Editor's note: This is an opinion piece, meant to express an opinion, as well as start a conversation about this very topic. The views expressed here, however, are not held by The Belfry Network. Furthermore, in the name of transparency, I (The Count) personally support listing crimes against subculture adherents as hate crimes. That said, the point of The Belfry is, in part, to provide a platform for these discussions to be had, and opinions to be voiced, even if they are not popular. The following article was not, in my opinion, directly inflammatory, accusatory, needlessly negative, or polemic in nature, thus I am allowing this to be posted here. The comments section is open, however any comments that are openly threatening, or excessively negative will not be approved.
WARNING : I'm about to sound like a major arsehole to many of you. Remember, this is my opinion and not that of The Belfry Network as a whole.
I'm going to address the elephant in my newsfeed : Sophie Lancaster tribute pics because its 8 years since she was killed.
It’s hard to believe it’s been so long as I remember the original sharing of stuff on Myspace and Facebook. In fact I looked into the Myspace page for S.O.P.H.I.E because I wanted to know exactly what they were trying to achieve. From what I could gather it was to spread awareness and a general peace and love attitude with "normies" and "goths" (later amended to include all alternative people) and to create some solidarity within goth (and related) subcultures. So the idea was to reach out, educate and say to the world something like "See? We're people too! You don't have to attack us for being different!"
In my case, the tributes are all over my Facebook newsfeed. I daresay the image was likely created in and is all over Tumblr. It’s likely all over Twitter too. Along with the memorial pics people have also been sharing links to articles wanting to turn attacks on subcultures into hate crimes akin to racist or homophobic violence.
She isn't the first "goth" to be attacked and she won't be the last. Plenty of other outsiders have been attacked and killed over the years. In fact it probably happens less now. And yes it’s terrible that it happened and in an ideal world stuff like that wouldn't happen. I get that. But this is reality.
Would she want to be glorified as a victim? We will never know. All I know is my feed has been covered in posts because she died 8 years ago. Did any of these people know her? Would they even know who she is if she were say hit by a car? No.
There are plenty of other victims of violent crime we hear nothing about. But somehow being goth/alternative makes her special. So attacking people based on their appearance must now be an official "hate crime".
I'm not going to bag her mother for pushing for it. If I were her and it was my daughter I'd likely do the same thing. It helps give some semblance of meaning to her daughter’s senseless death. She has also been the cause of some legal change in UK which is good.
But as for attacking subcultures being hate crimes... aren't all violent crimes hate crimes? All violent crime should be punished severely. Who the victim is should never matter. Violent crime is violent crime is violent crime.
Say I'm a violent jerk with a few beers in me and a chip on my shoulder. I'm looking for a fight. I am looking for a target - any target - to take my anger out on. I happen to find a goth first in the most ideal conditions to get away with giving them a swift kicking. That happens to be a poorly-litpark, few or no witnesses. That goth could have just as easily been anyone. It’s a target of opportunity.
I'm not defending the guys who did it (they went to jail where they belong) but I'm questioning if the motive that such attacks should be labelled as hate crimes. It assumes goths/alternative people are minorities where the reality is we find our music, style and way of life empowering. We are not victims by default and we choose to do what we do.
We turn our back on the mainstream because we find we are more comfortable somewhere else. We could tone it down but we choose not to. That is not the same as a person who is born a certain race or sexuality. And let’s be honest most of us get off on the attention we attract by being different whether it’s positive or negative, especially when we are young. Its why older goths tend to tone it down as they are over that stuff. If it didn't make us happy we wouldn't do it.
Anyway let’s get onto the S.O.P.H.I.E group itself. Can any of you honestly say you have ever seen anyone change their minds about alternative people because of that group?
To me the group feels like a giant circle jerk of alternative people (many who may or may not be goths) congratulating themselves for how open minded they are and devoted to a cause to the point that the cause doesn't actually do anything outside congratulating itself. A couple of bands released a song using the cause to piggyback exposure; a couple of gigs were put on where she lived by the people who knew her. In 8 years that’s pretty much it.
The gigs by her friends I get that. They are her friends. But when you have bands using this for exposure (and don't deny they have at least a little) that’s a little smarmy. Even if profits from the single sale goes to charity it’s still a marketing stunt at its core. Of course if it’s a band whom she was friends with that’s a different story.
So outside doing things they were likely to be doing anyway, what have they done to change the world? I don't see any change that wasn't already happening thanks to the rise of social justice on the internet and certainly nothing that originated with S.O.P.H.I.E.
Most of us already do things to change how people see us without even realizing it. What changes minds is leading by example. Talking to "normies" and not being a prick about it. Many are pretty chilled out and just curious. If they understand us they will not fear and attack. That is how we change things. We don't need an organization to do that.
If you want to support S.O.P.H.I.E, then cool - go nuts with it. But this is why I never have. I even addressed my disdain for it way back in that video I made in 2008.
I'm just going to keep talking to people and show them we're pretty damn awesome and not to be feared.
-Aytakk has been active in the goth scene since the mid 90s both online and in real life. He firmly believes in the old line "if you don't get the joke, you are the joke". As well as this he produces music for a couple of music projects: Corpulence On The Catwalk (goth/darkwave/coldwave) and Hypnophile (aggrotech/power noise). He is also a club DJ and nemesis of DJ Jelly.