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'Hatecore' uses music to lure angry white youth

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Five years ago, I interviewed a young racist who called himself George Eric Hawthorne. He was the lead singer of Rahowa, then the most influential "hatecore" band in the country.

When he wasn't inciting knuckleheads and other assorted losers with Nazi salutes at his band's concerts, Hawthorne was handling his duties as the founder of Resistance Records -- the world's largest "White Power" music label -- with complete and utter ineptitude. And thank God for that.

Tax problems and a stint in prison for assault knocked Hawthorne out of the racist limelight for a while. Unfortunately, Resistance Records, which was on the brink of insolvency, was rescued at the last moment by William Pierce, the wealthy founder of the neo-Nazi old boys network called the National Alliance.

Pierce wanted to turn the label into a profitable venture and a more effective recruiting tool for reaching out to disaffected white youth. He has succeeded at both.

Regular readers of my colleague Dennis Roddy's column are familiar with Pierce's antics, most notably his authorship of "The Turner Diaries" under the nom de plume Andrew McDonald.

Pierce/McDonald was Timothy McVeigh's favorite writer. "The Turner Diaries," a novel in which FBI headquarters are blown up with a fertilizer bomb, inspired McVeigh's actions in Oklahoma City a year before I interviewed Hawthorne.

I remember thinking how obnoxious Hawthorne was. I felt sorry for him and wondered if he'd amount to anything that didn't smell quite as bad. White Power politics is a tiresome ideology for anyone with half a brain. Unlike most of the racist skinheads who populate this region, Hawthorne at least sounded like he had a few brain cells to spare.

Turns out I was right about Hawthorne being smarter than he was letting on. The former hatemonger turned up in the middle of "Inside Hate Rock," a VH1 News Special that began airing on the cable music channel last night.

The Canadian now goes by his less "American" sounding birth-name George Burdi. After having a Saul-on-the-Damascus-road experience while in prison, the 30-something Burdi renounced the racial hatred that had distorted his personality since he was a teen-ager.

Burdi tore up his copy of "Mein Kampf," made a clean break with Rahowa, hooked up with a beautiful East Asian woman and now fronts a multi-racial band called Novacosm that includes two very cool-looking black guys with dreadlocks. The chorus of every one of Novacosm's songs features Burdi warbling "love, love, love." If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't believe it.

"Inside Hate Rock" also explores the elderly Pierce's attempts to keep the record label Burdi started in 1993 true to its racist roots. Resistance Records plays a pivotal role in the propagation of racial hatred among a small, but volatile, cross-section of alienated working-class white people.

The documentary isn't sensationalistic. There's no attempt to inflate the numbers of those who believe the ideology of Pierce and his demented ilk beyond the tens of thousands who buy the music on a regular basis. As a genre, "hatecore" is a commercially negligible, though growing presence on the underground music scene.

But it's a relief to find out that even the biggest stars on the racist music circuit have to keep their day jobs. None of the major record labels, despite a history of mercenary behavior when it comes to profiting from the next big thing whatever it might be, is sniffing around for a "crossover" fascist.

Still, a commentator on "Inside Hate Rock" warns that racism's musical prophets aren't so ideologically wedded to punk and metal that they aren't willing to experiment with other genres like country, folk, classical and even hip-hop to win over the hearts and minds of white youth.

White fascists trying to rap will quickly have their gnawing sense of inferiority confirmed. When it comes to putting black folks down, nobody can top the misogynists and fake gunslingers who already populate the gangsta rap genre.

The purveyors of "hatecore" have marketed their message about as well as they possibly can. Fortunately, their failure of imagination will keep their numbers small and manageable.

But it's only a matter of time before a clever hatemonger comes along and does some something really imaginative -- like purchase controlling shares in BET. Sadly, having white racists in charge of "Black Entertainment Television" would only improve that incompetent cable network's programming.

Tony Norman's e-mail address is: tnorman@post-gazette.com.

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