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March 30, 2006
They say that admission is the first step towards recovery. So let me shout it aloud from the rooftops that I am addicted. I update my profile constantly, I am forever blogging and reading other people's blogs. I am debating over pointless issues on the music forums. I am reading the profiles of my friends just to see the latest comments they have received. Clicking the refresh button has become such a habit I fear I am starting to get a repetitive strain injury. Yes, it's true, I am guilty as charged. I am spending too much time on MySpace.

Just the other day, I caught myself referring to this peculiar little website as a bona fide means of maintaining a friendship; when my girlfriend inquired as to whether or not I had phoned a friend I replied that no, I hadn't, but I had sent him a message on MySpace. And with that I became suddenly perplexed by my previous actions. Has communication between people (or, perhaps, just me and my friends) dwindled to a point where meeting face-to-face is replaced by a quick exchange on the telephone, which is replaced by e-mail, which in turn is replaced by MySpace messaging? Has this upstart Internet phenomenon become a genuine means through which I can maintain a friendship?

Dubbed by somebody cleverer than I as "the MTV of the Net Generation," MySpace was founded by Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson as a friendship connection site in the vein of former flavor of the month Friendster. But where Friendster floundered MySpace has flourished, gaining popularity due in large part to its high-tech platform through which small, independent bands can build up a devoted online fan base without ever hitting the road.

The whole phenomenon of MySpace has yielded rather spectacular results; one only has to look at the example of the Arctic Monkeys, who stormed to the top of the British charts with their debut single "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor," due almost entirely to the word-of-mouth buzz generated by their MySpace page. The band was promptly signed to a prominent UK label and now find themselves on the verge of breaking out in the US.

Beyond the music content, MySpace offers picture galleries, blogs, professor-rating facilities, classified ads and forums where the hot, burning issues of the day - like whether Good Charlotte are "punk" or not - can be dissected. The site is barely two years old and already it has over 50 million registered users, a number that is growing daily as the site's popularity grows. MySpace is also now officially more popular than Google and was recently purchased by News Corp., a media company owned by Dark Lord of the Underworld and industry mogul Rupert Murdoch, a man whose name has become synonymous with the notoriously right-wing FOX News in the US and The Sun newspaper in the UK. The deal was closed at a price tag of $580 million, which pretty much ensures that DeWolfe and Anderson (and their offspring) never have to work again.

But scratch beneath the surface and there is a much darker side to MySpace than may be readily apparent. The site has already encountered controversy and police attention due to teenagers using the site to post personal contact information which sexual predators can use to their advantage, causing a flurry of concern amongst parents. The latest fit of concern over the content of MySpace pages is in response to the darker side of the site which hasn't received a lot of media attention: the growing subversive presence of extreme right-wing racists and neo-Nazis.

Thanks to the plentiful supply of spare time that I have accumulated (aided by my self-confessed addiction), I have managed to trawl through MySpace looking at a variety of profiles and have stumbled across a great many oddities on my journeys. The growth of a neo-Nazi subculture on the site is rather alarming in itself, but it appears that the site is being used as a recruiting tool for right-wing fanatics like the British National Party (BNP) in the UK or Aryan Nation affiliates in the US.

MySpace user Alex (whose notoriety is established by the account name of illbebackifyoubanme) boasts of his support for the BNP, a much-loathed party known for their extremely draconian stands on issues of immigration and race who are making alarming inroads in areas of Britain where racial tension is at its most rife. Alex's profile is decked out with Union Jack flags, racist imagery and propaganda for the BNP that sit right alongside, bizarrely enough, a video of "SOS" by ABBA, with the curious elfin face of Bjorn Ulvaeus looking most out of place alongside the imagery adjacent to him. Under the 'would like to meet' section of his profile, our friend has written: "nationalists and decent women." Ladies, form an orderly line.

Chris, meanwhile, gives us a visual image of the typical skinhead, his profile picture showing him with the de rigueur shaved head and Doc Martens boots. Another user, English Warrior, states that he is an "English skinhead from working class roots" who is "nationalistic and proud" because "we used to have an empire for Christ's sake, so its (sic) my right." While most neo-Nazis emphasize their nationalistic views in an attempt to disguise prejudice with patriotism, others deny that nationalism necessarily means racism or neo-Nazism. Take the spiky-haired Misfit Of Society for example, who declares that "we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children," quantifying this with a bizarre denial that "I AM NOT A NAZI OR A RACIST." To drive home the point he signs off his comments with a signature of "white power."

