Five Finger Death Punch and the Machismo of Submission

For the past couple months I’ve been working on a follow-up to my album rankings of 2017 and one of the bands that is going to feature on that list is (spoiler alert) Five Finger Death Punch. I have really disliked Five Finger Death Punch since I first checked them out – they tend to have a few good songs per album but most of their music is utter trash. The main issue is their lyrics, which are usually toxically masculine, raging at the whole world, threatening to beat everyone up, swearing constantly, and which throw in casual misogyny and homophobia for good measure. For a band that is clearly aiming to be badass, their incessant whining makes them look like a bunch of children and this has turned me off of all but a handful of their songs.

For this year’s album rankings though I decided to look into Five Finger Death Punch a little bit closer though to see if my impression of the band was accurate. For the most part, yes I was pretty spot on. Most distressingly, the band’s nasty, misogynistic lyrics spill over into real life; lead singer Ivan Moody (seriously, that’s his actual last name) has been in legal trouble on at least two occasions for assault against women, in part due to alcoholism which he has apparently been trying to get a handle on. One thing you kind of have to give the band some credit on though is their unequivocal support of the military and police. The level to which this support goes might be questionable, but the respect that they show to the actual individuals is admirable and has likely contributed to the growth in their popularity.

Most of the band doesn’t seem to be openly political, with the major exception being guitarist Zoltan Bathory who has, err, opinions on Donald Trump, gun control and communism. He seems like a really odd character all on his own. In addition to Five Finger Death Punch, he claims to be a civilian combat instructor for the US military, although I feel like I need to add that I’ve seen comments from multiple soldiers while researching him who said that they had never heard of him and that they were skeptical of his claims. Considering that the article cited on his Wikipedia page which is meant to back up this claim also has Bathory claiming that the band has been shot at while performing for the troops in Iraq and Kuwait, I’m also somewhat skeptical (I certainly don’t doubt that he’s a skilled martial artist, but “one of the few civilians certified by the US Army as an L1 Modern Army Combatives Instructor – Close Quarter Combat”? Sorry Zoltan, I need a bit more proof than your word).

Zoltan also apparently writes for a magazine called Skillset. Skillset’s website states quite boldly that it’s all about “redefining the alpha lifestyle”, with features that “[spotlight] men and women with undeniable talents and abilities. We are VETERAN OWNED AND OPERATED and changing the face of ‘men’s interest’ magazines on newsstands.” The magazine boasts that it does so through articles on “rock stars, athletes, car builders and gun culture” and is plastered with ridiculously over-the-top images of men pointing guns at the camera. Basically it’s a douchey, redneck version of Playboy. Not all that surprising that a member of Five Finger Death Punch would be drawn to such a publication, although it sounds less like they’re “redefining” the alpha lifestyle than they are simply reinforcing traditional American machismo, although perhaps with some consideration that women can be badass too.

Finding out that Zoltan writes for Skillset really helped to crystalize my disparate feelings about Five Finger Death Punch, because I feel like it really is a great, unintentional illustration of the band’s philosophy. One could say that Skillset is all about people who are apparently better than the rest of us because they take control, the ways they present themselves, etc. Similarly, Five Finger Death Punch’s music is all about aggressive posturing, the constant threats about kicking peoples’ asses are meant to make them seem like badasses even though they end up making them seem like whiny, overcompensating pansies. This is just so obvious on songs like “Burn MF” where they unironically claim that the weight of the world is on their shoulders and then in the next verse rage that people fake that the world is on their shoulders. I’m not the only one who notices this either; in a review of their most recent album Michael Hann writes that Ivan Moody “reflects on his troubled past couple of years […] with a level of self-pity that wouldn’t disgrace a child who’d been bought Pro Evo instead of Fifa for Christmas: ‘Everybody seems like they’re waiting for me to die / Talk shit behind my back, can’t look me in the eye.’ When, on ‘It Doesn’t Matter’, he hollers ‘You’re so self-righteous, and you’re never going to change,’ you want to inquire if Mr Pot and Mr Kettle have made each other’s acquaintance.” It’s like they see the world in a hierarchical way, where their troubles are more legitimate than those of the people beneath them, in a manner not dissimilar to incels with their self-perception of being “inferior” beta males who are literally unloveable and worthless.

