The 40-year-old man who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin Sunday was part of a fringe subculture of musicians who use the aggression of heavy metal as a means to attract new members into the white supremacist movement.
Wade Michael Page, the man identified as the shooter, was a member of the neo-Nazi band End Apathy and Definite Hate. On the band’s MySpace page, it states that End Apathy’s music is “a sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress.”
“It’s a gateway into the white supremacy movement,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The people who go to the shows are angry, they go to the events, there’s a violent mosh pit. It’s attracting people who are angry.”
There are probably no more than 140 of these so-called “hate-metal” bands around the country, said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League. They attract small crowds at concerts, and Pitcavage said that “a band is doing well if they get an audience of 100 at these shows.” A large festival show might draw about 300 fans.
“The numbers of these bands haven’t been growing,” Pitcavage said. “But the music is more easily accessible on the Internet now that you don’t have to physically produce CDs.”
Pitcavage said that while hate-metal bands can be found throughout the country, there are hot spots in areas such as Orlando and California’s Orange Country. He added that there is not a large number of these bands in the New England area.
In the early 1990s, Boston hard-core punk musician Elgin James formed Friends Stand United with the intent of eliminating neo-Nazi skinheads from Boston’s hard-core music scene. James is now a filmmaker who wrote and directed the feature “Little Birds.”
“It’s a way to make money too,” Beirich said of hate bands. “It’s a staple of the movement. The [white supremacist organization] National Alliance — when it was functioning well in the late 1990s and early 2000s — was bringing in over a million dollars a year in revenue off of hate music, T-shirts, and all the things that go along with it.”
A few lyrics from End Apathy’s song “Submission” tell listeners that “compassion is a weakness” and continues: “Unable to see the big scheme / You could care less what it means / You don’t deserve to be saved / Submission! You’re a slave!”
The hateful lyrics espoused by these bands are protected by the First Amendment, but free speech advocates say there is a difference between freedom of expression and inciting violence.
“A meaningful conversation about the repercussions of speech that calls for violence should be encouraged, no matter what the facts of the case turn out to be,” said Christopher Ott, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.
End Apathy’s record label, Label 56, posted a statement on its website Monday addressing the Wisconsin shooting and distancing itself from Page’s band. “Please do not take what Wade did as honorable or respectable and please do not think we are all like that.”
All images and products related to End Apathy have been removed from the Label 56 site, according to the release.
While Page’s band played heavy metal music laced with white supremacist messages, Brandon Geist, editor-in-chief of the heavy metal magazine Revolver, said hate-metal bands such as End Apathy barely register in the scene.
“Heavy metal fans can feel like outsiders, so when they come together it’s really a sense of community they’re looking for,” said Geist of mainstream heavy metal. “And when people show an interest in that community, those fans are very accepting.”