Privileged Intersections: The Race, Class, and Gender Politics of Prussian Blue
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I would like to thank Tausif Khan, Coty Hogue, and Travis Smart, who assisted with the research for this article. I am also grateful to my campus writing workshop colleagues and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2009 Western Political Science Association Convention.
Western liberal democratic nation-states are currently experiencing a rise in right-wing extremism in response to the challenges globalization poses for their economic security and cultural identity. In the United States alone, the total number of right wing extremist groups—hate groups, nativist groups, and Patriot groups—rose 40% in 2009. An 80% surge in anti-immigration nativist groups and a 244% rise in Patriot groups, most of them paramilitary organizations, accounted for the bulk of this increase. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, U.S. Patriot groups have mobilized in anger against changing demographics, rising public debt, declining economic opportunities, and a series of Obama initiatives which they perceive to be “socialist” or even “fascist.” Contemporary right-wing extremist groups have also adopted new tactics that reflect an increasingly global political strategy. These include reliance on apocalyptic or millennial images of a global race war; international alliances between Neo-Nazi, white-supremacist, and Christian Identity organizations; sophisticated use of mass communications technology, including Internet sites and short-wave radio; and recruitment efforts focused on so-called vulnerable populations, such as prisoners, teenagers, and women.
In this article, I adopt an intersectional approach to analyze how the Neo-Nazi folk duo, Prussian Blue, uses images of the idealized American family to recruit teens, especially girls. I begin with a general discussion of the role of music in the white power movement today. Then I turn to Patricia Hill Collins’ concept of the idealized traditional family as an exemplary site where race, gender, class, and nation intersect. By extending her concept of intersectionality beyond mainstream politics to the “family values” extolled by Prussian Blue, I (re)focus attention on the intersecting privileges that create the forms of oppression Collins discusses. In the process, I also show how white supremacist ideology illuminates more subtle forms of white privilege found in the political mainstream. I conclude that Prussian Blue’s music blurs the line between mainstream and right-wing extremist politics, and presents a powerful combination of narrative and strategic violence intended to recruit the next generation for global white supremacy.
Hate Groups, Hate Music, and Prussian Blue
Many scholars have recognized the importance of popular culture, including music, for recruiting teenagers to political causes, movements, and parties. Today a growing white power music scene plays a major role in efforts of the radical right to recruit teenagers. Unlike Christian soft rock and most country music, white power music explicitly targets historically oppressed groups and advocates violence, including racial genocide. White power music genres include racist skinhead, national socialist black metal, fascist experimental music, and Neo-Nazi folk music. Approximately 350 white power bands are active in the United States, Western Europe, and post-communist nations today; 120 of them are currently based in the United States. This g/local music industry is a multi-million dollar enterprise that funds white supremacist movements and national front parties. Resistance Records, the major U.S. distributor, has reported an average of fifty Internet orders per day of approximately $70 each, with most white power music CD’s priced under $20. In 2004 Panzerfaust, another major distributor, launched “Project Schoolyard USA” and issued a $.15 sampler CD targeting middle school students. In 2006 RadioWhite, an online white power music station, offered six different 24-hour music feeds and a playlist of five thousand songs. Not surprisingly, Kathleen Blee points to music to illustrate how the radical right has begun to mainstream the cultural politics of white supremacy.
Arts-based cultural politics may be associated more commonly with progressive movements, such as civil rights, labor, and peace. Eyerman and Jamison regard the “active use of music and song by social movements” as “...a natural outgrowth of the multilingual background of the American people....” They note, “this is especially visible in the case of white folk music, which was very early on used by movements of social reform for getting the message out.” American folk songs have shaped working-class struggles against systems of domination and, in the process, forged new individual and collective identities. However, folk music is also understood to express the cultural identity of isolated, and hence authentic, linguistic, racial and/or national groups. With its Neo-Nazi folk genre, the white power movement joins, co-opts, and shifts a long-standing reformist tradition of folk and protest music in America. It embraces folk music as a racially pure expression of white culture and uses it to reinvoke a cultural past rooted in racial segregation and white supremacy. As we will see, the music of Prussian Blue fits this mold. Lamb and Lynx Gaede are known widely as “the Olsen twins of the White nationalist movement.” Their songs are usually characterized as folk, folk-pop, or folk rock. As one commentator puts it, “their music isn’t teen-pop in the Brittney Spears/Hilary Duff/Jessica Simpson sense, but rather, folk-rock.”
Studies of pop culture also identify gender differences in how teens consume music, including a greater tendency for girls to internalize musical meanings and use them to create a distinct and often resistant teen culture. One young California skin girl describes how white power music recruited her to the movement: “How I really started believing, thinking, in that white separatist sense and then got all white supremacist, it was really through the music. There’s a whole other genre of music out there that no one ever hears about and its [sic] really powerful, especially at that awkward stage where no one exactly knows who they are. It gives you an identity, it says you are special, you know, because you are white.” White supremacist leaders explicitly promote the softer sounds of folk groups like Prussian Blue as an initial step in shaping the racial identity of white youth who will eventually support racially motivated movement violence. As Erich Gliebe, a Neo-Nazi, professional boxer, and manager of Resistance Records, put it: “Eleven and 12 years old, I think that’s the perfect age to start grooming kids and instill in them a strong racial identity....We give them a CD, we give them something as simple as a stick, they can go to our Web site and see other music and download some of our music....To me, that’s the best propaganda tool for our youth.” This recruiting strategy is not limited to teenage girls, however. Rich Lindstron, a National Alliance member, hoped Prussian Blue would “capture the imaginations of young boys and girls all across the world. The impact could be huge and their influence will encourage ‘copycats’...creating an entire genre of pro-white Music.”
