Stop the press! A teacup hurricane rages over Stab magazine and racism … again!
You may have heard about Stab Race Row I, just a few weeks ago, when Jed Smith, online reporter for Australia’s brashest adolescent surf mag had to apologise unreservedly after writing an oddly racist story about young up-and-coming Jamaican surf star Icah Wilmot (the story was about how the dominant white race is losing ground to ‘negroes’ etc etc after Wilmot won the Pan-American games in Cuba).
This time Stab appears to be on the other side of the race card, accusing current World Champ Mick Fanning of calling their reporter Chas Smith a “F>>> Jew” during an encounter on the N Shore this winter.
Not surprisingly Fanning is taking heat for his racist/antisemitic outburst. The Sydney Morning Herald is all over it, The Australian ran with it, the Oz Jewish community is all over Fanning, surf blogs and news pages cyber-wide have lit up with it … and Stab, despite reportedly having to take the issue off the shelves, is no doubt laughing all the way to the money-lender.
Sounds pretty serious – surfing’s world champ is an anti-semite. So why is it a storm in a tea cup? Well, on the surface level it is, and here’s why: Fanning may be anti-semitic, but it seems more likely he’s just ignorant – ie he probably didn’t know what the word anti-semitic meant until this incident. I don’t know Mick, and don’t want to excuse his bizarre outburst or call him a total moron, but he and his fellow professional surfers don’t strike me as the sorts to spend much time investigating the intricasies of politics, history and philosophy. It’s my guess that he’s spent more of his life surfing than debating Nietzsche and Mein Kampf.
Fanning says he was just trying to be ironic and that hates Stab because, ironically, they publish racist, antisemitic stories. That could be his PR advisors talking, or it could be the true reason for his outburst …
The Stab crew, on the other hand, are smart, talented and absolutely know what they’re doing. In this scenario they’re painting themselves as both professional (‘hey, we just reported what he said, ok?’) and somehow … sensitive. In Stab’s recent public response to Mick Fanning , reporter Chas Smith – not a Jew, by the way – says: “I have a strong and personal attachment to the Jewish community. I have traveled through Israel while studying in the Middle East and witnessed firsthand both the strength and tenacity of the Jewish people.” Smith says he was once near a bus that got blown up by a suicide bomber: “The senselessness of this act, the sadness, I will carry forever.”
So, unlike Fanning, Smith is not only a learned man but also one with deep feelings for Jews. Which kind of makes sense when you see how portrays Arabs in his writing …
… but doesn’t make sense when you see how he glorifies Nazis in his articles. It’s confusing … and its supposed to be.
And that’s the real story in all this nonsense: Stab and their staff are on a mission to sow confusion among us, the ignorant masses. It just happens that along the way they’ve also done more to promote racial division than anyone in surfing since the pro tour failed to boycott South Africa in the apartheid era.
For example, the same Chas Smith was brought in to guest edit Stab’s 2008 ‘Fascist Issue’, which is really just the tip of the iceberg. He and his colleagues use every opportunity they get to throw out questionable/line-crossing racial slurs and provocative jabs. as well as using their mag for weird things such as personally attacking individuals (like veteran surf writer Tim Baker – really personally, really publicly trying to rally their crowd against him. They hate what he stands for, so they tried to destroy the reputation of an otherwise popular, respected, hard-working father and husband. Sort of like Joseph Goebbels’s media did to opponents of Nazism in the 1930s, ironically).
In their magazine, and now defunct web blog, likebitchin.com, their writers use words like negro/nigger/chink/toehead/camelfucker/sliteye/yellow devil etc etc about as often, I imagine, as the KKK and hard right survivalist groups on the fringes of the web do. They regularly and loosely refer to apartheid, lynching,fascist countries, leaders, policies, styles, iconograph etc in glorifying terms and are perpetually derogatory about Muslims and Arabs.
All in an ‘ironic’ way, of course.
