Legendary Californian hardcore punks Bad Religion enter the Trump era with their first new material since 2013's True North album, a mosh-friendly 150 second burst of upbeat agit-pop, speeding up the riff from London's Burning by The Clash, with sneaky references to the Solomon Burke soul classic Everybody Needs Somebody and of course the Who's mod anthem The Kids Are Alright.
Rather than a critique of alt-right politics or a call to arms against white supremacists, The Kids Are Alt-Right tackles the new wave of legitimised US fascism with ridicule - a dose of irony it would not understand, yet richly deserves. Frontman and academic Greg Graffin playfully puts together rhyming couplets that map America's socio-political landscape in 2018 using euphemistic references to Hitler's Nazis ("Jackboots crackin' on a polished floor" and "Pure hearts race on a crystal night") alongside the followers of Donald Trump in their natural habitat: "Red hats gathered in the liquor store". All topped off with a cheeky animated video that calls to mind Python-era Terry Gilliam.
There is, of course, a very serious side to the satire.
According to the organisation Hope Not Hate, the alt-right is "nothing more than a rebranding of fascism". While the alt-right is not one organisation and therefore can't be described as having a clear aim, it is characterised by a belief in traditional, Christian, family values and institutionalised racism designed to protect the purity of the white race, along with an opposition to liberal values like women's rights and LGBT rights.
An article by Slate magazine in 2016 attributes the first use of the term alt-right to historian Paul Gottfried in 2008. Soon after that, it was picked up by Richard B Spencer, leader of a white supremacist think tank called the National Policy Institute. An article from the New York Times in 2016 likens one of Spencer's speeches to a Nazi rally, culminating with chants of "Hail victory!", the English translation of the Nazis' "Sieg Heil!".
People on the Right wing and the Left generally agree on some issues – that we should be able to walk safely in clean streets, that our rights should be protected by law (although there is much debate over the definition of those rights), that children should be nurtured and educated, and the environment protected for their future. What they don't agree on is how those aims should be achieved. The Left believes in spending more money on public services and giving greater regulatory powers to the government, whilst the Right believes in the minimum possible government interference in society required to maintain order at the lowest possible cost. As the name indicates, the alt-right is not the same as the Right.
The concept of the alt-right entered common parlance during the 2016 US presidential election campaign. Chief among the alt-right mouthpieces employed by the Trump camp was Steve Bannon, a seasoned political adviser to numerous right-wing and neo-fascist groups around the world, from the National Front in France to the Alternative for Germany party. Bannon was chief executive of Trump's election campaign and went on to be appointed White House Chief Strategist - losing his job only after the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally ended in violence and Mr Trump finally attempted to distance himself from his most outspoken white supremacist advisor.
Angela Nagle in The Atlantic described Unite the Right as "devastating for the movement" in an article in December 2017 about the disenfranchised white male called The Lost Boys. But she warned that "the young men who found brotherhood and a sense of purpose in the movement have not disappeared".
We haven't yet heard what Greg Graffin et al have to say about this song - as is the way in the modern music business, the song appeared overnight on music streaming services without a flurry of publicity and interviews, unheralded outside social media. On Twitter, @DoctorGraffin described it simply as "a new song for an old problem".
But is the title of this song a misnomer? The March For Our Lives rally showed that liberal young people are prepared to stand against the right-wing establishment to fight for their future, demanding - albeit unsuccessfully, thus far - the introduction of gun control in the United States of America following a mass shooting in a Florida school earlier this year. It's easy to overstate the influence of any movement spearheaded by young people. They have little political influence, given that they are the section of society least likely to use their vote, if they are old enough to have a vote, and they do not occupy positions of economic or political power.
But one day those people will be older, and we can must believe that the opposing point of view, vigorously proposed by Hoax with their track The Kids Aren't Alt-right doesn't prove to be an alternative fact.
Bad Religion featured in Music to Fight Evil last year with their song Fuck Armageddon... This Is Hell.
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About the curator: Jon Ewing
After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.
4 March 2021
A high-speed combination of punk chorus and ska verse, Mustard Plug’s singalong Unite and Fight is just one of a sensational 28 tracks on the Ska Against Racism album compiled by Bad Time Records in 2020 to raise funds for non-profit organisations working to improve education, opportunity and justice for black people in the USA and beyond. With a barrelling momentum and a repudiation of violent action, this uplifting song is a call to arms for those of us committed to disarmament.
8 September 2020
Celebrating the determination of “one hundred thousand teenagers” to take over the streets of London to save their future from calamity, KIDSTRIKE! by novelist and singer songwriter JB Morrison – aka Jim Bob – is taken from the UK Top 40 album Pop Up Jim Bob released in August 2020 and inspired by the real life activism of countless young activists. But the song is run through with a rueful recognition of the singer’s own fading urge to save the world.
28 July 2020
Inspired in part by the fatal shooting in New York of a ten-year-old black boy by a white plain-clothes policeman, the audacious centrepiece of Stevie Wonder’s experimental 1973 album was a seven-and-a-half-minute meditation on the brutality of black America: Living for the City…