Prussian Blue has received considerable attention in the white power music scene and beyond. Managed by their mother, April Gaede, the twin teenage girls—Lamb and Lynx—first performed together in 2001 when they were nine years old at the white nationalist festival, “Eurofest.” They added instruments—violin and guitar, respectively—to their performances in 2002, and quickly became white supremacist bubble-gum pop stars. Many songs on the band’s first CD, Fragment of the Future, released in 2004, are white nationalist folk ballads written by others. The composers include: David Lane, founding member of the Order, an American Neo-Nazi group; Ian Stuart Donaldson, the now deceased lead singer of the British racist skinhead band, Skrewdriver; and Ken McClellan, another member of Skrewdriver. Other Prussian Blue songs are settings of famous poems, for example, Rudyard Kipling’s “The Stranger,” and some songs on their 2005 CD, The Path We Chose, were composed by the teens themselves. In 2006 with financial support from the National Democratic Party of Europe (NPD) the band released a compilation album, For the Fatherland. The girls, who performed regularly at Neo-Nazi gatherings, have been the subjects of a 2003 BBC documentary, Louis [Theroux] and the Nazis and a 2007 James Quinn documentary, Nazi Pop Twins. They are also prominently featured in a 2001 VHI special, Inside Hate Rock, and multiple YouTube videos. They have appeared in a 2003 horror movie, Dark Walker, and inspired several spin-offs, among them, an episode of Boston Legal, entitled “The Nutcrackers,” on December 5, 2006, and the 2006 off-Broadway show, White Noise: A Cautionary Musical. In 2007 the band toured Europe performing at white nationalist festivals and made a guest appearance on The Political Cesspool. Louis Theroux also conducted follow-up interviews with the Gaedes for his 2007 book, The Call of the Weird: Encounters with Survivalists, Porn Stars, Alien Killers, and Ike Turner. For reasons I discuss below, the girls have retreated from the public stage and distanced themselves from their previous white supremacist views in recent years. It remains to be seen whether they will reemerge in the white power or possibly another music scene.
Privileged Intersections: Gender, Race, Class, and Nation
Here I draw on Patricia Hill Collins’ work on intersectionality to explore how white supremacists use Prussian Blue’s music to disseminate their image of the traditional American family. Collins, now a Distinguished University Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, received national acclaim and the 1993 Jessie Bernard award for her 1990 book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Her more recent work, From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism, develops further many of the themes introduced there, including the relationship between music and politics. Collins coined the term “intersectionality” and with other black feminist scholars has established its importance as a framework for scholarly research and public policy. She defines it as follows: “As opposed to examining gender, race, and class, and nation as separate systems of oppression, intersectionality explores how these systems mutually construct one another, or, in the words of Black British sociologist Stuart Hall, how they ‘articulate’ with one another.” Although Collins also recognizes the importance of other identity categories, including age, class, ethnicity, and sexuality, she emphasizes gender, nation, and race, given their prominence in constructions of the United States as a racialized “family writ large.”
Collins argues that the “imagined traditional family”—“a father-head earning an adequate family wage, a stay-at-home wife, and children”—“functions as a privileged exemplar of intersectionality in the United States.” This family ideal provides a “focal point or privileged social location for the intersecting systems” of “gender, race, class, and nation,” a site where it is possible “to explore how these systems mutually construct one another.” Collins analyzes multiple functions that “the family” performs in mainstream American politics. Family is a prominent ideological construct, which is codified in law and policy, and supported by state-structured institutions and processes. In this article, I emphasize the first function, that is, how the idealized American family functions as an ideological construct. Ideology is an appropriate level of analysis here for at least three reasons. First, white supremacists’ links to more institutionalized aspects of American politics, such as, electoral campaigns and public policy, remain largely indirect. Second, many scholars are now calling for further research on ideological class, gender, and race constructs that undergird often unconscious assumptions about white privilege in mainstream politics. Third, the ideological messages in Prussian Blue’s songs are arguably the most interesting feature of their musical performances. I address the socio-political organization of the traditional family only where gaps emerge between this idealized American family and the Gaedes’ actual family life.
For Collins, the “traditional family ideal” spans the American political spectrum from conservative politicians to Black nationalists and some feminists. Conservative politicians embrace “family values” as a seemingly colorblind ideal. In other words, they assume a racially unmarked national family, while simultaneously aligning with a longer, deeper history of the United States as a racialized nation-state. Given the political importance of “family values,” Black nationalists and some feminists have tried to reclaim the rhetoric of nation as family in ways that challenge this dominant history of racial and other hierarchies. Collins supports such efforts, saying “Given the power of family as ideological construction and principle of social organization, Black nationalist, feminist, and other political movements in the United States dedicated to challenging social inequality might consider recasting intersectional understandings of family in ways that do not reproduce inequality.” This suggests that the “idealized traditional family” serves as a privileged intersection in two distinct and overlapping senses. It is a “focal point or privileged social location” where multiple forms of identity converge AND a site where gender, racial, and national privileges intersect. In her analysis, Collins does not entirely disentangle these two meanings, perhaps because they are so intertwined in the racial formation of the American nation state. As she puts it, “With racial ideologies and practices so reliant on family for meaning, family writ large becomes race.”
