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Friday, January 12, 2007

Nartards and Neo-Nazi Trading Cards

posted by on January 12 at 7:07 AM

[Brendan Kiley is on tour in Europe with the Holy Ghost Revival this month.]

A new word for me: Nartards (“anarchist retards”): noun, used to refer to people (70 percent men, 99 percent white) who look like punk rockers from the ’70s, minus any variation in their taste in music (all growling hardcore) or the color scheme of their clothes (all black, with the obligatory studs, spikes, and patches of mostly American bands). The aesthetic is a postindustrial apocalyptic yearning. They drink by the gallon, smoke by the pack, rarely laugh, sometimes live in squats, parrot the same empty threats against The Man, but are super-serious about fighting low-level neo-Nazis.

Going to high school in the ’90s and being a casual fan of punk rock, I never understood all the “smash Nazis” patches and stickers that the dedicated American punks wore on their clothes. (Where were these phantom Nazis? Shouldn’t those punk kids take road trips to throw Molotov cocktails in Idaho or something?) But in a Bremen squat bar, they have collectible cards with the photos and addresses of alleged neo-Nazis and a few paragraphs of text detailing their crimes, so you can look them up and smash their windows or something.

Last night, the bands played in and stayed at a squat in Potsdam. It was an old East German brewery, now a several-stories-tall concrete warren with two stages, two bars (one with an old Chevy wedged into the wall and a morose goth-looking bartender serving beer and absinthe), pungent bathrooms, and around 20 full-time residents. It was a punk-rock time warp from the 1970s: leather, studs, the porcupine hairdos. It was like a cross between a bomb shelter, a castle, and a kids’ clubhouse, with graffiti and posters on the walls. The most memorable ones: a vintage Nazi poster with a swastika and the slogan “In the name of the German people,” and one of a punk with scales—the lighter one holding a beer, the heavier one holding a bomb and the slogan; “If you do not resist, you are part of the problem.”

This squat was nice and clean enough, unlike the horror story we’ve been hearing in several cities about a Copenhagen squat where a young woman overdosed and either crawled or was shoved under a bed and wasn’t found for a month. According to the story, she had to be scraped off the floor by the police. Supposedly it was cold enough and smelled bad enough already (some of these places are truly filthy, with human shit and dog shit and vomit left to shellac the corners) that nobody noticed. Apocryphal, but illustrative.

We’ve just arrived in Berlin, where the Holy Ghost Revival and Clorox Girls will play a bar called White Trash Fast Food. It looks fairly nice from the outside, with a Chinese look a la Chop Suey. We load in the gear soon (our daily weight lifting routine).

Tonight, the venue will put us up in a hostel, where we’ll have showers and maybe laundry. I can’t even smell myself any more. Which is a good thing.

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Gee, I can't fucking fathom WHY punks in Germany would so hate Nazis. Really have no idea why they would even care. And they're mainly white! White people couldn't possibly care that much about anti-racist politics. So they must be posing or some shit. Just confirms your own high school observations on cliques, I guess. What a bunch of retards...

Posted by w | January 12, 2007 8:07 AM

oh god, thank you for the new word. what the hell is up with these fashions from the past--the far past.

Posted by why oh why | January 12, 2007 9:06 AM


I think, if you re-read the article, particularly the second paragraph Brendan seems to be musing about by American punks had a special hatred of neo-Nazi's, not German ones.

Brendan, as someone who dabbled on the edges of punk myself in the late '70's/early '80's, a lot of it comes from the natural animosity of anarchists towards fascists in general, they being two polar-opposite socio-political viewpoints, as well as carrying over from British punk's vehement hatred of the Thatcher government, which they viewed as moving England toward a semi-fascist regime, although I really think it had more to do with her removal of many of the social safety-nets lower-class Brits had become dependent on post-WW-II.

In this country, the anti-fascist aspects of Punk really only took root with its association to the anarchist movement, something that I think appealed to a rather small segment of the "movement" (this being America of course, many punks - and I'll include my brief foray as an example - were really only into the physical aspects, the image if you will, and not so much with the politics. I could be totally wrong about this, but it's what I saw from my rather insular, semi-rural, lower-middle class perspective at the time) although of course Reagan getting elected in 1980 added a similarly "Thatcheristic" element to the mix over here.

Posted by COMTE | January 12, 2007 9:33 AM

Oh, and Bremen. Man, I have never seen so much dog shit littering the sidewalks of a major city, as I did in Bremen.

Posted by COMTE | January 12, 2007 9:35 AM

Ever been to Paris? Dog shit capital of Europe.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 12, 2007 9:51 AM

When I was in Paris, the dog shit was assiduously gobbled up by the thousands of tiny, adorable green trucks with long hoses made especially for that purpose and found on almost every street. Also, most blocks had a guy with a high-pressure hose, an assortment of brushes, and bolts of old carpet to direct the water flow actively washing the sidewalks. Cleaner than Seattle by a long shot.

Of course, they go on strike every twenty minutes, so maybe you were there at a bad time.

I also liked the way people were able to absolutely control their animals, taking them into bars and restaurants, where they sat quietly instead of barking, snarling, fighting, crotch-sniffing, and shitting everywhere like your average Seattle dog. How civilized.

These punks may be "nartards", but the fact is that in Europe, unlike here, they really do have significant and very popular neo-Nazi groups, even in countries were explicitly Nazi symbols are banned.

Posted by Fnarf | January 12, 2007 10:25 AM

"apocryphal, but illustrative."

great journalism there.

Posted by bing | January 12, 2007 10:42 AM

Damn, this is an epic Eurotrip for the ages. i am now living vicariously thru Brendan (but i don't have to smell the shit).

Posted by longball | January 12, 2007 1:15 PM

I am also totally jealous of your European adventures. Tell us more!

Posted by Nay | January 12, 2007 1:59 PM

Agreed, Fnarf - when it came to dog-shit-on-the-sidewalk, Paris didn't hold a candle to Bremen. It was so bad in some places, the people I was traveling with actually developed a sort of semiphore hand-signal to warn those walking behind of impending shittiness. There was so much of it that eventually we came to think of the warning signal as our "St. Vitus Dance".

Posted by COMTE | January 12, 2007 4:12 PM

What is with the recent upswing in the use of "retarded"? It seems like it's all of a sudden a "cool" word to say-like it was when I was in middle school when we didn't realize that it's denigrating. Stop that shit. Why would you do that? We have so many other, better words

Posted by Seriously? | January 12, 2007 4:55 PM

Most importantly, White Trash Fast Food is the only place in Berlin to get a real hamburger (not one made from doenner meat). The guests still try to eat it with a knife and fork McD.L.T. style (hot side hot...). It's fun to point and laugh while they gawk at you using both hands to hoover your best meal in weeks.

Posted by 1sac | January 13, 2007 1:10 AM

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