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Basslines and Protest Signs

Basslines and Protest Signs Part 66: Iced Earth and Pink Ariels

Ariel Pink (photo: Amy Hope Dermont)

The footage of the insurrection at the Capitol Building in DC on January 6 will likely live in the nation’s memory for decades. Books will be written, movies will be made. The news has been swamped with stories about the treasonous criminals who entered the Capitol that day — images of traitors wearing buffalo horns and Camp Auschwitz shirts, carrying confederate flags and handcuffs. It’s all been draining, necessarily so. 

But two stories came out of it that forced music fans to rethink allegiances. The first has to do with indie musician Ariel Pink, who travelled to DC that day to show support to Trump. By all accounts, particularly his own, Pink didn’t enter the Capitol Building. He says that he attended the rally, listened to Trump (and presumably his cronies) speak, then went back to his hotel and went to sleep.

Predictably, Pink has suffered some backlash. Indie rock fans don’t tend to sit on the right, so his mere presence at the event has caused fans to seek to distance themselves from him. The climax occurred when his label, Mexican Summer, dropped Pink. Pink then appeared on Fox News with perennial nightmare Tucker Carlson to weep about what he perceives to be an unfair reaction from the left, unsurprisingly waxing lyrical about “cancel culture.”

Mexican Summer posted on social media:

“Due to recent events, Mexican Summer and its staff have decided to end our working relationship with Ariel Rosenberg AKA Ariel Pink moving forward.”


“I don’t advocate for violence at all, in any walk of life,” Pink told Carlson. “I was there for a peaceful rally, and that’s all it was to me. But there was no fact-checking or anything like that. 130 articles went out in the course of 24 hours, and the backlash was just — they succumbed to cancel culture… I can’t tour either at this point, so it pretty much just leaves me destitute and on the street.”

OK, let’s just take a step back and offer some context. While it’s undeniably a blow to be dropped by any label, it’s not as if Pink was signed to a major and topping the charts. Mexican Summer is an indie. So the notion that the actions left Pink “destitute and on the street” is silly. He has name recognition — it’s not beyond him to self-release music online, or find another indie label that doesn’t mind his right wing views. 

But it does raise some interesting questions. Assuming Pink is being honest when he says that he attended the rally then left before any of the violence happened, then he didn’t actually commit any crimes. Mexican Summer is a private entity and can choose who they sign and who they drop — that’s their prerogative — but the question of whether Pink deserved to be punished for simply attending a rally is one that will likely be debated for some time.

Iced Earth (photo: Florian Stangl)

There can be no debate about the second musician involved in January 6’s events; Jon Schaffer of power metal band Iced Earth didn’t only enter the Capitol Building, he did so wearing an Oath Keepers cap, and he reportedly sprayed bear mace (stronger than pepper spray) at law enforcement officers. 

The Oath Keepers are a far right militia organization who successfully recruit former military personnel and disguise their white supremacist activities as “defending the constitution.” They are, quite frankly, wretched souls. So Schaffer sporting one of their caps is enough for this writer to be done with him. But there was more.

After being placed on the FBI’s “most wanted” list, Schaffer turned himself in and was arrested over the weekend. The FBI in Indianapolis, where Schaffer is from, posted a statement that read:

“Jon Schaffer, Columbus, IN, has been arrested in connection to Jan 6 incident at the U.S. Capitol. Schaffer faces 6 charges including engaging in an act of physical violence in a Capitol building. Schaffer was allegedly among rioters who sprayed Capitol police with ‘bear spray.’”

Fans of Iced Earth already knew that Schaffer held conservative views. Frankly, many metal musicians do. Our own personal line to draw is how OK we are with them, as they go further right. But many fans who know Schaffer as a “constitutional conservative” were shocked by the Oath Keepers cap. That’s a firm statement made by the guitarist.

But even without the cap and bear spray, the fact that he entered the building made him a criminal. This is a very different situation to that of Ariel Pink. It’s also not the first time Schaffer has attended pro-Trump rallies. In November, he was in DC to protest the election.

“My name’s Jon Schaffer, I’m from Indiana,” he said that day. “A group of thugs and criminals hijacked this country a long time ago. And now they’re making their big move, and it’s not gonna happen. . . People need to wake up and snap out of the Matrix, because they’re going down. They made the move, they’re messing with the wrong people here, trust me on that. And we needed it to be open like this. Open fraud. Open theft. Because now we see you, and you’re going down, mark my words.”

Fuck him. And his lies.

But we have to end on a positive. And we got one in the shape of another metal band, Sacred Reich. The Phoenix group, led by Phil Rind, has always pushed progressive issues since forming in the ’80s (despite the “Reich” in their name which could suggest the opposite). On January 11 they posted:

Sacred Reich (photo: Macoxick)

“If you can’t see the difference between BLACK LIVES MATTER standing up for unarmed black people being shot by police for decades across this country and armed white nationalist domestic terrorists storming the Capitol to stop an election in support of a dumb, racist, lying President then by all means UNFOLLOW, UNLIKE, DON’T SUPPORT…WHATEVER. It doesn’t matter. We stand for the truth. We support BLM, because BLACK LIVES MATTER AS MUCH AS WHITE LIVES. We support any and all that stand up to fascism no matter where it rears its ugly head. We support the workers, the unions, the organizers, the activists fighting for working and oppressed people around the globe. We stand with the LGBTQ community and all marginalized people who have the right to be and live exactly as they choose. We oppose corrupt governments and the politicians who line their pockets at the expense of the people they are supposed to represent. Any fucking questions?”

Don’t be like Iced Earth. Be like Sacred Reich.

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