I extend Collins’ intersectional analysis beyond mainstream politics to right-wing extremism, that is, to those who explicitly claim the idealized traditional family on behalf of white, heterosexual, middle- and working-class Americans. Conservative politicians’ colorblind rhetoric of family values reveals how racial privilege often manifests itself in the tendency of whites “not to see race in themselves and to be angry at, condemn, or even silence those who do,” and even to use “their self-perceived sense of power to define the problem ‘solved.’” In Prussian Blue’s music family functions as this “privileged intersection” for gender, race, and national identity as well as a site where the intersecting privileges of the white national family are explicitly claimed and deployed. By applying Collins’ intersectional approach to Prussian Blue’s white supremacist rhetoric, I would show how the line can blur between right-wing extremists, who proudly defend their class, gender, and race privileges, and colorblind conservatives’ rhetoric of “family values.” Prussian Blue’s music, I argue, tells a cautionary tale of U.S. citizens who are organizing a growing movement within and against American democracy.
Privileged Intersections, Intersecting Privileges, and “Family Values”
Collins identifies the following six dimensions of the “traditional family ideal”: 1) naturalized hierarchies; 2) home(lands); 3) blood ties; 4) rights with responsibilities; 5) socio-economic classes; and 6) family planning. Prussian Blue’s music uses each dimension to construct a white supremacist, heterosexist, patriarchal, class-based identity politics. My discussion of each dimension weaves together the band’s music and the lives of April, Lamb, and Lynx. In the process, I show how the Gaedes offer us a rare public glimpse of what might be called the “personal politics” of white supremacy, including the gap between the family as ideal and reality.
1) Naturalized Hierarchies
According to Collins, the traditional family ideal combines a seemingly natural hierarchy with a sense of unity among its members. As she puts the point, “hierarchies of gender, age, and sexuality that exist within different racial groups (whose alleged family ties lead to a commonality of interest) mirrors [sic] the hierarchy characterizing relationships among groups. In this way, racial inequality becomes comprehensible and justified via family rhetoric.” Within the traditional family, men, women, and children share white racial privilege, yet women, as wives and mothers, and their children remain subordinate to men. This hierarchy becomes “naturalized” when these family roles are presumed to reflect natural processes or biological roles.
April Gaede, mother to Lamb and Lynx, grew up on her father’s ranch in Fresno, California surrounded by Neo-Nazi ideas and symbols, including the cattle he branded with a swastika. She describes her first husband, Kris Lingleser, the girls’ father, as “good ‘Aryan’ breeding stock.” However, she divorced Kris in 1996 because their marriage had become violent. April later expressed regret over “the many years that I lost in which I could have produced four to six more children with that ideal eugenic quality that [Lynx and Lamb] possess.” She remarried in 2003 and Mark Harrington is now the stepfather of Lamb and Lynx, and the father of their younger sister, Dresden. In 2005, the family relocated to Kalispell, Montana, because April thought Bakersfield, California, where the girls were born, “wasn’t white enough.”
Lamb and Lynx Gaede’s songs about a naturalized family hierarchy invoke a Great Race War fought to protect the patriarchal family bonds of the Chosen White Race. “The Road to Valhalla” refers to the path of “the Chosen,” a path taken by young boys who will eventually become the male warriors who fight for their race. In “Aryan Man Awake,” the girls espouse what Angela Davis calls “the myth of the black rapist”: they describe unknown black men who threaten the sexual safety of white women and their children. These lyrics depict a time and a place “When a mother’s very children belong to her no more / And black masked men with guns come bashing down the doors.” The singers ask, “Can you see how they [liberals and multiculturalists] lie to warp your daughters’ minds? Can you let your sons be trodden down or left behind?” The chorus is a call to action: “Aryan man awake/How much more will you take / Turn that fear to hate / Aryan man awake.” The great and holy war fought—and eventually won—by white male warriors to protect their women and children is celebrated in the song “Victory Day.” Its chorus is: “And the women, they’ll smile, on Victory Day / And the children, they’ll laugh and they’ll sing and they’ll play / And the forests will echo our grace, for the brand new dawn of our Race.”
Family hierarchy is also a major theme in Prussian Blue’s songs to fallen heroes, white male patriarchs and fallen martyrs for the race. “Gone with the Breeze,” a tribute to the white nationalist leader of The Order, Robert Matthews, mourns his early death and the time he lost with his family and friends. “Sacrifice” memorializes the efforts of Matthews, as well as Ian Stuart (Skrewdriver’s lead singer), Rudolph Hess (Adolf Hitler’s Deputy Führer), and Dr. Pierce (founder of Resistance Records), to save “our Race” and “Open our eyes, see the future for what it could be: a future for our race’s eternity.” In Lamb Gaede’s tribute to David Lane, “Hate for Hate: Lamb Near the Lane,” she sings: “If the white man won’t battle for life and for race. Then women and children, the terror will face.” The chorus simply repeats, “I am that lamb. I’ll stand beside the Lane.”
These songs echo some of the “stock images of women” that Kathleen Blee describes in Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement. White women are portrayed as goddesses/victims: that is, they are sexualized as objects of white racial purity and potential targets of violent black men. This symbolic duality has a much longer history in KKK and Nazi ideology. As April Gaede’s experience of domestic violence reveals, this role of “wronged white femininity” grants only a dubious protection to white women and their children. Although the goddess/victim role embraces white racial privilege, it does not challenge and indeed affirms traditional gender hierarchies and family structures. Most prominent in Prussian Blue’s songs is the role of women as breeders—young girls as future wives and mothers—who bear and rear the white citizen-soldiers of an ongoing Great Race War. Boys become men and are correspondingly positioned—and idealized—as valiant racial warriors who fight to protect the racial identity of their families.
