Can we forgive ANYTHING in the name of art?

Would you sit there in your bedroom every night with your headphones on, falling asleep to Hitler’s speeches? Most people wouldn’t, and neither would I – but if you listen to a band with unsavoury views, you’re polluting your mind with the beliefs they espouse. Maybe they’re not expressed overtly – maybe it’s subtle and you wouldn’t know it if it wasn’t there – but  you wouldn’t really want to take the risk, would you? Especially when you know that music literally rewires your brain when you hear it. You’d better be damn sure you know what shape your brain will end up in after you’ve played their album 4,000 times.

Everyone’s being going on about Magma. Cardiacs fans, Foetus fans, fans of music generally. Magma Magma Magma. So, when I saw their BBC 1974 mp3 for just a pound at Amazon last week, I bought it and gave it a listen. It was very good.

Then, as I clicked on YouTube links in search of my next purchase, I noticed some arguments in the comments section and started to feel a bit sick. I ran a Google search, and didn’t like what I found.

It wasn’t that they’d been accused of being Nazis – a lot of bands I like have faced all sorts of accusations – but because of how they’d chosen to react to those accusations.

Let’s first of all consider other acts who have courted controversy, such as Laibach:

This is an act from Slovenia who called themselves “Laibach” after the temporary name the Nazis gave to Ljubljana when they occupied it. The band’s artwork is influenced by anti-Nazi photomontage artist John Heartfield. One of their videos features men in uniforms pushing shopping trolleys around. You could say that their subversive, ironic use of the very imagery that caused such suffering in their own country is exactly the same as this:

I don’t think anybody alive would accuse Mel Brooks of being a fascist.

Let’s remind ourselves here: the Nazis were unlike any enemy we had ever faced. They weren’t just technically advanced, “civilised” people, they were just like us: so culturally similar, half the British royal family was German. Yet, in the middle of this bloody, brutal conflict, they inflicted horrors that made Ed Gein seem like basically a nice guy. I thought I knew about the Nazis – we were taught about the concentration camps in school – but just a couple of years ago I visited the Imperial War Museum, and had to stumble out of one exhibit, nauseated and gasping for air. I had no idea that human beings were capable of such evil! This was the barbarity of Vlad the Impaler, done on a mass scale, recently.

How do you cope with that knowledge? Even removed by hundreds of miles and sixty years of history, I felt sick for hours.

Satirising the things and people we fear the most diminishes their power over us. It goes back hundreds – even thousands – of years. That explains the popularity of the dozens of “Hitler” parodies on YouTube, and explains why bands like Laibach might be moved to dress up in the clothes of their demons as if to say “See? They’re just silly! There’s nothing to be afraid of!”, if only to still their own nightmares.

Even far away from Occupied Europe, the shared emotional scars of WWII have left their mark on many a band. My own favourite act, Foetus, used to juxtapose Nazi and Communist imagery, presumably (as with Laibach) to make the point that both ideologies are dangerous and evil. (The death toll under Stalin’s regime is estimated at up to 60 million people.)

While  Thirlwell never shied away from the controversy of his self-made artwork, he was quick to emphatically disassociate himself from any offensive viewpoints. As he said in an interview:

Two Gun Mathilda: “Like Hauss-on-Fah‘ – I shall assume you’re not racist…?”

JG Thirlwell: “I mean – God! – that’s so insulting. For God’s sake! Me of all people! But you know that right? […] I would totally turn my back on that. I push the envelope, you know? But people don’t get it.”

See, that’s how I’d expect people to react. Normal, regular people are massively insulted by accusations of fascism because it’s the most horrible thing they can imagine. It embodies everything that disgusts them, and everything they hate.

Occasionally, these accusations arise because, like the ill-fated and rather stupid Kula Shaker, they have the really bright idea of trying to reclaim the swastika. On the face of it, that’s fair: prior to the 1930s, it was the Hindu symbol of  Brahma and Vishnu, the Buddhist symbol of eternity, and the Jainist symbol of the seventh Jina. It was used in ancient Greek and Celtic art, in pre-Christian Europe, and by certain Native American tribes.

In an interview with the NME, Crispian Mills said:

“I love the swastika. It’s a brilliant image, it symbolises peace and the sun and illumination – it’s everywhere in India. I’d love to have great big flaming swastikas onstage just for the f*** of it. It’s like, that was Hitler, don’t let him steal something like that from you.”

I can see why he’d say that, and even sympathise with the idea of taking back a symbol for good that had been corrupted, but it was still the ultimate symbol of unimaginable horror for many people who were still alive and had lived through it. In response to a deluge of criticism, Crispian Mills issued the following statement:

“I think there is no better example of my naivete and insensitivity than the swastika comments . . . my comments derive from my long interest in Indian culture, from which the swastika has its origins . . . I apologise to those who have been offended by my comment and humbly ask that they accept that I am completely against the Nazis, their crimes and any other latter-day form of totalitarianism. For the record I have never been an anti-semite especially as my dear grandmother was Jewish . . . I loathe totalitarianism, far right thinking, oppression of all forms, denial of human rights and all things that would limit the free spirit of humankind. I stand for peace, love, generosity and learning.”

That, again, is exactly how I would expect anyone accused of being a Nazi sympathiser to react. Again, JG Thirlwell realised the inherent dangers of using offensive emblems, as he described in an interview with Seconds, before he stopped using such imagery altogether:

“I’m conscious of being insensitive. I’m not going to walk down that Hasidic street in Williamsburg with a swastika t-shirt. They don’t understand the sense of irony in the image.”

Kula Shaker didn’t deserve to have their careers ended because of their ill-thought-out naivete; they deserved to have it ended because their records were f***ing terrible.

So there, I’ve stated that I think that authors of really bad art “deserve” to have nobody buy their products, so does that intrinsically entwine quality of art with the virtue of its creator?

Hell, no!

There’s a reason I will never knowingly watch a Roman Polanski film, and again it’s not because of the crime he was accused of committing but because of his response. I think we all know that he admitted drugging, raping and sodomising a 13 year-old girl, and that he fled the country while released on bail. Instead of vehemently protesting his innocence, he just pointed out that the girl in question doesn’t want to pursue a trial – to which the (now woman) in question responded that she is sick of being reminded of the traumatic incident and wants to finally move on with her life.

As you might expect, Polanski’s friends in Hollywood rallied round him, but their public defence of him didn’t hinge – as you’d expect – on the accusations being false and it all being some huge, horrible mistake. No, instead, the headlines were filled with them gushing about what a “great artist” the man is. I’ll let the blog Jezebel (which I don’t normally read) articulate my feelings towards Whoopi Goldberg on the issue.

There’s no controversy here: he did it, he admitted it, and the only reason he gets to keep working is because people are still buying his products and supporting him financially and personally with no excuse beyond that they want to see his movies. Like OJ Simpson very nearly found out, if you’re popular enough, you’re quite literally above the law. The conclusion that we draw from this is that if you’re famous enough, you can literally get away with anything and people will still love you. There are no vile depths to which you can descend for which you cannot be forgiven, even without being sorry.

Roman Polanski might make the greatest films in the history of cinema – I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. I can live without them and not feel any the poorer. Hitler’s writing and art might also be beyond reproach for all I know, but I don’t need that s*** in my house.

A few months back I linked to a piece in the Independent about a Nazi artifact – a lampshade – that drove its owners mad. Having something representative of so much hate and evil and suffering was just not something they could bear to live with. It was like a haunting, burying its way into their psyche, and its very presence contaminated everything it touched.

[Caution: language]

It’s with this in mind, even before reading that article, that I’ve always tended to vet the artists I enjoy. I’m spending so much time with their output, sometimes listening to an album three or four times in a day, that I really don’t want to be taking in something that might secretly be filling my brain with vicious propaganda. Most of the time, I find out that my favourite musician or actor is a selfish, vain, egotistical jerk – and really, that’s fine by me, so long as they’re not … well, Mel Gibson. When I find out that my favourite artist is a fairly decent person, I enjoy their work more. I want to support them and encourage them and wish them well in every area of their lives. As for Mel Gibson, I just can’t watch him any more or take him seriously in any way. I even tried watching a film with him in quite recently and all I could think about was his famous rants: it had distracted me to the point where any enjoyment of his output whatsoever was impossible.

Not that I’m suggesting that murder or rape is comparable to screaming vicious obscenities down a telephone or expressing pro-Nazi sympathies, but it crosses a line that you do not cross. It’s something so distasteful, so frightening and unpardonable to most people that the natural reaction is to try to move as far away from it as possible. You don’t want to be seen to support it or condone it, which again is why most people are very quick to clear up any possible misinterpretations as fast as they can.

“I’m good at my art” is never good enough.

So, back to Magma, and the accusations of fascism that have dogged Christian Vander. As posted on a progressive rock forum I found during my Google search:

‘See this quote from Daevid Allen:”The fact that Christian Vander had swastika flags all over his bedroom and pictures of Hitler and would leap up and do kind of imitation Hitler speeches in the middle of his drum solo didn’t seem to faze him all that much. It fazed everybody else. But Giorgio just loved the music, and loved the cultural impact of the music.”The question is: were these just aspects of an excentric persona Vander built for himself or were signs of a genuine ideological orientation of his? I assume the first answer is the true one, but we’ll probably never know for sure.”‘

That he’d flirt with that imagery at all is cause for pause, but “we’ll never know for sure”? I’d want to know for damn sure before listening to another note, and it had better be the right answer! Bearing in mind the statements that other bands had made – it’s all a misunderstanding, we emphatically oppose totalitarian beliefs – I was fully expecting a similarly comprehensive rebuttal of the accusations.

Instead we got this:

“Those who think they can judge a work of art by first putting the character of its author on trial, will judge everyone that way. Their world will only be infected with ruin, dullness and misery. We want to feel life through music. To give in to endless arguments, based on personal prejudices about the right to existence of this artist or that artist, will not detain us from this task.”

That wasn’t from Christian Vander, but from Stella Vander. From what I could see, he didn’t directly respond to the comments, but let his wife defend him, purely on the basis of his musical aptitude. This followed this blog post, and from the same blog, the further comment from Stella Vander:

“I’d like to remind you of what might actually be worth talking about when it comes to MAGMA. And that’s life. Life is what is at the heart of Christian’s music. It might be worth it to discuss the determination of a man wounded by life, named Christian Vander, revulsed by human cupidity, by men’s lack of respect for their Earth and the energy they spend destroying it. Life is a struggle if you want to stand strong, and Christian has chosen Music, instead of weapons, despite the temptation in the face of a weighing inertia only awakened by money, just like certain musicians who, since then, have become useless and lifeless. Yes, MAGMA is a war chant, and you’d have to be deaf not to hear that, but it supports a new kind of war, as new as MAGMA’s music, a spiritual war. MAGMA doesn’t serve reheated versions of what already is! And no interpretation by so and so or what’s his name is going to decrypt this music, because so and so don’t speak Kobaian anymore than you do. So trust your heart and your feelings, they can be trusted, since you are touched and moved by the Music, since it speaks to you directly, since you’re on a quest for something new that’s never existed.”

