Tag Archives: Facebook

The war against metal is still alive — in some minds

Did Rick Santorum declare war on heavy metal? No — but a hoax is making people think so. Santorum photo by Gage Skidmore.

These days, it can be doggedly difficult to tell truth from fiction. When some of the best news broadcasting comes from Comedy Central, and political candidates say things that seem straight out of The Onion, it takes a sharp eye to know what you’re seeing.

Last week, Tyranny of Tradition posted “Rick Santorum Declares War on Heavy Metal.” Tyranny of Tradition, written by Keith Spillett, is was created “in the hopes of working out some internal questions I have been struggling with in a public way so that those who wrestle with the same questions can have the opportunity to gain deeper insights to their meanings,” Spillett wrote. “There will be some inconsistencies, oversimplifications and illogical arguments in the posts ahead.”

But most people didn’t know that when they read the following:

“If you listen to the radio today, many of these brand new, so-called heavy metal music bands like Black Sabbath, Venom, The WASP and Iron Maiden use satanic imagery to corrupt the minds of young people,” announced Santorum at a 10,000 dollar a plate sock-hop in Valdosta, Georgia on Thursday.

Santorum’s popularity in the polls has grown substantially since he began speaking out against metal and its assault on traditional values. He has spent much of the past week in the Midwest encouraging young people to stay away from metal artists and listen to performers like Michael W. Smith and Pat Boone. In a recent Gallup Poll, 87 percent of Republican voters think that the biggest problem in America today is “the demented bloodlust of teenagers caused entirely by heavy metal music.”

Many blog commenters got the joke right away: “1984 called, they want their controversial topic back,” one quipped. But many others fell for it, believing that the conservative Santorum was reviving the PMRC’s crusade against metal — in fact, against the same metal bands (WASP, Venom) that stuck in Tipper Gore’s craw in 1985.

Apparently, the post went viral on Facebook and Twitter, with many metal fans outraged to be facing the same old moral panic.

What’s interesting to me is that a hoax like this can get so far before people catch on. It means a few things: one, that metalheads’ perception of Republicans is that they’re stuck in the past, ill-informed, and ready to go on the warpath against teen culture. Two, that the spectre of what the PMRC did in the 1980s has not completely gone away, even nearly 30 years later. And three, that the culture of heavy metal has not yet made peace with the dominant culture — and likely never will.

Authors: our books didn’t fuel “Satanic werewolf” tryst

Why did so many journalists take this book seriously, just because it wad found at a crime scene?

Rebecca Chandler and Raven Larrabee — the duo behind a Milwaukee sexual/cutting incident gone wrong — may be out on bail, but the hysteria over their supposedly occult-fueled tryst still hasn’t died down.

It was only a matter of time before the authors of the books found at the crime scene got wind of the story reporters were spinning. Somehow, the presence of such humor texts as The Werewolf’s Guide to Life, or the high-level occult tome The Necromantic Ritual Book, turned an off-the-beaten-path sexual encounter (one the participants admitted got out of hand) into something “Satanic” (or even Twilight-inspired). If police had found a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, would they have blamed the bouillabaisse?

Leilah Wendell, author of The Necromantic Ritual Book, was livid about the association of her book with the crime. In a Facebook post, she said:

People seriously need to READ THE BOOKS they are accusing BEFORE looking like ignorant idiots. Two mentally disturbed children and another equally disturbed and obviously lonely individual does NOT a satanic orgy make. Get your facts straight and for the love of whatever you believe in, STOP going for shock value and appeasing the media frenzy and get these people the help they need … NOW!

Ritch Duncan, one of the co-authors of The Werewolf’s Guide to Life, was frightened and baffled by the media frenzy, as he wrote in Salon. “I called my coauthor Bob, and after rereading the article and several others, I was relieved to discover that the victim of the encounter was not dead, would apparently make a full recovery, and did not appear to be pressing charges. … Bob reminded me that our book is shelved in the humor section, and there is nothing in it that encourages violence. Even if one were deluded enough to believe it was true, it’s still 200 pages of instruction on how NOT to hurt yourself or others.”

Now, I’m a reporter by trade, and when I first read the articles mentioning this book, my initial instinct was to look it up on Amazon to see what kind of book it was. This takes roughly 10 seconds. I find it difficult believe that this action didn’t occur to others reporting on the story — and yet somehow, that’s exactly what happened. Lots of journalists took it on faith that the book was meant to be taken seriously, and that it might have had something to do with the attack. Duncan writes:

Even worse than being misrepresented in the media was how lazy it all seemed to be. If the reporters charged with covering this story actually spent five seconds looking up what the book was about (they certainly had the time to do a Google search and steal an image of the cover), they could have mentioned it was filed under the “humor/parody” section. … But as I read more of these stories, I came to the depressing conclusion that it wasn’t laziness to blame, it was tailoring. In story after story, the facts of the case actually seemed less important than the details that appealed to a particular website’s niche. Those that worked were pushed forward, and those that weren’t got held back.

Granted, Web sites and blogs aren’t the same thing as newspaper articles. Still, bloggers are beholden to defamation laws and should behave accordingly. And readers should be very, very careful not to take what they read — in newspapers or online — at simple face value. Look at a writer’s sources. Who are they quoting? What are the facts, and where did that information come from? Think it through. Try to see the real human beings behind the headlines. And don’t support sites that care more about their hit counts than they do about the people they’re exploiting to get those hit counts.