The concept of a natural(ized) family hierarchy is further played out in the metaphor of the nation as racial family and the birth requirements for naturalized citizenship. According to the traditional ideal, a family has a home and its home is a privatized, protected space distinct from the larger and less safe public sphere. Collins argues that the traditional home is a feminized space, where women are confined, children are nurtured, and both are ostensibly sheltered. Consistent with this image, April Gaede home-schooled Lamb and Lynx and is widely credited with preparing the twins for their future roles as Neo-Nazi folk singers. In a well-known ABC Primetime Interview, the 13-year-old girls stated that “Adolf Hitler was a good man with good ideas” and described the Holocaust as “being exaggerated.” Lynx also said that they were “proud of being white” and added “We want our people to stay white. We don’t want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race.” Kris Lingleser insists that their mother instilled their racist ideas, identity, and image, and he asks: “Do they know how many people out there will look at [them] and just go—I mean I get angry, just angry...And they don’t deserve that anger. They don’t deserve that hate. That’s not them.” The now (in)famous image of the preteen girls wearing T-shirts with Hitler smiley faces on them corroborates Lingleser’s concern.
April’s response to those who claim she brainwashed her daughters was, “They need to have the background to understand why certain things are happening...I’m going to give them, give them my opinion just like any, any parent would.”
“Home” also functions here as a nativist metaphor for mother country, and efforts to maintain privatized familial and national/political racial(lized) spaces often overlap. The separation of seemingly safe private homes from dangerous public spaces may, in fact, contribute to a more generalized perception of the need to maintain other borders. As Collins puts it, “In this logic that everything has its place, maintaining borders of all sorts becomes vitally important. Preserving the logic of segregated home spaces requires strict rules that distinguish insiders from outsiders.” When the Gaede family relocated from California to Montana, the citizens of Kalispell distributed fliers in protest stating that “hate and ignorance” were not welcome in their town. However, a statement on the Prussian Blue website challenges such charges of racial hatred by claiming that the band simply celebrates white pride: “The music that Prussian Blue performs is intended for white people...They hope to help fellow whites come to understand that love for one’s race is a beautiful gift that we should celebrate.” When asked whether they were attempting to “seed hatred and intolerance in the minds of young people,” Lynx replied, “Nothing could be further from the truth. This is an example of how white liberal guilt is weakening America.” Lamb concurred, saying “Our music is not about hating anyone. It’s about loving the person who matters most of all: you.”
The Gaedes have consistently claimed that they are white separatists, not white supremacists. April Gaede explicitly disavows the label “white supremacist”: “I have NEVER identified myself as a supremacist that I can EVER remember. It is a label that has been given to me by the media...” She argues that white supremacy only makes sense when races are already mixed and must remain so. Her position is that separate races should be segregated either voluntarily or, if necessary, by the government, so that each has a separate homeland that is their place in the world. In their songs, the girls call their homeland Vinland, the name Leif Erikson gave North America and a poetic Norse term for the Danish island of Sjelland, or Pasture Island. Thorstein Thorarinsson, an American Nazi and neo-pagan of Norse descent, writes of Vinland: “This country has been far too focused on Columbus, and he wasn’t even here...Norse pagans were here long before that. If any white men should be credited as founders of America, it should be Viking heroes and not a Catholic who lost his way to India.” As Prussian Blue describes it, Vinland is a pastoral homeland of almost unbearable beauty: “Our hearts are filled with Love and Pride for Vinland is our home / The hills and dales are in our souls and the forests ours to roam.” They compare Vinland with Valhalla, an afterworld where their white ancestors live on to feast with the gods. Calling on the living and the dead to protect their white homeland, they ask, “Will we stand and watch them [the government] taking our freedom away?” In live performances Prussian Blue refers repeatedly to David Lane’s famous 14 Words of white supremacy: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”
3) Blood Ties
Genetic links and kinship bonds—that is, blood ties—often determine the various rights and responsibilities of citizens of a racialized nation-state. It is the reproductive capacity of women—biology as destiny—that supposedly secures the family bloodline, or alternatively places it at risk. This reproductive role in nation-building is ultimately why Collins identifies family as the “focal point or privileged social location” where gender, race, and nation intersect. If nation and race are understood in terms of family blood lines, then control of women’s sexuality through socialization and, if necessary, violence becomes crucial for maintaining the racially pure nation-state. According to Collins, the U.S. national family orders its private, patriarchal families hierarchically by race:
Representing the epitome of racial purity that is also associated with U.S. National interests, Whites constitute the most valuable citizens. In this racialized nation-state, Native Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Puerto Ricans become second-class citizens, whereas people of color from the Caribbean, Asia, Latin America, and Africa encounter more difficulty becoming naturalized citizens than immigrants from European nations.
At worst, the racialized nation-state restricts immigration, closes its borders, supports eugenics programs, and engages in genocide.
