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Charleston, the Confederate flag, Amazon, Skrewdriver, The Dukes of Hazzard, and moving forward
08:06 am

Current Events


Pro-Confederate flag protester at a recent rally. Photo by Bickel.
As Dangerous Minds’ Senior Southern Affairs correspondent and a proud South Carolinian, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer some commentary on the events that have transpired in my state since the tragic Emanuel A.M.E. Church shooting which took the lives of Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

This unfathomable event has shaken South Carolina to its core, but the fallout has been rather remarkable. A 21-year-old self-professed white supremacist brutally murdered nine innocent people in a church with the intention of starting—in his own words—a “race war.” The end result was far from what the young assassin intended. Black and white communities came together in mourning. A much-needed dialogue on racial relations came about, which had no choice but to FINALLY address the southern-fried elephant in the room: the continued flying of the Confederate battle flag on the South Carolina statehouse lawn.

The Confederate flag has been a bone of contention in South Carolina ever since it was put atop the statehouse flagpole in 1962 (as many believe, a reaction to and resistance of integration and the civil rights movement.) The debate over the flag has been ongoing with one side of professed “history buffs” declaring it part of their Southern heritage, and with another side of people who believe the flag is a symbol of white supremacy—a longing for sepia-toned antebellum days when blacks “knew their place” (as plantation slaves).

Undoubtedly for some, it does tie back to ancestors who lost their lives in a “state’s rights” battle against what they perceived to be an overreaching federal government, and for some others it simply represents collard greens and sweet tea, doing donuts in a mud-bog and the genteel Southern manner.

Still, there are many who recognize it as the flag of choice flown by the Ku Klux Klan and segregationists—a banner under which people of color have been systematically terrorized and lynched for decades. A reminder of a war fought for “state’s rights”—including the right to keep human beings as slaves.

The “stars and bars” has remained flying at the statehouse because the “it’s heritage, not hate” crowd have maintained a power dynamic in South Carolina politics, unwilling to concede that there are any racist connotations to the symbol and unwilling to accept that for a large segment of the the state’s population, that symbol makes them uncomfortable or downright fearful, because of an altogether different history and heritage (of hate).

Protester at a recent pro-Confederate flag event. Photo by Bickel.

Protesters at a recent pro-confederate flag event. Photo by Bickel.

Protester at a recent pro-Confederate flag event. Photo by Bickel.
The question has been asked for years,” If this flag isn’t racist, then why do racists LOVE this flag?” No one on the pro-flag side ever seems to have a great answer for that. A few years back I did a photo essay on a now-defunct landmark in Laurens, SC called “The Redneck Shop.”

The Redneck Shop. Laurens, SC. Photo by Bickel.
The Redneck Shop was run by John Howard, a Grand Dragon in the South Carolina KKK, and served as headquarters for the Aryan Nations World Congress, as well as campaign headquarters for John Bowles who ran for president as the neo-Nazi National Socialist Order of America party candidate. The back room was a meeting hall with a huge mural featuring the swastika next to a portrait of American Nazi, George Lincoln Rockwell. The front room was a shop carrying a full line of Nazi and Klan related paraphenalia and racist T shirts—but what was there more of than anything else? Confederate flags, EVERYWHERE. Anything you can imagine putting a Confederate flag on, they had it at The Redneck Shop. That visit left a lasting impression, and it became even more clear to me afterwords what that flag meant to white-supremacists. 

The Redneck Shop. Laurens, SC. Photo by Bickel.
Still, so many SC politicans seemed unconvinced—until that horrible, bloody event took place in Charleston last week. But, make no mistake—that tragedy in and of itself did not get the dialogue started on the meaning of the Confederate Flag as a symbol of white supremacy. It took the killer making the most specific statement possible in big bold capital letters, essentially saying “I AM A WHITE SUPREMACIST MURDERER AND BY THE WAY CHECK OUT THESE SELFIES:”

