Follow up addressing the article about Vatican Shadow's Links With the Far-right

With Contributions from @drmathys_

{Updated 19/07/2021}

Cultural journalists have a responsibility to their audiences and society as a whole, especially regarding the infiltration of the far-right into cultural spaces. Platforming people convicted of targeting minorities and committing hate crimes, much less cultural figures who spread hate speech, is one of the vilest things  cultural media can do. This goes double for creators who try to dodge accountability and avoid making amends.

Since the publication of the essay on Dominick Fernow’s ties to the far-right from 09/07/2021, little to nothing has been done. Musical platforms such as Resident Adviser, Mixmag, DJ MAG, have not even reported on this. Meanwhile, the reactions of many parties involved? Quite visceral, to say the least , to say the least. Moreover, several white actors in that cultural landscape insisted that Dominick Fernow’s far-right ties were not news, that in fact “everybody” was aware of it for a long time. These voices suggest that the only thing new now is that “everybody” is confessing in public that they let a fascist infiltrate their scene. This is such a weird “flex” and yet nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to my white counterparts in culture journalism. 

Electronic Beats journalists published a statement on 14/07/2021 in which they committed to addendums for every piece in which they previously covered and supported Dominick Fernow, as well as providing more background checks when they cover artists in the future.

Around 15/07/2021, fans began a defense campaign to shift the goal posts, originally established as:

"Why doesn't the press talk about Dominick Fernow's connections with far right artists?

Instead, they sought to reframe these requests as a surreptitious conversation about moral purity, when that is not what this is about, at all1.

Add to that mix a classic attempt to discredit a source, by pointing to offensive tweets from 2010 and earlier, as a form of“gotcha.”2

It is just as important to point out that those who defend DF without  denying his connections to the far-right tacitly suggest that those connections exist.The anti-facist black metal bandDawn Ray’d shared some advice in a thread which I believe is still equally pertinent here.

Dawn Ray'd @DawnRayd

Resident Advisor

While EB is taking actions, its previous editor in chief Whitney Wei, who now leads editorial at Resident Advisor, remains silent. It is a shame, especially considering that she was appointed as Editor-in-chief of RA expressly to address RA’s history of poor transparency and failing to hold themselves accountable to ethical standards. In her own words,

“In taking on this immense responsibility, I put forth my dedication to journalistic integrity and inclusive storytelling to ensure Resident Advisor remains in service to the dance music community.”

This would have been a great opportunity for RA to show some changes behind the scenes. I find it hard to believe that someone like Andrew Ryce, who profiled Dominick Fernow, was unaware of Fernow’s far-right ties.Regardless, as an editor on a music beat, Ryce should have made a habit of addressing criticism directly, instead of hiding cowardly behind the RA brand yet again.

It was in my discussion with Brando Stosuy that I cited his piece “Show No Mercy” to highlight Fernow’s links with the far-right. I believe he acted in good faith to amend what I would call a “major fuck-up.’ 

What needs to be implemented as a bare minimum, as we discussed are the following:

  • An addendum, plus a link to my article 

  • A call from Pitchfork, as an influential platform, for other publications to place disclaimers on their existing coverage of DF

  • Donations to organizations fighting antisemitism

  • A public statement to these effects, as explicit reparations, along with clear descriptions of what they will implement to prevent this from happening again in the future with another artist  

In the meantime, Pitchfork appears to have minimized the situation, without appreciating the full gravity of platforming violent far-right militants, some of whom convicted already, as mentioned in my article

This is unacceptable from a publication as significant as them, standing firmly against any type of bigotry, racism, sexism, fascism, xenophobia, LGBTQ-phobia, and systemic oppression is the bare minimum. Their refusal to take any actions is truly baffling.

Now that they are aware of the problem, what actions will they take to rectify it ?