We have already seen how Prussian Blue’s explicit references to family invoke home as a feminized private space where women’s traditional gender roles of wife and mother are to be protected from an external, racialized, and threatening “Other.” These borders are further developed in their nationalistic and naturalistic imagery, some of which invokes neo-pagan themes. In Gods of the Blood, The Pagan Revival and White Separatism, Mattias Gardell discusses how contemporary ethno-, racial-, and religious nationalists reject a state-sanctioned nationalism and replace it with an imagined mythic white community that transcends national borders. The racial mythology of this pagan revival represents Neo-Nazism as a “spiritual project” and, as a result, tends “to biologize spirituality.” According to Gardell, “This racial mysticism connects the current revival of racist paganism to the occult roots of national socialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with many of the influential heathens of today specifically representing their projects as extensions of the effort made by philosophers and mystics of that era.” Like Adolf Hitler, Neo-Nazis claim that “the imagined community of Nazism includes far more than Germany. It rests on a Pan-Aryanism that stretches from ancient Viking communities to white Europe and North America.” This common history includes the struggles of Viking explorers, colonial Americans, and German national socialists. All Aryans, they insist, share a common history of victimization.
Paralleling Blee, Gardell stresses the opportunity that new communications technology, especially the Internet, provides for building a local-to-global white supremacist “imagined community” that can incorporate more traditional nationalist groups, such as the KKK. Like the pan-Aryan race, white power music flows freely across the territorial boundaries of existing nation-states. According to Gardell, “Transcending national borders, music and electronic communication have facilitated a global flow of ideas, engaging racist radicals across the world in the vision of a future in which race will define nation in a transatlantic white homeland.“ He calls this opportunistic mixing of national rituals and symbols “transtraditionalism,” and he argues that white racists today actively embrace this aspect of globalization.
In live performances, Prussian Blue invokes a powerful combination of transtraditional symbols that link current struggles for Aryan racial unity to a white history reaching back to Viking legends. Dressed in traditional dirndls, they perform Nazi salutes, dance on a swastika pattern, and stand before a curtain covered with Nordic life-runes.
With their songs, Prussian Blue would reawaken the warrior spirit of white men by appealing to their racial pride and sexual prowess. Linking racial with national blood, the twins sing of female breeders who join male warriors in giving their blood for the race in “I Will Bleed for You.” Its chorus is: “To every man who doesn’t dream, I am the Dreamer./ To every man who doesn’t believe, I’m the Believer./ To every man who doesn’t Receive, I’m the receiver./ To every man who refuses to bleed, I will bleed for you.” Blood spilled in battle is also invoked in “Ocean of Warriors” when the duo sings: “All I see in the distance / Is an ocean of warriors / Marching forward to battle / An Ocean of warriors.” White warriors—female and male—offer a blood sacrifice of life and sometimes death in loyal service to the racial “nation.”
4) Rights with Responsibilities
Like family members, citizens have shared responsibilities as a condition of belonging to a nation-state. Also like family members, these responsibilities are accompanied by expectations and even entitlements, again as a function of group membership. However, in a patriarchal, racialized nation-state with its naturalized hierarchies, some citizen-members can claim more rights and accrue more benefits than others. That is, legal standing and public policy are shaped by institutionalized racism and sexism, and position members of some subnational groups as second-class citizens.
Prussian Blue seldom refers to rights except to defend the freedoms now being taken away from white people, especially their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. When asked why her father branded his cattle with a Nazi swastika, April replied: “Because it’s provocative...to him he thinks it’s important as a symbol of freedom of speech that he can use it as his cattle brand.” The name of the band, Prussian Blue, also tests the boundary between free speech and hate speech with regard to Holocaust denial. When asked how they chose the band’s name, the girls replied, “Part of our heritage is Prussian German. Also our eyes are blue, and Prussian Blue is just a really pretty color....There is also the discussion of the lack of ‘Prussian Blue’ coloring (Zyklon B residue) in the so-called gas chambers in the concentration camps. We think it might make people question some of the inaccuracies of the ‘Holocaust myth.’” Prussian Blue is also an antidote for heavy metal poisoning and this suggests the possibility that the folk band’s name might be a clever musical genre play on words. As we have seen, some antiracists thought that the girls’ minds were being “poisoned” by their mother’s white supremacist views. In addition to claiming her right as a parent to raise her children as she sees fit, April Gaede has mocked the seriousness of her critics. Commenting on the girls’ Hitler T-shirts, she said, “You know, I really, honestly still don’t know why people don’t find this hilariously funny. You add a little triangle, and a little rectangle there and all of a sudden people, ‘ooohhh this is scary, scary, scary.’ It’s just funny, It’s just kind of funny.”
This statement by April mirrors the so-called “punk defense,” a ploy that is often used by racist skinhead bands to deflect charges of hate speech. That defense goes something like this: “we really didn’t mean any harm, we were just teenagers having fun.” Critics argue that this playful stance can protect racist bands from government censorship, while still allowing them to create the political controversy that sells their recordings. In contrast, supporters of the white supremacist movement claim that the “family values” expressed in Prussian Blue’s music are serious and appropriate for young listeners. Some defend Prussian Blue’s pro-white lyrics because they have meaningful content, and claim that their values distinguish the band from racist skinheads whose concerts often incite violence. As we have seen, movement leaders want youth recruited by the softer sounds of Prussian Blue eventually to shift to the harder-hitting music of racist skinhead bands. Shawn Suggs, the lead singer of one such band, Max Resist, has also asserted his First Amendment right to free speech, saying, “It’s just music, it’s not like you’re handing out AK-47’s.”