There’s no arguing the “brand” anymore.
Remarkably, it only took five days for major Republican players who previously were pro-flag, or unwilling to give an opinion one way or the other, to realize they had to distance themselves from that AND QUICK. On June 22nd, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley made the announcement that it was time for the flag to go and that she would be calling for a special legislative session to deal with the issue. For many of us who had attended decades of fruitless protests (and, uh, written bad punk songs about it) it was cause for long-awaited celebration. Finally the pro-flag people were willing to listen—and it only took nine people being murdered, and those murders being directly tied to the symbol of the Confederacy!  But still, maybe for the wrong reasons, the right thing was done. I remember thinking while watching Governor Haley’s press conference, “she just ended her career as a South Carolina politician, but began her career as a national politician.” Mark those words.

South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley. Photo by Bickel.
What happened next was an interesting little “fuck you” to Dylann Roof and his masterplan: Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears all announced plans to remove the Confederate flag from their inventories. Roof brought the politicization of the flag right out into the spotlight and corporate America said “we don’t want our brands associated with THAT BRAND.” Now let’s be real, certainly these retailers are doing this because it’s a “trending” issue and they want free publicity and positive PR. One would imagine cost benefit analyses were in hand before making this call, but its a thought-provoking turn of events in response to the Charleston tragedy. As one of my friends remarked today, “If you are bending yourself into contortions trying to defend the Confederate flag as a symbol that has nothing to do with racism, congratulations- you are less progressive than Walmart.”

But all of this brought about another conversation. Many have called Walmart, Amazon, eBay, and Sears’ decision a form of “censorship.” While this is certainly in no way “censorship”—any business makes basic decisions over what they are going to stock or not stock, it’s the “market” at work—it may be worth examining the way in which corporations respond to changes in consumer values. This is all playing out very quickly. The main argument for bringing the flag down from the South Carolina statehouse was that it did not represent the entire constituency of the state, but corporations are not beholden to their customers in the same way—though there is an interest in protecting their brand. Going forward, how are decisions made as to what is OK and not OK to stock? Especially under the umbrella of companies like Amazon and eBay which act as aggregates for hundreds of thousands of third-party sellers. And as large as these companies are, do they even know what they are selling?

Amazon listing for white-power band, Skrewdriver.
Case in point, “rebel” flags are gone from Amazon’s listings, but are you in the market for some white-power skinhead rock? Look no further, Amazon has you covered! A simple search on the keyword “Skrewdriver” over at Amazon will pull up DOZENS of Nazi skinhead albums, both by Skrewdriver and by several other white-power Oi! groups. And let me save you a trip to the comments section by pointing out that, yes, you can buy Skrewdriver’s first album, the one they made “before they were racists.”

If Amazon is going to discontinue sales of the Confederate flag, should they also discontinue sale of Skrewdriver records? Or what about Nazi SS flags?  That would seem like a given, but HERE THEY ARE, GUYS:

Should you be able to buy Hail the New Dawn at the same place you buy your Huggies and ink cartridges? I don’t have this answer. Personally, yeah, I have issues with the Confederate flag and what it stands for. Certainly, I have issues with Skrewdriver’s lyrical content. Do I think these things should be “banned”? Certainly not, if by “banned” you mean the government passing laws against their existence. As John Oliver said on last Sunday’s edition of Last Week Tonight, “The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should really only be seen on t-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world.” I don’t mind someone identifying with that symbol as it identifies them to the rest of us. I enjoy our First Amendment rights. They allow me to get away with a lot of shit here at Dangerous Minds. But what a company chooses to stock or not stock has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech—no one is saying you can’t obtain your flags or Skrewdriver albums, or copies of The Turner Diaries ($8.69 on Kindle, folks!) someplace else.

But the ever-present “slippery slope” questions get raised - who will make these decisions and where will lines be drawn? Should lines be drawn? Of course the answer is always going to be in the form of a question: “is this hurting our corporate image and therefore affecting our bottom line?” If it suddenly becomes a liability for Amazon to sell Skrewdriver records like it became a liability for them to sell Confederate flags, then they’ll stop.

