Morton Downey Junior was considered a precursor to the type of American conservative talk show hosts we have today. Conservatism previously had been associated with aristocracy, but with dilettantes like William F Buckley who presented an image of ostensible nobility, this contrasted the authentic manner in which Traditionalism descends from Joseph De Maistre or Julius Evola, both of whom were actual noblemen. The Buckley kind of holier than thou conservatism, it’s image born of free-market absolutism and corporate worship appears in America as a simulacrum of aristocracy, carried on by guys like Mitt Romney, presented conservatism as mere rich man’s politics, rather than the preservation of a national or Traditional identity. These types of conservatives, who were often wealthy, may have connected with the American public at alternative periods of time, but not so much the youth, nor working class folks.
As working class people started gradually seeing their country being torn apart, we saw the rise of a new type of right winger (in America) in response to the cultural liberalism that drove a wedge between the working class and the left when the mainstream left adopted cultural liberalism into it’s programme, instead of a focus on populist economics. The angry working class man was economically populist, but culturally and nationally conservative, something that until the recent decades did not exist measurably in America, although it has a long tradition in Europe dating to the late 19th century. This new type of “Right-Wing Populism”, not de jure conservative, but definitely de facto conservative, rose up.
One of the first of these working class American conservatives, the right-wing populist, a socially conservative democrat, was an angry, chain-smoking bad-ass known as Morton Downey Junior.
Downey had been a radio talk show host, and a failed musician from the 50’s, a rock n roll crooner who never quite took off in popularity, though he made numerous innovations such as one of the first music videos. Downey had an amazing voice, right up there with Bing Crosby or Dean Martin. A swaggering, soulful voice that had a commanding diction that was right at home espousing “PABLUM PUKING LIBERAL!” (Downey’s favorite insult to looney liberals) or moaning away in the night about the “Boulevard of broken dreams”(Downey’s 50’s music video single).
However, he shot to national stardom in the late 1980’s with his talk show that flashed on the American scene like a comet. Downey was dismissed as an agent provocateur who just cared about ratings and was disingenuous about anything he ostensibly spouted in his rage filled interviews. He was dismissed as an arrogant, trashy dimwit who spilled his reactionary views on cable TV to ride the wave of discontent that America was starting to feel more and more.
Downey, a chain smoker, would light up on stage. If his guests said something outlandish – he often mocked them ruthlessly, insulting them and humiliating them to a howling, obnoxious audience. The crowd wanted blood. And Downey never failed to deliver.
Downey was a rock star – unlike other reactionaries, He had style. For a man who was grotesquely ugly, he did well with the women, flirting with girls half his age and dating starlets. Though Downey decried drug use, sexual promiscuity, communism, abortion and other things conservatives of any stripe tend to decry, he had an open mind and was not some out of touch Archie Bunker who wanted to merely turn back the clock. He also was not racial in any measurable way and had strong ties to the black community. However, he was not an ethno-masochist of the sniveling, Bill O’reilly type either. So Downey’s populism, with it’s socially conservative focus, was not ethno-nationalist, nor was it the aristocratic and intellectual type of Traditionalism that we espouse here, and it was not the kind of lame Fox News buffoonery we see today, though they are indebted to his style immensely, as it is clear they appropriated his “angry everyman” approach, they did so by marrying it with the more dimwitted elements of the mainstream Right (It should be noted that Downey was a lifelong Democrat and was not a National-Review lackey). Downey epitomized the angry working class white man who, while not racist and not at all approving of neo-nazi or white nationalist groups (which he treated with the same ruthlessness as other ideological enemies to Traditional American culture), Downey’s rage did epitomize the white working class sense of losing their values and their culture in America.
Downey was fairly libertarian in many regards to personal liberty, and in two of his most shockingly tame episodes, he defended Heavy Metal and several musicians such as Twisted sister’s JJ french and Kiss’s Ace Freeley. In fact, the only musician he is rude to is the eternally annoying The Great Kat – a forgettable thrash metal side show skank who played utter crap music with a grrrl power that showcased her version of anti-authority punkishness mixed with a juvenile and meathead BDSM approach to feminism.
This to me is not super special – but unlike other conservatives who attacked heavy metal, Downey attempted to make a case that any behavior that was immoral had more to do with bad parenting than music, and he even dug some of the bands on his show. He treats them with an immense amount of respect given that he is supposed to embody the rage of middle class and middle aged whites.