Is anyone surprised that Five Finger Death Punch fans are this pleasant? (Source)

This hierarchy also ties into the band’s support of the military and Zoltan’s support of Donald Trump. The way Five Finger Death Punch sees the military is not dissimilar from the manner many American nationalist/patriots are raised to – men who are braver and better than the rest of society and deserving of unquestioning respect. You can see this idealization pretty clearly in some of their songs, such as “Death Before Dishonour”, where they claim that everyone’s living a fake life except for the soldiers who die with their dignity. There’s a common trope amongst conservative types that soldiers are basically always right, from atheist professor variations, to God’s Not Dead 2 making a point of having the evil atheists kick a marine off the jury, to the portrayals of soldiers as morally and intellectually infallible in American Sniper and (especially) 13 Hours.

Soldiers obviously do deserve respect – they are serving their people and are often away from their families as a result of that, not to mention the inherent risk involved in the job. However, the level of lionization is just plain ridiculous sometimes and they even get used as a symbolic cudgel to beat down any sort of opposition to nationalism. Considering that no one in Five Finger Death Punch has actually served in the military, it’s a little bit odd that they fetishize them as much as they do. The band even goes so far as to collect dog tags from their fans to display behind them at concerts, almost as if they’re trying to gain that legitimacy through association. When you consider that, for conservative types, “the military is romanticized and portrayed as an institution of national pride [which] focuses on the prestige associated with enlisting in the Marines and serving one’s country”, it’s really not that surprising that you can have a band that punches down in their music and submits to authority because they fall in line when someone more powerful than them comes along.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with cultivating a military following with your music. Ivan Moody has a story he tells about a soldier who died in Iraq while listening to one of their songs, which is undeniably moving. Other bands, such as Disturbed, have written music with the expressed intent of encouraging the troops. I just find it really interesting that Five Finger Death Punch can rage uncontrolled at the whole world and posture like they’re ultimate badasses, but then make so much of a show about being submissive to authority. It seems to run counter to their message until you understand their ethos a little better.

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Gun Control, and Why Partisan Politics Need to Die

As you have probably heard by now, during this past week President Obama has taken executive action to try to push some more gun regulation in the US. Predictably, there has been considerable backlash to this decision, particularly by the NRA and Republican Presidential candidates. However, this condemnation obviously has nothing to do with the actual content of Obama’s action, but rather partisan politics at their absolute “finest”. This is an effective demonstration on just how politicians treat us like dog shit for their political ploys, why politicians can’t have any sort of integrity and one reason why our democracies are so horrifically ineffectual. For the good of the public, this is my short diatribe on why partisan politics need to die now.

Before moving ahead, I guess I should probably clarify exactly what I mean when I say “partisan politics”. At its broadest, partisan simply refers to identification to a political party in general, but in the last few decades it has been twisted into a political strategy. Now, politicians have to solely serve their party’s interests and refuse to compromise with their opponents. In a Canadian context, this quote by Stephen Ledrew from The Globe and Mail illustrates our own partisan politics quite well:

“Party loyalty is a crutch for those with lazy minds, and stark partisanship simply makes public discourse cheap and ill-informed. For example, how often has one heard that Stephen Harper is an elitist Conservative, not reflecting Canadian values? How often has one read that Justin Trudeau is just a Liberal scion who represents a last-ditch attempt by his party to resuscitate itself to its former glory? Or that Thomas Mulcair is a tax-and-spend NDipper? Certainly often enough to persuade an outsider that party labels are a major factor in political decision-making in Canada. But will voting by party label provide good government to Canada?”

As you can probably see, this mentality is clearly where the opposition to Obama’s executive action is stemming from. Ted Cruz in particular has jumped on this and has claimed that “Obama wants your guns” and has promised to roll back this action. The way he tells it, it’s almost as if Obama has made gun ownership illegal before punching Jesus in the face. So what exactly did Obama even do? From this article on CBC, here’s a basic rundown:

  1. Make it so that private sellers have to make background checks before selling guns. Considering that licensed sellers have to do this already and that was making background checks a farce, it was a pretty ridiculous loophole to begin with. I actually read a study back when Sandy Hook occurred which recommended that this loophole be closed. Then there’s, y’know, the Cracked article about how easy it is to get private sellers to skirt the law.
  2. Crack down on illegal gun trafficking and improve crime gun databases.
  3. Improve access to medical help for people with mental health issues. This is a refreshingly unexpected step in the right direction, one which I imagine was meant to throw a bone to Republicans as well – they often blame shootings solely on mental issues, after all, rather than the guns themselves.