But don’t worry, champions of liberty, this is not the end of free speech. There will always be an Interstate truck stop or flea market stall waiting to take up the sale of these items to increase their own bottom line—so long as the demand exists, which it, unfortunately, likely will.

Doge will rise again. Photo courtesy The J Train.
It’s fascinating how quickly these reactions to the Charleston shooting have played out, with the entire opposite of Dylann Roof’s intended effect. We’ve seen crucial and necessary conversations on racial disparity begin, we’ve seen action on the Confederate flag, and we’ve also seen some bizarre fallout. One petition calls for SC to replace the Confederate flag with James Brown’s cape. Some of us will be giving up a little bit of our own “heritage” as ‘80s kid TV viewers with Warner Brothers announcing it will no longer license models of the Dukes of Hazzard muscle-car, The General Lee, due to the rooftop rebel flag. Shit, I can live with that. The main thing is, whether taking down the flag, or removing it from store shelves, or taking it off the Dukes of Hazzard car, or WHATEVER makes any difference or not in healing this country, at least we seem to be TRYING—at least we’re clumsily moving forward and not letting the Dylann Roofs of the world win.

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Video game update scrambles race and penis length for avatars with hilarious results (NSFW)
03:59 pm



Rust is a survival video game for PC/Mac/Linux in which players have to do their best to cobble together the most rudimentary kind of life after an extreme bug-out bag scenario. Quoting the promotional text for the game, “The only aim here is to survive. To do this you will need to overcome struggles such as hunger, thirst and cold. Build a fire. Build a shelter. Kill animals for meat. Protect yourself from other players. Create alliances with other players and together form a town. Whatever it takes to survive.”

In initial versions of the game, every character was white, but in March the game developers introduced a broader racial palette in an update—the tricky thing being that race is randomly assigned to avatars based on a randomized agorithm based on the player’s Steam ID—and can never be changed again. On a blog post, lead developer on the game Garry Newman explained, “Everyone now has a pseudo unique skin tone and face. Just like in real life, you are who you are – you can’t change your skin colour or your face. It’s actually tied to your steamid.”

It’s a risky strategy when you consider that if a white supremacist broheim ends up having to play the game with a black guy as his on-screen surrogate, he might well just stop playing altogether. Of course, the gamble is that people’s desire to enjoy the game trumps their seldom-examined racial biases.

As Kotaku commented, “Multiplayer survival game Rust ... randomly generates players’ physical characteristics for them, imitating the screaming chaos of biology rather than letting players choose. It then ties that selection to players’ Steam ID (as opposed to a single session or server) so they can’t game the system. You work with what you’ve got. Earlier this year, the development team added skin tone to the mix, prompting some controversy and even in-game racism.”

Now this week Rust developers have added a fascinating new quirk—randomized penis length. Just as with skin color, penis length is a randomly generated outcome based on the Steam ID. On reddit an mp4 file was posted demonstrating some of the variance in physical build, both for the avatars’ full bodies and for their penises. It’s one of the funnier things I’ve seen lately—here’s a taste:

Forcing players to deal with their god-given (new) race or penis size is the kind of immersive mindfuck only video games can deliver. It may have been noticed that all of the avatars mentioned so far in Rust are male. The developers recently let it be known that they are “investigating a female model.” To their credit they are pushing for the opposite side of the female body type spectrum as Tomb Raider: “We really don’t want to make the female model unrealistic in the sense of her being aesthetically idealised. In the same way that our male models aren’t perfect specimens of the male body, neither should the female be. No huge boobs nor four-inch waists here.”

Indeed, in our all-too-familiar world in which women are objectified by default, it’s refreshing to see women’s bodies depicted in a realistic way—and to see men get the exact same kind of treatment.