Why? Just ‘cos they can, says Smith in Stab’s Fascist Issue: “That might make me a lazy/sadistic asshole, using simple imagery loaded with negative meaning in order to make a pointlessly shocking impression. You might be very angry with me when, at the news agency, you see an old Auschwitz surviving grandma weeping uncontrollably at the symbol of her people’s destruction plastered on a surf magazine.
OR it might make me the super funnest person on Earth! Swastikas? Yaaay! Hate-filled ranting? Yaaaay! Totally fabulous uniforms? Yaaay! The destruction of Europe? Like, triple yaaaaaaay! What is not to love?”
He goes on: “Morality is easy to play with. Nobody but hyper-religious housewives gonna make a stink about bare-breasted women in a surf magazine. But ideology? Tugging on that string is to the 21st century what a lithe, uncovered nipple was to the 19th century.
Fun fun fun. Play play play. Like surfing!”
So, I missed it, why is this kind of morality play cool? Why is it ‘play’ at all? I’m not sure but it’s clearly designed to shock people like me (who grew up in awe of what our parents and grandparents had been through, and certain that whatever else we did in life, we needed to make sure nothing like WWII could ever happen again); and to utterly confuse the little white kids who don’t even know what they’re supposed not to forget, let alone understand what happens when race-hating becomes cool.
‘This, mein uber-editor Herr Reilly, should hand Australia’s 100-year-old surfing legacy over to Stab magazine for at least a generation … more, of course, if all those who oppose are exterminated.’
Despite what Smith says, this is all about PR. Stab is desperate to steal the Australian surf cultural microphone from traditional mags like Tracks and ASL and they want to do it by throwing out so much ear-splitting feedback that they steal everyone’s attention, and thereby own the conversation. And they’re succeeding. It has become, if not the most read surf magazine among the Australian youth, certainly the most talked about. As a result the surf industry generally loves them and supports their cause with huge advertising dollars. Some large surf companies are even limply slipping down Stab’s irony-fuelled back alley (I beg your pardon, Rusty?). Stab is setting the cultural tone in some influential quarters.
So why are we even talking about them, if all they want is the attention? And anyway, isn’t this just a storm in a teacup?
One, because it’s news about the surfing universe, so it’s on our radar. Two, because they’re good at what they do. If they weren’t, no one would notice them, but they certainly are having an effect on Australian surf culture and wider surf culture in general, no doubt about it. Which brings us to reason number three and the reason it’s actually more than a storm in a teacup: think about it – if the industry thinks ‘fashion for fascists’ is cool (it happened last week, at the Drug Aware Pro, ironically), and a well-travelled, if not well-read, guy like current world champion Mick Fanning thinks calling someone a “F>>> Jew” is acceptable, then what is Stab’s target reader – (according to their media kit)” … 13 – 17 year old, moneyless (although persuasive to parents) poorly performing school student, habitating in regional Australia” – supposed to make of the magazine’s blizzard of hard right, racist and intolerant chaff?
Does the target kid get a free guide to unpicking irony with each issue?
And if the next generation of Australian surfers grows up thinking this stuff is funny or seriously good, what does that imply for surfing’s future? I’m not talking about organizations like the ASP and all that. I’m talking about the guys in the lineup next to you, the guys in the next door losmen or seat on the plane, or in front of you in the immigration queue etc etc.?
Personally, I want to be proud to call myself ‘a surfer’, not even more ashamed than I have been for the last 25 Spiccolli-damaged years. I want to enjoy the act of riding a wave and not feel ashamed that by doing so I’m aligning myself with some kind of racist backwoods/quasi-sophisticated metrosexual moron cult.
But I guess that makes me a real loser. In Stab-land you’re not a real surfer, nor a real man, if you can’t take a good old bawdy racist joke for what it is. If you react, you’re a wanker. If you don’t, you just get to watch the New Fascism show take over the surf world.
I can hear them now: ‘Faark, mate, get over it, woulds ya?’