None of that reads to me as “I loathe totalitarianism, far right thinking, oppression of all forms, denial of human rights and all things that would limit the free spirit of humankind”, as Crispian Mills put it. I call “deflective bulls***”, or as a member of that progressive rock forum put it:

“But even if it *is* just an aspect of an eccentric persona, how can he justify creating a persona that trivialises the death and humilation of millions of people….especially when the persona is created, at least in some small part, to generate profit?”

I couldn’t find an answer. I could find a quote from the band saying that the accusations were “baseless”, but no flat-out denials, and certainly no assertions that the imagery had been used ironically, with the opposite intention than that of evoking totalitarian beliefs.

It’s left me in an uncomfortable position, and I felt I had only one option. I wasn’t going to join in what the band describes as a “witch hunt”, or get particularly angry about it, but it did leave me feeling sad and disappointed. Ever one to avoid knee-jerk reactions, I spent a fair amount of time searching for some authoritative quote to clear up any misunderstanding, and found none. The only defensive viewpoint was that they hadn’t confirmed that they were pro-Nazi, and that they made good records. Knowing that I couldn’t possibly enjoy listening to them any more, I just deleted the files from my Amazon folder.

Perhaps I’m completely mistaken, and Vander’s refusal to flat-out deny that just because he a. tries to convince band members that history is false and that Hitler was “right”, b. has a house full of swastikas, c. uses a Goebbels quote on their DVD cover, and d. refers to Indians and Black Africans as “primates” who will “vanish from the surface of the Earth” (interview 1970, apparently) that he’s any kind of Nazi sympathiser. I’m just going by the experience that anyone who isn’t a Nazi and even uses one swastika-like symbol or asks “why the bad guys get the best uniforms” tends to shout very loudly that they are not, at all, by any means, in any way, fascist because it is one of the worst things you can be.

*deletes album*

I don’t need that s*** in my house.

39 comments on “Can we forgive ANYTHING in the name of art?

  1. Since I’ve been accused of “childish” “kneejerk” reactions with this post, and even of being “Nazi-like” myself (!) by responding to the point that I couldn’t accuse the French government of supporting a pro-Nazi band with “those lovely French who supported child rapist Roman Polanski?”, I’m simply going to post an interview with Stella Vander in which she illustrates the band’s views. It’s translated from French, via Google with clean-up by myself, but there were still one or two sentences, as indicated, where I couldn’t quite work it out.

    Magma has always suffered from an “image deficit”, which may convey a suspected extremist ideology, called a “fascist” here and there and Christian Vander has never really sought to dispel misunderstandings. How do you explain this suspicion and how to fit in this environment?

    SV: When Magma arrived on the French music scene, it was enough to be dressed in black, surrounded by the groups of hte era which, themselves, were mostly in the riot of colors, to be likened to a cult and, preferably, the far right. Yes, Christian has done nothing to contradict these assertions, he even added from time to time. But 30 years later he is still a musician and composer, he is not the head (or member for that matter) of a political party. That is what is important. I’d be very disappointed if he abandoned music in favour of politics, but it will never happen. It’s folklore … I brace it all. Sometimes I get interested in politics, like every citizen, often to rail against people who govern us and say that, decidedly, it’s not tomorrow that I will vote again … I also, like everyone else, have ideas on how we could improve things in this country. But it stops there. Each to his own. The one I chose satisfies me, I did not lack.

    Many “fans” are the antithesis of Magma ideas that are equated, rightly or wrongly, with Christian Vander. In your opinion, can we feel and love the music of Magma even if we do not share these ideas?

    SV: I love the music of Wagner. Yet I was horrified to read of his writings! This does not prevent me from always being terribly excited every time I listen to, among other things, the opening of Lohengrin. The Israel Symphony Orchestra Wagner gave his repertoir for many years is a good example. What remains is his music. I do not confirm, nor deny, any rumours about Christian. Let the people take the lead, if it occupies them, but I wonder what’s ahead? We either like it or we don’t, there is no vibe or not when listening to music or looking at a table. It’s the first thrill that counts.

    Is there within Magma space for exchanging ideas among musicians or, conversely, acceptance, an implied “truth” that’s a requisit for joining the group’s universe?

    SV: The only thing we ask a musician to join the group is to “make the case”, as they say. Then, if he is kind, sensitive, intelligent, balanced and extremely porfessional, they will not complain! There were all sorts of political leanings among all musicians who were part of Magma, including communists and anarchists. Everyone is free. There are, of course, exchanges of ideas, but we always found something better to do than yell at each other about ideas of one sort or the other. In fact, we are concentrating on … guess … the music!

    In a recent interview (1997), Christian spoke of a “plot” to speak of a “falsification of history”. He also claims to have understood, since 1987, some “revelation” to “[untie] the son”. [French: “révélation” à “dénouer les fils”]. Such remarks have historically very bad connotations, because they have already been held by unsavoury characters and have often led to bloodshed and genocide. I understand that you do not share this point of view: is it possible to talk with him and, if so, have you ever succeeded in reversing his positions?

    SV: I think I’m one of the few people around Christian who is trusted and who can find the arguments that led him to ask some questions. I did not talk about all this, I do not want, and Christian neither, to address a subject that can lead to a confrontation. There’s too much love and affection between us. Anyway, we both remain in our positions. So … as I said, I can see that he continues each day to compose, play … If one day he began to harangue the crowds, [I fainted in space]
    [French: je m’évanouirai dans l’espace] … But it will not happen. There is a good dose of provocation in this.

    Kip Hanrahan, an American musician, wrote recently: “Just be inhabited by an intensity that makes it so that one can never relax so the music inside doesn’t leave.” Is this a correct way to say how you live the music?

    SV: I would apply [agree] that this approach works for most parts of my daily life; that I can’t rest when everything is not “in place”. I’m trying to learn to do otherwise because I realise that it’s bad for my health …

    On the contrary, can this intensity allow us to say and do anything, under the pretext of the most absolute sincerity?

    SV: One believed it for some time … one has to learn. Then after taking a number of slaps, one is maturing, and calms. When you’re enthusiastic, sincere and complete, it’s more difficult.

  2. To take the discussion from Facebook:

    “Listening to music where the artist in question had terrible views does not effect your mind, especially a band like Magma that has made-up lyrics. If music makes you a Nazi then video games make you shoot up schools.”

    There are two myths at work here. Firstly that someone hears/reads/watches/plays something and that then dictates their future behaviour – like the Daily Mail’s typically absurd proclamation that well-adjusted children become rampaging monsters after playing video games.

    Then there’s the other myth that what you take in *doesn’t* affect you. Yes, I’ve actually seen a child turn violent after playing a fighting game. That wasn’t because the game was evil (nor the child), but it triggered an existing proclivity towards a certain behaviour – not to shoot up a school, but to punch somebody in the head. That is why games come with age restrictions, and in this instance those restrictions had been ignored. (This is why 7 year-old children shouldn’t play 18-rated fighting games!) Most children can be provoked pretty easily into hitting someone, but you have to be seriously f***ed in the head to shoot someone.

    I’ve also seen a perfectly nice adult turn into a grumbling bigot after reading the Daily Mail for several years.

    In Magma’s case, yes, of course it’s a made-up language, but I did read that one of the songs is a phonetic representation of one of Hitler’s speeches. Perhaps that is equally mythic, but knowing that what I consume has even a little bit of an effect on me, I’d rather not have that influence in my system.

    “There’d be nothing to enjoy if you filtered out everything from horrible people!”

    That’s true, but I take it as the dinner party test: I’ve been at social gatherings and found out that one person is a bit of a jerk or has a drug problem, and while it makes me very cautious around them it’s unlikely to put me off to the extent that I can no longer be in the same room as them. By that same token, I was once cornered by a Satanist in a pub who kept bleating on about the “Master Race”. It ruined my whole evening and I got away as fast as I could. If I’d have tried to hang out and befriend that person, it would be exceptionally naive of me to think that *some* of his more objectionable philosophies would not rub off on me eventually.

  3. I should add that there’s been a bit of fallout from this in that some longstanding Magma fans are considering their liking for the band. I don’t feel happy and glowy about making people feel bad about the music that they love, but I guess you can blame Christian Vander for that one.

    Some points in his defence have been offered – namely that he has Roma heritage, married a Jewish woman, and had black friends – but some equally damning points have been brought to the fore (many, many examples of right-wing quotations).

    I guess if you’re in any doubt about this whole sorry debacle, just click the links yourself and draw your own conclusions.

  4. Hi, PS.

    I’m posting here because to be perfectly honest, I find your harangue on this subject more than a little disturbing, based as it appears to be on a pseudo-neurological speculation about the ability of music to induce anti-social behavior that I consider on the same level as believing that cellphones cause brain cancer or microwave ovens release ionizing radiation. In other words, unsupported fearmongering.

    Here is our discussion over on The Mare’s Nest. I want your readers to see it:

    Obviously as both a Magma fan and a political progressive, I take all this very seriously. But it’s far more likely that Christian Vander has some deep psychological issues and perhaps a problem with alcohol than that he’s attempting to court a neo-Nazi audience with the Kobaia epic or stir up trouble between the races.

    I won’t post a lot here because this interface is terrible and I can neither preview nor edit. I will, however, reiterate the undeniable fact that Vander is the godfather of European RIO and Zeuhl music, who has supported and inspired scores of musicians both musically and politically progressive. He is, in concrete terms (not what may or may not be in his head) the very last thing from a neo-Nazi cult leader. Cultish though the world of Magma may be at times, it is a cult of left-leaning progressive music aficionados.

    I make no apologies for anything Vander may have said and I take all the allegations seriously. But I don’t take them at face, either; I try to separate out the known facts from the extrapolated speculation.

    Try to consider these things before you continue with what amounts to a character assassination of a great musician and a visionary composer, troubled though he might very well be. And consider also that those Hitler insertions may have a purposeful context in what amounts to a gigantic space opera that would be kind of bland if it didn’t have its share of well-drawn and deeplying frightening bad guys.

    Again, anyone who thinks I’m acting as a mere apologist only needs to read what I wrote in the Mare’s Nest thread linked above. I wish you might also show an equivalent level of fair-mindedness on your blog.


  5. Incidentally, no one I know of who defends Roman Polanski does so on the basis of his status in the world of cinema. They do it because the woman involved refuses to press charges.

    The principle is called “no harm, no foul.”

    There’s more than enough sexual witch-huntery going on and more than enough genuine child abuse that provokes it to pursue a case with no aggrieved party. If you want to give the state the power to define this kind of grievance in objective, concrete terms rather than how this woman, long since an adult of sound mind, feels about it, then your are depriving this woman of agency and some find this repugnant.

    That’s the principled civil libertarian case, anyway. The rest is tabloid nonsense.


  6. I’m sorry for leaving all these lovely little droppings on your blog while you’re comfortably curled asleep, but you really need to get your facts straight, PS. You and I both read the very same source material.

    1) CV did not have “a house full of Swastikas.” He had a Hitler poster on his bedroom wall. And what Daevid Allen found interesting about it is that Magma’s manager at the time, Giorgio Gomelsky, is a Central European Jew very aware of and into his cultural heritage and he seemed to cut Vander complete slack for it. You need to argue that Giorgio G. is self-hating indeed to interpret that out of the picture.

