The Washington Post on Satanic Rock: 'Two Horns Up!'

March 2nd, 2008 4:38 PM

The Washington Post’s Sunday Style & Arts section spotlights Satanic music on the Lord’s day. The headline is “Going Down-Market: Satan Rules the Night at Jaxx.” Religion reporter Michelle Boorstein begins by reproducing the lyrics of a band called Dark Funeral: "Sin stands for beauty, sin stands for life. Sexual sin is every man's right!! He will exalt the wicked of man: our king the Antichrist!"

The ugliness continues as Boorstein explained:

Most common T-shirt of the night: "The day you die is the day I smile." Most common adjective: brutal (in a good way). Most common piece of jewelry: It's a tie between chains and upside-down crosses.

The star of the story is an auto technician named Ronnie Bittinger, who stands for Satanism as a religion for the intelligent: "The more intelligent you are, the more unlikely you are to believe in God; it's a fact...People in the underground scene tend to have higher IQs -- my own being 143." He’s not so wild about all the whiteface makeup and black fashion: "It's an insult to people who are actually Satanists.”

There’s nothing wrong with the Post writing up Satan worshippers. From the objective journalist’s point of view, all religions are equal. Or are they? If these people smile at death and exalt the wicked, are they worthy of respectable coverage? No one in the story really disapproves, other than the owner of the Jaxx rock club, who isn’t really wild about the black-metal genre, but is willing to make a profit out of it.

Boorstein’s primary flaw as a religion reporter is to suggest these Satanists aren’t so anti-religious, since they’re so interested in the subject: “Fans generally describe this music as anti-religious, but saturated as it is in Judeo-Christian terminology, images and liturgy, black metal is frankly obsessed with the subject. In mood, trappings and lyrics, it explores man's wrestling with evil -- a key religious theme -- in a more direct way than most types of music.”

But judging from the snippets Boorstein employed here, Satanists aren’t so much “wrestling” with evil as much as they are embracing it as the good. Just because one is “obsessed” with religion doesn’t mean they have a lot in common with the religious. If someone loathes Hillary Clinton, but has an encyclopedic knowledge of her, does that mean they have a lot in common with Hillary or her fans?

The funniest (or saddest) part of the article is the young man in whiteface makeup pictured in the Post, Christopher “Lord Kratos” Burke, a Maryland high-school rock singer driven to the club by his mother:

"If you can figure out what they're singing, tell me, because I'm afraid it might be 'Kill my mother, Kill my mother,' " Nancy Burke, who brought her son to perform, said with a nervous chuckle. "At heart he's a great kid. I don't think he wants to kill anyone."

Boorstein concluded: “That's black metal -- blurry lines: between loving and hating God, between fantasy and reality.” Even these God-haters aren’t sure whether God exists or not, she underlines. But the reporter is very actively blurring what to many readers is clearly and unmistakeably shocking, disgusting, and evil. If the subgenre of rock was racist or Nazi, it's doubtful the Post would be looking for "blurry lines."

The Post promotes the anti-religious metal bands in a text box headlined “Two Horns Up!” It advertised: “See video of the scene at Jaxx and listen to clips from Dark Funeral, Mayhem, and Watain at"

This underlines how low the Post will go for Internet traffic numbers.

(Hat tip: Dan Gainor)