On Phil Anselmo
On September 22, at the end of the annual Dimebash charity event, Phil Anselmo, former singer of Pantera and current singer of Down and Superjoint Ritual closed the event by performing the Seig Heil Nazi salute and screaming “White power.”
I doubt this comes as a surprise to most readers. For one, the incident was furiously covered in other press outlets. For another, Anselmo has a long history of publicly airing quasi-or-blatantly-racist opinions both during Pantera’s prime and after.
I refrained from responding in that immediate aftermath for two reasons. One, I despise hot takes, and feel that any kind of response ought to be as measured and intelligent as possible out of respect for you readers. Two, I wanted to see how the public, as well as other metal media outlets would react.
The metal media responded. Metal Sucks and Metal Hammer condemned Anselmo.
The public responded. The comment thread on the Metal Sucks page got so out of control that they turned the comment thread off.
Anslemo responded as well. He issued a non-apology crediting his outburst to an in-joke related to drinking white wine backstage.
And then Robb Flynn from Machine Head responded.
A summary of the most pertinent bits: Flynn alleges that Anselmo referred to his rap metal experiments as the “nigger” part of his career and also that Anselmo has a history of using the Nazi salute during performances of Pantera’s “A New Level.”
It’s worth noting that Flynn’s claim that there was no white wine backstage has been disproved.
Regardless, I have nothing particularly intelligent to say about Anselmo. I have nothing intelligent to say because he has nothing intelligent to say.
I have something to say about racism in metal, or rather, how racism has no place in metal.
To me the core of this genre is a love of radical freedom. People like metal because metal is free to express parts of the human condition that are frightening. Most metal shares a desire to be free from hierarchy, usually in the form of government and organized religion. More specific desires for freedom inform other styles. Folk metal wants freedom from the modern world’s existential and technological dread. Suicidal black metal plays on the desire to be free of our bodies and all the pain that they generate, and brutal death metal, for all of its serious problems at least contains one real truth: that sometimes the bodies of others torment us with their beauty and their ugliness in tandem, and that we desire to be free from that torment and fantasize about violence to find some sort of relief. Problems lurk in all of those styles, but so does genuine feeling.
Our task is: find a way forward that is true to those feelings and shed those pieces which hold us back from freedom. Ignorance is not freedom. Ignorance is a collar that people accept when reality scares them.
White supremacy is disgusting not only because it is wrong but because it is so obviously incorrect. I recommend a good read of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel for some hard evidence of the sheer dumb luck that precipitated Western society.
White supremacy is a problem in particular now because it is obvious that all of the work that every person has done to mend the relationships between black and white (and Latin, Asian, Arab, Jewish and Native American) people is at risk of being undone by a small frightened minority and a complacent frightened majority.
Anton LaVey was wrong about many things, but he did create one idea that I hold dear: stupidity is the cardinal sin.
This site is about smart writing. I can’t think of anything smart to say about Anselmo. This is the last I’ll write about him until I think of something smart. It's the last that Invisible Oranges will write until we agree we have something smart to say. If you’ve got something smart to say, please share below. He’ll never get a red cent of mine again and I recommend that you give him none of yours.