The Quietus

The Quietus has always championed experimental and avant-garde music. In the context of noise music, their advocacy has come under scrutiny in recent years, because the genre developed a reputation as a cesspool for reactionaries across the political spectrum. They have tried to address this problem in the past.3

Last year, the Quietus cut ties last year with Adam Lehrer4, one of its regular contributors, over his very public endorsements of Nazi artists. Although the separation was made clear by one of the editors, this was never addressed publicly by the Quietus as an organization. This is probably as far as it goes for accountability in music journalism, at least for now. While they made important steps, the Quietus ought to do better. In particular: I call on them to place a disclaimer on their most recent coverage of Dominic Fernow . (Update: on the 16/07/2021 the Quietus attached a public statement to a post entitled Questions Raised Over Dominick Fernow's Collaborations )

Boomkat

Six words: quietly deleting content is not accountability.

Words from radio host Cosmic Chambo, who helped put this together :

“The more I read about Fernow's work while doing basic background research for Inter-Dimensional Music – the "heavy mellow" meditation art project/radio show I've produced as a volunteer for over a decade – the more I wondered why I could easily find this information on reference sites like Discogs and Encyclopedia Metallum, but I didn't see many writers talking about it in the long list of publications offering glowing critical accolades of his voluminous discography. 

“I found most of Fernow's NSBM-adjacent releases with a search for the keywords "Dominick Fernow" and "fascist." I'm not an investigative journalist up all night scanning unsavory scene reports from mouldering back issues of Maximum RocknRoll, or taking ancient Facebook comments out of context. I'm a volunteer community radio DJ browsing the first page of search results over lunch. 

Writers like to talk about the dramatic range of Fernow's output, and how loud, noisy, and disturbing it is. But they weren't acknowledging just how transgressive Fernow was willing to get. It's not cancel culture to draw attention to the most transgressive work of an artist who has made his name on transgression. Fernow appeared to be daring critics to talk about these projects, but more often than not they ended up producing empty poetry about "balanc[ing] beauty with unease." 

It's not hard to imagine who becomes most uneasy about an artist whose cohort includes unapologetic neo-Nazis. The people who took my questions most seriously were people who had considerably more to lose when it comes to the proliferation of white supremacist ideology. Unlike the white writers and editors who responded to my messages with patient explanations of why they weren't taking action, the critic Jean-Hugues Kabuiku took the time to contact me about the research tangled up in my rambling Twitter threads. Our conversations eventually resulted in his essay discussing "Consequences, Complicity, and Dominick Fernow." 

As for me, I'll renew my commitment to keeping pedophilia-themed noise projects from influential Finnish white supremacists out of my psychedelic yoga and meditation art installations, and my understandably unpopular community radio program. "

What then?

Cultural journalists have a duty to take a stand, especially in cultural landscapes where reactionaries continue to make noticeable political gains through cultural output. This should be a teaching moment for publications, especially those who, in their efforts to glorify “edginess,” flirt with white artists who adopt fascist aesthetics.Because if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck...

1

 On Absurd, who got a “shout out” in the Pitchfork piece “Show No Mercy,” and who is listed in at least one DJ set by Dominick Fernow : “Hendrik Albert Viktor Möbus was arrested last Aug. 26 outside a restaurant about 20 miles from the Hillsboro, W. Va., headquarters of the Alliance, on an international arrest warrant issued in Germany. Möbus, a German citizen, was wanted for violating the terms of his parole in a 1993 murder by publicly mocking and demeaning his victim and by giving a ‘sieg heil’ salute, both actions illegal under strict German laws. He is also accused of organizing radical groups.”

https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2000/arrest-german-neo-nazi-reveals-growing-internationalization-white-power-music-scene

2

These regrettable tweets stem from an earlier time in my life, as an angry teenager, and reflect the negative environment in which I found myself at the time. I am proud that I grew up since then, got the chance to learn  a more accurate understanding of the world, left those ugly prejudices behind, and embraced more progressive politics. But I also want to model accountability here. I acknowledge that I was wrong, and I apologize for saying such hurtful things.

3

https://thequietus.com/articles/25682-fascism-underground-music-racism-industrial-black-metal-noise

4

https://www.adamlehrer.com/blog/2020/8/11/a-statement-on-my-severed-relationship-with-the-quietus