Recently, a leading discography website has blocked the sale of a significant number of albums in their marketplace. Labels such as Rock-O-Rama and Rebelles Européens both appear to be heavily affected by this. If you were to go to discogs.com and attempt to buy a record from one of these labels, you would stand a good chance of seeing the following message: "This release has been blocked from sale in the marketplace. It is not permitted to sell this item on Discogs." You can't get around it easily like you can on Ebay, by carefully wording the title. Discogs is set up to where you have to place the sale under the entry on their website. If the entry doesn't allow it, no sale. I understand that for many people there is a distaste for this type of music, but is this treally the best way to handle it?
Discogs policy is to not allow the sale of any record that is "primarily created to incite violent hatred against groups of people based on areas such as their ethnic, cultural, religious or sexual identity, or with reference to physical or mental health." Of course, it is entirely within their rights to enforce any sort of guidelines that they wish, but the actual results of this policy make it seem subjective if not completely misinformed. One can make an entire argument out of whether or not it's right to censor even the most blatantly discriminatory white nationalist rock music and about how every viewpoint should be heard. This is a valid point but it's not in the scope of what I'm talking about here. For the sake of this discussion, I will take their policy as a given and discuss the fault with the way it is applied.
Presumably what happens is someone comes across an album, or more likely seeks out albums by artists they know fit into a certain category, and clicks a link to report offensive material. A member of the site's staff sees the complaint and does a minute or two of research and then decides whether or not to block the sale of that album. The problem is that it doesn't seem as though they care if they get it right, as in many cases they are not getting it right.
For the subjective aspects of the enforcement of this policy, let's take a look at the first name most people think about: Skrewdriver. Given Discogs' policy, it comes as no surprise that pretty much all of Skrewdriver's new material from 1983 onward is blocked from sale. I will give them credit that they do appear keen enough to allow the sale of Skrewdriver's first LP and the singles from that record from back when they were a non-racial punk band. However, their releases from 1979 through 1982, all non-racial material, are not allowed for sale. Under 5 minutes of research could tell even the most naïve music enthusiast that the content of these records was not racial at all. How can someone be hip enough to know All Skrewed Up is free of racial hatred but not know that Back With A Bang is as well? Oh, it gets better. I'm sure many of you reading this are familiar with The Early Years albums. That's right, the records that reissued all of Skrewdriver's punk material from 1977 and 1978. Yeah, those are blocked too. For good measure these mental giants threw the Street Rock'n'Roll singles with that old material on the pile of blocked records too. I can respect their policy, but what I can't respect is they way in which it is inconsistently applied.
Then there are the instances where they just got it wrong. If you are a collector of rare records, the first record you think about when you hear Böhse Onkelz is… that's right, Der nette Mann. Did you finally save up several hundred bucks to buy yourself a copy? Sorry, can't buy it through Discogs anymore. Why? What part of the policy does it violate? It's not a racial album, no neo-nazi ideology. Yes there are some references to violence but no more than any average skinhead or hooligan album. Perhaps some people of lesser intelligence might not understand the metaphor being used in the song "Frankreich '84", but again, a little research can cure a lot of ignorance.
The album Der Clou by Endstufe is another case where they just got it wrong. This is about as traditional as an Oi! album can get. Do you want one of their albums from after they adopted a more nationalist theme with their lyrics? No problem. Do you want a fun sounding Oi! album with songs about women, drinking and fighting? Not here, mate.
The worst part of this policy is that a site that caters to record collectors, is doing a disservice to that same community. I completely understand a business not wanting to be associated with certain unsavory elements. However, some of the labels that are being affected most by this policy are the labels that attract a significant share of collectors, most of whom are not followers of that ultra right wing ideology. When you cater to a specific community, it is implied that you are opening your doors to the positive and the negative elements from that community. I find it troubling that one of the leading websites serving that community, a community that embraces a tangible form of both aural and visual expression, would say that certain examples of that expression are not as valid as the rest and therefore, you can look but not touch.
What I find most troubling is that they don't seem to want to justify their decisions. As they state: "Review decisions are final, and will not be discussed by our support staff." The good old "because I say so" argument. Appealing to one's own authority when that authority is questionable at best. What better way to fight ignorance than with more ignorance?