Theatrics of Hate Speech

This project explores how hate speech is produced, diffused and consumed in extreme metal music scenes. Through a combination of interviews, as well as analyses of online forums and social media feeds, we explore some of the tensions between freedom of speech, liberties in artistic expression and hateful speech as an alibi to exhibit misanthropy.

Vivek Venkatesh talks about hate speech, freedom of expression, and his “Theatrics of Hate Speech” project.

Critical Questions

The materials on this page are drawn from an interdisciplinary research program on metal music studies jointly led by SOMEONE Canada researchers Vivek Venkatesh, Jeffrey Podoshen ,  Jason Wallin and Tieja Thomas, along with a host of collaborators committed to building theoretical and practical intersections between the humanities and social sciences in better understanding the production, diffusion and consumption of hate speech in extreme metal music scenes. The content has been produced in partnership with Grimposium (http://grimposium.com) – an international touring festival and conference series squarely focused on issues of social, political and economic import in global extreme metal music scenes.  

The materials are intended to engage our audiences in discussions – they are meant to generate fodder for debates in educational contexts, as well as provide the broader public with an opportunity to engage with  materials produced directly from our field research. The multimedia provided below includes recordings of lectures, panel discussions, interviews as well as an improvisational reading performance. These materials will constantly be updated as more public engagement events are held under the SOMEONE and Grimposium banners.  

These questions are intended to complement the interviews and panel sessions we conducted with scene members and might help guide potential debates and discussions for viewers of the materials on this page.  

  1.  What kinds of hate speech do the interviewees make reference to during their conversations with the researchers? Are these representative of the kinds of hate speech you have witnessed?
  1. Are there certain kinds of hate speech or hateful utterances that have become accepted within the extreme metal scene? What kinds of strategies do the interviewees propose to combat these systematic and accepted forms of hate? What kinds of strategies do you propose to help sensitize scene members about the ill effects of these types of such statements?
  1. Does freedom of expression or artistic liberty restrict a musician’s, visual artist’s or lyricist’s ability to create their artform? Is there a limit to artistic expression? How are some of the interviewees grappling with balancing their artistic freedom with being provocative and asking scene members to reflect on broad socio-political issues of discrimination?

Videos

Theatrics of Hate Speech

In this talk, Vivek Venkatesh speaks about the development of an interdisciplinary research program that looks at socio-communal, political and psychological factors impacting the production and dissemination of hate speech in the global extreme metal music scene. Drawing on examples from field observations, interviews, and multi-method content analyses from multiple sources of data, Vivek describes how themes of darkness, destruction, self-harm, xenophobia and dystopia blur consumption-related boundaries between musicians, fans, visual artists and journalists in underground extreme metal scenes. Implications for the development of social pedagogical curricula to build criticality and reflexivity in the general public towards issues of discrimination, racism, misogyny and other forms of intolerance are discussed.

Recorded at CICC (Centre International de Criminologie Compare), Université de Montréal. October, 2016.

https://youtu.be/d_SWPoRRdLQ

Communal and Individual Politics in the Extreme Metal Artform

In this lecture, Vivek Venkatesh provides an overview of the research program he has been working on with his collaborators which illuminate the communal and individual factors that impact a variety of politics in the extreme metal music scene. Theoretical propositions about how the extreme metal scene engages in discussions of dystopia, destruction, blasphemy and religious intolerance in the current socio-political climate are introduced herein. In addition, Vivek also describes research findings about how black metal scene members use social media to discuss and debate issues related to racism. The footage includes reference to the documentary film entitled Blekkmetal (released in 2016); links to the trailer and exclusive live clips are included below.

Video of lecture

Documentary trailer

Taake – “Myr” live at Blekkmetal festival 2015

 

Conversations with Metal Music Scene Members

In August of 2015, in collaboration with our partners at evenko, a Montreal-based entertainment production and promotion company, and Grimposium, we conducted a series of interviews with musicians who performed at the Heavy Montreal festival. The interviews were fairly organic and semi-structured by nature – they probed musicians’ motivations in exploring darker facets and themes of social import including death, dystopia, loneliness and racism (amongst many others). We present these interviews to you as a way to expose elements of criticality and reflexivity in the scene, especially as members of the scene discuss some of the complex factors impacting the politics and economics of the metal scene.  