Those all sound like common sense stuff, right? The unlicensed seller loophole has long been considered a major issue which renders background checks useless. Filling it in is going to make private reselling more annoying, but considering that these are freaking weapons we’re talking about, I am lacking in sympathy for them. That said, if you’re a person who is concerned about extensive gun rights, then I can see why this might be a sticking point, even if I personally think that it is a reasonable restriction. As for improved police databases and better access to help for people with mental issues, these aren’t even restrictions on existing freedoms for people who are interested in gun rights. Furthermore, it is fairly well-known that the existing mental healthcare system in the US is in a deplorable state, so this is solution is extremely pragmatic in a number of areas.

So why did Ted Cruz make these bold claims about stuff that is so obvious? It would seem to me that the main reason he is doing so is because it will rile up potential voters and get them to support him. It doesn’t matter whether what he says is true or not, as long as he gets the votes. This has also earned him an endorsement from the NRA, and if he is able to leverage their support then this should help him significantly in the leadership race*. We have seen this sort of fear rhetoric put forth numerous times this year – Stephen Harper’s inexplicable focus on the niqab, Trump’s comments on Mexicans and Muslims and the numerous talking heads that have been freaking out about Syrian refugees being terrorists.

If you think I’m being hard on the Republicans though, then let me also rip into the Democrats a little bit. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both lent their support to Obama’s actions, but they could have done so much more. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Obama’s executive action is very limited in scope and will likely do very little to curb American gun violence (in the short term at the very least). Basically, it’s going to be a little harder for the wrong people to acquire a gun, and people who are mentally ill will have more access to treatment. This should help prevent some shootings, but all of the other issues with the American gun culture are still present – access to high-capacity and high-fire rate weapons, ability to open and concealed-carry weapons in public places, the existence of “stand your ground laws”, a culture which heroizes those who commit violence, etc. Sure, Clinton has beat around the bush, saying that more needs to be done from this foundation, but there isn’t a lot of dissent about how limited Obama’s executive action was. He’s patching some of the holes in the system, but unless America totally overhauls its gun culture, there won’t be a meaningful reduction in violence any time soon.

Political rhetoric is one thing though, but let’s get into arguably my biggest beef with partisanship. In his article, Ledrew also puts forth this gem which sums up my feelings quite well:

“not only is partisanship no longer accurate, it is contrary to the very essence of democracy, because it leads people to cast their vote a certain way for the wrong reason. It negates an informed electorate.”

I alluded to this sort of political bullshitting in the dying days of the 2015 Canadian election, and this is just another example of how the partisan system fosters voter ignorance. Rather than having an educated voting public, parties have found it much more successful to focus on individuals, talking points, rhetoric and fear-mongering in order to manage their voter bases – the key word there being manage. With the proper curation, politicians can predict how to manipulate public opinion in their favour and choose to ignore entire chunks of the population as irrelevant to their interests. Look at the timing of this executive action, for example. It’s in Obama’s last year in office – he doesn’t have to worry about this affecting his election prospects. It’s likely that he has wanted to implement this program for years, but was unable to pull it off until now. Furthermore, it is being used as election-fodder. For the Democratic candidates, this becomes something to protect. By Ted Cruz, this is suddenly something that he can manipulate as something that he’ll tear down if he becomes President – he just has to convince his voter base that the executive action is something bad first, which shouldn’t be too hard if they’re on board the partisan system.

People are always whining about how politicians are a bunch of liars and that all of the parties suck. This isn’t how it has to be though – politicians lie or, if we’re being super generous, stretch the truth because it has been proven that the system benefits the ones who do so. This isn’t how it has to be though. Politics are a system which we created and which we can reshape. Start rewarding politicians with real integrity, who treat you like an intelligent individual and not just some statistic on their voter demographics spectrum**. Also be willing to look into what politicians are saying and try to keep yourself informed from other angles as well. Just because people are calling Obama an anti-gun fascist because of this executive action doesn’t mean that they’re telling you the truth. Furthermore, just because he’s being praised for this action doesn’t mean that Obama suddenly solved America’s problems either. Partisan politics need to die, and we’re the ones who need to need to put this wretched system in the ground for good.