Most other talk shows of the 80’s tried to present Heavy Metal as outlandishly as possible, and oftentimes conservative talk show hosts would get up in arms and condemn the bands – all of them. Here we see the father of “trash tv” defend Heavy Metal – something rare in the 80’s. It stands in stark contrast to the other interactions with Heavy Metal bands with people like Tipper Gore and the PMRC. As a musician, Downey knew that the sensationalism surrounding media treatment of Metal music was probably unfounded, and thus interacted with them in a reasonable way.
In hindsight, it makes sense. Heavy metal is really as American as apple pie – it’s not some horrible way of life that destroys souls. Though it does result in a lot of wasted braincells for those of us who consumed substances and partied to excess. Nowadays, 25-27 years later, these once ferocious bands don’t even scare us anymore. Our parents listen to them now! My dad and I will listen to a host of 80’s bands that bridges my 30 years of age and his 62 years, so obviously Metal cannot be so evil.
From Danzig calling democrats and liberals “fascists” to Ted Nugent being as obnoxious as ever whenever he speaks about politics, to Gene Simmons turning Republican, to Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine praising Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, to Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, listening to Heavy Metal as his preferred tunage to Michael Savage using Rammstein and Metallica for his show’s music, we see a general wave of Heavy Metal becoming increasingly associated with right wing politics. Ozzy was even a guest of Bush at the white house. This is only discussing the mainstream – keep in mind, as the underground has long been associated with the far right.
This makes sense for many reasons – first and foremost of which is that the nature of heavy metal is masculine, an inherent part of rightist attitudes (though usually in all the wrong ways). Since liberalism is based on tolerance, equality and breaking down hierarchy, heavy metal definitely goes better with American conservatism which encompasses individual liberty, traditional ideas of culture which include masculinity, strong national defense, self defense, gun rights and so on. Heavy metal is associated with masculinity, loudness, large lifestyles, power, hierarchy, and in many lyrics, Tradition.
In Europe, Metal is often associated with rightist politics even more, especially when the more extreme sub-genres are investigated. Black metal for example has flirtations with the far right and in many cases is openly far right. Bands such as Burzum or Graveland were created by nationalists, and a whole sub-genre of Black Metal is known as the infamous “NSBM” or “National Socialist Black Metal” is openly racialist and in many cases racist.
Heavy metal tends to be anti-authority, yes, but not in the sense of anti-leader. Metal’s opposition to “Authority” tends to be an opposition to the hypocritical, superficial or malevolent and controlling figures in society, which relates to Ernst Junger’s idea of the Anarch in which he stated :
“I am am an anarch – not because I despise authority, but because I need it. Likewise, I am not a nonbeliever, but a man who demands something worth believing in.
The anarch sticks to facts, not ideas. He suffers not for facts but because of them, and usually through his own fault, as in a traffic accident. Certainly, there are unforeseeable things – maltreatments. However, I believe I have attained a certain degree of self-distancing that allows me to regard this as an accident.
As I have said, I have nothing to do with the partisans. I wish to defy society not in order to improve it, but to hold it at bay no matter what. I suspend my achievements – but also my demands.
Although I am an anarch, I am not anti-authoritarian. Quite the opposite: I need authority, although I do not believe in it. My critical faculties are sharpened by the absence of the credibility that I ask for. As a historian, I know what can be offered.
Yes, many metal bands do in fact hate all leaders and are anarchistic in nature or nihilistic, particularly nu-metal and “alternative” metal, but this isn’t really “metal” in the classic sense. Plenty of Classic Metal bands or extreme metal bands are also openly and avowedly anti-authoritarian, but as Junger’s quote shows above, the sovereign individual is a key component of most Metal. It is not simply the hatred of authority, it is the hatred of a false and unworthy authority.
Classic heavy metal and thrash metal however, are not typified in this sense all the time. While most Metal fans are apolitical or libertarian, many fans of metal in the 80’s are now conservatives. American Conservatism is anti-(false)authoritarian and anti-totalitarian in it’s true nature. Perhaps not de facto, but theoretically and ideologically, it is. Despite Heavy Metal appearing ostensibly anti-authority, it is often pro-hierarchy. The two ideas are fundamental opposed unless you frame things differently, as the Junger quote above does for us.
