Wagner and Multiracialism
by Irmin Vinson
IN HIS ANALYSIS of Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s production of Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) Michael Polignano mentions that “desecrating Wagner … is something of an industry in post-World War II Germany.” The recent Stuttgart version of Wagner’s four-opera Ring Cycle, available on DVD for anyone who wants to waste money, provides a good illustration. The following is an excerpt from an online review: (ILLUSTRATION: At the 2013 Bayreuth Festival, the set showed a trailer camp in front of a Mount Rushmore-style sculpture of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao — and the performance included such un-Wagnerian elements as two copulating crocodiles.)
In Rheingold the gods don’t ascend into Valhalla, they go down into the basement. In Walküre, Siegmund doesn’t pull the sword out of a tree (there isn’t any), but from Sieglinde’s bodice, and it is embarrassing to watch the two of them, with flailing arms and legs, in simulated coupling on top of a table. The Valkyries are high-heeled tarts with paper wings, and occasionally during Ride of the Valkyries what looks like a mummy (representing a fallen hero) is dragged across the stage. At the end of this opera Wotan doesn’t look at Brünnhilde except via a TV set (which he operates with a remote) — even though she is right in front of him on the upper stage level. There’s no “magic fire” except for five small candles which she lights herself. In Siegfried, after watching Mime masturbate in scene three of act one, the hero (who has “Sieg Fried” printed on his T-shirt) discovers Brünnhilde in what appears to be a kitchen which happens to have a bed in it. As both are not small singers, it is rather comical to watch their mating ritual, reminiscent of a PBS nature documentary.
Productions of this sort are usually surrounded by self-serving artspeak: They’re cutting-edge, daring, disturbing, groundbreaking, subversive, etc. These claims of cutting-edge boldness are quite obviously untrue, but there is a good chance that anti-Wagnerian directors believe them. If you imagine a Pythonesque Twit who delusively visualizes himself as an avant-garde artist, you’ll have captured the core personality of Wagner desecraters like Nikolaus Lehnhoff. In modern Germany an authentically Wagnerian Ring would be genuinely bold and subversive, since the primary purpose of all postwar German governments has been to de-ethnicize and de-racialize their citizenry. Because artistic recollections of ancient Nordic mythology could potentially do the opposite, anti-Wagnerians carefully degrade or excise Wagner’s Nordic mythos. Thus in the Stuttgart Rheingold Valhalla is located in a basement, rather than in the sky, and the gods enter Valhalla not by crossing a rainbow bridge but by descending in an old elevator. Clearly this production is not a modernization for the purpose of illuminating hidden dimensions of Wagner’s drama; it expresses unmistakable aggression, burning hatred for what the real Ring Cycle represents.
For the Stuttgart Ring four separate artistic teams were assigned the task of wrecking an opera according to their own inclinations, and although each team produced its own particular form of desecration marked by significant stylistic differences, an intense hostility to Wagner’s mythology was the feature they ended up sharing in common. All arrived independently at a single anti-mythological focus for their loathing. Anti-Wagnerians do not, as Polignano points out, engage in random desecration, since this aggressive demythologizing, practiced in varying degrees by all anti-Wagnerian productions, is ideologically systematic. Everything that seems threatening to the anti-national German establishment is a target. The music survives unscathed, but the Wagnerian mythology that once informed it is trashed or eliminated in deliberate acts of cultural ethnic cleansing. The purportedly “daring” Stuttgart Ring is really no more daring than a state-circulated anti-racism leaflet or a bureaucratic document outlining changes in the tax code. All are instruments of state power.
In George Orwell’s dystopian account of the future, history can be eradicated by a state-orchestrated program of mandatory forgetting, because history is intangible and unable to defend itself. Having no solid existence, it survives only in books and in cultural memory, and in 1984 history can be changed or destroyed by the totalitarian state simply by rewriting or destroying the books in which it is documented, in the expectation that memory will wither soon after and that new memories can be artificially produced to replace the old. Enemies of state power and state ideology can be eliminated (“vaporized”) from history, as though they had never lived, and the past can be continually reshaped to serve Ingsoc’s latest political objectives.
In practice, however, anti-racialists have generally adopted a different tactic, preferring to hollow out old forms, emptying them of their original content but preserving a debased semblance of the originals. The intention — to control the past — is the same, though the method is different. There are in fact certain cultural monuments, like Wagnerian opera in Germany, that cannot be easily eradicated or dropped down the memory hole. Although Wagner is perceived by anti-national Germans as an old enemy, and hated accordingly, he is an enemy who cannot be forgotten. He occupies too prominent a position in the musical pantheon of the past. For dedicated multiracialists his most threatening art must therefore be aggressively reproduced in misshapen travesties of his original vision.
When thinking about these travesties it’s hard to know whether anger or laughter is the more appropriate response. Of the two, however, I’d pick laughter. Multiracialism’s hatred for a long-dead composer of operas must surely indicate weakness and unease. If you wanted to recruit a revolutionary organization, middle-aged opera fans would be a poor demographic to select. Yet German multiracialists evidently fear rotund ladies wearing winged helmets performing in traditional Wagnerian operas before placid audiences, because they fear anything that challenges their dogmas. Such fear does not suggest real confidence. Anti-national Germans are literally afraid of operas.
Nowhere in the West has multiracialism ever been presented as a political choice that one could either accept or reject. It has instead been imposed on its subjects as a moral system, a moral system increasingly enforced by law. Within this system there are good Whites who welcome racial diversity and bad Whites (“racists”) who don’t. In that sense multiracialism is an ideological totalitarianism, and there is no point minimizing its present strength. The power that can send police officers to seize a British politician like Nick Griffin, for the speech-crime of criticizing Islam, is real physical power. The power that can drop bombs on the maternity wing of a Serb hospital, in order to cure the inhabitants of their intolerance, is real physical power of an especially savage kind. Multiracialists in Belgium can criminalize a nationalist political party when it becomes too popular for their comfort. In democratic Germany there are more political prisoners in jail today than there were under the Marxist GDR. In America a media-driven machinery of political correctness has successfully stigmatized anyone who dissents from multiracialism’s implausible orthodoxies. That, too, is real power, though of a less tangible variety. But despite wielding all this power, multiracialists know that most Whites have not yet embraced their moral system. Any suggestion that there are legitimate alternatives becomes a source of fearful anxiety. Multiracialists try to prevent their opponents from speaking because they believe that most Whites would want to listen, and thus they fear anything, even old operas by a dead heretic, that challenges their totalitarian ideology.