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March 18, 2012 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Punks Not Dead.... but it can get you killed. Punk rock in oppresive regimes.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (8 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I find it troubling that the murders in Iraq are being mixed in with this account of punk rock oppression in other countries. Unlike in Russia, Indonesia, and Burma, the other countries depicted in this article, Iraq doesn't seem to actually have a punk scene rising up. There are no band names listed, and there is no subculture described.

The situation is Iraq is much more directly targeted bullying-to-death of those perceived to be homosexual, apparently selected mostly through the way the victims are dressed. The Mujahideen has decided that wearing western clothing with a preference for tight black clothing is a sign of sexual perversion, and so those are the people they are seeking out for their brutality. That this style of dress happens to be described as "emo" is the only reason these deaths are linked with punk rock in this article, although in Iraq, the equation is that emo = gay, not that emo = punk rock.

These are (nearly all) men who have been bludgeoned to death with rocks and bricks. It's a hands-on form of killing which is shocking in its brutality and how directly personal and involved the killers have to get with their victims to perpetrate it.

CNN and Huffington Post both emphasize the homosexual factor in these killings, as do (unsurprisingly) The Advocate and AMERICAblog.

It is indeed loathsome that punk rock and the associated scene and fans are being targeted in some countries. However, the unfortunate use of the word emo in Iraq to describe a manner of dress which is associated with Western values and homosexuality is only disguising what is happening there -- the targeted elimination of those perceived to be gay through intimidation and murder.
posted by hippybear at 9:08 AM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Music has long been a means of expressing objection to oppression, and that is at the heart of punk in particular. Western countries may be largely post-punk now, but there's bound to be some sense of solidarity with punks in places like Burma and Indonesia who are adopting and adapting this music to express their outrage.

Hippybear, I don't think the bullying, torture, and murder of emos in Iraq has to be a binary homophobia-or-music subculture choice of oppression. It can be both at the same time, easily united under the umbrella of "reject Western values and influences we see as undermining our traditional culture." It doesn't really matter, in the end, whether one young man was killed because he was perceived as gay or emo or punk or progressive; he is still just as dead and those who look like him, hang out where he did, threaten those whom he threatened, are still just as much at risk.
posted by notashroom at 9:22 AM on March 18, 2012

By which I don't mean to minimize the impact of homophobia, but to say if they can get broader international support and outrage by being linked to music movements, youth movements, social and political movements as well as LGBTQ movements, it will be to their benefit. Variant sexuality is largely viewed as "Western" in mostly Islamic cultures, and that's an important factor here.
posted by notashroom at 9:26 AM on March 18, 2012

I agree with you there, notashroom. The thing which makes the reporting on Iraq substantially different from the rest of the article is that there is no music mentioned anywhere related to the Iraq killings. There is no punk subculture rising up in that country, there is no mention of these kids listening to any specific kind of music or whatnot.

It's all about manner of dress and how that is perceived within Iraq. It apparently has nothing to do with music, and everything to do with "Western satanism" and other things being equated with homosexuality.

But yes, I agree -- the dead are dead, and for no good reason other than someone decided they should die.
posted by hippybear at 9:27 AM on March 18, 2012

We think these acts are deplorable. They think the acts are a tribute to God. No use in trying to defend gay folks, because it's not about them. Or us.

It's about those who kill in the name of God.

Even in America we have those (very religious folks) who are a heartbeat away from reactionary violence.

I recently saw a thoughtful film that made a case for Rock and Roll as a vehicle that helped break up the Soviet Union. Before you laugh, think about how it works here in America, where our system is more flexible, and constitutionally tolerant of challenges to authority. If Rock is anything, it's challenging to authority. (That's the devil's music, son. No, dad, it's the Grateful Dead.)

[Okay I'm dated, so what?]

Rock and Roll forever!
posted by mule98J at 10:28 AM on March 18, 2012

I recently saw a thoughtful film that made a case for Rock and Roll as a vehicle that helped break up the Soviet Union.

How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin is a pretty interesting look at how Soviet youth were illicitly recording Beatles songs off the radio onto x-ray film and distributing it amongst themselves. Not sure if that's the film you're speaking of, but it's worth a watch nonetheless.
posted by hippybear at 10:42 AM on March 18, 2012

Hippybear, i agree that the article gives no particular support to the Iraqi killings being linked to music or a political-musical movement. I've read previous articles that do mention emo-style music as being related, and others that say that's merely a cover and there's really no such music scene there, just youth who are often gay and themselves link that to Western culture through dress, music, politics, etc. (understandably, given their environment). I don't know enough to know where the truth lies, just enough to find it tragic.

Mule98j, I do think music can make a difference politically, and it wouldn't surprise me if it played some role in the Soviet Union's collapse. Protest music is an old, maybe ancient, art form, and easier to propagate (at least in its live form) than messages requiring physical media for delivery, such as books.
posted by notashroom at 10:45 AM on March 18, 2012

This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band start a revolution!

The drive these kids have is awesome, and their choice of expression is especially apt. Punk is counter-culture almost everywhere, and goes against almost every social construct, no matter what the society. It's loud, jarring, visual, and unapologetic. In short, it's difficult to ignore. In the short term, it makes dissent easy to target; in the long term, it means that government removal of dissenters is visible.

Fashions eat up way too much of punk's influence. It really was about attitude. It's surprising to see its resurrection in oppressed countries play out so literally thirty years past its peak, but then again, it makes perfect sense. We'll punk the present regime out of power.
posted by Graygorey at 9:46 PM on March 18, 2012

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