Libertarianism and Heavy Metal: Two Peas in a Pod?

By Mason Mohon | USA

Anybody who knows me, even just a little bit, knows that I am a big fan of metal. Whenever a band I like swings through Texas, you know I’ll be in that mosh pit. The genre is seen as uncomfortable, concerning, and scary to most people, and the seemingly inhuman screams of vocalists tend to drive people away, but the people who stay seem to stay for a long time because Spotify discovered that metal fans are the most loyal listeners to any genre worldwide. Heavy metal does not have to fear losing its base anytime soon.

The genre itself seems to appeal in a few ways to the anti-government crowd. Lyrics of many major bands in the metal scene reflect very anti-government anti-authoritarian themes. The most notable of these will probably be familiar to those in libertarian circles: Backwordz. Their songs reflect various aspects of anarcho-capitalist philosophy, from the economic foundations made clear in Praxeology to the basic idea of control over one’s life in Self Ownership. Their merch often sports “taxation is theft” and other libertarian friendly slogans, and on stage lead singer Eric July is always ready to speak of freedom to the crowd. Backwordz is very libertarian, but the genre as a whole also seems to be very reflecting of the ideas, although not explicitly.

Revolt Against the Status Quo

Libertarianism and heavy metal have a parallel in their stance against the established way of things and refusal to conform to the norm. Libertarians are opposed to the state in most, if not all instances. They are characterized by their opposition to coercive power, and will not settle for the way things are. The current order is wrong, and that includes the government structure, the elected officials, and the dominating parties. To the libertarian, all of it is unacceptable, even though there is the occasional exception. The libertarian is the outcast because his or her opinions are so radical and they do not fit into what the mainstream media and elites have said is allowable for an opinion. Even with the entire world pushing back, the libertarian still stands.

Similarly, metal tends to stand against the conventional order of music and genre. What seems like an excess of guitar playing and the nearly inaudible screaming causes discomfort to many who are not familiar with the genre. It is loud and seen by many as scary, but the metalheads do not care. They couldn’t care less because they’ve acquired the taste and they stick with it, even though it goes against what the pop artists and records want them to listen to. An article from the Scientific American outlines that people of other genres tend to be conformists, while metalheads stick to their guns, as Spotify’s loyalty research above showed.

Conforming seems to be motivated not by the positive utility of behaving like your peers, but instead out of anxiety and pain at the prospect of being a “contrarian.” Again, this points to the function of peer influence during adolescence. During adolescence, peers wield considerable coercive power — that is, friends are quick to dispense disapproval, teasing and rejection when social norms are not followed. The pain  of being rejected by one’s peer group can be a matter of life or death, as recent cyber-bullying cases in the news demonstrate.

The Antidote for the Non-Aggression Principle

Many would assume that metalheads tend to be angry aggressive scalawags that wander the streets late at night, hoping to mug an unsuspecting soul, or just engaging in other crime or disruptive activity. If they throw down and hit each other with all the force they can in the moshpit, why would the act any different in regular life. Metalheads are generalized as people who would cause harm. If this were true, this would set heavy metal in an opposing position to libertarianism, which has the core tenets of non-aggression and voluntary action. The fact of the matter is, though, that this stereotype of metalheads is wrong.

A Humboldt State University study reveals that those who listen to metal and entrench themselves into the genre’s subculture receive an array of benefits (mostly psychological)  throughout life. When metalheads were labeled the same way I did in the previous paragraph, this study, which was done over 30 years on nearly 400 people, revealed that metal listeners “were significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently than either middle-aged or current college-age youth comparison groups.” This was true, even though they did tend to engage in risky behavior. Metal seems to be creating people who transition into the rest of their lives better and generally just live better, with the metal community acting as a great support group keeping people away from an aggressive lifestyle.

The metal community and libertarian community seem to parallel in many ways. The groups often share a common anti-authoritarian message, and they both have an anti-status quo theme. They are always working against what is popular and refuse to give in to the masses. They also both promote a lifestyle of non-aggression and voluntary action. The two seem to mesh well together, which is why we only hope to see more heavy metal with a libertarian theme.

Featured image by Matt Bender Photo,


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