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Music | Opinion

Ted Nugent's latest call to arms is indicative of a much larger trend

Ted Nugent has long been one of the most outspoken voices in music. Despite the fact that his uncompromising opinions have rightly stoked much objection and comedy over the years due to just how ridiculous they invariably are, this weekend, the walking, talking caricature of a side to America that covets the NRA and Donald Trump crossed over the threshold from being cartoon character to being a real-life, three-dimensional danger to himself and everyone else. 

Appearing at a rally for Donald Trump in Austin, Texas, Nugent seemingly called for violence against the “enemies” of America, who he characterised as “the Democrats and the Marxists and the Communists”.

Taking to the microphone, Nugent stated: “Think of what the enemies of America have done over the last 14 months,” he told the crowd. “They didn’t sneak into the White House — they lied, they cheated, they scammed, and every day the Democrats violate their sacred oath to the Constitution. And if you can’t impress your friends on that, they shouldn’t be your friends.”

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After briefly talking about his vintage guitar, Nugent added: “So I love you people madly but I’d love you more if you went forward and just went berserk on the skulls of the Democrats and the Marxists and the Communists”.

Anyone familiar with Nugent is probably thinking what the big deal is here, especially considering that this kind of outlandish vitriol is him to a tee. Nugent imploring his fellow believers to “go beserk on the skulls” of their political opponents is just the latest in a long line of calls to violence. 

What was particularly consequential about Saturday’s message was the context. According to a report in Texas Montly, Trump’s part in the rally was much of the same as what he’s been doing since his first bid to become President, rehashing old punchlines and past stories, all underpinned by the view that he is not only the best man in North America, but the world too. However, in some glitch in the Matrix, it was not the toupé-donning tangerine grabbing the headlines, but Nugent, who took cues from Trump’s style of rhetoric, by pulling the audience in with his talk of love for them before getting down to the calls to arms. He infused Trumpian rhetoric with his own incomprehensible essence, which has been left unfettered for much too long.

The Texas Monthly reporter, Christopher Hooks, said in his account of Saturday’s rally: “Far more interesting were Trump’s supporters and allies. The conference, featuring speakers such as rock musician Ted Nugent and attended by allies such as Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, showed a movement falling deeper into a suffocating circle of televangelist-adjacent scammery—while its adherents grow ever more comfortable with the idea of the need for violence to triumph over their political opponents. Things are going great, in other words.”

Things are going so great that earlier that same day, an alleged white supremacist, who, in a manifesto cited the “great replacement” theory that Nugent was touching on with his statement, killed ten people and wounded three others in a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. 

The suspect, Payton Gendron, 18, has been charged with ten counts of murder, and it is suspected that he principally targeted African Americans. The “great replacement” or “white genocide” theory posits that the elites, which in Nugent’s case is the Democrats, Marxists, Communists and their ilk, want to replace the white population of America with non-whites. It was an idea first conceived by French white nationalist author Renaud Camus. 

Nugent’s comments are reflective of the fact, as Hook testifies that this part of the American right-wing has become an echo chamber, increasingly incensed that their worldview isn’t the one represented by the executive in the White House, leading to these increasingly hysterical calls to arms. You can’t help but wonder just what the personal views of some of those in attendance at Saturday’s rally were on the mass shooting in Buffalo. Even more critically, though, it makes you wonder who exactly was listening. 

It’s this kind of extreme messaging, such as what Donald Trump employed throughout his Presidency and the kind that Nugent consistently espouses, that can result in multiple tragedies. Whether it be 7/7, Utøya, The Capitol Attack or The Christchurch Mosque Shootings, the sentiment underpinning Nugent’s messaging and the chilling calm with which he delivered it should be a cause for concern, as should be the fever with which it was recieved. Ten innocent people lay dead, targeted for the colour of their skin, and given the scenes at Saturday’s rally, you’d be mistaken for thinking that it even actually happened. In truth, they didn’t care. This is the movement of the ‘alternative fact’, of their own truth, and the subscription to what is ostensibly an unfounded theory.

Even though we could pass off Ted Nugent as some obscure has-been who has let the trappings of fame go to his head, he simply is not that. He has 1.6 million monthly listeners on Spotify, confirming just how dangerous his comments on Saturday were. Looking at his Twitter feed, though, it seems as if he’d been preparing himself to deliver the instructions for quite some time. 

Only on May 12th did he set a precedent for the Austin rally by Tweeting: “Why in the hell are we paying taxes to fund the runaway treasonous life destroying America destroying crimes of our corrupt criminal government! Dear God in heaven this must come to a screaching halt!!” It sounds like the ramblings of a madman, and they might well be. All we need to do is look at history to see how dangerous a pairing a madman and a platform can be. 

However, Nugent’s comments are indicative of a much larger trend in which the use of violence is normalised and regarded as a vital tool in the far-right’s existential struggle. They’re tunnel-visioned, all they care about is their quest for hegemony, and again, if we look at history, any ideology’s quest for dominance never includes empathy, but quite the opposite. A large portion of the time, apathy is the driving force, but that’s a multi-faceted point and I’ll leave you to consider it. 

The echo chamber Nugent and his chums exist in is so devoid of self-awareness that nobody in attendance realised that they are part of the problem. This goes to the extent that Nugent was given a platform to speak, even though he has a highly questionable past. It makes you wonder, what exactly does this movement actually want? It claims to be the definitively righteous force but using any easily accessible metric such as, then why does it insist on platforming a menagerie of those who are terrible people. 

They’d do themselves a favour and distance themselves from Uncle Ted, as at the very best he’ll only delegitimise their movement more, and at the very worst, well. 

Watch Nugent’s speech at the Trump rally below.

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