    2) CV did not say that subcontinental Indians and African blacks would “vanish from the earth” in that 1970 quote. He said that they were starving and looking to Western handouts to survive (at that time objectively true in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa and India) and found it ironic that Western hippies thought the Indians were “the most advanced people” (obviously referring to spiritually advanced due to their polymorphous relgious traditions). And yes, he did use the adjective “primates” to describe Africans, which is IMHO the single most egregious thing in that interview. But he was hardly arguing for genocide or saying or implying that either group “should” not survive, rather for a kind of ice-cold pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps cultural determinism that views the West as the planet’s role model and completely ignores the egregious history of colonialism which plays such a huge role in why those parts of the world were (and in places still are) such basket cases. Which is why I likened that quote to the ideas of Ayn Rand.

    But to remind you once again, even her worst critics never accused Ayn Rand of being a Nazi.

    It’s also not fully taking Vander’s ideas in context because it’s well known he’s had some pretty scathing things to say about the Western model of development as well (especially regarding environmental rape).

    I hope The Context Fairy visits your dreams tonight.


  7. Alright, this is the very last thing I’ll write here tonight, I promise.

    But I have to note just how incredibly innocent you are of the proper relationships between cause, effect and correlation which I thought were common knowledge in educated people. You espouse ideas that are literally annihilated in the first week of a freshman college class in psychology, sociology or statistics.

    The very first thing they teach you after they hand out the syllabus is that CORRELATION DOES NOT PROVE CAUSATION. There is no way, no way at all, to say that your adult friend turned into a grumpy bigot “because” he read The Daily Mail for a year. It literally astounded me when I read that. How can you rule out a hundred other things happening in his life (assuming it’s a him) that might’ve pushed him in that direction, with the DM only serving to confirm what he’s already begun to think? In order to say this, you need a controlled experiment — somebody like him who went through similar life experiences and didn’t read the DM, and then see what his politics are like after a year. Maybe the guy’s work environment turned him into a grumpus, or his wife’s cooking, or the new Pakistani neighbors or whatever in the hell. If you can’t perform a controlled experiment, you at least need to think in those terms. The New York Times didn’t turn me into a liberal. Because I’m a liberal, I read The New York Times.

    You can’t cede such power to the media, sheesh. Especially if your profession is game development.

    Finally, some further background on CV. His ex-wife, who he recently divorced but was with for 40 years, is not only Jewish. Stella is also ethnically Polish, her family having emigrated to France after the war. So her people got the Hitler Double Whammy. The Roma, as you doubtless already know, had losses in the Holocaust that are equatable in percentage of European population terms to the Jews. So both Christian’s and Stella’s people suffered enormously from Hitler. Stack this up with his lifelong friendships and professional relationships with Jews and people of color and include the Communist and anarchist musicians who were always welcome to play in Magma and add the godfather and benefactor role Christian played for all the left-wing prog musicians on the Continent of Europe in the 70s when the major labels wouldn’t touch rock music that wasn’t a clone of American or British rock sung in English.

    Then stack on the other side a few ill-considered press quotes, some drunken outbursts, a Hitler poster and the chance that Vander may have coded Hitler references in the very part of the Kobaian saga right where the bad guys almost win.

    And draw your own conclusions.



  8. Wow, that’s a lot of text to get through. In the interest of our more time-pressed readers, allow me to summarise:

    Main article

    1. I bought a Magma album and then got concerned because one of them was accused of being a fascist.
    2. Here’s a bunch of people who were accused of being fascists but weren’t.
    3. Here’s a bunch of people who did do bad things but people let them off because they were famous.
    4. I can’t do that because I can’t enjoy the art of an unpleasant artist. Having looked into it, it seems that he IS a fascist, therefore I’m deleting the Magma album.


    My post on the Cardiacs forum, in its entirety

    S***! I had no idea they were f***ing Nazis!

    Yeah, I think I’ll be deleting that particular download and not investigating any further. Sorry, guys, I don’t care how proficient they are: I don’t want that crap going into my ears.



    Snardbafulator’s response on Cardiacs forum: Genuine progheads don’t listen to politically odious music. You’ve obviously got it wrong. He likes “black” music so he can’t be racist. The French government would never support a Nazi.

    Me: (full CV quote, including “for me that is really a nation of degenerated people which has contributed nothing to science, and deteriorate more and more until one day, sick and dying, they will disappear from the surface of the Earth. It is really inconceivable that on one side we have evolved and they have remained like primates requesting for funds to eat, just like the black Africans.”)

    Snard: You’ve misunderstood it. Lots of great artists have really horrible ideas (list includes Jim Thirlwell). You sound like a tabloid – you should prove your ideas with links, and since I’m a lefty I’d know if they were right-wing. The French government would never support a Nazi.

    Schlep: Nobody ever became a fascist from listening to right-wing music.

    Me: Jim Thirlwell’s a satirist. Here are again are all the links about Christian Vander I already linked to. The French supported Roman Polanski.

    Snard: You accuse the French government of supporting a Nazi band because some French people supported Polanski? Generalising like that is Nazi-like!

    [link of the French government fighting Polanki’s extradition order above, from non-tabloid, left-wing newspaper]

    1st comment – reprint of Stella Vander interview in which CV is accused of being a fascist and defended on the grounds of artistic merit rather than the falsity of the accusation – the very point of the original piece.

    Snard (on Cardiacs forum): I’m almost sorry but not quite because they make good music. There’s enough “evidence” to make me believe that he is a fascist but some to make me think that he’s not. Or maybe he’s just a harmless, troubled nutjob.

    [later post] I’ll only stop liking them if they are actively promoting fascist ideology through their music.

    (That’s a different position from my own, i.e. I don’t care if they’re “promoting” it any more than I care if Mel Gibson is promoting bigotry through his movies. I still can’t watch them any more. I don’t want the guy to suffer a painful death, I just choose not to pay for more of his products. I don’t think that’s so hard to understand.)

    2nd comment: Discussion from Facebook on whether people are affected by what they take in. I make it clear that I categorically do not believe that behaviour is dictated by intake, only that it is influenced or affected to some degree.

    3rd comment: Sorry if I just put you off your favourite band.

    Snard’s 1st comment: Ignoring everything you just said above about how you don’t believe intake directly dictates behaviour, you obviously believe music induces anti-social behaviour. Christian Vander is a troubled soul who makes really good music, and you are assassinating his character by quoting in full the nastier things he has said.

    Snard’s 2nd comment: Ignoring everything you said about how Hollywood defended Polanski based on his artistic merit, none of my friends defend him because of that but because a girl who won’t press charges is “no harm, no foul”.

    [link to description from multiple sources of forced, non-consensual, drugged sex with an underage girl who asked him to stop.]

    Snard’s 3rd comment: We obviously read the same source material, only the one you read said he had several swastikas in his bedroom and one Hitler picture elsewhere in the house whereas I just read one Hitler picture in the bedroom and no swastikas. He wasn’t criticised by his Jewish friend.

    He didn’t say that subcontinental Indians and African blacks would “vanish from the earth” [actually the quote is “they will disappear from the surface of the Earth”] and he was not arguing for genocide [instead just showing a lack of compassion if they all die out from hunger].

    Snard’s 4th comment: Further still ignoring what you said about the effect being more akin to having a fascist friend than being some sort of automaton that does what the music tells them, people aren’t influenced by what they hear/read/watch.

    Christian Vander has diverse friends/family so can’t be fascist, and just because of the odious things he has said in the press, at gigs, on his records/artwork, and really likes looking at Hitler/Nazi imagery, does not make him a fascist.


    If all that Snard said is true, he couldn’t possibly be upset because what difference would it make? I could quite happily, as I suggested, go to sleep listening to Hitler’s speeches.

    Further more, if one human being was incapable of influencing another, there could be no art, no politics, no advertising, and no propaganda.

  9. Okay here it is. From a 1973 French article where Vander and Blasquiz directly repudiate the charge of Fascism, which apparently came from some jealous musicians and pushed by one journalist. From same Kohntarkosz blog that provided the earlier evidence. The translation looks Babelfish, but decipherable:

    Rock’n’roll in Phrance
    R & F: Above all, let us liquidate this history of fascistic Magma, I suppose that weighs you a little.
    Klaus: It is a myth which was diffused starting from pewters: on the one hand coming musicians who jalousaient us because we work. It was a vague noise, at the beginning, which was propagated of word of mount, and some critical, by ignorance or stupidity, hastened to transmit.

    R & F: But was that concretized how for the public?
    Klaus: The misunderstanding started before the first disc. At the time, Philippe Paringaux had come to the one from our repetitions and had made a formidable, marvellous article for us. But he said in a passage: “Christian Vander rises and makes a speech which could recall…” ; as of this moment, people came to see us on scene only because of this sentence a little ambiguity. They thought: “Hold, it will make the speech in Hitler”. At the beginning, that amused us and we outraged the thing much: what could appear equivocal a time became clear. People badly included/understood this sentence of Paringaux: they have their small racks, then they draw the rack “Hitler”. They came to see us at the end in the concerts: “It is true that you are Nazis?” We, one marrait ourselves like the insane ones, but in fact we were taken with our own play: certain journalists started to spread themselves: “Fascistic, pretentious Magma”, without us ever to have seen nor heard. It is there that the first furious interventions took place to prevent our concerts.
    Christian: We never stopped a concert because of them.

    R& F: You always scorned to explain you on these circumstances. Nothing was regulated, on the contrary!
    Christian: We do not have to explain us with people who come especially for exhiber and who have in any event never anything to answer us. If they are really too weak not to realize that Magma was the first to create a circuit in concerts apart from the system, a circuit with 7 F the place where the musicians come in residence, everywhere, which they cops will spend in Olympia between three rows wisely their tickets. There, they will see what is really Fascism. Now, I would like that one speaks any more this business because that has nothing to do with Magma, really nothing


    That’s what you were looking for.


  10. Wow, princess, what you just did there is total cheese.

    You paraphrase what I said, naturally making me say what you want me to say, and stick it after the header “Snard,” as if they were actual quotes, you know, things that I actually said verbatim.

    That’s about the most blatantly dishonest debate tactic I’ve ever experienced on the net, and I’ve been through some doozies.


  11. That was, indeed, what I was looking for: a flat-out denial and some sort of explanation.

    I find it interesting that it is the only such statement I’ve seen, and contrary to what you may think, I spent a fair time looking, but as is often the case you might find multiple “sources” that are linking back to the same source, so it’s possible. It’s also weird that Stella Vander would seem so deflective – inviting us to judge the band by the music, rather than explicitly saying “oh, no, that was satirising blah blah” in the way that other bands in the same situation do. It’s very weird that she also alludes to him having political views she finds distasteful and that he argues with the other members of the band about it.

    Saying that they “don’t have to explain themselves”, and confessing that they thought it was funny and played along with it, is a rather stupid way to react. He also should have apologised for some of the more provocative comments he made in interviews. I guess you could say they’re more into Penny Arcade/Dickwolves territory, then.

    It’s not an explanation that satisfies me, but if it does you then I can respect that. At least it’s a better one than the “He is an Oxonian!” crap of people who would try to defend them – or anyone else – through artistic merit.