Here’s a depiction of the Rust female bodies in development:

via Kill Screen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Portrait of Jason’: 1967 doc about a gay African-American hustler is hilarious and heartbreaking
09:44 am



Portrait of Jason
”The most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life is certainly ‘Portrait of Jason.’ It is absolutely fascinating.”—Ingmar Bergman

During a winter night in 1966, director Shirley Clarke brought her friend, Jason Holliday, to her apartment atop the Chelsea Hotel in New York City and filmed him for twelve consecutive hours. Over the course of the evening, Jason drinks and gets high as he tell stories of his life as a gay, African-American man. Clarke took the footage and edited it down to 95 minutes, resulting in Portrait of Jason (1967). In the film, Jason is charming, entertaining, funny, contradictory, and boorish. His stories concerning class, race, sexuality, and identity alternate between humorous and tragic, all told by a man who appears larger than life.

Portrait of Jason is a landmark film. In this setting, an individual was allowed to simply tell his story over the course of a film’s standard running time. Its cinéma vérité style brings to mind Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, as well as the films of John Cassavetes, but Clarke’s work is a truly unique movie experience. This mainly has to do with Jason Holliday (a/k/a Aaron Payne), the only person who appears on screen.
Jason Holliday
Jason talks about his life as a prostitute, houseboy, and drug user, as well as his dreams of becoming a nightclub performer, in a completely engaging, charming manner. His enthralling, yet heartbreaking tales of racism and homophobia—at a time when the ink on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had barely dried, and, due to anti-sodomy laws, sex between gay men was still illegal in most of the United States—are told with a laugh and a shrug. So be it, he says; through it all, he’s had a ball. It’s obvious he has a knack for storytelling, and though what he’s experienced may be true, it all feels like a performance.
Jason Holliday
Early on, Jason talks of being a hustler able to sweet talk anyone into anything, and you can clearly see why, because as a viewer you are taken in by this man from the get-go. Having said that, about half through the film I found myself exhausted by Jason’s stories and continuous, riotous laughter. When reading up on the film, I discovered that’s part of what Clarke was trying to get across; as the director later commented, her subject “is both a genius and a bore.”
Jason Holliday
At a certain point, after hours of storytelling and consumption of that truth serum known as alcohol, it appears his façade has cracked and the bona fide Jason/Aaron begins to emerge—or does it? Part of what makes Portrait of Jason so fascinating is the inability to know what is genuine and what is performance.
Jason Holliday
Nevertheless, I do believe it’s safe to say that Jason is struggling. Among other aspects of this life, he grapples with what kind of person he is; he admits to being both a deceiver and someone who “can be hurt in a second.” Though he has lived a unique life up to that point, a kind most will never know, it is through his contradictions, his inherent humanity, that we can see aspects of our own existence. Jason’s continually trying to make sense of who he is, all the while shifting between the walls of protection he has erected and allowing himself to be vulnerable, constantly moving forward as he smiles through a life filled with sadness and regret. Even if we rarely talk about those facets of being, it is through Shirley Clarke’s dazzling character study that we can relate, which is why Portrait of Jason endures.
Jason Holliday
In 2013, a restored version of Portrait of Jason arrived in theatres. It’s now available on DVD and Blu-ray via Milestone Films. If you have any interest in reading more about this incredible film, you’ll want to check out Milestone’s press kit.

Here’s a clip of Jason talking about his experience as a houseboy, in which he touches on issues of class and racism:

More ‘Jason’ after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Civil Rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer speaks about her childhood as a sharecropper
08:46 am



I was at the Library of Congress last week, and while it was utterly grand to be there, I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly snapped a couple of cables when I spotted that pernicious Thomas Carlyle quotation high up on the wall: “THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IS THE BIOGRAPHY OF GREAT MEN.” Look, I understand that it was put there over a century ago, and I wouldn’t expect simple values dissonance alone to be a sufficient reason to alter something so historical, but it was still a drag to see that in 2015 (the exhibit lionizing Columbus and Cortez’s New World explorations without mentioning the word “genocide” anywhere was also a disappointment—the USA still has a loooooong-ass way to go).

One of the deep faults of the “Great Man” theory of history is that it excludes the contributions of thousands, if not millions, of unheralded activists who, though they didn’t happen to be the marquee names who got to make speeches that were recorded for posterity, still committed much of their resources and lives to the causes and movements that shaped the world we live in. A more obvious flaw is the continually maddening omission of great women. For example, I hold it as a significant demerit (among many) of the public education system that I never knew the name of the amazing Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman and the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States, until my late college years, when I was channel-surfing and I randomly caught a doc about her on PBS.