Metal tends to be anti-bureaucracy and anti-modernist, criticizing politicians and corrupt leaders, but it also often has themes of tribalism, war, power, mythology. The currents in Heavy Metal are an opposition to corrupt power and totalitarianism, but not an objection to a system of hierarchy or a leader. Themes of working together and unity recall a sort of primitive traditionalism, even at times a pre-christian traditionalism that emphasizes a very different form of society from today. Much of what metal espouses are themes that rebel against the mediocrity of contemporary society, the worker-drone mentality of modern democracy, and many bands have an extreme cynicism in regards to the political system, fantasizing about other worlds and grandiose themes, something quite at home with a Traditionalist mindset that longs for days of glory once more.
The frustration of being an everyman who longs for genuine stability but is unable to find it in contemporary society is displayed in the lyrics to “Peace sells” by Megadeth.
“What do you mean, “I don’t believe in God”?
I talk to him every day.
What do you mean, “I don’t support your system”?
I go to court when I have to.
What do you mean, “I can’t get to work on time”?
I got nothing better to do
And, what do you mean, “I don’t pay my bills”?
Why do you think I’m broke? Huh?
If there’s a new way,
I’ll be the first in line.
But, it better work this time.
What do you mean, “I hurt your feelings”?
I didn’t know you had any feelings.
What do you mean, “I ain’t kind”?
I’m just not your kind.
What do you mean, “I couldn’t be the president of the United States of America”?
Tell me something, it’s still “We the people”, right?”
This sounds like conservatism to me, but a different kind of conservatism – the rage of the working class. Very much a right-wing populist conservatism, rather than an aristocratic conservatism, but the sentiment fits with the right more than the left.
Jumping to a more clear-cut example of Traditionalism in Heavy Metal, a famous Russian band (as in famous in Russia) known as Alisa, is well known for it’s espousal for pan-slavism, Russian Nationalism, and Orthodox Christianity. They are socially conservative and do not champion degenerate values – rather, they attack them and promote ethnic pride. In one of their more well known songs, Sky of Slavs, they sing a devotion to the Slavic people and a call for brotherhood for the Slavic people:
Other bands, more extreme bands have open nationalist themes in their music, albeit with less traditional expressions of nationalism. For example, the band Peste Noire incorporates traditional french nationalist songs in their music… while also incorporating satanism into this ideology. Quixotic, to be sure, but the essential focus on the music has become increasingly about the nationalist element and patriotic pride rather than about the satanic or esoteric side.
The Ukrainian black metal band Dub Buk has a song where they chant “Glory to Ukraine!”, a well known Ukrainian adaption of the nationalist chant which appears originally in Russia as “Slava Rossi!” or “Glory to Russia!”
Black metal, one of heavy metal’s most extreme forms, expresses an even deeper love of their culture than other metal genres, by often referencing their mythology of ancient times. Themes of vikings, Norse mythology, pre-christian gods and other mysticism are very common.
Satyricon, the infamous Norwegian black metal band is well known for their flirtations with the far right, as much of the black metal scene is. in Mother North, Satyricon writes a nationalist peon to Scandinavia that is more mystical, esoteric and romantic akin to Wagner and Prussian nationalist sentiment of the 19th century, or akin to the kind of Swedish Social-Democratic party use of nationalism in the 1930’s than towards a more vulgar kind of street nationalism as seen in contemporary skinhead RAC (rock against communism) bands. This kind of mystical approach to nationalism is very Evolan, Very Jungian (as in Carl Jung) very primordial, a nationalism that speaks to the soul of a European, not simply the vulgar rage that appears from anger over ethnic displacement. In this sense, this song in particular is transcendent in that it escapes the overt ideological impression that typical nationalist bands espouse and touches something deeper inside of us. This is Traditionalism at it’s core, a journey to the primordial origins of the soul, and the flowing, rising Ubermench that is forged out of an understanding of the aeons, the bonding of humans to their tribes and their ancient lands.
The most obviously glaring thing most people (uninitiated, naturally) will say is, “What about all the bad behavior? The drugs? The drinking? The violence! The women? The scarey imagery! The on stage antics!?“. Almost every genre of music from country to pop music has these issues, only Metal has a mystical and primal approach to it’s imagery. Blues and jazz musicians are just as well known if not moreso to use drugs and sleep around. Country music is filled with songs about heavy drinking and sex. Techno is practically only drug music, and progressive rock is often listened to by serious hallucinogen users. Other than overtly christian bands and genres, I challenge you to name a genre of music that is largely free from such things. Any form of entertainment or art has all of these things and Heavy Metal is not unique to it. The sole qualifier is that Metal, unlike most forms of music, has a strong and profound visual component that creates a narrative that has profound psychological effects on viewers and listeners, which is why it elicits such a trepidation regarding anti-social behavior in critics. Johnney Cash and other country artists wrote bluntly about killing men in cold blood. Lead Belly, the famous blues musician actually killed 2 people! Paganini was an opium addict! All of this is proof of just how powerful the suggestive imagery of Heavy Metal is, that even despite that drugs and debauchery and anything else anti-social exist in all levels of entertainment, Heavy Metal gets it’s most vehement critics from those most effected by it’s visual appropriations. That alone should tell you the potential of Metal as a tool for expressing values and ideals.