  12. What part of “allow me to summarise” did you miss, Snard? Then again, you have made a habit of ignoring everything I’ve said thus far.

    The fact that your entire, long-form, as-you-wrote-them, verbatim quotes were directly above the summaries would surely fool nobody.

  13. Okay, I’m going to be a gentleman and blame what just happened on the fact that WordPress blog software doesn’t allow quoted threads. But please, princess … paraphrase me all you want, but don’t stick the pharaphrases in front of a header that makes it look like a direct quote. That’s just blatantly dishonest. Do it narratively: “So Snard said this and I responded with” etc. I thank you. Your conscience will thank you.

    Polanski: I could give a flying one about what Hollywood thinks. And I wasn’t citing my friends’s views, I was citing the views of civil libertarians, what would be, e.g., the ACLU’s position on the issue. Now at the time was it rape? Of course. Her lack of consent didn’t even matter; as she was underage, it was statutory rape. A girl of 13 can’t give consent. But for whatever reason, Polanski escaped prosecution, and while that must make you very angry, there’s nothing you can do about if the former victim has decided to drop it. She’s of sound mind, she hasn’t been coerced, nobody in the Polanski camp contacted her with hush money. The civil libertarian position (and I’m not claiming it’s morally airtight) is that prosecuting crimes without victims is counterproductive. The alternative is to coerce or compel this woman to do what she doesn’t want to do in order to have a victim so the prosecution can proceed. Some would argue that would be piling another injustice on top of the original one. This woman needs to be respected.

    I’m not saying this is a slam-dunk argument. I am saying that its morality is defensible.

    So there may have been another reason some of your “lovely French people” might’ve been sticking up for Polanski other than merely that he’s a great artist.


  14. Both sides of the Polanski argument, with sources, are on Wikipedia, including a substantiated claim that she did indeed accept money from him. Again, that’s irrelevant to my argument which, for the third or fourth time, centred on people from Hollywood and the French culture minister citing artistic merit as though it was valid defence.


    From Facebook:

    “I give you permission to stop reading their comments now. Wow.”

    My conscience and I have other things to be doing.

  15. Well, if she accepted money from him then my memory served me poorly. I’m glad you can at least admit there are two sides to the story. If she’s being made a football in this, that does bug me, though …

    I realize you have other things to do so I’ll try to wrap up my end of it. I think you’re dismissing the idea of artistic merit too lightly, especially for somebody who blogs about music. The Polanski case needs to be addressed strictly on the merits, because in that case we’re talking about concrete harm to an individual. But in a case where nobody alleges any harm whatsoever, it’s a different story. If some skinhead hardcore band got run out on a rail because they tried to put out an album called The Holocaust is a Joke, the world of music isn’t going to suffer. Nobody pretends that the purpose of Oi! music has to do with music itself. If Magma had to shut down because it was definitely proven that the Kobaia myth is a racial supremecist narrative coded in sci-fi, it would be an absolutely enormous loss to the world of music. You don’t get this because you haven’t fallen in love with the music of Magma. To say “well, I’m not all happy that Magma fans are going through this, but blame it on Vander” is really quite callous to Magma fans. God help this culture if we get to the point where art is less important than being politically correct.

    This is where I’m settling at. Christian Vander drinks too much and is prone to getting argumentative and grandiose. He also thinks in racial terms too much, and this shows up not only in that 1970 quote, but also in the Danish quote I posted on the Nest where he’s fawning over the musical abilities and superior morality of black people and it sounds just as false and exaggerated as when he’s calling them primates. Neither of these two extremes are concrete, rational ideas, more like projections that stem from his identity issues, and they surely involve Vander being part Gypsy. When you consider that Roma culture in Europe is constantly under attack for being parasitic and imparting the wrong values (theft, systematic deceit, uncleanliness) it kind of puts Vander’s bootstrap rant to African blacks and South Asians in perspective. But this is also the same coin from which Vander identifies so strongly with Coltrane. A heart that can fill that much up with love can also fill with hatred. Constant drinking, of course, amplifies these cycles. So Vander does have things to be defensive about and rallies his inner circle to deflect all questions. As a child of an alcoholic, I understand perfectly how CV can get his wife and the band to maintain denial.

    It’s not surprising to me at all that Vander would incorporate elements of Hitler into Kobaian or even use a Goebbels quote. Magma’s music has been noted from the very beginning as being almost excrutiatingly Germanic, Carl Orff and Richard Wagner are acknowleged influences, the Kobaian language is phonetically Slavo-Germanic, there is war imagery and imagery of peoples on the march and prog freaks like eadric claim not to care for Magma too much because they sound too “Teutonic.” Germanic war imagery is part of Magma’s DNA quite overtly. Vander wished to incorporate the signal formative experience of his life in his music at a time were everybody else in the Western world was trying to forget about it.

    The question that remains is whether Vander is glorifying Hitler or using him to embody evil. Magma fans are absolutely stumped on this because the story is so hard to definitively interpret.

    Right now, that’s the only remaining question for me in this controversy.


  16. The trouble with this whole debate is that you’re ignoring the central points of my argument:

    1. That I cannot enjoy listening to music by people I don’t like.
    – Whether you do or not is immaterial.

    2. That people too frequently use artistic merit as a defence in itself, without even taking a position on guilt or innocence.
    – Whether you believe them to be guilty or innocent based on “evidence” i.e. not art does not negate other people using the “art” defence, so is, for this purpose, irrelevant.

    3. That normally anyone who is accused of being a racist vehemently denies it. If you don’t deny it, it implies that you are. To then turn around and say that you just played along because you thought it was funny implies that you’re an asshole, who still might be a racist, but is definitely an asshole. Because the holocaust and African famine is such a f***ing wheeze.

    I never said Magma had to shut down, I only said that I wouldn’t financially support them. If you want to keep buying their records – like my friend on Facebook unapologetically did (because he genuinely doesn’t give a crap about their politics) – then … enjoy. If you do really believe that artist and art are separate then there’s no debate to be had here: you continue to listen to them, I continue to not listen to them (nor Wagner, nor Zappa, for that matter).

    SB said on Facebook that he and his Jewish friend can happily watch Birth of a Nation, and that’s fine for them – he’s consistent about it. I’m consistent in that since I’m pretty sure I’ve never called anyone a “whore who deserves to be raped by n*ggers” when drunk then it’s not OK for Mel Gibson to say it when he’s drunk, and I can’t enjoy his films any more. Doesn’t mean you can’t.

    My other friend just said that there’s a whole lot of other good music out there that I can enjoy.

    Maybe I didn’t choose the right words when saying that the artist can’t be defended on the basis of his (her) artistic merit. Perhaps I meant that the art is the artist – that they are indivisible – which makes it that much more of a betrayal if you find out that the face they presented to the world was not the one that you expected to see.

  17. If artist and art are inseperable, you had better well not own any William Shakespeare because he wrote an anti-semitic play called The Merchant of Venice which has a stereotyped greedy, usorious Jew, Shylock, as the bad guy — who the good guys righteously force to convert to Christianity at the end.

    Better get out the portable barbecue and the lighter fluid …


  18. You’re correct that I’m eliding a lot of your views and making a case for my own because at the end of
    the day, neither of our opinions matter. What matters here is that your blog is the second hit when you type in “Christian Vander” + “Fascism” on Google. That’s, in fact, how I access it. So people concerned about this controversy are going to be hitting these pages and I feel it’s my duty to put in my 2 American pennies because accusations of Nazi and/or Fascist beliefs can have an enormous effect on an artist’s career — especially an economically marginal musical aggretation with primarily left-leaning fans like Magma.

    So don’t pretend this is merely a matter of your own opinion. You’re a blogger, sheesh.

    It needs to be stated that your views are decidedly not shared by the majority of people who appreciate complex art, whether you call it progressive or outsider or avant-garde or experimental. We know (speaking for fans of the real stuff) that it is an absolute imperative to seperate the artist from the art, because so many of these characters today and throughout history have been insanely grandiose, have had questionable opinions on any number of things, have viewed themselves as enemies of bourgeous society — and many of them have had a string of awful personal relationships besides. And this is not even bringing in the history of avant-garde artists with issues of substance use and abuse.

    Whether Magma did or did not encode a racial supremecist message in the immense Kobaian saga
    that so much of Magma’s music conveys is a legitimate and very troubling question, because if the
    entire basis of Vander’s art is cryptofascism, this would transcend all the other allegations of importune drunken outbursts and grandiose admiration of aspects of Hitler — things which also riddle
    the histories of many great 20th century artists. It would make Magma’s music only the means to an intolerable end, and if verified, would spell the end of fandom for many of the political progressives
    who love their music and despise Fascism. So the question is not at all whether you think CV is an “asshole.” What is germane is a factual question that at this moment remains unconfirmed.

    So this is not the time for knee-jerk value judgments based at the end of the day on whether or not
    you personally would like to hang out with a guy who’s been known to go off when he’s had a few.
    This is a question about something that, if definitively confirmed, could wreck Magma’s career. It is
    also not addressed by the few Hitler quotes he apparently did encode, because they can be seen
    in the context of a larger narrative structure where humanity was succumbing to evil forces.

    Only people very versed in the Kobaian myth have genuine grounds to comment on this, and their
    concerns and red flags are something that I take with the utmost seriousness. The jury’s still out.

    Finally, there is a place where the artist and their art are virtually inseperable, and that’s the world
    of commercial entertainment. The world where fans of Britney and Justin and Lady Gaga feed the
    tabloids nonstop and their fans curl up with fan magazines and have their fandom enhanced because
    so-and-so pop star flavor-of-the-month is a “really cool person” that they can “identify with.” Then
    they decide that they hate former flavor-of-the-month because FFOM really dissed somebody.

    People more concerned for music itself generally consider this world a cancer on the spirit of art.


  19. OK, how about this?

    I would say that I’m sorry that I am maybe the 30th or 40th person I’ve seen to express disapproval at the instances where Christian Vander has evoked the speech of fascism and failed to deny that he personally holds those beliefs, that I am troubled by that and don’t want to listen to his invective, and that the best defence the band can muster is that they played along because they thought it was “funny” … that it’s OK for him to say that “black Africans … will disappear from the surface of the Earth” (whether advocating or just observing), because since we’re all just a cancer on the spirit of art, none of us matter anyway …

    I would say it, but I won’t, because that is the biggest amount of bulls*** I have ever read in my life.

    I’d better go now, since I’m getting a bit cold. Pass me a lighter, will you? I have some Shakespeare to burn.

  20. I’m glad to see that you’re taking this exchange with a spirit of humor. The last thing I want is for this to become some kind of a personal flamewar. We’ve both pretty definitively stated our opinions and in the absence of further facts, there probably isn’t much else to say for the moment. I’ll leave you with two points.

    First, I have a completely different experience searching this subject on the net. I’ve done more than my share of Googling (I was the one who found that ’73 French article that you missed) and I’ve found nowhere near “30 or 40” people who share your views. I’ve encountered about a dozen well-versed Magma fans engaged in a serious discussion and only 2 or 3 at the most who have reached your conclusion and decided never to listen to Magma again. I’ll add that they were all Jewish and usually cited family lost in the Holocaust, which would make for them any use of Hitler references, regardless of dramatic context, simply intolerable. This is a totally respectable position.

