In 1981, hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys released “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” The song decried both explicitly neo-Nazi punks and punks who flirted with fascist imagery for shock value. The song made clear in no uncertain terms that neither group was welcome in the punk scene. Forty years later, the song and sentiment remain relevant. “Ironic” usage of far-right language and symbols paves the way for serious far-right presence in the scene.
On 11 September 2021, attendees from around the country gathered in Atlanta for “Virginfest”, a self-described “incel music festival”. The “incel” community or “involuntary celibates” are a violently misogynistic online community that produced numerous mass murderers, such as Elliot Rodger. The most recent incel mass murder occurred on 12 August 2021. This event was to be held at Toki Tatt2, where Athena Raven Rapp, who organized the festival, worked before being fired following the event. The event attracted a large crowd of edgelords, but mixed in were serious far-right actors who understood the opportunity presented by the gathering.
The headliner of the festival was “Negative XP”, previously known as “School Shooter”, a flagship “incelcore” musician. “Negative XP”‘s history of using Nazi imagery and expressing far-right views goes back years. Several of “Negative XP”‘s older releases sported Fourth Reich images on their cover, including SS bolts and the “Totenkopf” skull used by the SS. On “Negative XP”‘s Instagram, the artist posted pictures of them recreating the pose of the Virginia Tech mass murderer along with a picture of the mass murderer. In addition, “Negative XP”‘s songs include numerous lyrics about mass shootings, killing oneself, and harming or murdering women. “Negative XP” also posted praise of the vehicle attack at “Unite the Right” and joked about the murder of an anti-fascist activist.
Hours before the event was scheduled to begin, Atlanta Antifascists reported on the planned festival, which by this point was sold-out. Then, about an hour before doors were to open for the show, Toki Tatt2 announced they would not host the event, and organizer Raven announced that an eponymous green space in a predominantly Black neighborhood, Chosewood Park, would be the festival’s new location. At its height, about 50 people attended the event.
An attendee from Alabama live-streamed the event, with the stream receiving a much larger viewership. The Twitch chat also overflowed with slurs, hate speech, swastikas, and phrases such as “kill [n-words].” Some of this activity clearly came from bots, but similar activity came from human commenters. According to individuals at the show who spoke with DSRW, attendees shouted: “race war now”. Several times the crowd chanted “fuck Antifa”, one of the favorite chanting phrases of a neo-fascist street gang, and 6 January Capitol stormers the “Proud Boys”. Shouts of “white power” came from the moshpits and drunken youths sprawled on the stairs leading down to the show area. Crowd members emphatically proclaimed homophobic and racist slurs, often standing directly next to the camera capturing the Livestream.
Most attendees appeared to be younger than 25, and the majority were white, although not exclusively so. The overall impression of the crowd was similar to a /b/ or /pol/ meetup, filled with shitposters and instigators larping for attention and acceptance from the group with “ironic” hate speech. Among older members of the crowd, their ideology became more coherent and alarming.
Far-right media personality Andy Nowicki attended the event and streamed it live, posting content from the event to his YouTube and other social media. Nowicki is a far-right internet media personality who wrote and edited for white nationalist Richard Spencer’s blog. Nowicki was one of the original creators of the “alt-right movement”, which came to a head with the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. At this racist rally, anti-racist Heather Heyer was murdered the day after nationalist attendees marched at night with tiki torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us”.
Nowicki, in his 40s, talked with attendees 20+ years his junior and engaged in standard extremist grooming techniques, likely to draw the young crowd towards his explicit and more organized/coherent far-right beliefs. Individuals who attended the festival inquired how Nowicki knew about the festival, and he answered, indicating connection with some of the performers. Afterward, Nowicki commented on “Negative XP”‘s Instagram, saying he had a good time at the concert. Nowicki’s coverage and interest in the scene indicate what the punk scene knew 40 years ago. Even “ironic” or “mild” uses of fascist symbols and ideologies pave the way for more hardcore fascists.
An Atlanta group that records police scanner activity recorded scanner chatter about a bomb threat at Toki Tatt2 concerning “Virginfest” just before 10 pm, several hours after Toki Tatt2 announced they would not host the event. Sources heard rumors circulating on the ground much earlier than 10 pm regarding a bomb threat and mention of other threats. Still, DSRW can find no police record or video evidence to corroborate these claims. It is important to note that the incel community, particularly the incel streamer community, has a long history of “swatting” and calling the police on one another.
At around 8:30 pm, police showed up at the park. Recorded police scanner activity describes that the call that brought police to the park was of “juvenile males and females loitering and drinking in the park,” while a later call described a white man in a black shirt brandishing a gun at the entrance of the park. Unfortunately, the two officers that arrived did not shut it down. In fact, they partook in the event, and in a show of complete ignorance to the situation, took selfies with the participants. These photos have been shared extensively on social media and have become ingrained into the “Virginfest” lore.
Following the event, Raven and one of the scheduled performers, Raven’s partner Clyde Webb who performs as “Hot Leather”, posted surface-level apologies that they later deleted. The online incel and “ironic” far-right community turned on the couple. While both claimed they had no idea what they were getting into or what kind of crowd the show would attract, self-identified members of the community decried this defense (including extensive threads on 4chan), pointing out that, of course, they would have known.
A glance at accounts tweeting about “Virginfest” even before initial reporting on the event reveals a laundry list of far-right dog whistles and talking points. After initial reporting about the event came out, the accounts that came to the defense of the festival contained a tidal wave of even more far-right dog whistles and outright hate speech.
Raven’s ideology became more explicit, and the excuses became flimsier as more information emerged. Screenshots surfaced of an Instagram post from Raven’s private Instagram, showing the festival organizer posing in front of a Confederate battle flag in the summer of 2020 during mass mobilizations in the city for racial justice. In the Discord server for the festival, Raven described their desire to have “Baked” attend the show but cited “Baked”‘s inability to participate due to being in “WP”, likely witness protection. “Baked” logically refers to white supremacist, Holocaust-denying livestreamer “Baked Alaska” (real name Tim Gionet and confirmed 6 January Capitol stormer), who is mutuals on Instagram with “Negative XP” and another festival performer.
Archived posts on 4chan and other websites reveal Raven’s posting history on /mu/, /r9k/ (4chan’s “incel” board), and /b/. In a recent Instagram post from one of the festival’s performers, Raven flashes the “OK”/white power hand sign. Raven’s familiarity with internet culture and Raven’s lengthy history of posting on 4chan eliminate any plausible deniability about the hand sign.
Toki Tatt2 posted a statement distancing themselves from the event and indicating Raven’s termination at the tattoo shop. Neither Toki Tatt2 nor Raven responded to a request from DSRW for comment. After taking down or locking their social media for a week, both Raven and Clyde resurfaced, with Raven crowdsourcing money and selling more “Virginfest” t-shirts. Both deleted their apologies, indicating they are likely doubling down in the midst of major trolling from the incel community.
Fortunately, members of the Atlanta community loudly condemned the event and its organizer. Far-right ideology thrives and festers when unexamined, and inaction invites bolder action. The presence of the “incel music festival” signaled to other groups permissiveness for mobilizations in Atlanta. In the early morning hours of 18 September, Patriot Front defaced murals in Atlanta’s Krog Street tunnel and dropped a banner over I-20. As is often the case, sunlight is the best disinfectant and vigilance key.