Hiran Deraniyagala from Battlecross speaks with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Hiran talks about how social issues are addressed in metal including the global nature of metal. He also talks about belonging, metal as an outlet for anger, metal elitism, and Detroit.  

Travis Ryan and Josh Elmore from Cattle Decapitation speak with Natalie Zina Walschots in this interview. Travis and Josh talk about chemistry in bands and changes in vocal style. They also talk about humanity, the environment, and religion.  

John Gallagher from Dying Fetus speaks with Jason Netherton in this interview. John talks about changes to the metal scene. He touches on freedom of speech versus hate speech. 

Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved speak with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Ivar and Grutle talk about their influences. They also talk how they receive both criticism and support. 

Ihsahn from Emperor speaks with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Ihsahn talks about the evolution of black metal. He also talks about freedom of speech and censorship.

J.R. Hayes from Pig Destroyer speaks with Jason Netherton and Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. J.R. talks about controversy and criticism in metal as well as his own strong feelings again censorship.

Scott Kelly from Neurosis speaks with Natalie Zina Walschots in this interview. Scott talks about his creative process, the antisocial nature of what they are doing, and the intelligence of the fans. 

David Davidson and Ash Pearson from Revocation speak with Natalie Zina Walschots in this interview. David and Ash talk about dystopia, the environment, privacy, and sexual impulse.  

Jason Rockman from Slaves on Dope speaks with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Jason talks about his core values, gender equality, and the conscientious use of social media. 

Chuck Billy from Testament speaks with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Chuck talks about community, policing of the scene, Native American heritage, and social media. 

Sexual Violence and Misogyny in Lyrical and Literary Frameworks

PANEL SESSION 

This panel session explores psychoanalytic, literary and social psychological frameworks which assess how themes of sexual violence and misogyny are portrayed and negotiated within a variety of occidental cultural scenes. Speakers include Daniel Butler – a psychoanalytic psychotherapist by profession as well as visual artist, lyricist and vocalist with Oakland-based death metal band, Vastum; Leila Abdul-Rauf – a multi-instrumentalist, composer, lyricist, guitarist and vocalist in Bay Area metal bands Hammers of Misfortune and Vastum; Beth Winegarner – a journalist and author who has written about heavy metal and gender for the New Yorker and Invisible Oranges, and whose book “The Columbine Effect” explores how heavy metal and other scapegoated pastimes can be a healthy part of growing up; Brad Nelson – a feminist scholar from Concordia University with expertise in the literary works of Miguel de Cervantes and modern Scandinavian crime fiction; and Jason Wallin – a psychoanalyst, as well as media, youth culture and art education scholar from University of Alberta. The panel is moderated by Justin Norton, an established music writer based in the Bay Area. The panel is hosted by Vivek Venkatesh – a social psychologist from Concordia University with extensive embedded experience in Scandinavian extreme metal scenes.  

 

IMPROV READING 

Nathan A. Verrill, guitarist and songwriter with Bay Area doom metal trio Cardinal Wyrm, played an improvised session of electric guitar music to accompany readings of Bradley Nelson’s, Vivek Venkatesh’s and Jason Wallin’s works on the themes of necrophilia, misogyny and hate speech in extreme metal scenes.  

Westside Gory Booklet

Spectacles of Hate Speech

In this lecture, Vivek Venkatesh and his collaborator, Brad Nelson, provide an overview of how a combination of novel quantitative methods applied to critical discourse analysis, psychoanalytic approaches and humanities-based analytical techniques yield a multi-layered portrait of hate speech in the online realm of the global black metal scene.

Video of lecture 

Video of Q&A 

Bibliography

Attached you will find a bibliography of research that Vivek Venkatesh and his team have worked on with regards to metal music studies. Please contact Vivek directly at vivek.venkatesh@concordia.ca to request copies of the articles for perusal.

Theatrics of Hate Speech Bibliography (pdf)

Creator

Vivek Venkatesh PhD

Vivek Venkatesh is Associate Professor of Education at Concordia University. He is an interdisciplinary and applied learning scientist who investigates the psychological, cultural and cognitive factors impacting the design, development and inclusive adoption of digital media in educational and social contexts.

