UPDATE: Phil Anselmo has published an apology.
As you probably heard, Phil Anselmo, former singer of Pantera (as well as Down and a bunch of other projects) decided to end a show at a tribute to Dimebag Darrel by yelling “White Power!” and giving what can only be described as a Hitler salute (a.k.a Roman salute). Since quite a few people called him out on it, he defended his actions by claiming that it was an inside joke, since he had been drinking white wine all night. As far as excuses go, I’ll be the first to say that it sounds pretty damn dodgy.
What some (obnoxious assholes) have called “Panteragate,” has taken some people to even investigate whether Phil was really drinking white wine that evening. This includes an 11-minute video by Machine Head’s Robb Flynn, as well as some reports by Metal Sucks and Metal Injection, all of whom take the heroic and brave stance of saying “dude, it’s not OK to say Heil Hitler.” We can all be thankful that in 2016 we can finally find people who are willing to condemn Nazism.
The last couple of days have been full of people trying to boost their pageviews by condemning Anselmo and to increase their progressive cred. Hell, Robb Flynn even went as far as adding this nugget to the description of his video (titled, for some reason, “Racism in Metal,” ):
But the truth is that the silence isn’t deafening.
The reason why it’s good that Phil decided to do this shit, whether he did it as a joke or not (although he does seem to be daft enough to think it’s funny, and still not understand why people have a problem with it) is because it created a discussion. I think it’s terrific that people take sides and give their opinions, even at the cost of small cliques developing and “lol ur a faggot” being said over and over and over.
As soon as the video of Anselmo surfaced, people started to discuss it. People took stances, they opposed each other, they passionately argued about it. Sure, it’s the internet, so a big chunk of the comments were probably trash, since this is not the perfect medium to have a debate, but the discussion was there.
People seem to be arguing against this gigantic strawman of the racist heavy metal world, without providing any evidence besides the fact that Phil Anselmo seems to be a bit of a cunt. The many metal publications covering this event keep complaining about how metal publications aren’t covering this event. Look at any of the “big” metal magazines out there; every single one of them is writing about this shit. And yet they all say it’s not being discussed (I’m looking at you Metal Injection, Loudwire Blabbermouth, Metal Sucks, Spin, Noisey, etc.)
Another problem that has arisen as a result of Anselmo’s shtick, however, is that people are questioning whether they can still listen to his music. “Is it OK if I still listen to Pantera?” seems to be the question in many people’s minds. Granted, they’re not the brightest people (you shouldn’t need someone else’s permission to enjoy something), but the question exists.
Well, the answer is that it’s up to you. Since our only experience from musicians and artists is via the creations they put out, we are often surprised to see that they have their own opinions on things, and that many of them are dumb as fuck. Iced Earth’s John Schaeffer takes the film Zeitgeist as gospel, Dave Mustaine is a crazy born-again Christian, Varg Vikernes is a self-professed racist and survivalist, and Gene Simmons says crazy shit every time he opens his mouth. Whether or not you are able to separate the person from the art is something that only you can decide.
While there are bands, like Arghoslent, whose ideologies play an essential role in the music, people like Anselmo and Mustaine create (or have created) music that seems to be independent of their own ideologies. This is hardly a unique situation to heavy metal. Salvador Dali was an alleged supporter of fascism, as were Karl Orff and Arno Breker, and Richard Wagner really had a problem with Jews. For many people this taints their works to a level that makes it impossible to enjoy them (this is why performing Wagner operas in Israel usually encounters angry protests); others see the work as independent from their creator. Once it’s out of the artist it no longer belongs to them, at least as far as their ideologies go.
Although I was never a Pantera fan, I sincerely hope that Phil Anselmo doesn’t get banned from shows due this. He deserves to be called out on it by the people who were offended by his words, and I think he owes an explanation as to what he was thinking when he did it. Beyond that, however, perhaps this is just another demonstration that paying attention to what is said by people whose talent (as big as it might be) is for playing music may not be the brightest move.