As someone who grew up in the ’90s, anti-authoritarian punk—like that of the Queers and Screeching Weasel—was a staple of my rebellious youth, and for this, I am extremely grateful. While many of my friends were listening to the major labels’ vision of “alternative,” I was proud to align myself with those who spoke out against the trappings of hatred, misogyny, racism, and the overall “bro” culture that existed in most public music spaces. I am also proud to say I still adhere to those ideals today. Sadly, it appears my childhood punk icons do not.
In a Facebook post shared yesterday on his personal account, Joe King—pka Joe Queer—thanked officer Darren Wilson for his service, calling him “a man of peace in a world of mayhem,” and linking to the crowd-sourced fund page set up in Wilson’s defense. The message was met with skepticism and a hope it was a sarcastic jab like the ones that litter most of his albums. Unfortunately, it was not.
Like most of us who knew and loved The Queers music, Joe Steinhardt from Don Giovanni Records did not take kindly to this post. In response, he challenged Recess Records and Asian Man Records to disassociate themselves with Joe Queer and Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel (who did not outright support the post, but did support Joe’s right to say it. He also, of course, punched a woman at a SxSW show.). He writes:
Forget the Ice Bucket Challenge. I challenge two labels, Recess Records and Asian Man Records to completely disassociate with sexist, racist, and homophobic punk bands like The Queers and Screeching Weasel. It is ridiculous that anyone legitimate would be working with them to release their music after the long-term pattern (note: not isolated incidents) of sexist, racist, and homophobic crap they spew online and offline. Mike and Todd, you can do better. Mike, the things Joe Queer writes on his facebook and says at shows goes completely against your mission of working “with bands that are ANTI-RACIST, ANTI-SEXIST, ANTI-PREJUDICE, and who support the ideas of peace and unity” that has always been one of the most inspiring aspects of your label. And Todd, Screeching Weasel’s current behavior goes far beyond “shock punk” or whatever the hell he thinks it is.
I also grew up a fan of Screeching Weasel and The Queers and it took me a while to come to terms with my fandom vs. the current actions of the band members. But as isolated incidents that I tried to chalk up to people saying stupid things or doing stupid things slowly became patterns of sexist racist and homophobic behavior over the course of the last 5 years I have been forced associate these bands with nothing but their sexism, racism, and homophobia.
There is a place in music for shock, and there is a place in art for free speech. But there is also a place in music for calling on others to stop giving power and a voice to people spewing hate speech, and so I am calling on you Recess and Asian Man to do better and disassociate with The Queers and Screeching Weasel.
While I can agree it is in the best of interests of everyone to hold judgment until all of the facts are presented, Joe Queer has decidedly chosen a side. And I can say without any hesitation that it is the wrong side, especially for anyone who calls themselves a punk. I could go into a countdown and list the ways he is wrong, but it only needs one to make it very clear: It is the same side the KKK is on.
It’s a sad, ironic twist of fate when the people you look up to for saying so many great things, says something so hypocritical. As Ben Weasel put it: “We become what we hate.”
*For the record, as of posting this, the Joe Queer post has 25 likes and 0 shares, the Don Giovanni post has 532 likes and 92 shares.