Chapter

Exploring the language and spectacle of online hate speech in the black metal scene. Developing theoretical and methodological intersections between the social sciences and humanities.

Venkatesh, V.,  Nelson, B. J., Thomas, T.*, Wallin, J. J., Podoshen, J. S., Thompson, C.*, Jezer-Morton, K.*, Rabah, J.*, Urbaniak, K., & St.-Laurent, M.* (in press). In N. Varas-Diaz, & N. Scott (eds). Heavy Metal and the Communal Experience, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. 

 

Abstract 

Instances of racism and hateful comments via online forums and public commentary on online website for media outlets are not a new phenomenon (Hawdon 2012; Hughey and Daniels 2013; van Dijk 2000, 1997, 1992). The broader extreme metal music scene has seen its fair share of online hate speech of the misogynistic, racist, homo/trans-phobic and religious variety, amongst many others (Venkatesh, Podoshen, Perri & Urbaniak 2014). This chapter presents an analysis of several paradigm cases of online incidences of hate speech in the extreme metal community, namely, an anti-semitic weblog run by erstwhile Norwegian black metal musician, Varg Vikernes; discussions around an anti-Islam Facebook post made by Norwegian black metal band God Seed; as well as several reddit and forum feeds that discuss black metal, racism and National Socialism. 

From pride to prejudice to shame: Multiple facets of the black metal scene within and without online environments.

Venkatesh, V., Podoshen, J., Perri, D., & Urbaniak, K. (2014). In V. Venkatesh, J. Wallin, J. Castro, & J. E. Lewis (eds.) Educational, behavioral and psychological considerations inniche online communities (pp. 364–388). Hershey, PA: IGI Worldwide. 

 

Abstract 

This chapter presents an in-depth qualitative study of the inner workings of one niche extreme metal scene, namely black metal. Using data from the physical as well as virtual black metal scenes, the study explores how scene members manifest the tensions between their personal and communal identities, as  well as how they negotiate the propagation of racism and xenophobia, both within and without online environments. The netnographic analyses presented draw on black metal scene members’ interactions in online forums and blogs showing sustained activity over an extended period of time, some spanning well over a decade-and-a-half. The authors also draw on data from observations at several concerts and festivals in North America and Europe, as well as personal, written reflections from an extreme metal music journalist who has struggled to find a balance between his appreciation of black metal music and some of the overt racism and violence propagated in the scene. Additionally, they present analyses from a series of interviews conducted with 12 black metal artists and fans from all parts of the globe. The authors cautiously contend that online interactions between members of niche music scenes such as black metal, wherein individual and collective identities are partially informed by xenophobia and  

influenced by socio-political structures, when extended to the larger populace through the publicly available Internet, can potentially serve as paradigmatic cases of how otherwise self-contained racist chatter could influence the larger public exposed to these transgressions to consider adopting racist ideologies. 

Paper

Eschewing community: Black metal.

Venkatesh, V., Podoshen, J. S.,Urbaniak, K., & Wallin, J.J. (2015). Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 25, 66-81. DOI: 10.1002/casp.2197. 

 

Abstract 

There is a great deal of literature that examines community orientations, in particular consumption- based subcultures rooted in the appreciation of music scenes such as heavy metal and its subgenres. Much of this literature focuses on aspects of community maintenance, reaffirmation of shared identities and building of social bonds. In the present article, we report a study in which consumption of, and fandom in a specific scene in extreme metal, namely black metal, may lead to very unique consumer cultural orientations. Our analyses reveal that black metal fans’ identities reside in a realm outside of a desired collective identification and tightly knit community, but rather one that uses signification , or representational means to convey meaning and belonging, as a way to signal repugnance with society and a reverence of individuality. The study engages a mixed qualitative approach utilizing interviews, observational research and content analysis to demonstrate how self-identity related to the black metal music scene can thrive through an ideological and semiotic rejection of traditional community orientations seen in the majority of other extreme metal music scenes. This paper challenges traditional conceptualizations of group identity in music scenes by closely examining aspects of signification and fandom in black metal that represent a unique system of shared identities devoid of community building.