White Supremacists Are Using Black Metal To Promote Hate
An investigation into ‘Antichrist Kramer,’ SSP Records, and other labels suggests a history of real-world violence and bigotry
Michael Eisenhauer, whose project Evil Incarnate is also featured on Declaration, is even more overt in advertising his overtly racist, anti-Semitic politics. In his section of the liner notes, he included not just World Church of the Creator images but a copy of a citation (with his full name included) that he received in 2006 for a hate crime. According to the documents and a write-up in the Waukegan, Ill., News Sun, he attacked and battered his neighbor Brent Bandalin while berating him as a “fucking Jew” after an argument related to the volume of Eisenhauer’s music.
One specific connection that both Eisenhauer and Moudry share is The New Church of the Creator or “Creativity,” a “racial religion” begun in 1973 by former real-estate investor Ben Klassen. An American entrepreneur who patented the wall-mounted electric can opener, Klassen immigrated to the United States from Ukraine; with the earnings from his patent and work in real estate, he was able to retire in the ’70s to his North Carolina home, where he sketched out his plans for a new racist ideology. His 1973 book Nature’s Eternal Religion posited that the “White Race” was “Nature’s Greatest Miracle” and that “the White Man, with his inborn and inbred genius … has given form to every government and a livelihood to every other people, and above all, great ideals to every century.” Klassen wrote seven books on the subject of white supremacy and—perhaps more alarmingly—founded a home for boys in the early ’80s. A 1992 lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center resulted in the sale of his North Carolina compound “at a fire-sale price to William Pierce, founder and leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.” Klassen then committed suicide in 1993, overdosing on sleeping pills.
Creativity floundered after Klassen’s death. But by 1996 Bradley University graduate Matthew Hale (born 1971) ascended as successor to the movement, rebranding it as The World Church of the Creator. Hale was something of a media darling during his position at the top of the Church of the Creator—defended by Glenn Greenwald, the clear-spoken and clean-cut white supremacist stood in sharp contrast to the tattooed, thuggish military types that dominated the neo-Nazi movement. Hale tried diligently to push his movement into a more prominent, public vantage, as this video from an ill-fated attempt at a meet-up at the Peoria, Ill., public library indicates (you see Hale enter around 30 seconds in, and again at 1:04). Hale made public reassurances that his, and his organization’s, intentions were nonviolent, though the movement promotes racial holy war, “RaHoWa,” and its separatist, exclusionary philosophy only flirts with the idea of nonviolence (“It is not our objective to declare a war of violence against the Jews, niggers and other mud races,” he wrote) as a precursor to massive bloodshed.
During the apex of national interest in his movement, Hale was interviewed by CNN, Court TV’s Nancy Grace, and more. In most cases, he presented his opinions calmly despite open hostility from other guests or the news organizations themselves. Hale wanted to break into a larger audience through legitimate channels, but his aspirations were spiked on June 31, 1999, when he was denied a license to practice law in Illinois. This was the beginning of a spate of legal woes. In 2000, Hale’s group lost a trademark case that would have allowed them to retain the name “Church of the Creator,” and in the wake of that loss an FBI sting revealed that Hale had asked for the head of Joan Lefkow, the district court judge who ruled against his organization. In 2005, Hale was found guilty and sentenced to 40 years behind bars.
The Creativity Movement’s ascent may have been the catalyst for a 21-year-old devotee of the movement, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, to take RaHoWa into his own hands during a three-day shooting spree—a hypothesis that Hale himself believes. On Friday July 2, 1999, at 8:20 p.m., Smith drove his car into the predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of West Rogers Park in Chicago, stopped at the intersection of Estes and Francisco, exited his vehicle, and shot nine individuals who fit the profile as they left Shabbat services. Smith fired a hailstorm of bullets from both a .22-caliber handgun and .380 semi-automatic, and while he connected with a few of his targets—high-school teacher Hillel Goldstein, 34, took a bullet to the stomach—no one was killed.
Smith continued his shooting spree for two more days. On Saturday he murdered Ricky Byrdsong, a black 42-year-old resident of Skokie, Ill., and Won-Joon Yoon, 26, an Asian doctoral student at Indiana University, the latter while he was on his way to church in Bloomington, In..On Sunday, Smith traded in his blue Ford Taurus for a stolen van off of Highway 57 and made his way through Indiana. While fleeing police in the city of Salem, Smith crashed his vehicle and ran off course. Police later confirmed that Smith had shot himself in the head but the bullet had bypassed his brain, and it took another self-inflicted shot to the chest before he bled to death.
After Hale’s imprisonment and Smith’s suicide, the aboveground presence of the Creativity movement dissipated. But closer examination reveals that select white nationalist ideals live on with or without Hale: When the aboveground world of TV punditry and open-air gatherings proved hostile, portions of Creativity and its white nationalist successors found a nurturing home in a bleak subset within the black metal underground, where fundamentalists of extreme sound and extreme ideology make easy bedfellows.
Twenty years on, black metal itself is inescapably influential and multifaceted but also embroiled in a kind of tumult exercised by the warring parts of the music’s trajectory; this struggle may be best exemplified by the simultaneous respect and scorn heaped onto the figure of Varg Vikernes, one of the founders of black metal’s Norwegian second wave. No fan of black metal underestimates the influence of Buruzm, Vikernes’ primary musical project, but just as frequently the man is mocked for his shifting philosophy and attempts at Viking play-acting on film and in interviews. Vikernes’ legacy has been intensely scrutinized, and while this one man takes the brunt of criticism, other actors have cemented a bridge between white nationalism and black metal more successfully (and more quietly) than he. National Socialist Black Metal, or NSBM, is a parasite that feeds on that part of black metal steeped in bigotry and violence.
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