Another such figure I’m salty about never learning about in school, also from the US Civil Rights Movement, as it happens, is voting rights organizer Fannie Lou Hamer, a crucial activist and orator whose contributions to freedom in America are not, by my reckoning, sufficiently heralded—she not only endured being beaten and shot at, she underwent a non-consensual hysterectomy as part of a eugenics program. Justifiably furious at such shocking abuse at the hands of her doctor, she dove headlong into activism, helping found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and giving a powerful and pivotal speech to the 1964 Democratic National Convention Credentials Committee, challenging the legitimacy of Mississippi’s all-white delegation, and describing the horrors she endured for merely trying to register to vote. Presumptive nominee Lyndon Johnson, in a total asshole move, tried to keep the speech out of the news by calling a specious press conference. Hamer got crazy amounts of news coverage anyway.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Grace Slick’s insane and mercifully short-lived blackface phase
10:48 am



The values dissonance all over this is staggering: in 1968, the Jefferson Airplane appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to sing the title song from their then-new album Crown of Creation. For this appearance, the band’s almost totally uninhibited singer/provocateur Grace Slick sang in blackface and ended the performance with a black power salute.


Slick maintained that the gesture was one of solidarity with either the Black Power Movement generally or Angela Davis specifically (online sources differ, and the difference is sufficiently moot that I don’t care to spend all day Encyclopedia Browning so fine a point), but I can’t imagine how anyone could think that the intent of solidarity could possibly trump the massively offensive history of minstrelsy ineradicably attached to blackface performance. But it could have been just a blip if Slick hadn’t doubled down, appearing on the January 1969 cover of Teenset magazine in blackface. Giving a black power salute. (Irony abounds in that mag: other articles in the same issue include “Jimi Hendrix, Black Power, and Money,” and an editorial by Pat Paulsen about censorship on The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour.) In an article titled “Grace Slick is an Attention-Getting Device,” Slick claimed to have had “about forty different reasons” for the stunt, but specified six of them. Hold on to your hats, people:

1. “If you listen to the words of ‘Crown of Creation,’ think about a spade singing it. It makes a lot of sense.”

2. “Women wear makeup all the time, so why not black? Next time maybe I’ll wear green. Makeup is pretty silly anyway…”

3. “I did it because it was a trip; it’s weird to have blue eyes and a black face.”

4. “The whole thing started when I was watching TV and someone said that blacks look better on television in closeups, so I wandered around the house wearing blackface and flashing on myself in the mirror. Perhaps a bored socialite can do the same thing and go shopping in blackface and maybe pick up some bargains.”

5. “There weren’t any blacks on the show and the quota needed a little readjustment.”

6. “I knew nearly everybody would object to it.”

I get that this, like the original stunt, was a youthful acid-head’s deliberate exercise in provocative audacity. And I’m not posting about this to harp on someone’s decades-old misstep, but because the implications and associations all over this are fascinating to me. But I can’t shake that not-even-a-thing drop of a racial slur in the very first list item. But then I consider the appalling R. Crumb character “Angelfood McSpade,” and I wonder just how prevalent WAS such casual racism in the ‘60s counterculture? Or was “spade” somehow considered OK then? In the wake of the Civil Rights Movement? I can’t even imagine, but then, I wasn’t born until 1970 and was never a hippie, so what do I know? If we’re to believe this was an expression of solidarity—and apart from what seems today like shocking tone-deafness, there’s little reason to believe it wasn’t one, the Jefferson Airplane’s radicalism wasn’t posturing—then the slur would seem way out of bounds. Like I said right up front, values dissonance all over this. But after that issue of Teenset, perhaps realizing she wasn’t doing anyone any favors, Slick seems to have let the blackface stunt drop and went back to being more productively badass. Until Jefferson Starship…

After the jump, the controversial performances of “Crown of Creation” and “Lather”...

