The Sounds of Hate: Resistance Records
When you first pop in RaHoWa's most recent CD, Cult of the Holy War, the melodies are catchy; not a far cry from anything you'd hear on a radio station that plays alternative, metal or rock. "Totally listenable," is my first thought.But after a minute you get past the tunes to the lyrics. More calls to arms than the unfocused youth angst most rock music expresses, their lyrics conjure up romanticized notions of Nordic gods and "the spirit of ancient Europe."It's not until you listen more closely that you start to hear references to black and brown "hordes," tortured white babies, fascist glory and racial conflict, "blood sacraments" and Adolf Hitler:"As I march into battle, my comrades I hail,Tonight the White Race prevails...Death by our swords the vile alien hordes, Their every resistance shall fail." -- from "Racial Holy War," RaHoWaMake it through two or three songs and you can see clearly through the musical subterfuge; this is white supremacy dressed up as popular culture. Which is exactly the way Resistance Records wants it. The 13 albums the skinhead label's bands have produced to date are all aimed at blending white power images with common yearnings. The label's bands believe in racial segregation, billing themselves as a "white alternative to the music industry."You realize, despite the admittedly adept musical performance, that what you hold in your hand or have on your headphones, is white supremacist propaganda of the most deceptive shade.The next thing you find yourself wondering is, does this stuff sway or seduce anyone?Depending on how you look at it, the label is either the vanguard of a unified white power, neo-Nazi renaissance or an anomaly; a slick, organized effort in a disjointed and dying movement seeking to gain legitimacy. In either case it represents a near quantum leap for race records. According to a 1994 article in Klanwatch, the journal of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, a young skinhead named Mark Wilson took $45,000 from the race-based Church of the Creator and, together with George Burdi (a.k.a. George Hawthorne, Eric Hawthorne, etc.), a former leader of the church's Toronto branch, created Resistance Records.The pair formed the label "to offer a white alternative in the music industry, to offer white people a voice and a place to turn," explains Burdi, who is also the leader of RaHoWa, the label's flagship band.Wilson lived in Milwaukee at the time and Burdi in Toronto, but the two set up shop in the geographic mid-point between the two: Detroit. Here, in the last two years, they've extended the reach of white power music and given white supremacy its largest PR boost among young people since talk show host Geraldo's broken nose. The church's $45,0000 seed grant, more than most independent record labels see at any single point in their existence, goes a long way toward explaining the polish and technical quality of Resistance's records. The label can produce records that are, as product, close to or on par with the mainstream. With 13 releases since its 1994 inception, Resistance has spurred competition within a nebulous underground network of white power labels. More than two dozen bands fall under Resistance's distribution umbrella and financially viable multimedia organization. Visit its web site and you'll find clips of the labels' bands -- offensive lyrics sanitized -- and video clips and information on upcoming releases. Flip through its magazine and you'll get news, views and music info from in and around the white power world.There's no question: Resistance has set itself up as the modern standard for a new batch of media savvy white supremacists.One factor behind Resistance's success is Burdi and Wilson themselves. Articulate, literate and collected, Burdi comes across as a non-confrontational, calm young man, albeit one with admittedly controversial views. Wilson is described as "all business," the money man and operations manager for the label. Whenever they come under media scrutiny, the pair have hardly presented themselves as stereotypical skinheads."In that sense, they are different from their clientele," says Michigan Anti-Defamation League Director Dick Lobenthal. "They are part bigot, part ideologue and part businessmen."The skinhead musicians say the same thing, but phrase it differently."Well, without getting into semantics, I would call it (the label) pro-white," says Burdi. "It's less aggressive and it's not our interest to subjugate people, but rather to promote white culture."Burdi describes the label's philosophy and the content of its records as Eurocentric, although their definition of "Eurocentric" includes everything from whites reclaiming the glory of their European ancestry to the de-evolution of the human species being caused by U.S. humanitarian aid to Third World nations.In fact, there are a lot of terms which have been redefined by the music and the men behind Resistance records. Prejudice becomes "racial elitism," and minorities become cultural aggressors.But you don't have to scratch the surface very deeply to find hatred for non-whites: "There are 10 times more white genius than black geniuses," says Burdi. "And 1/10 of the world's morons, people with an IQ of 70 or below, are white. This difference in IQ is heavily reflected by economic conditions."Resistance, Burdi adds, is "partially a reaction to the anti-white slant of music."Gangsta rap is unapologetically anti-white," he says. "Our mission is to offer a white alternative in the music industry. To offer white people a voice to turn to."But it's a voice filled with venom. Consider the following lyrics from RaHoWa's album, Cult of the Holy War: "As the blood climbs through the rainbow/may I hold your heart once more?/As the color of our skin /becomes our uniform of war."With ads in other supremacist publications such as White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger's newsletter, Resistance is the AT&T of racist rock. Its house publication, Resistance Magazine ("The Music Magazine For The True Alternative") claims a circulation of 10,000. The number of Resistance's customers, however, is a bit slippery. Burdi insists the label has sold several thousand records -- a claim none of the organizations monitoring hate groups can confirm. What is clear, though, is that the label acts as facilitator, cheerleader and a recruiting tool for fresh faces in the white power movement.Resistance has co-opted mainstream genres like early punk and dark, heavy metal. What is most surprising, however, is that they also either record or distribute recordings from the rest of the musical spectrum, including glam rock, folk, heavy metal, techno and industrial genres. Burdi says the label's shows draw crowds of up to 500 in the United States and up to 2,000 in Europe. Fans, he says, include "a lot of longhairs, Goth girls, (and) 60-70 percent of the crowd is skinheads."Just as his critics are simultaneously skeptical and horrified by those numbers, Burdi is proud."I can see the development of a subculture, the scenes are growing in different cities," he says. "The crowd at our shows is as diverse as the white population itself."If people are listening to hate rock, is its message getting through?"They not only tell you who to hate by group; blacks, jews, whoever, but also by name!" notes Dick Lobenthal, head of the local chapter of the B'Nai B'Rith Anti-Defamation League. He cites Resistance band Aggravated Assault's song "It Could Happen To You," which he says includes a list of specific targets, including former skinhead-turned-author and FBI informant Tom Martinez."Their role is several-fold," explains Lobenthal. "Cheerleader for pushing hate and bigotry into violence, acting as hucksters for the white power movement...and as a very effective networking mechanism."No one, of course, can say how contagious the ideology contained in this music really is. But Lobenthal, for one, believes it's dangerous.He points to the recent trial of two skinheads, Bryan and David Freeman, charged with murdering their parents. The two were found holed up at a Resistance band's concert near Midland, Michigan, he says.But Burdi downplays the music's effect."We realize the limitations of a label or a CD," he says. "Our real goal is to express a perspective and our ideas. To think we could change the world by releasing a few CDs is short-sighted."Let's hope the minds behind Resistance Records are right about that one thing.