If you believe Vice, there is already reason to distance yourself from the next counterculture conquering the unknown parts of the internet.
In what is becoming an almost humorous theme in the twenty-teens, the rebellious liberals who dismantled the prevailing moral right ideology of their time are themselves enforcing a topsy-turvy version of moralism. According to Vice’s musical sub-site, Thump, “Producers are turning synthwave and vaporwave into fascist propaganda.
Suddenly, it seems like anything that features Internet culture and Trump in the same virtual room constitutes a complete loss of the idea to radical alt-right Nazism. Who else but the punk rock generation to turn a wagging finger on millennials?
What is the indication that drove Vice’s journalists to indict the ironic trend? Fake news. Admittedly fake news, in fact. Thump’s writers Penn Bullock and Eli Kerry site “Rave News,” a common source of click-bait articles around the electronic music scene, and warn of growing fascist undertones in the budding musical scene.
The site’s lack of credibility doesn’t stop Thump from using Rave’s claim of a fascist meet up in Canada for vaporwave producers to bait their article. After admitting the meeting of Nazi’s never actually took place, Thump goes on to seriously quote the Daily Stormer and 4chan for secret Nazi plans to corrupt the youth.
What’s most painful is the irony. The internet is full of satire and absurdism, something not lost on meme culture and the trolls of the world.
Vaporwave and its sub-genres are symptoms of a larger pseudo-dadaist idea of meaninglessness that has taken control over the internet. Calling back to the rejections of reality popularized in the wake of World War I, the hipsters and punks associating with vaporwave aren’t trying to be taken seriously, much the opposite.
Vaporwave, synthwave, naturewave, and the like are derivatives of a soft trap, calming, elevator music-like productions that combine melodic sound with the ridiculous and strange to make nostalgic feeling beats.
The musicians behind it strive for a handful of listens on the internet and thrive in obscurity. Meme culture has, for some time, had a focus in the post-ironic.
The imagery of the movement is eclectic. Greek statues, crappy computers, Tron and Fiji water, stapled together over a grain filter. Wave aesthetic ironically depicts the ridiculous together with the past to show a form of disconnect or rebellion against modernity.
The meme culture of vaporwave seems mostly lost on the previous generation. By featuring fascism and Trump alongside Windows 95 and Internet Explorer, your hipster friend is not attempting to lull you into Nazi propaganda, no matter what the trolls on 4chan’s /pol/ are saying. Is your perception of Internet Explorer made any rosier by depictions like this?
There are Nazi fringe movements on the internet, this much is true, but they are smaller than they would have you believe. The favorite growth tactic of the modern Alt-Right isn’t to mix their imagery in with hip trends and brainwash your children like some paranoid movie from the cold war.
Nazi soundboards, like the Daily Stormer, featured as evidence by Vice here, actively jump on any opportunity given to them to appropriate pop culture, in an almost self-aware way.
These are the people who made their website tout YouTuber “Pewdiepie” as a hate symbol after a Wall Street Journal article came out slandering him. The Stormer’s background changed again to feature the very writers who wrote the hit piece when the mainstream media pointed out their newfound love for the reactor. Even the Nazis get the joke. The Twenty-teens are avant-garde.
Nazis exist, but we are giving them power.
The hard Alt-right is a group that lives on the internet but rarely takes themselves seriously, in a world that doesn’t. When liberal outlets, newly regaining power of the social majority, start to moralize countercultures for their popularity among fringe groups they are only catalyzing fascists to be louder in those areas.
As Thump correctly cites, much of synthwave and vaporwave is satirical and so is much of the snarky pro-Trump imagery.
Don’t let people give away trends to Nazis. Don’t feed the trolls. Giving up on Pepe the frog and the “thankful” reacts on Facebook only encourages the edge-lords on the internet and gives actual Nazi’s ammunition. As Thump puts it, “Refracting a nostalgia for the 80s and a love of capitalism through the prism of Trump, fashwave projects an image of a looming dystopia, one that grows a little more plausible by the day.”
The dystopic presentation of reality and Trump in vaporwave and synthwave is no accident. The way that the once hip, Vice, gives credit to “fashwave” shows history repeats itself.
The history of a conservative moral majority enforcing itself on Americans is playing itself out again in the US. But now we replace words like “ungodly” with “racist,” and “family friendly” with “tolerance.” Punks and counter-culture will never die. They are part of an active democratic culture.
The ability to be subversive cannot be lost just because neo-conservatives call themselves liberal and tolerant. At the end of the day, don’t be part of the joke. Don’t give Nazis vaporwave.