[ed note: This is the opinion of our contributor and our contributor only. Metal Insider does not condone facism, but is for the expression of free speech] Once again, metal is the target of political agendas interfering with artistic expression and freedom of speech under the flag of violent threats, oppression and false pretenses of justice.
Earlier this year, we saw the repercussions against Phil Anselmo after his blatant display of racism during the Dimebash event in Los Angeles, CA. He was chastised by the metal community by several fans and organizations, including some festivals across Europe who took retaliation against his band Down. Anselmo attempted to explain his behavior by attributing it to heavy doses alcohol and stupidity but, after some scrutiny by the media and fans, the whole scandal died out to a negligible gossip.
A few months after Anselmo’s incident, Blastfest announced their lineup for its 2017 edition and one of the biggest highlights of the announcement was the infamous French commando Peste Noire. The controversy surrounding the band is known by many metal fans, including the organizers of the festival and that’s what made the reveal so significant and placed Blastfest as a true supporter of music and art.
While this was praised by those supporters unaffected by any conflicting opinion, others weren’t so eager about having a band mistakenly-considered NS. Napalm Death, a highly vocal band against any sort of fascism, immediately cancelled their appearance at the same festival just a few days after the initial announcement. The organizers surely thought the idea through and still proceeded to book both bands in hope that this wasn’t going to create any conflict and each band would continue by the sake of art and music. Napalm Death’s decision was their own alone and Blastfest respected it despite losing one of its acts, and that’s because they understand the ideals and views each and every band has but only care to bring a great experience to those heading to Bergen next February.
Sadly, the backlash didn’t stop there and now it’s the festival itself whose suffering pressure from those alarmist that represent the most hypocritical movement plaguing the metal scene. This group went behind the veil of anonymity and cowardice to push their will into a foreign festival to bend its own convictions and remove Peste Noire from its ranks. They recurred to the only weapon they have consisting of threats of violence against those who refuse to abide by their agenda, a similar tactic used by the opposing side of their spectrum.
While the empty words of their ultimatum are stale, Blastfest’s partners concluded to avoid any risks of action and asked the organizers to remove Peste Noire, a decision way more difficult than what it appears.
Many have expressed their disappointment from the news, including Horna, who decided to cancel their appearance at the festival in solidarity of their exiled comrades. But what many don’t seem to grasp is the weight of that decision and the hard pill the festival was forced to swallow. The organizers expressed in their official announcement, and to the band, the crunch the event was facing: cancelling Peste Noire or losing the support for the festival, which could’ve led to a cancellation as a whole.
Since the announcement took place, the festival has been ridiculed, with many offering an over-simplified solution to the actions taken by Antifa instead of the route already taken. But when you’re torn between facing demise, which would give a higher and undeserved victory to the bullies, and swallowing your pride to continue with the sweat and blood poured into years of work, you can’t blame them for taking the latter.
It’s imperative to understand what’s at stake in the organization of a festival like Blastfest and what it really entails to make it happen. For all we know, the loss of the partnership can actually jeopardize years of work into the event and the options must be limited to believe the split would be detrimental. In Europe, some venues receive cultural funds to continue supporting music and art and festivals are a big part of that frame. Even the apparent association with far-right movements could deter these funds from reaching venues that need them to remain afloat, and that becomes the point where you either compromise or take the dirt road.
The problem here is not Blastfest’s decision after being pressured by third parties to do what they saw fit, the problem here is having said group preying on those events, venues, promoters and places that collide with their charlatan ideas by hiding in darkness and using scare tactics of violence or defamation. This wasn’t just a loss for the fans who wanted to see Peste Noire, this is a loss of pride and conviction for the festival itself and that should be the cause of the outrage from this situation.
Let’s also distinguish that this is not either Blastfest, the venue or the rest of the partners stand against Peste Noire and none of this really comes from them; they are just the contingents of any potential distress that could come to themselves after. Venues and promoters who willingly take the same Antifa or “politically-correct” stand should not be put together with the Norwegian festival, but should be tried as Antifa itself for taking part of this suppression by enabling the idea that every venue and event should follow their same ideals.
This censorship attempt by Antifa is a violation to the freedom of artistic expression; to the right of hold and convey opinions through any media and clear revelation of their backwards mentality to their so-called beliefs. It can be argued that Blastfest should have resisted and go its own way to keep its head up and support their own customers, their artists and their own proclaimed principles, but once the facts and realities of the bigger picture arrive, things had to change. Sure, there has been other instances of promoters, festivals or events that successfully stood their ground and remained tall to the hollow threats, but not everyone has the same set of arms to do it.
There is a reason for anger here but it should not be directed to those who put their livelihood in peril just to maintain a certain echelon among the elite; that anger should be directed to those who target extreme music supporters to mold them to their own convenience. That’s the real enemy and the one that should be dealt with and eliminated from this and any other scene.
It’s also worth mentioning that Horna deserves an immense merit for their response to the situation, not just because they show true brotherhood to their French peers but because it sends a message across of the seriousness of this issue and that there should be zero tolerance about it. It’s all a matter of stop looking at this problem from afar and start acting up front.