While the UK seems to have an abnormal number of lugheads, it isn't just in Britain that this most virulent subculture exists. Kasper of Indianapolis states "if you are not white then do not fucking talk to me," while New Yorker Stronger Than Before (who says he is 'conceited and arrogant because I know I am better than most people') has his profile decked out with Norse mythology (which is closely linked to white supremacist ideology) and states his occupation as "homicidal maniac." He blogs about what it means to be a "true Aryan," including this gem: "A true Aryan is someone who upholds the noble, civilized values of honor, of loyalty, of duty to the folk, and who strives to live by these values. A true Aryan is thus a person who is fair, rational, tolerant and just." Not bad for a homicidal maniac who elsewhere declares his hatred of Jewish people. His blog is full of tired racial theory and the usual hate-speak found throughout the profiles of these people.

An even more extreme example is Californian 21-year old Josh, who states that he is "white and lives in one of the most disgusting states of the USA: Mexifornia" (oh, see what he did there, you just can't teach wit like that!) and tells us that what he "realy (sic) wants" (to which Ginger Spice replies: Tell me what you want, what you really, really want) is for "whites to stand up and actually think about what they are doing by letting their sons and daughters mix with scum." This delightful creature prominently displays the usual Nazi regalia on his profile page, including a picture of a Nazi rally, plus the disturbing image of a blonde child doing the Nazi salute (with the caption "Tomorrow belongs to him, if you have the guts to fight for it"). I don't think MySpace's founders had the likes of Josh in mind when they created the site, nor did they expect to see the music content used so vigorously by right-wing neo-Nazis - look at Josh's musical tastes and you will see his love of bands like Ethnic Cleansing, Midtown Bootboys and my personal favorite, The Angry Aryans. Lock up your daughters, the Angry Aryans are in town!

A nice but often annoying tool the site has is the ability to have a song by your favorite (or otherwise) artist playing in the background while people browse your profile. For example, my page might be set to play "Love On Your Side" by The Thompson Twins. Ahem. The skinheads and neo-Nazis of course use this aspect of functionality to spread their affection for bands such as the infamous British neo-Nazi band Skrewdriver, while many also, bizarrely, profess a love for bands that have unilaterally condemned racism, such as The Specials and Madness, making for a rather jarring juxtaposition. They also largely love movies like American History X and Romper Stomper, films about neo-Nazis, alongside movies about football hooligans for the British-based skinheads. A Clockwork Orange is another frequent favorite among this clan, and one begins to wonder if the intellectual merit of such films is simply ignored as the skinheads delight in the scenes of violence and torture, viewing films such as American History X as a celebration of their lifestyle rather than a condemnation of it.

Another curious profile is that of a company called Aryan Wear who implement the tagline "killer style" on their page. Aryan Wear boast a delightful, family-friendly range of neo-Nazi attire, from t-shirts with the yellow smiley face complete with Hitler moustache to beanie hats emblazoned with "über alles" to the usual boots and braces so beloved by this curious breed of people. Aryan Wear's current reading material, just to point out, is Mein Kampf.

The infiltration of racists into an online community so heavily focused on young people is quite clearly an unhealthy situation, but one that seems to lack an immediate solution. The first problem is that MySpace, by its very nature, is a forum through which like-minded people can share interests and exchange opinions, presumably any opinions. With the bulk of the website's users, the most heated debates do not extend beyond two suburban emo boys quarreling over whether Fall Out Boy are better than Dashboard Confessional, but in these instances of white supremacists, the potential for an outlet such as MySpace takes on a far more sinister context, easily becoming a forum through which ugly, inbred Neanderthals can espouse a culture of hatred, with favored maxims such as "white power" littering their pages.

But belief is one thing, and recruitment is another, and the most alarming aspect of this surge in racist blogging is the fact that these people are using "community" pages like MySpace to befriend and influence others. Looking back at Alex, he of the love of "nationalists and decent women," we see he is quite the stud among the ladies, drawing in several curious-looking girls for chat about music, university life, films, clubbing and of course taking a firmer stand on immigration.

It is apparent that action is being taken against members such as the ones highlighted here. MySpace has a very small staff and therefore the site is pretty much self-policed by its members. The fact that our racist friends Alex and Chris both comment on their banning indicate that MySpace's members aren't necessarily as dumb as they may appear. But, alarmingly, both indicate their insistence upon returning. Just as in society in general, the racist can be temporarily removed from the platform, 'banned' from a relatively harmless website, but it does not eradicate their twisted and harmful values, nor does it stop them from coming back.


---
NOTE: Although regularly infiltrated by white supremacists and other scumbags, mySpace makes a concerted effort to police its content and regularly deletes profiles of suspicious members. At the time of publication the member pages linked in this article were active, but may have since been deleted.

SEE ALSO: www.myspace.com
SEE ALSO: www.un.org/WCAR/
SEE ALSO: www.internationalanswer.org
SEE ALSO: www.endracism.org
SEE ALSO: www.racismnoway.com.au

--
Ryan Thomas
A contributing writer from Washington state, Ryan Thomas recently relocated to the UK, where he continues to contribute to LAS.

See other articles by Ryan Thomas.

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