Speak of the Devil

Part 2

All of this is not to imply that Raschke spends his free time grooving to Slayer. "Certain songs out of the genre known as heavy metal provide a pretext for violence," he says. "Satanists are doing with heavy metal what Christian evangelists have done with `The Old Rugged Cross.' Music is a very powerful tool, especially if you are trying to provoke certain messages. I'm not saying something stupid like heavy metal causes Satanism. I'm advancing an argument of social influence." Both the American Medical Association and the American Pediatric Association have condemned metal as damaging, he points out, and the positions of these august bodies are far less moderate than his. Just ask him.

But don't ask Deena Weinstein. Currently at work on her book Heavy Metal, tentatively set for release next spring, Weinstein rates one of many derogatory mentions in Painted Black. Raschke calls her "the academic authority to which defenders of heavy metal turn these days." She wears metal T-shirts to classes, he writes, hangs out with thrash groupies, and refers to the music as "life-affirming" and a valuable "cultural form." Moreover, he compares her to "the cult apologists who sociologize about Satanism as merely a symbolic manifestation of all the faults with `decadent Christians.'"

Not surprisingly, Weinstein, who was unfamiliar with her satanic notoriety until she was sent sample pages from the book prior to being interviewed, has more than a few bones to pick with Raschke. She notes that she has never worn a T-shirt to class, nor so much as heard a song - "Master of Revenge" by Manowar - he identifies as her favorite. And Raschke's errors don't end there, she says.

"[Raschke] has totally concentrated on the words and the videos, but in terms of what fans are interested in, 80 to 90 percent only pay attention to the music. It's not that you remember the words, its how the music makes your body feel," Weinstein says. "Think of Halloween, when kids dress up as devils. I teach at a Catholic university, DePaul University, and our mascot is a Blue Demon. It's cute, it's part of our culture, but these people take it all literally."

Weinstein's statements draw a smirk from Raschke. He's heard all of this before. "That's her way of trivializing my argument," he says. "Unfortunately, we know that sociologists are not philosophers." He acknowledges that the devil has become a rather quaint cultural symbol, but only a few Satanists are actually devil worshipers, he says. What Raschke's concerned about is not Lucifer, but a belief system that actually condones and encourages violence, perverse sexual degradation, and other hobbies sure to make Grandma buy an extra dead-bolt lock for the front door. While Anton LaVey and members of the Church of Satan claim satanic scriptures and the lyrics in the darkest metal are meant to be taken symbolically, Raschke argues that impressionable young people, already whacked out of their minds on drugs and despair, are incapable of making such a distinction. "Most people are fundamentalists, in the sense that they take messages literally rather than symbolically. They aren't capable of the sophisticated form of analysis that [Weinstein] may have," he says. "They act on the message in such a way that fits them."

Raschke's message, however, doesn't fit the vast majority of metal fans, according to the University of Houston's Joseph Katarba, another member of the Raschke ridicule club. In Painted Black he is needled for writing that rock has always been construed as "a threat to the moral fiber of America's youth, whether it's Elvis Presley or the Rolling Stones, or heavy metal." He takes another shot for suggesting that the family is "the most likely source of aberrant behavior. If you have to depend on Megadeth to see what's up in life, there's something else wrong there. In fact, heavy metal is probably a useful mechanism for the release of adolescent feelings."

Katarba, who also was unaware of Painted Black until he heard excerpts during a phone interview, says Raschke's contentions are incredibly exaggerated. "Some metal groups are more explicit [about satanic themes]," he says. "But when you talk to a wide range of kids, you find that it's the very smallest proportion who in any way seriously lend credence to these messages. Most of them laugh when you ask them about Satanism in rock and roll.

"And for the small percentage [who take it seriously]," Katarba continues, "I find that they are almost without exception very troubled kids, from seriously dysfunctional families. You can talk to these kids and see that they are really searching for meaning to make sense of their lives. And the church is not providing answers, families aren't providing answers - in many cases, the families are the problem - and the schools are not providing answers, because many of these kids are dropouts. So they end up turning to their music as a last resort."

"That's a red herring," responds Raschke, who pooh-poohs the theory that metal is merely a symptom of a disease. But it's Katarba's argument that heavy metal has no impact on most listeners that gets Raschke the most agitated.

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