Nabisco Embraces White Power

Friday, May 19, 2006

Originally published: Thursday, February 23, 2006

I'm pretty sure this is a reflection of America's greater cultural entropy, but watching television is becoming surreal. Copy writing has truly gone to hell. Advertisers now get away with statements like "Titanium: The world's sharpest metal." This is bad enough, but when Nazi punks are pimping chocolate chip cookies, something is deeply amiss. I nearly choked on my racially tolerant Oreos and milk last night, when I heard the refrain, "Chips Ahoy. Oi. Oi. Oi." My husband came out of the kitchen with a stricken look on his face and said, "What's next? Enjoy a Triscuit and go burn down a darkie's house?" So far the "Oi" shouting cookies are not thrashing across my screen in Doc Martens with red shoe laces, but I fear that's next.


Curmudgette said...

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Anonymous said...

You have no idea what you are talking about. Oi has nothing to do with racism. It is a distinct working class punk scene unto it's own and is totally inappropriate to sell cookies for christ's sake.

Curmudgette said...

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Curmudgette said...

Oi has nothing to do with racism. -- Anonymous

Nothing you say? You might want to let this guy know that, because he seems to think it's a rallying cry for the "white race."

When Skinheads gathered at the giant protest against Mexican immigration at San Ysidro, California, the term Oi was shouted as a kind of rallying cry, as illegal-aliens were chased back. The war-cry punctuated that We Are Skinheads and You Are Unwanted Aliens, all at once.

You might also want to spin up these nice folks in New Paltz, because the "Oi Oi" graffitti is scaring the hell out of them.

True, Oi did not start out as Nazi identifier. But it didn't take long for fascist groups to begin co-opting it, along with so much of skinhead culture. Here's my brief chronology.

The problem begins in the 1970s as the Oi sound is developing. As per Wikipedia:

The general ideology of the Oi! movement in British punk rock was a sort of populism, generally working class oriented....

The first bands which could truly be considered Oi!! held to this populism, but it tended to be much less articulate than the Clash or Jam. Bands like the Angelic Upstarts, The 4-Skins, Anti-Pasti, The Cockney Rejects and others had a decidedly working class populist slant, reflecting frustrations with class bias in the United Kingdom. This ideology was articulated and codified by writer Garry Bushell, out of motives that have been widely considered to be self-serving, as Bushell rode the Oi! wave to become a media celebrity and TV critic.

Neo-fascist organizations like the National Front picked up on the Oi! movement and tried to manipulate it for their own ends, with bands like Skrewdriver (whose initial material was not racist) and singer/guitarist Steve Hall. This tarnished the Oi! movement with a reputation for racism, which unfairly tarnished acts that were not racist or blatantly anti-racist, leading to the breakups of many bands. For example, Slaughter and the Dogs, who had Jewish members, split up because of unfair associations with Nazi skinhead activity which were associated with the entire genre.

Decent, non-racist Oi bands find it increasingly difficult to get gigs and recording contracts because they are beset by Nazi fans. The evolving racist Oi music, however, develops into a cottage industry, along with other musical forms such as "hatecore."

Certain Oi! bands developed an extensive skinhead following which they were unable to shake even when they desired to do so, especially SHAM '69, the Angelic Upstarts and the Cockney Rejects. Skinheads began appearing at their concerts shouting fascist slogans and starting fights with the non-skinhead punks in the audience. The Oi! movement as a whole, though mostly non-racist, rejected criticism of their racist followers because this was seen as interference by the outside "middle-class establishment." Overtly skinhead Oi! bands such as the 4skins began to appear.

In the late 70s, the Rock against Racism initiative in Britain succeeded in uniting most of the punk movement against the skinhead fringe and against Britain's National Front, a rapidly growing neo-Nazi political party. As more and more Oi! concerts increasingly led to violent skinhead attacks and riots in the early 1980s, police began to shut down Oi! Concerts and record companies refused to produce new Oi! records.

The National Front responded in the early 1980s by attempting to harness skinhead music for their own purposes. They started their own record company, White Noise Records, and published a series of magazines devoted to overtly racist music. They particularly championed the band "Skrewdriver", led by Ian Stuart Donaldson, a long-time NF activist convicted of a racist attack on an elderly black man. At the same time, racist music began to appear elsewhere as the skinhead movement spread to Germany, the US, and Scandanavia, as well as Australia. Certain alternative record companies in France and Germany began issuing racist records.

In 1981 the "Dead Kennedys" include the iconic track "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" on their album "In God We Trust, Inc."

...You still think swastikas look cool
The real nazis run your schools
Teachers, businessmen and cops
In a real fourth reich you'll be the first to go

Nazi punks
Nazi punks
Nazi punks—Fuck Off!...

It is one of the first hardcore albums Curmudgette buys. The song is emblematic of the internal conflict in the early American punk scene, which, like the British scene, attracts many fascist and violent elements.

In 1988 Geraldo brings "Young Hate Mongers," into thirteen million homes. The show profiles neo-Nazi skinheads, black and Jewish leaders, and a couple who say they were attacked and terrorized by skinheads. A brawl breaks out. Geraldo proves he can really throw down, but gets his nose broken by a chair. As far as the mainstream is concerned, skinhead=white supremacist, from that point on. The voices of non-racist skinheads all over the world are drowned out by a media frenzy. Curmudgette's husband notes that non-racist skinheads in his acquaintance stop referring to themselves "skinhead, but not racist," and begin describing themselves as punks "who have no hair." But not all skinheads are unhappy that the skinhead look, music, and other trappings are now firmly established in the public mind as symbols of "white power." Nazi skinheads are thrilled.

Skinheads, then, became a household word. Movies began to be made, documentaries filmed and books written. Numbers grew, interest heightened and Internet activity eventually burgeoned. Communist, anarchist and minority groups began to label Skinheads as their number-one enemies, trying, in vain, to shut Skinheads out of the news or off of the air. In one particularly memorable appearance, a Skinhead called Oprah Winfrey a "monkey" to her face and stormed off her show. The Negress rejoined that she would "never have a Skinhead on my show again," but it was too late. The news-media barrier had already been broken. Winfrey, also, claimed that she "couldn't wait to get out of" Forsyth County, the all-white Georgia enclave from which she had staged an abortive broadcast, which had generated the largest uprising against the Civil-Rights Bill in a generation.

Palasch's appearance on the Larry King Show finally established Skinheads as a force to be reckoned with, one which could be neither ignored nor put down -- neither by punches being thrown nor insults being hurled...

Flash forward to the present day, when some ad executive attempts to be hip by resurrecting images of an earlier punk scene and penning the jingle, "Chunky Chips Ahoy. Oi. Oi. Oi." Ads begin appearing on broadcast television with stomping claymation cookies, stereotypical punks, and an English bobby, who says, "No, no, no. Not punky. Chunky." It's a ridiculous ad, with layers of what one hopes are unintended subtext. Your humble Curmudgette is attacked by thin-skinned skins for pointing out the absurdity.