Have Fun! Fight Fascism!
Trigger Warning: This post contains graphic language and mention of sexual violence.
It’s summer, 2001. Because we are in the Northwest it is, of course, raining. We are inside binging Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes and key lime pie liqueur. Needless to say, at some point, we needed a break to go outside. At a local coffee shop we picked up our weekly paper, The Stranger, to check out the “pick of the week.” We saw an endorsement of a show called the “Angry White Male Tour.” Organized by Shane Bugbee of Michael Hunt Publishing (“MyCunt” Publishing), the show promised a “free speech extravaganza” of “controversial” artists and musicians, featuring Jim Goad, author of The Redneck Manifesto and the Answer Me Zine.
We went to the website, curious about why The Stranger would promote an event featuring artists such as Goad, known for mocking rape and domestic violence. In one click, a tour site came up that included a barrage of confederate flags as part of its marketing. The show featured artists with (loose) affiliations with white nationalist groups. It was not necessarily an overt white nationalist show, but would definitely galvanize white nationalists in the area, create recruiting opportunities, and if it occurred without incident, would help normalize and potentially mainstream even more overtly white nationalist events. A clear example of the impact of mainstreaming is Jim Goad’s work, which, when featured in the ‘Angry White Male” tour, was recently lauded as the Proud Boys’ (a white nationalist group) bible.
As we scrambled to figure out what to do, we realized that we did not have a network of music community people who were ready and able to respond and so we decided to create The Northwest Club Coalition (NWCC).
The NWCC was a network of musicians, artists, performers, club owners, young people, and fans dedicated to countering the rise of white power music and the growing, violent impact of white nationalism on music and art spaces. The NWCC helped communities identify and creatively respond to white nationalism. Our commitments included:
- Supporting flexibility and creativity in cultivating grassroots cultural organizing strategies;
- Committing to the development of youth leadership from music/arts communities;
- Building vibrant music scene cultures that clearly speak out against white nationalist violence by researching and exposing white nationalist activity;
- Have Fun! Fight Fascism!
Facts, debate, guilt, and shame are not enough to build vibrant, resilient alternatives to white supremacy and white nationalism. A radical principle in our organizing was/is always about developing and prioritizing relationships, and being creative, snarky, bold, imaginative, and having fun. No doubt, fighting white nationalism is hard and can be demoralizing. Supporting one another and having fun together is critical to anti-fascist cultural organizing and boundary setting.
NWCC began with face-to-face conversations with anyone and everyone involved in the music community, and with genuine commitments to support each venue in the way that worked best for them. Our conversations generated on-going anti-racist strategies, strengthened relationships, and galvanized immediate actions. Some clubs shutdown and canceled shows with any white nationalist affiliations. Others took the lead in developing protocols for bookers, security, bartenders, and promoters to vet and avoid these bands in the first place. Other strategies included: allowing us to do workshops for their staff; incorporating updates around white nationalist activity into security trainings; developing a “phone-tree” communication network between clubs; creating policies and contracts that refuse to book bands with white nationalist connections; making anti-racist signs and t-shirts; promoting anti-racist and anti-fascist counter shows; raising money for local organizations; and letting the NWCC table at events.
Music shows continue to be contested spaces that white nationalists use to organize, recruit, network, and fundraise. An important lesson we learned in creating NWCC was the value of cultivating a vibrant, complex, and nuanced array of boundaries when countering white nationalism. One way NWCC embodied our various principles and practices was to organize a tour called The Young Americans. The tour focused on de-urbanizing white supremacist organizing efforts and strengthening regional networks, supporting youth leadership, and going where white power bands toured—effectively drawing anti-fascist boundaries around the spaces they were trying to organize in, and competing for their potential recruits. Music shows create long-lasting bonds, a sense of belonging, and provide cultural foundations in which to organize people. Anti-racists and anti-fascists need to actively counter white nationalist cultural organizing and feed energy and time into our own cultures of belonging and resistance to work towards building the world we want. Music tours and networks like The Northwest Club Coalition are an important part of this work.