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»Neue deutsche Härte« – Promoting nationalism through music
admin 06/09/2005 - 01:03 Array
None of these bands, however, see themselves as explicitly far-right. But it wasn’t for nothing that two video clips started a discussion about the degree to which these bands are making a far-right aesthetic (at a symbolic level) socially acceptable. »Stripped«, a Rammstein video, is a montage of film sequences from Leni Riefenstahl’s propagandistic Olympics film, uncommented and produced without any exact reference made to its historical context. The video for Joachim Witt’s »Die Flut« (The Flood) showed a »member of the master race« dressed in white, who moves towards a boat, striding over masses of subhuman creatures (»Untermenschen«) crawling through mud on the ground, and sings of a great flood that will wash away all the mud. Images spring to mind that are associated with the slogan of populist parties – »the boat is full« -and with anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda, like the representation of Jews as a rat plague.
In order to understand how an aesthetic like this, with all its political implications, could gain ground in mainstream pop, it’s necessary to take a brief look at its past history. In the mid-1990s, at a time when, here in Germany, the media was dominated by one youth culture, namely the murdering, arsonist neo-Nazis, some of the people working in the music industry could think of nothing better than calling for the re-evaluation of German-language music, in the sense of a »German pop identity« (Dieter Gorny). In an interview with the »Spiegel«, Heinz Rudolf Kunze called for a quota of German-language music in the radio, along the lines of the French system, and regretted that after the Second World War, the German musical world was taken over by »foreign trash«, as though German pop music was ever free of the – questionably subjective – category, trash. The old rocker, Achim Reichel, was in even sharper in his formulation: »Now that the victorious powers have withdrawn their occupying troops, it must be the interest of every party not to deprive our country of its own current popular culture.« He speaks in the industry periodical, »Rockmusiker« (1996), »of an unprecedented act of destruction against our native music.« The head of »Viva« (German MTV), Dieter Gorny, met the quota in the end, and proudly told everyone, whether they wanted to hear it or not, that 40% of the music played on his channel were German productions.
This is not the place to analyze the causes of such a concentrated renationalization attack in the pop industry, in which more or less restrained chauvinism went hand in hand with profit interests. It is however interesting that it was precisely this debate that inspired the emergence of the »Neue deutsche Härte«, i.e. of a pop aesthetic that established a completely new (and on the other hand, all too familiar) picture of being German, of »German pop identity« in the charts and video channels.
It does not make much sense to want to read the lyrics of bands like »Rammstein« for explicitly far-right content; the level of new body images is much more expressive of reactionism and fascism, where manliness and athletic bodies are heroized as values in the sense of »survival of the fittest«. In an interview with the events magazine, »Concert«, Rammstein says, »we’re a pack. A pack where the ones who bark the loudest get their way.« The picture of women that Rammstein presents is correspondingly oppressive and focused on obedience. It can be heard in the song »Rein raus« (»In out«) on their latest album, called »Mutter« (»Mother«):
I am the rider
by Martin Büsser
This article appeared first in the periodical Der Rechte Rand, Volume 74 (January/February 2002). Reprinted with the kind approval of the editors.
A recent publication from Martin Büsser: »Wie klingt die Neue Mitte? Rechte und reaktionäre Tendenzen in der Popmusik« (What does the New Center Sound Like? Far-Right and Reactionary Tendencies in Pop Music), Mainz: Ventil Verlag 2001, 142 pages, 11.90 Euro.
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