    Most people I’ve read who have less of an acquaintence with Magma’s music but who are fans of progrock generally tend to make the sort of arguments that I’m making, that great artists are often insufferable human beings, that it’s unfair to judge before all the facts are in, etc. But I suppose everybody winds up retaining what they want to retain when they view pages and pages of debate on the net.

    Finally, your facetious response to my point about Shakespeare should confront you with something. Obviously you’re not going to start blogging against Shakespeare because he wrote an unequivocablly anti-semitic play — so anti-semitic that the bad guy had to lose his religion in order to redeem himself. So, you need to ask yourself … why is this okay for Shakespere? Even if the man himself wasn’t an anti-semite, he was clearly pandering to those impulses in his audience, which in a way is even worse (and nothing even the people who are turning away from Magma accuse them of doing; everyone agrees that not a single neo-Nazi or skinhead was born by listening to Magma music). Shakespeare, OTOH, may well have fostered the justifications of generations of anti-semites, since it’s the word, after all, of the greatest author in the English language.

    My question for you to ponder here (and it isn’t rhetorical) is: What exactly is the difference here?


  21. And since I’ve never been known to know when to quit, here’s an angry response about the controversy from Isabelle Fuellebois, Magma’s secondmost senior female vocalist, translated by Stella:

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009
    An Angry (Female) Kobaian Member of Magma Speaks
    This is one comment from a (female) member of Magma. Stella sent this to me, so I can verify its authenticity. The comment is first presented in English, and then in its native French. Stella gave me the English version, so we do not have any of the misinterpretations that might be caused by using Google Translator or Babelfish.

    Let’s put a stop to all this gossip, some people need to get a life !

    I’ve had it with the witch hunt, based on nothing, like all witch hunts are.

    It’s sad to think that some people’s lives are so empty that they need to fill it and nurture it with hate. Jealousy makes you stupid and mean, but thankfully, a little ship’s boy’s bitterness about not being the captain, is not enough to sink a boat that’s been facing polluted winds and riptides for 40 years!

    I’d like to remind you of what might actually be worth talking about when it comes to MAGMA. And that’s life. Life is what is at the heart of Christian’s music. It might be worth it to discuss the determination of a man wounded by life, named Christian Vander, revulsed by human cupidity, by men’s lack of respect for their Earth and the energy they spend destroying it. Life is a struggle if you want to stand strong, and Christian has chosen Music, instead of weapons, despite the temptation in the face of a weighing inertia only awakened by money, just like certain musicians who, since then, have become useless and lifeless. Yes, MAGMA is a war chant, and you’d have to be deaf not to hear that, but it supports a new kind of war, as new as MAGMA’s music, a spiritual war. MAGMA doesn’t serve reheated versions of what already is! And no interpretation by so and so or what’s his name is going to decrypt this music, because so and so don’t speak Kobaian anymore than you do. So trust your heart and your feelings, they can be trusted, since you are touched and moved by the Music, since it speaks to you directly, since you’re on a quest for something new that’s never existed.

    I’ll conclude my letter the way I started it: Let’s put a stop to all this gossip, some people need to get a life !

    An angry Kobaian.



  22. My final point: I always hold people responsible for their actions, regardless of who they are or what their situation is. Background information can explain a situation or make me sympathise or make me think that I would have done the same, but it’s not a free pass.

    If someone is an “insufferable human being”, I don’t give a monkey’s what they have to say. That’s my position and it’s one I consistently hold.

    What exactly is the difference between Shakespeare and Magma? Well, I haven’t read Venice so I can’t really comment on that. I also have spent more time listening to Magma in a few days than I have reading Shakespeare in my lifetime.

    The difference would be that while Shakespeare isn’t around to answer his detractors, the presence or absence of anti-Semitism has been very heavily debated since the 19th century. England generally was very anti-Semitic at the time – unlike Christian Vander who made those remarks at a time when it was considered shocking to do so. There are many who view Shylock’s speech as an appeal to tolerance (“if you prick us, do we not bleed?”), and again, this is heavily contested, but nobody ignores it just because he was a good writer.

    Hell, the first time I learnt about Shakespeare in school, we conducted a mock trial of Richard III in which I was asked to “play lawyer” and successfully defended him against Shakespeare’s outrageous, slanderous claims. Just because a famous person says it, doesn’t mean it’s right, and I know how to call bulls*** when I see it.

  23. [re Stella quote above – looks like our posts crossed]

    If you had read the original post, which I note that you have not, you would have seen that not only did I quote that quote, I also dismissed it as “deflective bulls***” which defends him solely on the merits of his art – and moreso seems to confirm that he holds those beliefs but justifies them because they are expressed through songs, not violence.

  24. Final point, c’mon. That wasn’t your final point any more that this will be my final point 🙂

    First, that wasn’t a quote from Stella, Stella translated a quote from vocalist Isabelle Fuellebois (“An Angry Kobaian”) which was posted on the Kohntarkosz blog in response to the controversy.

    Okay, let’s summarize what goods you have on Christian Vander:

    You’ve got some writing from 40 years ago when the guy was in his early 20s. You’re perfectly entitled to judge that, but my judgment of you is that this is severe. Would you want to be held accountable for all the stupid sh*t you doubtless participated in as a young adult? I know I wouldn’t.

    Christian Vander is apparently notorious for drunken outbursts. My view is that these are not motivated by racial hatred per se, but rather by internal turmoil caused by self-hatred. Do you understand the way Gypsies and their parasitic lifestyle are viewed in Europe? I studied the Roma in sociology class. He projects this self-hatred outward onto other groups, but that doesn’t mean his rational self believes what he says as an conscious ideology the way Hitler would. I also believe he’s probably an alcoholic.

    There are apparently confirmed Hitler references in one part of the Kobaian double trilogy. But to criticize that in and of itself is like criticizing a horror movie for having a really despicable bad guy. The point of dramatic opera is to present grandiloquent confrontations between grandly drawn good and evil.

    Otherwise, you can draw no conclusions on whether or not the Kobaia story glorifies Hitler or Fascism.

    So while you’re entitled judge Christian Vander for being a drunken asshole (my wish is that he’d get help), you actually have very little ground — perhaps no ground at all — to judge the music of Magma itself.

    And that’s where it stands.


  25. If you make another final point I will make another final point and we will continue ad infinitum.

    1. My stupid s*** was pushing my friend down the hill in a stolen empty shopping trolley and throwing up over the porch. I’m pretty sure I’ve never put any posters of Hitler up, invited my audience to vote for a right-wing politician or spewed racist invective, even after 14 pints. Also, he’s never publicly apologised for the remarks, so he can still be held accountable for them.

    2. I have met plenty of alcoholics in my life, all of whom were generally harmless except to themselves. None of them ever spouted racist crap, either. It can’t come out if it’s not in there. Even if, to avoid the issue of him being responsible for his own behaviour (which we almost always are), you cite “insanity”, then he is a hateful lunatic. Whatever he’s been through, others have been through worse and behaved better.

    3. I can draw plenty of conclusions through their silence on the issue – and, no, I don’t accept “we played along because we thought it was funny” or “he’s a great artist who uses songs instead of violence for his war charts” as an answer. People who aren’t fascists don’t like being called fascists and quickly and vigorously deny it.

    Like Kula Shaker, Foetus and many others, they were given the opportunity to say “I would totally turn my back on [fascism]” or “I loathe totalitarianism, right-wing thinking and oppression in all its forms”, but chose not to do so. They were given the platform but chose to distract people from the issue rather than answer the question – since, as you note – the accusations were true to start with.

    The court may adjourn.

  26. I’m going to remain civil here if it kills me, but what I think you’re doing, princess, is immoral. It’s the worst kind of immorality because it cloaks itself in the garb of self-righteousness. You’re continuing to state rumors and half-truths as if they were facts. You use personal anecdotes to attempt to rebut well-documented generalizations as if that were possible. This is how ugly viral memes spread on the internet, by twisting partial truths into grand generalizations. And you’re not a Nazi! Congratulations!

    First thing that needs to be stated is that by searching both “Christian Vander” + “Nazi” and “Christian Vander + “Fascist” there is only one other blogger in all of cyberspace who is taking your line, a guy with a post “Christian Vander Broke My Heart.” He’s also, in the same post, complaining that Seals and Crofts did an anti-abortion song right after the Roe v Wade decision which legalized abortion in America. That’s the kind of wussy political correctitude we’re talking about — your great cause is lumped together with a guy who can’t listen to a song by one of his favorite bands because he disagrees with them, and he’s equating this with the Vander controversy. Oh, and he also admits whether Vander’s a Nazi is unconfirmed, but he’s just going to shudder about it anyway because I guess it gives him thrills.

    Leave aside the Kohntarkosz blog for a moment. Everyone else in a half-dozen or so threads about Magma I’ve read have essentially shrugged off the controversy. Not because they’re callous or they harbor some “thing” for Nazis. But because they don’t want to base jugements on hearsay and private chats and because they see the other side of CV’s ledger which I have reiterated too many times to repeat again and find it literally impossible that a quarter-Gypsy, quarter-Polish guy with a Polish-Jewish wife who spearheaded a musical movement composed of Commies and leftists could be a Nazi sympathizer.

    “30 or 40” people out there who share your view? My left butt cheek.

    Somehow when I bring up the history of Vander with these guys you never respond. You know, like the co-founding member of Magma being black and their manager being Jewish. Little things like these somehow manage to just blip off the radar screen for you. If he’s such a hateful bigot, why tolerate it?

    Maybe because he isn’t a hateful bigot 98% of the day. Maybe because the Kobaian saga, whatever horrors humanity confronts along the way, is also about merging with the Supreme Infinite and dropping the bullsh*t of the human race kinda like, you know, Buddhism. Maybe what every good listener reports digging deeply into the saga is closer to a feeling of transcendent love for the human race, a triumph over adversity, than the pumped up “rush of disgust” you’re supposed to get from Oi! music. Maybe the fact that not a single Magma fan on all the thousands of posts I’ve reviewed at this point sympathized with or engaged in race-oriented ways of looking at things is a significant datum. But maybe just not to you.

    I’m really going to try very very hard to remain civil making this next point, but Princess, you really just need to shut your piehole about alcoholism. You state that you’ve known “plenty” of acoholics and they were “generally harmless except to themselves” as if this demonstrates something beyond your own smug ignorance. Aside from what the profesionals will tell you about alcohol’s inextricable involvement in domestic violence, let me share a personal anecdote of my own. My mother died at age 41 of full-blown cirrhosis of the liver. I had to come home from school and listen to her racist rants, so I know a little something about how alcohol can twist a personality. And since you’re the Ms. Science who believes that listening to the wrong music can change your brain, one might expect you to be sympathetic to the genuine confirmed science which has demonstrated that chronic drinking changes brain chemistry.

    Finally, I searched the entire Kohntarkosz blog by topic from the first post on the controversy until this week’s, and apparently the whole crew of posters who were expressing such genuine concern over year ago are all still there, including at least one Jewish person who was very close to dropping his support for the band, and they’re all happily posting away about Magma gigs and rarities and such. Apparently that 1973 article I posted here which you accepted with qualifications as a denial of Nazism did the trick for these knowledgable fans. After a series of them, not one dedicated post on the topic since.