Along with political rights, Prussian Blue emphasizes white citizens’ personal and political responsibilities to their racial family. The current U.S. government is portrayed in their songs and elsewhere in Neo-Nazi materials as the Zionist Occupational Government or the ZOG. It is characterized by corruption, lies, and propaganda, and it practices a racial double-standard—“Where freedom exists for only those with darker skin. Where lies and propaganda will never let you win.” This double standard, they claim, is evident in the legal (and extra-legal) persecution of a series of white racial heroes mentioned above, including Rudolf Hess, Ian Stuart Donaldson, Robert Matthews, and Matthew Hale. The larger message here is that whites of conscience must “Stand Up,” as the title of Prussian Blue’s song suggests, for racial justice and defend their race against an increasingly hostile U.S. government. Although Prussian Blue’s folk music primarily emphasizes reclaiming an ancestral racial soul, it also affirms the importance of retaining political rights and regaining institutional(ized) power in the United States.
5) Socio-economic Classes
Because families pass down their property as well as their values, the traditional family ideal also works to reproduce class divisions. More specifically, Collins argues that much of the so-called “backlash” from working-class white men toward affirmative action policies stems from a sense that “education, employment, and housing” occupy the same social location as earnings and savings: they are “‘private property’ to be disposed of as inherited wealth” Prussian Blue makes the clearest connections between class, family, and race in “Aryan Man Awake.” Its lyrics vividly portray white farmers being driven from their lands, white craftsmen being forced to sell the products they build, and white families being torn apart by poverty and violence. In another track, “Skinhead Boy,” whose lyrics were only recently made available in an online YouTube video, the singers suggest that skinhead warriors will save the white nation. The imagery here is of an embattled white working class, composed of fathers who can no longer earn enough to support their families and young rebels who are fighters for the(ir) race. Here it seems important to note that members of Neo-Nazi hate groups are not necessarily less affluent, less educated members of society. Most of the women in Kathleen Blee’s study came from relatively stable families with decent household incomes and as adults they either had good jobs or married men who did. Almost half of Blee’s interviewees had earned higher degrees and, for those who were poor, their poverty was often viewed as part of the price they willingly paid for their racist activities.
Increasing tensions between Lamb and Lynx Gaede and their mother in recent years may be due to the teens’ desire to make more money from their musical careers. As they entered adulthood, the teens resisted April’s political agenda and tried to move their folk music closer to mainstream soft rock. On Facebook, the 18-year-old Lynx, now a high-school graduate, uses her father’s name, makes no mention of white power, and lists Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Led Zepplin as her favorite musicians. In the documentary, “Nazi Pop Twins,” Lynx also disavows the Hitler T-shirts, saying, “We don’t care about Hitler. We wore those t-shirts because we thought they were a joke. J.O.K.E. A Joke. Yeah, it offended people, but have you seen us wore [sic] them anywhere else? No, we haven’t worn them. We threw them away. They were thrown away.” At this writing, it remains to be seen whether attempts to mainstream their image and music will succeed, and whether they are motivated by ideological changes, financial needs, or a combination of the two.
6) Family Planning
Last, Collins argues that a nation-as-family is understood to some extent as biologically constituted and, hence, family planning becomes important as a way to maintain its racial purity. “Eugenics thinking,” if not eugenics policy, divides people into clearly marked racial groups, some of whom contribute more than others to the so-called national interest. This theme is played out in Prussian Blue’s stance on immigration and race-mixing and in their more explicit references to eugenics. In their rendition of Kipling’s “The Stranger,” the band sings of an unknown man at the gate, who speaks another language, and whose soul follows different gods, ideas, and powers. A clear preference is expressed for “men of my own stock,” who are known racial quantities, however imperfect they may otherwise be.
Although explicit images of Blee’s race traitor are missing in Prussian Blue’s songs, the girls surely knew her fate. As described in The Turner Diaries, William Pierce’s Neo-Nazi Manifesto, “White women who [are] married to or living with Blacks, with Jews, or with other non-white males are hanged with placards reading ‘I betrayed my race’ around their necks.” With this imagery, Neo-Nazi organizations follow Hitler’s edict that even “marriage cannot be an end in itself, but must serve the one higher goal, the increase and preservation of the species and the race.” In an early poem, “What Must Be Done,” Lynx Gaede refers to “our Race” as “Nature’s Finest” and calls for banishing the “mud races” or “brown people.” She writes: “Our people must look like my mom and dad. / They don’t now and that makes me mad. / We don’t want to be mongrelized, / We want to be Nature’s Finest down deep inside.” The teens’ 2003 interview with Vice Newsletter includes an explicit reference to eugenics that echoes their mother’s comments about racial stock quoted above. Their photo accompanying the interview includes the caption quote: “It seems like smart white girls who have good eugenics are more interested in making money in a career or partying than getting married and having a family.” Of the twins’ transition to adulthood, David Lane said, “When the girls were little they were like daughters or something....Now that they are grown women, and being a natural male, it’s...well, you know what I’m trying to say.”  April Gaede has long recognized the teens’ target audience, saying, “I mean what young red-blooded American boy isn’t going to find two blond twins, sixteen years old, singing about white pride and pride in your race...very appealing?” As Prussian Blue retreated from the white power music scene, April opened a white nationalist Internet dating service that promises racially pure match-making. She claims: “I have racial contacts throughout the US as well as the world...I am planning to create a more secure and successful way for WNs (white nationals) to meet...” More recently, she has focused her efforts on creating an “intentional” white community, “Pioneer Little Europe.”