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Watch what happened the day Malcolm X was assassinated in Ken Jacobs’ ‘Perfect Film’
07:22 pm



The capricious career of experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs has produced a lot of inscrutable cinema. His best known movie is Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son from 1969 and it’s the sort of avant-garde project that is probably best experienced on drugs. Jacobs re-cut and altered part of a 1905 silent film, at points actually filming projections of the film so the viewer is watching a movie of a movie. It’s all very meta I suppose, but it goes on for 115 minutes, and the novelty wears down to crushing boredom after the first ten. His 1986 project, Perfect Film, was a far less avant-garde—and far more watchable and entertaining—use of found footage.

Of course, this is probably because Jacobs’ source material was way more interesting. Perfect Film consists of footage and interviews from the day of Malcolm X’s assassination, including an off-the-clock journalist who actually witnessed the shooting, a local Harlem man, a besuited police investigator and clips of Malcolm himself just prior to his death. It’s really an unnarrated documentary composed entirely of unedited raw footage, and it’s compelling as a historical artifact (rather than art), just as Jacobs intended. He explained his decision not to edit thusly:

I wish more stuff was available in its raw state, as primary source material for anyone to consider, and to leave for others in just that way, the evidence uncontaminated by compulsive proprietary misapplied artistry, “editing”, the purposeful “pointing things out” that cuts a road straight and narrow through the cine-jungle; we barrel through thinking we’re going somewhere and miss it all. Better to just be pointed to the territory, to put in time exploring, roughing it, on our own. For the straight scoop we need the whole scoop, or no less than the clues entire and without rearrangement. O, for a Museum of Found Footage, or cable channel, library, a shit-museum of telling discards accessible to all talented viewers/auditors. A wilderness haven salvaged from Entertainment.

Perfect Film was actually released in 1986, well before the modern Internet and its tendency to catalog a de facto media archive. At 81 years of age, Jacobs is still kicking—perhaps pleased to witness this dream take shape.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Ansel Adams’ photos of a Japanese internment camp are beautiful, yet disturbing
10:06 am



Ryie Yoshizawa, center, teaching a class on dressmaking
The relocation and internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War 2 is one of the more baffling atrocities committed by the U.S. government. Not only was it relatively recent, two thirds of the detainees were U.S. citizens, and this was all done on U.S. soil. In addition to the sheer Big Brother terror of such a massive abuse of human rights, internment wasn’t even dealt out consistently. The government did not, for example, feel the same impulse to throw actual American Nazis into a camp—maybe because they already had camps of their own? Or maybe it’s because Germans are generally white, and governments are historically more sympathetic to the populations that most physically resemble their ruling class? (Nahhhh…)

At any rate, some beautiful and strange records of detainment exist, including Ansel Adams’ beatific photographs of Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. Adams openly sympathized with the Japanese, including many of the photos in his ironically titled book, Born Free and Equal.The book had limited circulation, likely due to reactionary, racist wartime sentiment, but Adams held fast on his principles, saying:

The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment.

You’ll notice Manzanar had a lot of resources—the volunteers who helped build the camp were actually the first interned. At its most populous, it had 10,046 inhabitants, and it was a bustling, organized community—of sorts. Although Adams’ work focuses on how people at Manzanar seemed to thrive, the conditions were awful. Families were cramped into tiny “apartments” divided from larger buildings—the partitions between “rooms” didn’t reach the ceiling, so privacy was unthinkable. The latrine was coed, with no partitions between toilets or shower stalls. The rickety buildings did very little to protect detainees from scorching summers, freezing nights and winters, and the dry, violent winds that coated them in desert dust while they slept.



Painter C.T. Hibino.


Many of the detained were actually decorated members of the military, like Corporal Jimmy Shohara.
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The actual Ku Klux Klan application form
01:22 pm



The Ku Klux Klan are America’s leading terrorist organization—there isn’t really much competition, it wins that contest by a wide margin. If you want a quick ‘n’ easy way to find out everything about the darker side of our country’s history, you really can’t beat a tour of the KKK, and if you have any real problem with my description of the KKK as a terrorist organization, you need to go read any random four pages of Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877.