*You also get inexplicable tough-talk, such as Cruz’s gem: “Those executive orders are not worth the paper they’re printed on, because when you live by the pen, you die by the pen, and my pen has got an eraser.” What the literal hell is that supposed to mean Cruz? You also realize that this is a reference to Matthew 26:52, in which Jesus himself warns his apostles not to commit violence and not to use their weapons. That is a terrible reference to make for someone who is trying to advocate for gun rights.
**Hopefully this is obvious, but this is not an endorsement for Donald Trump! Being a “politically incorrect” blowhard is also a political strategy, especially when attempting to stand out in a right-wing leadership race. It also doesn’t mean that you’re being honest or have a shred of integrity. Use your damn head.

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Quick Fix: Zimmerman Verdict

I’m sure by now everyone’s heard the virdict in the Zimmerman trial – not guilty. To a lot of people, Zimmerman just got away scot-free with murder. Of course, “a lot of people” have only the most cursory knowledge of what transpired and how the trial actually went, so this is mostly based on their political leaning, race, emotional state, etc. To be fair to everyone, I’m in that category myself as I have only really read when the case first hit the news and then forgot about it til a few days ago when the verdict was handed down (and then a few responses to it as well). I myself think that Zimmerman deserves to be tried for murder… but that said, I don’t know the whole story. My opinion (and the opinions of others) on the matter has been influenced by what we have been told, and that’s where the biggest issues in this case lie in my opinion.

First off, I am infuriated by how this trial was politicized as soon as it hit the airwaves. Obviously I’m furious that some people might use it as a defense of moronic “stand your ground” laws, but I’m actually more angry that it was turned into a racial war by liberals. This is irresponsible on the part of the media and served to make the actual details of the case itself irrelevant – all that matters now is that Zimmerman represents white oppression and Martin represents the black margin. Of course, the other effect which probably left the media salivating with anticipation was that the verdict would be inflammatory either way, driving up viewership. People are in an absolute frenzy right now, but if Zimmerman had been charged then there still would have been protests from people whining about how whites are now marginalized by minorities, that minorities can play the “race card” to do whatever they want and people would be attempting to keep “stand your ground” laws in place. I quite liked Disturbed frontman David Draiman’s take on this case’s treatment by the media.

The second major issue with this case was that people are infuriated that Zimmerman was not found guilty by the jury. Of course, this is another side-effect of the politicizing of the trial, but what’s important is the legal procedure itself. Verdicts aren’t passed out by people’s own sense of morality – considering how much moral variance there can be between people, the legal process would be impossible. Instead, they have to pass down a verdict based on the laws of the State and the rules of the court. Based on that criteria alone, Zimmerman was clearly in the right – in the legal sense, he was acting in self-defense and there was “reasonable doubt” that he committed murder. If you’re going to be infuriated at the verdict, place the blame on the legal system, because I’m pretty sure that it’s now obvious that the law isn’t concerned with what you think is right. While it might be odd to cite The Onion in a post about a serious issue, I think that their article about how screwed up the laws are is quite a good take on the injustice of the justice system (in fact, I think satire is a fantastic way to “rage against the machine” so to speak). In fact, as far as the trial went, Zimmerman’s lawyers actually acted more professionally and had a better case.

Bottom-line: while I don’t have all the facts in the case, I think that Zimmerman should probably have been sentenced for 2nd or 3rd degree murder. That said, the first part of that sentence is the important part: I don’t have all the facts. I have no real justifiable reason to be completely outraged by the outcome of this trial. I think what we can learn from it is that the law needs to be changed in order to not obstruct justice in the future though, because if Zimmerman was actually guilty then we can’t have this sort of thing happening again.

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Quick Fix: Pageview Exposion Follow-up and More Updates!

Whoa, where did the last week ago? I can hardly believe it’s been 7 days since my last blog post! Anyway, I probably should have anticipated this, but my last post (in which I mentioned that my page views had shot up astronomically) has actually become one of my most popular posts already. It’s currently my 6th-most viewed post and by far my most commented-on. Anyway the referrer site, “topblogstories”, petered out its referrals a couple days after I posted my last update, although it seems that I’m still getting a few views from them every once in a while. For the record, if you get referrals from them, then do not click on their links.

