Nazis are putting out another record, and whoever was on the receiving end said, yeah, we should probably something about that. And it just kind of went from there.
Because, back in that period in the mid-90’s that you mentioned earlier, kind of the height of the white power movement in America with Resistance Records and Panzerfaust Records and all those god-awful people, they put out a compilation called Project Schoolyard and it was specifically designed to be passed out at schools, shopping malls, concerts, anywhere that teenagers would be gathering, and it was specifically designed as a recruiting tool. I started teaching in the later 90’s and we found copies of it at the High School where I taught, even years after the fact. So this thing really did kind of make its way around.
So, they put out a Volume II earlier this year. And we decided to beat them to the punch and do something several notches better – their CD is awful, it’s just awful. You didn’t know such bad music exists, but it does! So we got a bunch of tracks together by a wide variety of punk, hardcore, we’ve got a combination hip-hop/hardcore act on there, from the States, from Canada, from the Insurgence label, from all over the place…Nuts and Bolts from the West Coast, who are amazing, The Class War Kids, who are my new favourite punk band.
And, over the course of several months and lots and lots of emails and back and forthing, we put this together as a joint effort between our campaign and their label and a couple of other folks that we love to bits.
And, voila, here it is. You can get it free from Insurgence with any order on their website, you can order if off of the Turn It Down website either single copies, or, what we really want people to do, what we really want bands to do, is order a stack of them, you can get them for as little as fifty cents each, and sell them at your merch table and make a buck or two, or make yourself some gas money while you are on tour.
Neither the label nor the campaign are trying to profit from this CD. We’re just trying to cover shipping costs and get it out to as many people as possible.
So, visit our site or their site and get a bunch of copies of this out and around in your scene. It’s a really fantastic project and I’m proud to be a part of it.
RRR: Lastly, are there any last things you’d like to share with us, either about the work you do with the Turn It Down campaign or about this compilation?
TID: In 30 seconds or less…I’m a parent, a teacher and a music fan and I do this because I care about the music and I care about my scene and I think that anybody that cares about the punk or ska or hardcore or metal scenes where they are should visit our site, should visit the Insurgence site, get a hold of the comp, get involved, because if I can do it, anybody can do it. If it matters to you, get involved.
RRR: Great. So, once again, people can check out Turn It Down’s website at turnitdown.newcomm.org. We’ve been speaking with Nora from the Turn It Down campaign. Thanks so much for coming on the program, Nora.
TID: Thanks so much