In Musical Democracy, I argued that the power of music to flow across the many borders that divide individuals, nations, and peoples could be used politically to include or exclude, empower or exploit human beings and other living creatures. At first glance, recent increases in Patriot Groups of white supremacists carrying loaded guns may seem a far cry from the hate-filled Neo-Nazi folk songs of two blond-haired, blue-eyed, teenage girls. However, in Prussian Blue’s songs white privilege intersects with traditional gender roles and, some argue, child exploitation, to create a volatile mixture of racial nationalism. The sense of economic outrage and government betrayal felt by many middle-class and working-class white men today only adds fuel to the fire.
Many women become white supremacists in an effort to protect themselves and their children from (mis)perceived threats of white racial extinction and/or violence by black men. Some are also trying to use their racial purity and white privilege or, in April Gaede’s terms, their “good eugenics,” to preserve the white race and support a future white revolution. Occasionally, women in white supremacist groups, like April Gaede, achieve a measure of fame and fortune, if not real power, for themselves and their children. However, the price of their racism—and the link between white privilege and patriarchy—becomes clear when women, who ultimately cannot accept the misogynist violence within the movement, risk everything to flee with their children and seek safety elsewhere. Or, when their children grow up and, like Lamb and Lynx Gaede, they put increasing distance between their adult lives and the racist ideology on which they were raised. In a 2011 interview for The Daily, their first in five years, Lamb declared, “I’m not a white nationalist anymore....My sister and I are pretty liberal now.” The now nineteen-year-old teens have also had serious health problems, some stress-related. They speak about the “increasingly predatory energy from those guys” that they experienced as they matured sexually, as well as the danger of retaliation against anyone who is perceived as betraying the movement. April also now expresses regrets, if only because the girls are questioning their musical past.
Kathleen Blee’s distinction between strategic and narrative violence in white supremacist groups provides a concluding perspective on the “family values” that run through Prussian Blue’s songs and the Gaedes’ lives. Strategic violence involves the use or threat of force against not only racialized “Others” but also subordinated groups—women and children—within the movement. Narrative violence is expressed through group stories that divide an “us” from a “them,” the kinds of stories told in the folk songs of Prussian Blue. Of course, these forms of violence are seldom clearly differentiated. Traditional stories, like the “idealized American family,” are cultural/political practices used to draw lines between “outsiders” and “insiders,” and to enforce accepted norms of “in-group” behavior, including traditional gender roles. As the Gaedes’ complex story of white supremacy, domestic violence, and modest musical success confirms, race, gender, and class privileges do not necessarily align when they intersect. A commitment to racial warfare can cost men (and their wives and children) their middle-class status, and women may sacrifice their freedom (and their children’s freedom) for an imagined racial nation-as-family. What the Gaedes’ story and songs ultimately demonstrate is that a shared commitment of men, women, and children to racial nationalism fuels the white supremacist movement.
By extending Patricia Hill Collins’ intersectional analysis of the idealized traditional family beyond mainstream politics to the folk music of white supremacists, I highlight how narrative violence can complement strategic violence. That the “idealized traditional family” is extolled by political extremists and conservative politicians alike suggests that the distance between them is less than many Americans may think. The tendency to pathologize the Gaedes may reflect many citizens’ denial of the intersecting race, gender, and class privileges that shape the American racialized nation-state. Portraits of the radical right as “wing-nuts” or “the weird” can protect a “colorblind” racial nationalism and absolve more mainstream Americans of responsibility by suggesting that the problem lies elsewhere. Yet, as we have seen, white supremacists’ images of the earth-based yeoman, the barbarian warrior-mystic, and the racially pure goddess/victim (or mother/wife/daughter) reach from Norse pagans to the present day. Of this longer history, Mattias Gardell writes: “The national socialist phenomenon stands as a warning against dismissing the milieu of racist paganism as a lunatic fringe of hopeless dreamers: romantic men armed with guns and religious determination have throughout history been a dangerous species.” By setting these and other images to music, the white power movement consciously creates a powerful tool for shaping the racial identities of teenage youth. A final statement from William Pierce, founder of Resistance Records, the major distributor of white power music in the United States, drives this point home: “Music speaks to us at a deeper level than books or political rhetoric: music speaks directly to the soul. Resistance Records...will be the music of our people’s renewal and rebirth....”
Recent increases in white supremacist groups and their members suggest that for many the White Revolution has already begun. Following the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president, this message posted on a White Revolution Internet forum provided a graphic reminder: “We are at war, put down your compromises, stockpile for your family while the men are away, buy up a gun for yourself and a couple for me and start causing the fight to come to our door. Make it, don’t wait for it.” In this article, I have argued that Prussian Blue is making the White Revolution—not waiting for it—by singing about the idealized traditional American family as an exemplary site of intersecting privileges. Elsewhere I have claimed that it is ultimately the responsibility of democratic citizens to sustain a politics of beauty, not horror, with their musical soundings. At the time of this writing, the question remains: will white citizens reconstruct America’s “family values” to support a personal politics of class, gender, and racial equality that can sustain democracy for future generations?
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Heléne Lööw, “White-Power Rock ’n’ Roll: A Growing Industry,” in Nation And Race: The Developing Euro-American Racist Subculture, eds. Jeffrey Kaplan and Tore Ojorgo (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998); Nick Lowles and Steve Silver, “Turning Down the Sound of Hate,” in White Noise: Inside the International Nazi Skinhead Scene, eds. Nick Lowles and Steve Silver (London: Searchlight, 1998); Elinor Langer, A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of The Neo-Nazi Movement in America (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003); Robert Futrell, Pete Simi, and Simon Gottshalk, “Understanding Music in Movements: The White Power Music Scene,” The Sociological Quarterly 47, no. 2 (2006): 275–304; Paul Becker, et al., “From Rebel Records to Prussian Blue: A History of White Racialist Music in the United States,” (paper presented at the American Sociological Association Convention, New York, August 2007; Ugo Corte and Bob Edwards, “White Power Music and the Mobilization of Racist Social Movements,” Music and Arts in Action 1, no. 1 (2008): 4–20.