    So are you the one here who’s “calling Bulls*it”? Or are you engaging in bulls*it?

    I think in the name of rightness and decency it’s time for you to stop spreading this meme.


  27. By stating my opinion on an opinion blog I am “spreading a meme”? I don’t recall adding any lolcats in here.

    Rumors and half-truths = an incriminating interview I posted in full with Stella Vander?

    It’s not a “great cause”, it’s that you keep posting on my blog! If you didn’t keep responding, this discussion and my thoughts on the matter would have ended days ago!

    Given that you keep leading me back to the quotes by Stella Vander and Isabelle Fuellebois, I would say I’m 80% convinced that they confirm that he is a fascist rather than dissuading me from believing that he holds any such opinion.

    You may find it impossible that a someone with Nazi-sympathetic beliefs could befriend and be in a band with people with people of opposing political viewpoints, but I refer you once again to Stella Vander’s mention of strong arguments between them on the subject. He had black friends and Jewish friends. That he argued with. About politics.

    30 or 40? Yes, I pulled that from nowhere. It seemed like a lot of people, but I guess it was a few people posting lots.

    You might be filled with love and compassion after hearing a song which is allegedly a transcription of one of Hitler’s speeches. All I know is that he hasn’t explained why that speech was used, which makes it a no-go area for me.

    You keep bringing your mother into it, not me, but if she was making racist rants while drunk, I would call her a racist. My best friend’s dad was an alcoholic who never made racist rants. My other best friend’s dad was an alcoholic who never made racist rants. I worked for years in the music industry – not noted for its temperance – and never heard racist rants. This whole argument seems to centre around your need to reconcile yourself psychologically with your upbringing rather than anything to do with Magma.

    I still call bulls*** on the 1973 article. It’s a pretty weak denial.

    If the long-term dedicated Magma fans want to continue to listen to their records, that’s fine. That’s up to them. It’s up to you.

    I haven’t at any point asked you or anyone else to stop listening to Magma.

    I just continue to believe that Christian Vander has expressed certain pro-Nazi beliefs for which he has neither apologised nor adequately explained. That is enough to make me not want to listen to him any more.

    You lost this argument from the first post and everyone else stopped reading after the first response. Time to let it go.

  28. Correction: The “Christian Vander Broke My Heart” thread is from the RYM blog, and it consisted of a discussion of regurgitated points from the Kohntarkosz blog, with people questioning and people defending and nobody reaching any positive conclusions other than Vander’s something of a control freak.

    The Vander and Seals and Crofts post comes from the Underdog of Perfection blog, and I just responded to that, in my continuing attempt to keep everyone focused on what facts we know.

    Now exept in that grand and extensive realm that exists between your ears, it is you who lost the debate because nobody else is currently talking about it. The most recent post that referenced it is in September, and that’s information from the Kohntarksoz blog that stopped talking about it in November of ’09. If people were still concerned that Christian Vander harbored Nazi beliefs because there were some genuine facts out there, the internet would still be jumping about it the way people never shut up about Michael Jackson.

    Now as far as my late mom is concerned, of course that’s close to home so it pushed my buttons. But the point I tried to make (which once again found no room in that extensive realm of yours) is that you can’t say anything meaningful about alcoholism based on personal anecdotes — and yes, that includes me referencing my mother. Maybe this is part of that problem you have distinguishing cause from effect, because they also cover this point in the first week of Sociology 101. If you want to understand the rather snug correlation between hate speech and alcohol abuse, you need to talk to psychotherapists and family counselors and people who work in women’s crisis centers and maybe your local constabulary. Saying “nobody I know goes off on racist rants when drunk” means exactly nothing generalizable.

    A meme, as you well know, is more than those adorable lolcats. It’s anything that people pick up and run with and becomes a matter of folk wisdom not necessarily by being true but through repetition. And as long as you keep saying “Christian Vander harbors Nazi beliefs,” I’m going to keep challenging you on it.

    Because what, after all, are those “certain Nazi beliefs” you say you “continue to believe” he has? I’d challenge you to name them, but I already know beforehand that you haven’t the slightest clue yourself. And this is precisely the witch hunt mentality that Stella and Isabelle are talking about: Don’t deny you’re a witch and we’ll burn you at the stake. Deny you’re a witch and we’ll torture you on the rack first, then burn you at the stake. Christian Vander owes you, little lady, no explanation whatsoever.

    He had political arguments with his bandmates. Somebody get out the leg irons!

    The section that you’re referring to with the Hitler references isn’t the part of Magma that fills people with a spirit of trancendental love. The part with the “alleged transcription” of a Hitler speech is just that — an allegation, made by whom for what purposes we don’t know. It’s called Zess, I listened to it last night and it sounded to me like it was sung in French. But the actual part with a few of Hitler’s slogans transcribed into Kobaian is on one of the mp3s you downloaded, and it’s an exceedingly grim part of the story. Bear in mind this is an enormous song cycle and there are many parts of it which are filled with transcendent beauty and gentleness — just as there are many grim and martial sections. It’s an epic.

    So bottom line for me is that you seem just not to like well-drawn bad guys in operatic music.

    Aside, of course, for having zero tolerance for a variety of human weaknesses. It’s a good thing we don’t live in a particularly religious period of history or you might have become a dangerous person.


  29. – That he drunkenly shouted that Hitler was “right”
    – That he had one or more Swastikas in his bedroom and a picture of Hitler in his house
    – That the reason his Jewish friend did not voice offence was because he “just loved the music”, rather than because he believed that Vander had no right-wing sympathies
    – That he urged fans at a gig to vote for Le Pen
    – That he said that Indians and Black Africans were “primates” who would “disappear from the surface of the Earth”
    – That he phonetically recreated one of Hitler’s speeches in a song
    – That he quoted Goebbels on some CD art that was removed after a complaint
    – That he has never publicly contradicted racist readings of these actions
    – That no member of the band has said “Christian Vander does not hold any kind of far-right or totalitarian views”
    – That “Christian has done nothing to contradict these assertions, he even added from time to time” – Stella Vander
    – That his ex-wife has said that she “would be very disappointed if he abandoned music in favour of politics” and that she disapproves with his politics and argues with him about it, and would be particularly distressed if he “harangued the crowd” with these views.

    Defence: “Life is a struggle if you want to stand strong, and Christian has chosen Music, instead of weapons” – Isabelle Fuellebois

    That’s not enough for me.

    Nobody else is talking about it because not very many people care terribly much about Magma. The internet was jumping about Michael Jackson because he sold tens of millions of albums.

    Rather than dismissing my “you don’t say while drunk what you don’t secretly think while sober” opinion as mere conjecture, I’ll just refer you to the section of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s report number 38 of October 1997’s section on the disinhibition hypothesis, but rather than spark a whole new and rather boring debate on the effects of alcohol, I’ll just point out that Mel Gibson is being very equally blamed for the exact same thing.

    I do have zero tolerance for a variety of human weaknesses:

    – hate speech
    – failure to own your mistakes and apologise for them
    – excusing unacceptable behaviour on the grounds of artistic merit

    Neither Christian Vander nor any member of the band has claimed that the use of Nazi imagery or quotes by Hitler and Goebbels were used in the context of the Nazis being the bad guys in the opera. Stella Vander and Isabelle Fuellebois have been asked for their opinions and responded, but neither suggested that at any point.

    “In your opinion, can we feel and love the music of Magma even if we do not share these ideas?”

    “Stella Vander: I love the music of Wagner. Yet I was horrified to read of his writings!”

    There is no contradiction. No denial. The man is a fascist. Live with it or don’t. Listen to it, or don’t, but don’t pretend for a second that you can stick your fingers in your ears and la-la-la pretend that I am lying or wilfully mistaken in the wake of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, just because you happen to like the guy’s records.

  30. Wow. You know, I really don’t want this to turn into some kind of personalized argument, but you’re really making it difficult. For somebody who claims to be making a primarily moral argument, you argue in a rather immoral fashion. Once again, we find you conflating conjectures with proven fact and making a circumstantial case that would be laughed out of a court of law. As it stands, since you are the only person in all of cyberspace making this argument, it already didn’t fly in the court of public opinion.

    I asked you what you thought Christian Vander’s “certain Nazi beliefs” were. And you confirmed my surmise that you haven’t a clue by listing a bunch of things that could be associated with being a Nazi but which could also have alternative explanations, but nothing with any real ideological content.

    It begs the question: do you even know what Nazism is? It’s not garden-variety racial prejudice. It’s not even an expressed admiration for certain aspects of Hitler (something not uncommon among WW2 buffs). Have you read excerpts of Mein Kampf or visited neo-Nazi websites? I’ve done both. You need a racial conspiracy theory which is central to world history. Nobody today is claiming that of Magma.

    Furthermore, I think we all really need to understand why you don’t like black people, Stomper (“Princess Stomper” — ooh, Storm Trooper associations). After all, you said you don’t listen to rap music. Now just why is that? Have you ever publicly denied not liking blacks? You haven’t? Well then why? I think we need to hear a public statement from you right this minute explaining this all to our perfect satisfaction.

    That’s precisely the level of argument you’re using against Christian Vander.

    So let’s address some of those points in your laundry list, shall we?

    First, you’re dead wrong about this as a potential news story. If it turned out that a decidedly weird progrock band with a 40-year history of singing music in an invented language was coding pro-Nazi messages the entire time, that story would have enormous legs in the mainstream press regardless of how many records Magma sold. Not being very popular hasn’t stopped the press from jumping all over neo-Nazi skinhead bands. So I’d like to know why you believe the New York City and Washington DC activist communites (not very known for their silence on controversial issues) betrayed their principles by not launching any protests against Magma during their well-recieved fall gigs there. After all, protesters flock to Mel Gibson and Roman Polanski press conferences, and this “news” has been out for over a year.

    And I’d also like to know why you believe Giorgio Gomelsky and Stella Vander are traitors to their people. Gomelsky, after all, isn’t just “some Jewish guy,” he’s a Central European Jew extremely proud of his cultural heritage who hung out in Jewish intellectual circles. He’d be precisely the first person you’d expect to freak out if Vander’s Hitlerana meant something deeper, and if you read Daevid Allen’s quote with any perception, you’d see that was precisely the point he was making. What did Gomelsky know about Vander, and why did this reassure him? As for Stella, c’mon. Are you really trying to tell me that a Polish Jew would stay married to the guy for 40 years if being a Hitler fancier was a deep part of his character?
    But forget Stella and Giorgio, who were, after all, intimates. What about the circle of progressive musicians that Vander spent a career fostering? What about the Commies and anarchists who’ve played with Magma? What vested interests could they have had for sticking with a Nazi bandleader?

    Of course you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of answering these questions, so let’s move on.