Rebecca Onion at Slate posted this incredible find yesterday—it’s an application to the Ku Klux Klan from (most likely) 1921. The KKK’s status as America’s foremost secret organization obscures the fact that in the early decades of the twentieth century, the Klan was almost respectable—it was the second resurgence of the group, the first obviously coming right after the Civil War (the third would come during the Civil Rights Era). Bolstering the theory that this application derives from 1921, we have this chunk of text from Wikipedia:

Starting in 1921, it adopted a modern business system of recruiting (which paid most of the initiation fee and costume charges as commissions to the organizers) and grew rapidly nationwide at a time of prosperity. Reflecting the social tensions of urban industrialization and vastly increased immigration, its membership grew most rapidly in cities, and spread out of the South to the Midwest and West. The second KKK preached “One Hundred Percent Americanism” and demanded the purification of politics, calling for strict morality and better enforcement of prohibition. Its official rhetoric focused on the threat of the Catholic Church, using anti-Catholicism and nativism. Its appeal was directed exclusively at white Protestants. Some local groups took part in attacks on private houses and carried out other violent activities. The violent episodes were generally in the South.

According to the same page, by 1924 the enrollment of the KKK had risen to nearly six million from almost nothing. Just a few years earlier, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, which extolled the KKK, had become the world’s first monster box office hit; President Woodrow Wilson famously described it as follows: “It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” Baseball fans interested in history get upset about supposed racist Ty Cobb while generally ignoring the KKK membership of Hall of Famers Tris Speaker (allegedly) and Rogers Hornsby. The point here is that KKK membership in the 1920s was not incompatible with being one of the most famous athletes in the country. In his book The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James notes:

The KKK in the 1920’s had a populist phase in which it toned down its racism, and drew in hundreds of thousands of men who were not racists, including Hugo Black. When Larry Doby broke the color line in the American League, Speaker was strongly on his side, worked with him daily in the outfield, encouraged and supported him, and was remembered by Doby in his Hall of Fame induction speech…

Doby’s speech, by the way, is here. That, more than anything, explains the semi-official and semi-innocuous tone of this document. If not for the content, the form is in many ways indistinguishable from the kind of information HR’s gonna need for you to start getting a weekly paycheck for your cubicle job. Of course, at the same time, simply reading the questions will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the Ku Klux Klan.

Here are the questions:

1. Is the motive prompting your inquiry serious?
2. What is your age?
3. What is your occupation?
4. Where were you born?
5. How long have you resided in your present locality?
6. Are you married, single or widower?
7. Were your parents born in the United States of America?
8. Are you a gentile or a jew?
9. Are you of the white race or of a colored race?
10. What educational advantages have you?
11. Color of eyes? Hair? Weight?
12. Do you believe in the principles of a PURE Americanism?
13. Do you believe in White Supremacy?
14. What is your politics?
15. What is your religious faith?
16. Of what church are you a member (if any)
17. Of what religious faith are your parents?
18. What secret, fraternal orders are you a member of (if any)?
19. Do you honestly believe in the practice of REAL fraternity?
20. Do you owe ANY KIND of allegiance to any foreign nation, government, institution, sect, people, ruler or person?

This is a weird thing to confess, but I was always a good test-taker in school, and as I read through this list I find myself idiotically looking for the smoking gun question that will disqualify me. “Aw, shoot! My mom was born in Austria, was half-Jewish and a socialist! Darn! Just missed!”

Here’s the application itself—note that clicking on the image will let you read a larger version.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Elvis Costello’s daddy writes to Rolling Stone insisting his son is not racist
05:24 pm



June 14, 1979: trumpet player Ross MacManus, father to Declan Patrick MacManus—better known to his fans as Elvis Costello—defends his poor, persecuted son against charges of racism in a letter to Rolling Stone that they actually published. In case you’re wondering, this was after Elvis got punched in the face by Bonnie Bramlett at a Holiday Inn bar in Columbus, Ohio for calling James Brown a “jive-ass n*gger” and Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant n*gger”. Macmanus the elder was apparently either unaware of the incident, or preferred to ignore it, defending only Elvis’ use of the phase “white n*gger” in “Oliver’s Army.”