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Karl Hagstrom Miller, Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), ch. 3. For discussions of National Socialist folk music see: Britta Sweers, “The Power to Influence Minds: German Folk Music during the Nazi Era and After,” in Music, Power and Politics, ed. Annie J. Randall (New York: Routledge, 2005), 65–86; Erik Levi, Music in the Third Reich (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994), ch. 2; Michael Meyer, The Politics of Music in the Third Reich (New York: Peter Lang, 1991).
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Quoted in Susy Buchanan, “Neo-Nazi April Gaede Pushes Twin Daughters Lynx and Lamb into Spotlight,” Intelligence Report 117 (2005), Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed February 2009, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2005/spring/the-gaede-bunch.
Alex Henderson, “Prussian Blue Biography,” in All Music Guide, republished on Artist Direct website, accessed May 13, 2012, http://www.artistdirect.com/artist/bio/prussian-blue/3511512.
Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge, 1990); and From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2006). Other scholars who have played major roles in developing the concept of intersectionality include: Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43 (July 1999): 1241–99; Leslie McCall, “The Complexity of Intersectionality,” Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30, no. 3 (2005): 1771–800; Ange-Marie Hancock, “When Multiplication Doesn’t Equal Quick Addition: Examining Intersectionality as a Research Paradigm,” Perspectives on Politics 5, no. 1 (2007): 63–79; and Julie Anne White, “The Hollow and the Ghetto: Space, Race, and the Politics of Poverty,” Politics & Gender 3, no. 2 (2007): 271–80.
Whites are often urged to become more race-conscious, that is, more aware of white privilege and, hence, more willing to challenge racialized hierarchies (Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” in Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology, ed. Estelle Disch [Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008]). Yet this increased awareness can also prompt greater efforts to protect class, gender, and racial privileges.
According to Blee, in addition to the goddess/victim, women’s roles in the movement include the activist, the wife and mother, and the traitor. Although stock images of “female racist heroines” are used to recruit women, those who join seldom reach the activist positions promised to them and most remain subordinated to men. Some women do become what Blee calls “center leaders,” whose work helps to sustain the social organization of the larger movement. Women in skinhead groups are the most likely to have activist – and often violent – roles. Inside Organized Racism, ch. 4.
Several white supremacist groups, including Stormfront and LibertyForum, responded by identifying neighbors who had distributed the fliers on their websites, and some Kalispell citizens feared for their safety. Bill Redeker, “Town Tells White Separatist Singers: No Hate Here,” Primetime, ABC News, September 15, 2006, accessed Aug 2007, http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=2449483.
Seth “Terrorsaurus” Knisley, “Prussian Blue: An Exclusive Interview,” Something Awful, October 23, 2005, accessed Feb 2009, http://www.somethingawful.com/d/news/prussian-blue-an.php. Given the history of institutionalized racism in the United States, I find this distinction between white separatism and white supremacy disingenuous, at best. It is for this reason that I refer to the movement as white power or white supremacist.
Quoted on Spurious Identity Blog, October 17, 2007, http://www.myspace.com/spuriousidentity/blog/32398523.
Quoted in Mattias Gardell, Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 151. American Indians are conspicuously absent from these nativist white supremacist stories of “discovery.”
I am indebted to an anonymous reviewer for this insight. For information on the medical uses of Prussian Blue, see: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/Emergencypreparedness/BioterrorismandDrugPreparedness/ucm130337.htm.
The Turner Diaries by Andrew MacDonald (aka William Pierce) is the most famous Neo-Nazi portrait of the Great Revolution against the Zionist Occupational Government or ZOG. It tells the story of Earl Turner, a suicide bomber for the Organization, who like countless other martyrs chose death “to assure that his race would survive and prosper, that the Organization would achieve its worldwide political and military goals, and that the Order would spread its wise and benevolent rule over the earth for all time to come.” Timothy McVeigh claimed The Turner Diaries inspired the Oklahoma City bombing. The Turner Diaries, 2nd ed. (Washington DC: National Alliance, 1980), epilogue.
Lynx Gaede, “What Must Be Done,” Resistance Magazine (Winter 2003), republished on The Prussian Blue Blog, December 15, 2004, accessed February 2009, http://www.theprussianblueblogspot.com/2004_12_01_archive.html.
Quoted in Buchanan, “The Gaede Bunch: ‘A is for Aryan,’” Hatewatch (blog), August 8, 2007, Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed February 2009, http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2007/08/08/the-gaede-bunch-'a-is-for-aryan'/.
Quoted in Buchanan, “Neo-Nazi April Gaede Pushes Twin Daughters Lynx and Lamb into Spotlight,” Intelligence Report 117 (2005), Southern Poverty Law Center, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2005/spring/the-gaede-bunch.
ADL, “White Supremacists Vent Rage Over Obama’s Win: Pushing Whites to Start a Race War,” posted November 8, 2008, accessed Feb 2008, http://www.adl.org/main_Extremism/rage.htm?Multi_page_sections=sHeading_3.