    Understand that I’m not accusing you of lying. You’re doing something more insidious. You’re taking little pieces of half-truths and proclaiming them as confirmed facts. Case in point: You got the bit about Le Pen from what I posted and decided to ignore the rest of what I said just because it’s, you know, inconvenient for you. That came from a single poster on the Kohntarkosz blog in the heat of the controversy and wasn’t even an assertion — it was something he “seemed to remember” and asked the others if they had seen something similar. And nobody responded to this. This is a crew of Magma followers, including quite a few English-speaking Europeans who’ve seen countless gigs. If Vander made a habit of shilling for right wing candidates (and even according to this guy, Vander didn’t exhort, he is supposed to have merely asked the crowd to “consider” voting for Le Pen), this would be impossible to hide from the Magma community who were at that time attempting to turn over every rock for evidence on this stuff.

    You know, if you had said “this would be very troubling if it were true,” I could respect that. That’s essentially what I said. But you proclaim it as proven fact, and this just shreds your moral credibility.

    I didn’t call what you said about alcoholism “mere conjecture.” Once again, you don’t read very carefully. I said it was based on anecdotal opinion. But let’s for a minute do the argumentatively dangerous thing and use my mom as an example. There’s no question she harbored racist opinions. But she didn’t die of alcoholism because blacks were taking over America, either. It was part of a fixation she had on her father and his deeply parochial worldview and these opinions were expressed out of deep personal misery, the essence of which has nothing to do with racism per se. All I’m saying, and all a professional would say, is that these opinions were symptomatic of something much deeper. For any number of reasons, intolerable levels of emotional stress can cause people to lash out at those weaker. You’re entitled, of course, to take a moral absolutist position on this. But it doesn’t allow me to respect you very much as a human being. You don’t sound moral so much as engaging in psychological projection yourself.

    I just can’t respect “zero tolerance” views on morality. I think you need to cast that first stone.

    Finally, once again you simply don’t read very carefully. Of course neither Vander nor the band would say that they “used Nazis as bad guys in the opera” because there are no Nazis in the opera. It’s an allegory. Nobody needs to confirm or deny the use of Germanic militaristic imagery in the music because it’s all there on the surface, the Orff, Wagner and Stravinsky influences, and it has been there since the beginning and duly noted by everybody who listens to Magma. If this in itself creeps you out, like I told the other guy on his blog, by all means don’t listen to Magma. You don’t need to justify or defend your subjective impressions to anybody. But if you’re going to attack Vander’s intent, you need to have a clue about it. In a very important section of the legend, the last remaining holdouts of humanity confront The Tyrant. This is the part with the Hitler snippets. But humanity doesn’t succumb to The Tyrant at the end, the way they might if Vander were glorifying militarism. The Tyrant is the symbol of Evil.

    By all means don’t listen to Magma, especially if you don’t like Wagner for similar reasons. All I’m requesting is that you refrain from talking out your nether orifices about the intent of the music.


  31. Finally, another Babelfish-translated quote from an early-70s French music mag where Vander dismisses the accusations of Fascism as ridiculous:


    I: II does Zao also deal with, whose founder is François Cahen, ex-Magma?

    CV: Yes. And soon, there will be more and more groups which will play in this same frame of mind. It is not the pop one, nor jazz, but of ZEUHL WORTZ or UNIWERIA ZEKT: it is as that which should be called it.

    I: Zeuhl Wortz starts to be recognized. It causes as many aggressions as at the beginning of Magma.

    CV: It is a little a mirror, where each one can read the amount of aggression which it has in him, where each one can be updated. I never included/understood how one had been able to take to us for a fascistic group. When I think that I heard that during three years!

    I: The policy, since one does speak about it, what that represents for you?

    CV: Nothing. Nothing the whole. When a politician speaks, it is to be died of laughing. And they keep their serious! That will not be able to continue like that, people will awake.


    The music is a little like a mirror. A mirror which reflects people’s projections of what they think Magma is.

    Exactly, Christian.


  32. And as a sort of ultimate piling on (because I’m getting as sick of this topic as you are and you’re entitled to believe whatever you like, especially on your own blog), here’s Ian McDonald’s trenchant analysis of Magma’s ideology. Warning: there are a lot of abstruse historical concepts in here ….


    Vander’s conception of the struggle between Kobaïa and Earth is itself essentially Cathartic and in both senses of the term: on the one hand Good versus Evil in combat and on the other a climatic resolution of the conflict, resulting in exorcism and spiritual acceleration past accustomed levels of experience. If in doubt, observe Magma on stage and watch Vander use his customary drum solo to fulfil the latter function. However, it must be said that Vander’s ideology weighs in on a more optimistic note since it envisages the ultimate triumph of Good as in White Magic.

    And here is where the Kobaïan alternative is most vulnerable to sceptical assault. Vander’s slant is Aryan, as in Indo-European, as in secret cabal, as in medieval Order of Templars, themselves connected with Catharsism on several counts. Aryan ideologies have tended historically towards obfuscation and, on occasion, fatal misinterpretation. For example: Nietszche’s Super Man stuff, which was intended (in its original context) as an un-prejudicial blueprint for collective aspiration. Guidelines for getting Man out of his usual state of disorientation as a result of conflicting desires – those of ‘the flesh’ and those of ‘the spirit’. And one hardly needs to mention the utterly perverted Nazi exploitation of such philosophies. However, although Nietszche accepted the Aryan propagation of knowledge as inalienable historical fact, he didn’t pay as much attention to the Aryan as White Magician angle, which is where he and Vander disengage dramatically.

    If one’s going to take Magma at all seriously, the magic and mysticism stuff has to be accepted on its own terms. Whether it’s hopelessly idealistic and/or sincerely directed at working towards a better world is something you can decide in your own time. Its importance and complete integration into Vander’s ideology can’t be denied. It is as explained above, medievalist, and in addition personalised. But not exclusively. Instead, a good deal more open-armed than its avatars. Just who, for example, would the initial group of exiles from Earth be, and on what basis would they be selected? As far as Blasquiz is concerned it’s down to anybody who’d care to come along, whatever colour or creed. Courage and dedication to the White or Good are the only requirements to be met. Which isn’t exactly that discriminatory; the Kobaïan’s could be readily compared to any present day minority (political or social) struggling to assert their ideals. If you like, in dead simple expression, it’s all something to do with the, ’68 ethic (Love and Peace to All), which itself had plenty of religious and mythological outriders – the Glastonbury cultism and interest in Orientalism. All this wrapped up in intergalactic fuzz. Also, next to nothing to do with the post-war imperialism of sci-fi writers like Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke with their foundations, empires and mega-systems throughout the galaxies. Magma’s vision is rather different, more independently adventurous, a kind of crusade. It offers a fairly accurate prediction of how Magma themselves would be handled by critics and some audiences – with acerbic disinterest. A touch of self-willed martyrdom? Unlikely, more downright realism.

    Nonetheless, some would extend the authoritarian tag to Magma’s music as well as to their ideology, which itself springs from a separate, spiritualist inspiration. Yes, some of the material is militaristic – stuff like ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’. And why? Because (and it’s really this easily justified) Magma’s music is intended as a soundtrack or commentary in alignment with the unravelling of Vander’s tale. The Kobaïan’s fight, like most soldiers they march, even though their methods of combat are based on mind-strength. Like psyching out the (by definition) fat, mean, bourgeois straights with ‘good vibes’ – or whatever variation on that theme you remember once crediting. Conversely, just as much of the material is lyrical (several songs on the new record, much of ‘Köhntarkösz’, etc.) and/or cumulative, stretching up to complete release of tension. And there’s nothing objectively ‘wrong’ about percussive music per se. Think of Stravinsky (growth and celebration as in ‘Firebird’ and ‘The Rites of Spring’) or Bartok’s abrasive string quartets. In addition, Vander’s as much of a percussionist as he is a drummer, and if you investigate his favoured time signatures at all closely, you’ll note correspondence between them and any amount of contemporary jazz – from Ellington to Weather Report. It’s just too easy to hack up a fashionably provocative tangent, like the fascist angle. Too damn easy.

    Magma’s music is forceful because it’s attempting to put across an equally coherent and enduring mystical overview. Point taken, it’s not that readily assimilated or accepted, but a lot of the most sincerely intentioned music available finds itself denied a fair hearing in much the same way. An occupational hazard of moving into left-field and taking risks perhaps, also saddening.

    But, like I said, you decide. End of apologetics




  33. I haven’t publicly denied not liking “blacks” as you put it, because nobody asked the question – yes, I vehemently and absolutely deny that a person’s skin colour would make me like them less. I have attended marches and signed petitions against the BNP and won’t bother citing that I have friends of African-American and African-British origin (which I do), because that always feels rather weak to me.

    I don’t listen to (much) rap music because I don’t like the American “gangsta” lyrics any more than I like the celebration of British gangster culture. I don’t equate that to “Black Music”. If you read this blog regularly you’ll see that I feature artists from a multitude of ethnicities and backgrounds. In the last couple of weeks alone, I’ve featured Rihanna and Janelle Monae, both of whom, incidentally, feature rap breaks on their songs.

    Mel Gibson and Roman Polanski are famous. Magma are so not-famous that I hadn’t even heard of them until last year.

    I can’t speak for the motivations of Giorgio Gomelsky and Stella Vander, nor would I call them traitors to their people. Each individual is responsible for his or her own actions. I wouldn’t consider that either represents Jews as a race!
    Whoopi Goldberg defended Mel Gibson on the accusations of racism. She also defended Roman Polanski. Does it make me think that either is innocent of the accusations against them? No. Do I think she’s a “bad black person” or “bad woman”? No. Do I think less of her as an individual for defending the indefensible? Yes.

    He merely asked the crowd to “consider” voting for Le Pen? Oh, well that’s alright then! [/sarcasm]

    Re your ever-shifting positions on the effect of alcohol regarding the racist outbursts: I hold people responsible for their actions whether they are drunk or sober and whatever they have been through. Background information can be an explanation, but it’s not an excuse. You still have a choice.

    If I don’t need to justify or defend my subjective impressions to anybody, then what are we arguing about?

    I just noted that he had said and done things that were easily interpreted as racist, and that any responses I had read to the question of whether he had done those from a position of far-right beliefs had failed to dissuade me from assuming that he had those opinions. That has not changed.

    I don’t accept that his quote of the music being a “mirror” as a denial that any of the things I listed (use of swastikas, etc), was anything other than an admission of his own right-wing views.

    Your explanation from Ian McDonald, interesting, but not a quote from Christian Vander saying anything like “I loathe totalitarianism, far right thinking, oppression of all forms, denial of human rights and all things that would limit the free spirit of humankind.”

    You are not going to “win” this argument by posting in response to every post I make. You are not going to get the last word. We have got to over 30 comments and I am not persuaded. We could go to 50 comments or 100 comments or 300 comments and you will still not “win”.

    Walk away.

  34. Look, this is your blog. You’re obviously entitled to be as childish and as willful as you’d like. You’re also entited to delete all my posts and flag my IP or however it is that you ban users. I post here because debating is one of my favorite things to do. It’s an intellectual challenge no matter who sees it or who’s convinced by it. But there’s also a necessity to call bulls*it as you say on what amounts to slander.

    Back to Le Pen. Which part of “this is unconfirmed” don’t you understand? Which part of “this is one guy’s shaky memory that nobody else recalls” don’t you understand? Do you really think that of all the gigs Magma has played in France to an audience of lefties (since even you have never claimed that skinheads or even bouregois conservatives go to Magma shows) that this wouldn’t become instantly notorious if it did happen? It’s a conjecture that you insist on treating as fact. That’s intellectually dishonest.

