Triumph of the Shrill
Scans from Iceage’s Dogmeat zine
In May, VICE bestowed Album of the Month status on New Brigade, Iceage’s debut LP. Every other magazine and website that covered music followed suit, acting as if the Danish teenage four-piece were the sweetest little princes in the make-believe Land of Music, and that everyone with any taste should bow before their infallible tunes.
In the beginning, critics like Danish music journalist Martin Finnedal attributed Iceage’s success to the band’s inexperience. “The original fascination came from the fact that they’re from nowhere, with no real idea of what they’re doing,” he told me. “Iceage is famous because of their innocence and youth.”
On June 25, Magic Muscle Media, an irrelevant and anonymous blogger, posted an essay titled “Chic Racism Elevates Hardcore Band Iceage to Hipster Fame”. Despite admitting that the piece was written “without analysis of their lyrics” or “direct confrontation of the band members”, the blogger published images from Dogmeat, a zine produced by Iceage frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, accusing the band of fetishising fascist imagery and employing fascist aesthetics to promote an agenda of hate.
Instead of disappearing into the pile of meaningless pap published online, mainstream media outlets began to pick up the nonstory. By late summer, the Chicago Reader, NME, and others were hinting that the music press had been duped into promoting the next Skrewdriver. The assertion was loosely based on the zine, Iceage’s runic logo, and their Fred Perry shirts.
In Denmark, Dr. Fabian Holt, a respected Danish ethnomusicologist, accused Iceage of stoking fascist tendencies, despite frequent denials from the band, including appeals from the band’s Jewish drummer, Dan Kjaer Nielsen. “Nazism has come closer to the counterculture,” Holt told Politiken, a respected Danish daily. “The methods have become more subtle.” The claims had travelled from a low-level blog to a widely read national newspaper, and the discussion of Iceage’s political and ideological leanings was going to be a long one, whether they liked it or not.
In his 2007 book, Genre in Popular Music, Holt writes, “I have lived most of my life in Denmark, where whites are rarely confronted with their whiteness because they constitute the vast majority of the population. In that part of the world many people have only a dim awareness of racial discourse.” In Denmark, a country of 5.4 million, more than 90% of the population is made up by ethnic Danes. These demographics play a not-so-subtle role in a growing hostility toward multiculturalism that’s found a mouthpiece in the right-wing Danish People’s Party (DPP).
Sixteen years ago, a strident hobgoblin named Pia Kjærsgaard founded the DPP, and since then the party has increased its influence drastically, pushing a policy of welfare for Danes and closed borders for everyone else. The government, pressured by Kjærsgaard, has tightened immigration policy every year since 2001. Even more troubling, in the 2011 parliamentary elections the DPP won 12.3 percent of the vote.
Staunchly nationalist and anti-Muslim, Kjærsgaard implicitly seeks a racially pure Denmark. In 2000, she said that “the Koran teaches Muslims that it is acceptable for them to lie and deceive, cheat and swindle, as much as they like.”