For his part in that little incident, Elvis didn’t really apologize, saying he was drunk, and that “it became necessary for me to outrage these people with the most offensive and obnoxious remarks I could muster to bring the argument to a swift conclusion and rid myself of their presence.” (Sure dude, whatever.)

Now I’m not sure if Elvis Costello ever actually held racist views, or if he was just being a snotty-ass, petulant, drunk little shit who thought it subversive to use racial slurs—though I don’t really care because I don’t expect Elvis Costello to be smart or politically sophisticated, I just want to hear “Pump it Up”. I do find it hilarious that a nearly 25-year-old man has his daddy writing lame apologias for him to Rolling Stone…

FIRST OF ALL, MAY I thank you for the review of my son’s LP (“Elvis Costello in Love and Way” RS 287). It is the most perspicacious of all the reviews in any paper (and I have the cartoon of “El” framed on my wall!). “Oliver’s Army” is an important track for me, and your reviewer, Janet Maslin, so quickly picked up on the “white n*gger” significance. My grandfather was an Ulster Catholic, and as a child, I lived in an area where bigotry was rife. So we are those white n*ggers.

This brings me to the disturbing reports that I have seen branding Elvis Costello as a racist. Nothing could be further from the truth. My own background has meant that I am passionately opposed to any form of prejudice based on religion or race. And El’s mother and I were both branded as hotheads and Marxists or anarchists.

So you can see that we don’t have any chic, white liberal attitudes (and El has publicly despised the latter many times). This is the water that Elvis has been born and bred in, and he swims in it as naturally as a goldfish. His mother comes from the tough multiracial area of Liverpool, and I think she would still beat the tar out of him if his orthodoxy were in doubt.

Twickanham, England


Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
There is an all-Jewish Skrewdriver cover band called ‘Jewdriver’
05:39 pm



Aside from actual Nazi skinheads (and those petulant, “ironic” listeners who fancy themselves “edgy”), Skrewdriver presents one of the more divisive ethical conundrums in punk. There are those who abstain entirely from their music, arguing that even their pre-Nazi album is tainted by an eventual embrace of fascism, there are fans who maintain that all non-Nazi material is fair game, and there is the camp who argues that—providing you’re not actually putting cash in Nazi pockets—no art should be off-limits. I tend to agree with the third philosophy, and while I don’t really listen to Skrewdriver anyway (and certainly wouldn’t crank it outside the privacy of my own home), I don’t see how critically listening to Nazi punk is any more an endorsement of Nazism than listening to Wagner is (though it’s a bit of a moot point anyway, since unlike Wagner, Nazi punk pretty much all sucks, and isn’t really worth listening to for anything other than educational purposes or curiosity).

But what if you’re really, really in the mood for the infectious meathead Oi! that only Skrewdriver provides, minus the revolting white nationalism? Enter Jewdriver, an all-Jewish Skrewdriver cover band—sort of. The brainchild of 90s Oakland punks, Skrewdriver was formed with the express purpose of ripping off Nazi licks while ridiculing Nazi dicks, with songs like “Hail the Jew Dawn"and “Our Blame is Goyim Glee”, the band mimics Skrewdriver’s sound really well. They’ve had a few line-ups over the years, but they keep popping up for the odd show—they even have a following in Germany (these days, the country tends toward a certain redemptive Judeophilia, embracing all things of “the Tribe”)! It can be hard to find their records, but you can hear their EP below.

As far as I’m concerned, Jewdriver is a win-win. First of all, you can’t really understand most of Skrewdriver’s lyrics anyway, so it’s not like you’re distracted by parody kitsch (thought the odd joke about circumcision does bring a smile to one’s face). Also, you can now listen to a reasonable facsimile of Skrewdriver in public! Most importantly though, the band probably really pisses off some Nazis, and isn’t that a valiant pursuit in its own right?

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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