Goths for Trump

Inside the unholy alliance of goth culture and radical right politics.

Goths for Trump

Inside the unholy alliance of goth culture and radical right politics.

For anyone who has been involved in the goth subculture — referring here to the music and fashion borne out of the UK post-punk scene in the late ‘70s — the idea of goths aligning themselves politically with the far-right might seem quite strange. It’s not exactly a logical place to gravitate toward for those who have felt marginalized and judged by society.

But some goths are making such unlikely alliances known online. The hashtag #gothright became one of several (including #gothnationalism, #gothsfortrump, and #goths4Trump) that purported goths use to express their support for Trump on Twitter. Since it was first coined in 2017, the occurrence of the hashtag has steadily increased, with a majority of #gothright users posting memes and pictures, attacking the mainstream media, and exhibiting typical troll-like behavior.

There are myriad reasons why goths say they support Trump. Some cited the president’s desire to bring factory jobs back to America, which might allow them to work graveyard shifts in dark, dungeon-like settings (a Goth‘s “wet dream,” according to one supporter). Others said they felt a kinship with him. In one Youtube video, a self-identified goth Republican said that supporting Trump was an act of rebellion, and that standing up to the mainstream media, which tends to cast goths as Marilyn Manson-obsessed school shooters, was a “counterculture” move.

To get some insight into how goths feel about the emergence of #gothright, I reached out to a few prominent goths to ask what they thought about this growing movement. A goth known as The Count, who hosts the popular Goth podcast Cemetery Confessions, said that hearing about #gothright’s existence was surprising. “Historically, Goth has shared physical spaces with the LGBT community, queered heteronormative gender expectations through androgyny and feminine aesthetic, been a safe place for transgender, agender and queer subculturalists, and has been a place where people of color aren’t othered,” he told me. “This is integral to the fabric of goth history, music, and community persisting today.”

So, considering that the Trump administration is the opposite of an inclusive environment, why would Goths align themselves with it? According to Michael Bibby, an associate professor of English at Shippington University in Pennsylvania and the co-editor of the 2017 book Goth: Undead Subculture, it could be that certain Goths are drawn to Trump’s “fuck-you attitude, his virulent machismo, misogyny, and general nastiness but also his racial politics.”

“Trump is the uber-troll,” Bibby said. “The online Goth and metal communities have always been havens for some of the worst internet trolls. Trump obviously appeals to racist skinhead subculture. I think there have been all sorts of strange crossover between metal, punk, goth, and skin subcultures over the years that find common ground over white supremacist tendencies.” Bibby said the appropriation of Nazi symbolism in punk and in the early years of Goth — when people like Siouxsie Sioux would wear swastikas on their clothes as a form of provocation — was also a way for racism to sustain itself in the subculture by lurking in the fringes. And with the rise in Nazism since Trump was elected, Bibby said, this extremism is perhaps appealing to a nihilistic, death-oriented anti-norm style.

Scattered among the #gothright tag are posts that offer Trump protection spells and refer to him as “an emperor god.”

Scrolling through timelines that have posted with the #gothright tag you see the normal memes about fake news and the mainstream media; scattered among them are posts that offer Trump protection spells and refer to him as “an emperor god.” But the most prevalent topic among these users is a defense of “whiteness” and concern over racism towards white people.

Martina Markota, a so-called right-wing performance artist who says she is the founder of the gothright hashtag, periodically posts Youtube videos that deny the existence of white privilege and criticize the Black Lives Matter movement. She’s also openly mocked transgender people on the Gavin McInnes Show and supported alt-right figures like Milo Yiannopoulos. In a conversation over Twitter DM, Markota denied any connection to the alt-right, saying that she considered herself more conservative than a member of any far-right organization. Markota said her time in New York City’s art scene in the early 2010s led her down a path to becoming an online commentator for right-wing outlets like The Rebel and Infowars. During this time, she lived a “liberal lifestyle,” working as an artist and burlesque dancer under the stage name Lady Alchemy and immersing herself in the “LGBTQ community and lifestyle.” But it wasn’t until the 2016 election that her conservative views and support for Trump rendered her a pariah.