In other news, the XBOX ONE was announced a couple days ago. I’m not going to weigh in what I thought in too much detail because it’s already being done to death, but I do think that Microsoft really bungled things with the new hardware architecture. Of course, the bit about used games and always online is only confirmed by Wired at the moment, so we’ll have to wait until E3 for a clearer picture of what’s going on. That said, if it is true, then Microsoft is going to take a lot of flak. I think Sony definitely has the initiative at the moment in the upcoming console war (disclaimer: I’m a Sony fanboy, but as you will hopefully note, I do my best to remain impartial). Of course, Microsoft also claims that XBOX ONE’s exact features aren’t complete yet, so they may drop the no used games/always online thing entirely. In fact, maybe the Wired article was an intentional “leak” to test the waters and see if they would include it in the final hardware. Of course, now I’m conspiracy theorizing, and I don’t really believe that myself, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.

Also, some more current events have harkened back to an older article I wrote in the first couple months of this blog’s life. 3D printers have been in the news a lot lately, which (of course) brings back concerns about 3D printed firearms. In fact, apparently a group has made a gun which is ENTIRELY 3D printed (if you’ll recall, the only part of the gun which was 3D printed was the lower reciever). That said, this new development is really not that much to worry about… well, yet at least. For one thing, this is just the first working 3D printed gun – I’m sure that, over time, there will be better developments in the technology, at which point it may become a full-blown concern. A secondary concern is that, yes, it costs $10,000 to produce a 3D printed gun at the moment, but soon enough the technology will be far cheaper. Finally, this doesn’t address the gun from my previous post – it is a fully-functioning AR-15 and so it won’t just fire one shot and it won’t melt anywhere near as quickly as an exclusively plastic weapon. So 3D printed weapons are still a bit of a concern, but perhaps not an entirely pressing one.

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Piggy-backing, Marrying Ponies and Remakes

Okay then, it’s about that time for my self-instituted weekly blog post. I’ve got a few things to talk about, and I’m not exactly the most eloquent, so I’m just gonna dive right into this one.

First of all, the Hulk review is almost at 1300 views. That’s nuts. I never expected to get that many views in my first couple months, let alone on a single blog posting. I’m guessing this is mostly due to inadvertently piggy-backing off of The Avengers‘ popularity, which makes the most sense. On DeviantArt, I did the same sort of thing with The Gorillaz, although it was intentional that time. I made a deviation which was Gorillaz-related in a flagrant attempt to garner page views and favourites… and it worked like a charm. This was almost 3 years ago and I still get new favourites because of that quite often. That just goes to show you that a quick n’ easy way to get noticed is to tap into a fan base and ride their coattails to victory.

Speaking of tapping into fan bases, I’m planning on starting the next retrospective sometime in April. I’m going to be working on final assignments pretty hardcore until the 10th or so, so after that time period I will likely begin work on that series. Be sure to stop in for them, they’ll be sure to leave you howling.

The only other things of particular note at the moment are a bunch of links I’ve been collecting all week. There has been quite a few interesting things that I’ve read about this week that needed sharing… some for different reasons that others. I’ll just leave that one at that.

Anyway, one of these links was gun control-related. I know I’ve harped about gun control a lot on this blog, and I honestly could have done so even more, but I’ve intentionally refrained from doing so on multiple occasions. For one, ranting about it too much can conflate me as someone who hates guns and wants them eradicated or something, which is definitely not the image I’m trying to foster. For the record, I advocate reasonable levels of gun control and gun owner responsibility, and plan on owning firearms myself someday. As for political issues, I generally will fall on one side or the other, but I like to acknowledge other perspectives when I do so. For that matter, I generally hate all political rhetoric in either case. Anyway, getting back on track, I recently read an article on one of my favourite websites which I felt showed gun politics from a very different (and balanced) angle. I certainly recommend giving it a read as it covers some issues which no one else bothers to mention.

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog (I won’t lie, you probably aren’t), then you might remember my first article about Idris Elba as James Bond. Since then, it has become increasingly unlikely that the man actually will be cast in the part, but there has been a (potential) development. Barbara Brocolli has talked to Elba about a Bond casting… but maybe as the villain in a remake of Live and Let Die. Now if this is true, then it will be quite interesting indeed. It definitely sits better than casting him as Bond (especially since he’ll be too old by the time that Daniel Craig leaves the role), and going back to the novels is certainly a good idea – especially since the original films did not hew too closely to the source texts anyway (with very few exceptions, like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I am told). Anyway, there’s not much info at the moment about Bond 24, but I’m very intrigued at how this whole rumour pans out…

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