Examining the music alone, we see that the true controversy is both the imagery and the music itself – not it’s associated behavior. Yes the behavior is spotlighted more, but I feel one of the major reasons this is so, is that the real counter culture message of Metal is more subversive than the hedonism that is spotlighted by critics. It is the anti-modern, anti-banal message of a primal masculinity and an empowering and grandiose worldview that makes it so easy to demonize. The Associated degeneracy with the music is simply a way for detractors to increase the dislike of this music. Obviously, it has not worked since Metal is more and more mainstreamed than ever.
The current running through metal which most probably do not articulate is that metal is speaking to a primeval and Traditional ethos inside of us, one that is pre-civilization and often tribal in nature. The anti-modern message of Metal is the most subversive aspect – and it always will be.
Classical music – particularly Wagner, who was a nationalist and a conservative play a large role in the structure of Heavy Metal for many. The themes of greatness, the large sound, the grandiose themes all fit with Heavy Metal, so much so a relatively newer genre of metal, symphonic metal has appeared in the past 20 years. Being that Classical music is a foundation of western civilization, the incorporation of this form of music into heavy metal albeit in a bastardized and rough format, is only another indicator to Heavy Metal’s congruence with a genuine Traditionalism. I don’t mean to insinuate that metalheads are all traditionalists or that they all have traditional values, because that would be patently absurd, but an analysis of the musical themes and the style and the observation of the tendencies of many musicians to this type of right wing politics is something that cannot be ignored. I, like many of my right wing friends, listen to a great amount of Heavy Metal. Amerika.org is a paleoconservative website founded by Brett Stevens, a man who started the infamous ANUS.com, a philosophical heavy metal website that stressed a Traditionalist and nationalist outlook. It was widely read in the early 2000’s and the late 90’s in the underground and was highly influential to many of us who started bands.
There was a time when Heavy Metal was so threatening, that it caused panic waves throughout countries. In the United states it was largely thrash metal and glam metal (later “shock rock”), and in Europe it was Black Metal. Many of these musicians as stated before, have gone onto becoming involved with the right in many different forms. Why would that be? Obviously it is because something deep in this music calls to our pre-modern civilization, pre-neutered sensibilities, something deep inside us longing to get out. It is obvious that Heavy Metal and it’s Traditionalist tendencies were a serious threat to post-modern conservatives, people who superficially, were right wing in the way that they wanted to conserve their society, not necessarily the Traditional values of the west nor it’s powerful character. That type of right wing tendency is more of supporting the status quo, rather than a search to rediscover and renew the primeval aspects of our origins. I am sure they also simply disliked the music, but the idea that the cacophony may have disturbed their idea of modern civilization, and that this is the real genesis of their dislike of this music, is an interesting idea to consider.
The real controversial message here is one of a primal basic tradition and warrior ethos. Nationalism and conservatism have become the new counter culture, the new subversive themes, the new boogie men of modern or post modern society. Heavy metal only heralded this in it’s nascent stage of becoming so. It’s underlying message is a threat to the couch potato, lemming lifestyle of the modern era in the west.
Regardless, it is obvious the threat to civilization and the new world order was greatly over estimated, as is seen in most metalheads. No revolution happened, no great societal reform happened making things more traditional, and for the most part, it was used as fun escape or the background to a fun time.
However, for many of us, it helped form the basis for a world view that did lead to Traditionalism and the right, inspiring us to rebel against the homogenous liberal-democratic society, and turn instead to the ancient traditions that once made our society great. For that, I can say that I am thankful. Can I say that all of my inspiration to turn right wing came from metal? No, certainly not, but I can say that the basic ideas of dissatisfaction of modern existence coupled with being drawn to traditional culture was most certainly sparked by Metal. Metal alone did not give me my world view, but it laid the seeds for it.
What’s my point? If you’re a right winger, you should let your kids listen to metal.