“If you supported Trump,” Markota said, “you were outcasted as a Nazi. I kept my views private but when my beliefs spread around through gossip that I liked Trump, [the burlesque community] turned their backs on me.” Markota said the harassment she received pushed her further to the right, and she set out to find similar goths who shared her conservative views. “I’m not the typical conservative,” Markota said. “So [that’s why] I started #gothright. Through the use of the hashtag, I found other people who identified with it. Not the typical conservative but outcasted from the alternative crowd (regular Goths).”

Whether Markota is using goth as a way of spreading extreme ideologies — or if she even believes in what she says on social media — is debatable. She denied any connection to the alt-right, or that she’s in any way racist, but a quick scroll through comments and retweets on her feed clearly shows sympathy for far-right groups like the Proud Boys, as well as racist and xenophobic beliefs. Markota, like other #gothright followers, claims that the use of fascist imagery like swastikas is done in jest; similar to when old-school punks used offensive imagery for its shock value. Bibby sees a connection from that past to conservative goth culture today. “Going all the way back to the late 1970s, there was a lot of debate over bands like Bauhaus, Joy Division, and New Order when they first came out over playing around with fascist symbolism,” Bibby said. “New Order took a lot of heat with their first shows with people coming in from the far-right, like the skinhead culture at the time in Britain... I think that now, Trump gives license to these people to suddenly take the stage; to step forward in the public sphere and pronounce themselves in ways that in the past they hadn’t.”

According to S. Alexander Reed, an associate professor of music at Ithaca College and author of the 2013 book Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music, if modern goths are “looking to pronounce” themselves in line with Trumpism, they are “deeply out of step with the realities of the Goth scene, which is out there helping people who need it.” Such people are “using dark aesthetics as a shield” for their own hate, he said.

“These people who are using #gothnationalism,” said Reed, “I don’t know what kind of music they’re listening to, but when I go out to a goth club these days, or to concerts, I see young people, I see people of color, I see queer people and I don’t see anyone who would be described under that hashtag.”

In recent years, the goth subculture has diversified in many ways. The rising Hispanic presence in Goth on the West Coast with bands like The Soft Moon and Tropic of Cancer, as well as the emergence of genres like Cholo Goth, which combines goth and electronic music with lyrics that explore gang and street life, are expanding the reach of Goth’s sound. Dana Dillipede, an artist and Goth behind the popular blog Dining With Dana, writes about the diversity in Goth and other dark music like black metal and industrial with bands like Zeal & Ardor and Caller of the Storms. She also writes about being a goth of color, the prevalence of racism in goth (both in and outside of the scene), and cultural appropriation in alternative subcultures.

Dillipede said she hasn’t faced racism in the goth scene. “I’ve felt it more from people who are not part of the subculture,” she said. “I feel like there’s a dynamic, unfortunately, in our society that, at least as a black woman, does not permit black women from expressing themselves in ways that we are expected to. We have certain tropes that we need to conform to. I haven’t personally felt in real life any racism coming from inside the subculture, but that’s just my experience.”

Even polls show that most Goths fall on the more progressive side of politics. A 2017 poll by Tim Sinister, aka The Blogging Goth, of 199 readers of his popular blog showed that the majority of Goths who voted in the UK general election cast their vote for the labour party, the country’s center-left faction. But he also saw a small conservative population in the scene, which didn’t surprise him. “Music subcultures are a cross-section of society,” he said, “and it’s naive to assume all alternative music fans will turn out the same.”

“Subculture changes over time,” said Reed, “and we as people who are in the subculture have the opportunity to call how it’s going to go forward in the future. Given that my experience in the scene is that it’s something of a haven where people find solace, this is not a place for the modern right-wing party.”

Stephanie Dubick is a freelance writer in Boston.