Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Rise of Hate Rock Wade Michael Page, Killer of Sikhs, Grew Up in a Culture of White Backlash

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Rise of Hate Rock Wade Michael Page, Killer of Sikhs, Grew Up in a Culture of White Backlash

Article excerpt

In 1977, a teenager from Blackpool, England, set out to become a professional rock star. Ian Stuart Donaldson, the son of a businessman and a housewife, idolized the Rolling Stones. His high school band was called "Tumbling Dice" -- after a Stones song. After the band members graduated, they renamed themselves Skrewdriver and moved to London to try to make it big.

At first, they were just a regular punk band. Their first album didn't contain a single song about race or politics. But nobody bought that album. The band ran out of money. Ian would have faded into obscurity had a patron not stepped forward: the National Front, a far-right British political party looking for a way to fire up youth.

Ian began singing about how the British needed to take back their country from the blacks. He wore swastikas and served time for beating up an immigrant. When he emerged from prison, Skrewdriver became the most famous hate rock band in the world.

The music made its way across the Atlantic, where an alienated slice of white teenagers in America were drawn to its shock value. Just as folk music turned a generation in the 1960s onto social injustice, Skrewdriver's songs for white power skinheads -- the antithesis of long-haired hippies -- infected a subculture in the 1990s with racism and extreme anti-immigrant views. One of them was Wade Michael Page, a former member of the white power rock band Definite Hate, who gunned down worshippers at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5.

Such killings can seem like random acts, coming out of the blue, unconnected to anything we experience in our everyday lives. But in fact they are a part of a far larger story of how ideas, culture and identity spread.

Bill Braniff, executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism, says researchers are still studying "the flash-to-bang period -- the time it takes for an idea to seed and for a culture to grow around that idea and for individuals within that culture to take action." We don't have enough data to describe that gestation period, he said.

It took years for the far-right group, National Alliance, based in West Virginia, to establish its own record label promoting bands, including Definite Hate. It took more years for them to create a video game called Ethnic Cleansing, in which players shoot blacks and Latinos in public housing projects. …

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