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Jello Biafra on 'Nazi Punks' and hate speech

August 09, 2012|By August Brown

People say, "How do we take this music out of circulation?" I’m glad the 1st Amendment says you can’t. The best way to fight hate speech is with more and better speech and better education. The only way you can identify people succeptible to this message is if the message can be freely expressed. I’ve argued repeatedly with people in Germany that banning the swastika or banning people saying the Holocaust never happened is doing nothing to deter neo-Nazis. They just go further underground where you can’t figure out who they are until they’ve killed an innocent Turkish immigrant. If David Duke hadn’t been allowed to publish his racist literature, he’d have been elected governor of Louisiana. He was a very slick animal, he would say, "Oh, you have nothing to fear from me, I'm not what people say I am, I just don’t like welfare cheats.” Duke denied being a racist or anti-Semite before his opponent came out and said, "Look what you wrote in this book," and Duke was finally and deservedly crushed in the runoff. Duke was stopped because he was allowed to express his opinions publicly.

People have been (combatting hate speech) for years in the punk underground, and that’s spread to other genres -- like Bruce springsteen taking "Born in the USA" back from right-wing nationalists from Reagan’s campaign. It started in '76 when Eric Clapton, of all people, came out in support of Enoch Powell. People were so appalled at this that they started an organization called Rock Against Racism, and people like Elvis Costello and the Clash were on their compilation. They came out in force saying, "We do not stand with Eric Clapton coming out in support of a racist like Powell and neither should anyone else," and pointing out that the problem was much, much wider.

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