    It’s also slander, plain and simple. Stop it, Princess.

    I can’t believe you wasted a second of your time defending why you don’t like rap music — as if that would be some sort of rational basis to believe you had an issue with black people. Sarcasameter on the blink?

    Now let me explain to you why this story would be so newsworthy if it were true. You may not have heard of Magma until last year, but that only comments on the quality of your assertion that you’re “a big fan of prog and experimental music.” Magma has an enormous reputation in prog circles, an enormous ouvre and a career spanning decades. They’re one of the original generation of prog bands who are still going strong and writing new material — not just a nostalgia reunion act like Yes. If it turned out that all these lefty prog fans had been listening to the music of a fascist or a Nazi for decades it would be an enormous scandal. Prog is still not exactly a beloved rock genre in many circles (witness the occasional reaction on The Nest), and the Shadenfreude would delight not a few music bigwigs.

    But the story simply doesn’t have legs. Everything you bring up about Vander has either an alternate, equally plausible explanation or else is mitigated by a mountain of evidence on the other side of the ledger. Remember, you’re not saying the guy has expressed a few racist opinions when he was drunk. You’re claiming this means he’s either an ideological fascist or a Nazi and that he encoded Hitlerian messages in his music to support those opinions rather than use them as any operatic composer would to embody evil.

    The Zess piece, which is essentially a long, off-the-drums Vander vocal solo, as I said sounded to me like it was sung in French. I have no French, but maybe you can check it out on YouTube and confirm this. If it were sung in French, it would obviously be quite impossible to sneak by any Hitler speeches …

    Obviously (or maybe not to you), when I called Giorgio and Stella “traitors to their people,” this was more rhetorical sarcasm. But you still have to fit that in your mind. Go back and re-read the whole paragraph Daevid Allen talked about this. And consider that Stella wasn’t doing a Whoopi and defending Vander in print one time, she — a Polish Jew — lived with and made music with him for 40 years. Is she a monster? And again — what about those Communists and anarchists who played in Magma? What was their deal with the Devil? Couldn’t have been money, because playing in Magma’s a notoriously cheap gig. Seems like you need an awful lot of Evil People around Vander to keep your case buttressed.

    It doesn’t matter whether you “accept” his view that music of Magma is a mirror, because it appears in your case to be objectively true regardless of your opinion. Here’s what you’re doing: You take a bundle of evidence (in his early 20s he displayed some Nazi regalia, he’s been know to go off on ugly rants when he’s had a few, he’s encoded Hitler slogans at the low point for humanity in his epic) and interpreted them in a worst-case manner that this means he is a Nazi or a Fascist. Then to seal the deal, you claim that because Vander hasn’t said a word to deny the worst things you’re thinking in your own head, that this amounts to conclusive proof that he is those worst things you think in your own head.

    This is the sine qua non, dictionary definition of a witch-hunt mentality. It is logically fallacious, it’s intellectually dishonest, it’s morally reprehensible and it has no place in decent music journalism. At the very least you need to at least consider and weigh in all those other factors that make a (IMHO) much more compelling case that while Vander may have some serious personal issues, he’s not a Nazi or Fascist.

    This is why in both our countries we have courts of law and an adversarial judicial tradition.

    Finally, you of course have a right to your opinion. If you had said this: “Look, I don’t care for Magma because what I’ve heard is way too martial and Teutonic (hey, I don’t like Wagner either) and that gutteral invented language of his sounds like Hitler’s own choir. Plus, I’m not going to support any artist who’s been known go off on racist rants and used to have Nazi stuff in his house. I dunno if that proves he’s a Nazi or a Fascist or what, but it’s enough for me. There’s plenty of other good music out there” I wouldn’t have been able to say a word in rebuttal. Nothing of what I just imagined you said is factually incorrect.

    But to go from there to claiming he is Nazi/Fascist because he didn’t somehow anticipate what you might be thinking and issue a custom-made denial according to your own specs is just flat-out bullsh*t.

    It means that you don’t have the guts to just state an opinion and leave it at that.


  35. Still here?

    Yes, I take a bundle of evidence (in his early 20s he displayed some Nazi regalia, he’s been know to go off on ugly rants when he’s had a few, he’s encoded Hitler slogans at the low point for humanity in his epic) and interpreted them to mean he is a Nazi or a Fascist. Then to seal the deal, I claim that because Vander hasn’t said a word to deny the worst things I’m thinking in my own head, that this amounts to proof that he is those worst things I think in my own head, because as I have said repeatedly before, the ones who aren’t fascists strongly deny being fascists.

    I already said that I liked the music, and never said that I had any sort of problem with the music sounding martial or Teutonic.

    “I am not going to support any artist who’s been known to go off on racist rants and used to have Nazi stuff in his house. I dunno if that proves that he’s a Nazi or a fascist or what, but it’s enough for me. There’s plenty of other good stuff out there.” That is what I put in my original post: I only tended to think that the “proof” offered that he wasn’t a fascist more proved that he was than wasn’t after you repeatedly posted those examples. He should have anticipated what I was thinking and issued a custom-made denial according to my specs on the occasions when he and his band were called to do so, repeatedly, in the 1970s.

    That is exactly it. I’m glad we understand each other.

  36. We’re getting closer, but it’s not quite time to light up the Cuban panatellas just yet and then start immediatly apace to indulge in a gleeful mutual orgy of Mel Gibson-bashing (I’ve hated that guy for years).

    You’re still stuck on the ridiculous idea that any corroborating evidence at all only confirms your beliefs. But you keep not dealing with stuff (which I’ll keep reiterating until you do). Again, what about the Commies and anarchists that Stella said were always welcome in Magma? What about the rest of European RIO and Zeuhl, a movement which Vander grandfathered and in which nobody suspects the least bit of rightism? You can maybe imagine Vander’s wife and the mother of his child keeping quiet despite her ethnicity and the horrible history of her nation and people with Hitler — but why a bunch of hard-left musicians who’d all croak on the spot if they were associated in any way with rightism, let alone Nazism or Fascism?

    Surely even you aren’t capable of twisting this evidence into just another thing that makes your point.

    Now whatever you think about the 70s rebuttals, the fact is they did suffice for underground music journalists and the public. This whole thing was a non-issue until about a year and a half ago when Manu Borghi, former Magma keyboardist (and a great soloist; it’s really a shame he’s no longer in the band) decided to go public with a Facebook chat to attempt to justify not only why he left the band, but also why he stayed in it for 20 years allegedly knowing what he did about Vander. This on its face is logically inconsistent, his motives are also questionable (his wife was pregnant and it’s well-known they were arguing with Vander over royalties and payment at the time they both left) and it also reeks of the worst kind of gutter-tactic score settling to violate someone’s confidence by making private mail public. Then all the issues were discussed in detail by German (one very articulate, fair-minded guy who really wanted to get to the bottom of Vander’s Nazi symbol appropriation), French, British, Belgian and American Magma fans who were shocked and horrified and wanted to get at the truth. After a month of intense discussion and several rebuttals from other band members, they came to a conclusion: There was nothing there. Vander has issues (don’t we all?), but there’s no evidence his music’s pushing a pro-Nazi message.

    I have no idea why you’re so insanely proud of being a logical disaster area, but it’s really kind of narcissistic. Who the hell are you to demand a rebuttal of the worst fantasies inside your own head? Seriously, think about it. And read The Crucible while you’re at it, Arthur Miller’s incredibly moving (tear-jerking, really) play about the Salem Witch Trials. You could also watch the movie with Wynona Rider and Daniel Day-Lewis, that is, if your oh-so-superior morality in these things won’t keep you from admiring the work of a convicted compulsive shoplifter. It’s probably her best role, truthfully.

    But let’s seriously examine this idea of yours that “the ones who aren’t fascists strongly deny being fascists” because it’s hardly necessarily true — when not out-and-out patent bulls*it. I don’t as a rule (heh)have my political arguments mistaken for being right-wing, let alone fascist, but misinterpretation is always possible, and if somebody accused me me of being fascist, my visceral, gut-level instant response would be “WTF??? Get out of my face!” I wouldn’t deign to address a charge like that, because to answer it at all is to imply that the accusation has some validity in the first place. It’s what students of rhetoric call a loaded question. Like “So when did you stop beating your wife?”

    On a gut level, I completely identify with Vander’s refusal to answer that question, especially since it was so easy to mistake MDK-era early-70s Magma for being “fascist” simply because of the black garb, the cult-like discipline of the band and the militaristic music. The question itself would indicate to Vander that the person asking it was a clueless idiot who took no time to dig beneath the surface and since s/he was probably hostile to the band to begin with … let them think we’re fascist! Now just because I viscerally identify with this reaction doesn’t mean I think it’s a prudent one or would act similarly if I were in Vander’s shoes. And if Magma had a PR staff budgeted by a major label, you could be sure that there would have been press releases declaiming fascism and saying that the members of Magma liked little kittens ‘n’ puppies and hated Hitler. But they didn’t. And Vander is as grandiose as you are, my dear, and simply doesn’t give a flying one for the general public opinion, since winning it over was impossible, anyway.

    But all you needed to do was listen to Vander’s lieutenant Klaus Blasquiz, as Ian McDonald did, to understand that the Kobaians practiced no racial discrimination between the citizens of Earth.


  37. You do realise that each and every time you respond to this post you are pushing it further up the Google rankings?

    Each and every response makes you look more ridiculous as you grab at ad hominem statements that make no sense, and straw man arguments that fall apart in a puff of wind.

    If I was talking to someone and found out that they had called someone an “oven dodger”, as Mel Gibson did to Winona Ryder, I wouldn’t want to spend time with them any more. If I was talking to someone and found out that they were caught shoplifting (as Winona Ryder did), it wouldn’t affect whether I wanted to be friends with them any more. There isn’t a hypocrisy there if I think that making racist statements is a “dealbreaker” and stealing is not a dealbreaker. I don’t sanction stealing, but it’s not high on my list of things that makes me think someone is a terrible person.

    My morality is not your morality. We’ve established that. Your continued persistence in posting here is not going to change that.

    “But you keep not dealing with stuff (which I’ll keep reiterating until you do). ”

    I’ve posted two or three times that the members of Magma who did not share Vander’s political beliefs reportedly argued with him about them. That a member of the band posted on Facebook that it was a factor in his leaving the band only confirms that, regardless of whatever other factors were involved in his publicising those arguments. I have addressed that part of the conversation. That part of the conversation is over.

    If other people were satisfied by the explanations, that is fine. I am not trying to make everyone agree with me. Only you are trying to change my opinion. I am not trying to change your opinion. That you would not “deign” to deny those accusations is your decision, but almost everybody else who has been accused of those sorts of things has vigorously and immediately denied it, so I logically assume any absolute failure to deny it as implicit admission. You do not have to follow suit. I’m not telling anyone to stop buying their records.

    Not everybody has to agree with you all the time. It’s alright for one of us to believe one thing and another to believe something else. This isn’t something you can win.

    Please, for God’s sake, give it a rest!

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