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In today’s age of mass communication and lightning fast transmission of news and information, there are very few people who are not influenced by the generalizations that exist in society due to media coverage, rumor, and fear. A perfect example of this is the case of when inpiduals with shaved heads, wearing combat boots and blue jeans, with a few tattoos added for good measure are categorically identified as “Skinheads”, and automatically assumed to be violent racists, Nazis, and the like. In reality, while most Skinheads, as they have come to be known, are far from harmless, those who fit the previously mentioned description can be different from their counterparts elsewhere.
In this paper, the Skinhead Movement will be traced from its origins to the present day; along the way, the global reach of these inpiduals, the possibility of their role as terrorists, and what the future holds for them will be discussed. Ultimately, the researcher will have presented a well rounded and balanced analysis of Skinheads, and their movement, upon completion of the paper.
Before one can fully understand what genuine Skinheads represent and their impact on the world, a trip back in time is necessary to see exactly what kind of a mindset gave rise to the Skinhead Movement. Generally speaking, all true Skinhead factions can trace their lineage back to the early 20th century and the movements of the ultra-conservative right wing and fascism. More specifically, as the 20th century progressed, political activists like Russia’s Black Hundred advocated the overthrow of the established political order in favor of forms of government which advocated racism and violence as a means of gaining control of power (Lutz).
Ultimately, this ideology would be embraced by a young Austrian named Adolf Hitler, who used genocide, violence, and deadly force to increase the power of his National Socialist, or Nazi party, and create what he envisioned to be a “Master Race” of blonde haired, blue eyed, Caucasians who were genetically superior. This Master Race, Hitler theorized, would rule the world for 1,000 years (Lutz). When Hitler was defeated in World War II, culminating with his suicide, there were those who still embraced the cause of Nazism and held out hope for its rebirth, although it would be inaccurate to say that they were Skinheads, just as it would be inaccurate to say that all Skinheads are Nazis. To study the birth of the Skinhead movement, one needs to fast forward to the Great Britain of the 1960s and move forward.
Great Britain of the 1960s was a land of tremendous change; having just emerged from the destruction of World War II. The children who were born in the period immediately after World War II were entering their formative teenage years in the 1960s, and like most teenagers throughout history, sought to form their own cultural identity. Because of this identity search, these teens eventually discovered the “mod” style of dress and music taste popularized by Brits who wished to make a bold cultural statement in the late 1950s (Brown), with one notable exception- teens began not to wear their hair in an uncongenial style, but to either shave their heads completely or to shave their heads to the point where virtually no hair was left- hence the term Skinhead.
At this point, the original birth of the Skinhead, the term simply referred to the appearance and musical taste of the inpiduals, rather than some sort of political statement or ideology. However, the Skinheads would soon become known for a lot more than music and appearance, as their need to find acceptance made them easy prey for others with more sinister motives than a good time and wild looking appearances. Eventually, on a global scale, Skinheads would take on, and be known for, other activities and values.
Strangely enough, studies of the “typical” Skinhead show that they are not traditionally from the lowest socioeconomic tier of a given population, but more often than not, are from middle or even upper class families, but somehow have found themselves disillusioned with the path that their elders have chosen for them and seek a way to rebel. A broad act of rebellion that brought about an evolution in the Skinhead movement came with the Punk Craze that hit Britain in the 1970s.
By the 1970s, Skinheads were positioned to move beyond Britain and to change their characteristics; these changes came about mostly due to the proliferation of Punk music, which by its very nature featured loud guitars and screaming anthems of rebellion and violence. A mutual love of this music between the rebellious youth of Britain and Germany eventually led to a sort of cultural exchange between the nations, and with it, an exportation of the ideas of white supremacy and old fashioned Nazism from the fringes of German society to the fringes of British society (Brown).It was through this process that the Skinhead Movement became universally and permanently linked with racism and violence, whether correct or not.
When the worst aspects of the lowest common denominator of the Skinhead population were spread through the international media and popular culture, the stereotype of all Skinheads being racists and Nazi sympathizers grew. In fairness, however, Skinheads range in political ideology from the white supremacists of the political far right to those who fight for equality among the races on the far left, with many varieties in between (Braun). In other words, there are as many different mindsets among Skinheads as there are among “normal” society, but there are situations where Skinheads are linked to terrorist activities. The possibility that Skinheads could drive terrorist activities on a global scale is very real and merits additional discussion.
Strong evidence exists to show that Skinheads are responsible for a large amount of global terror, such as racism, sexism, ethnocentric thinking, and the like; this form of terrorism is not limited to a certain geographic area, but can be found in such global regions as Europe, the Americas, United Kingdom, and so forth (Baron). As widespread as these groups are, and despite the fact that they may never actually meet each other, the far right extremist wing of the Skinhead Movement are terrorists by definition, and advocate racial/ethnic segregation, genocide to remove the weak, sickly and elderly from the population, and the promotion of the type of Master Race that Hitler devoted his life to a generation ago.
One of the major catalysts that has given the Skinhead Movement, especially the more extreme factions of it such strength in numbers is the ability of manipulative inpiduals to capture the allegiance of disenfranchised youths from all corners of the earth and induct them into “The Skinhead Nation” as it has come to be known. This is done through the promise of the respect and independence that they may not receive at home with their parents, mixed with the ability to listen to the music that they prefer, dress the way they like, and basically run wild and free-provided they fulfill their responsibilities to the Skinhead Nation, which ultimately become violent and racist in nature (Hamm).
With the extremists of the Skinhead Movement firmly entrenched, and indications that the movement’s worst aspects will continue to grow as time goes by, the question arises as to where the Skinhead Movement will advance in the future.
While there are indications that the Skinhead Nation is growing in members and popularity, there is one thing that holds a slight ray of hope for those who wish to see the violent faction come to an end- a lack of organized leadership. While there are pockets of Skinheads worldwide, there is no unified leadership to bring them to a state of widespread power or status, which may in fact be the saving grace for the civilized world (Braun). This is vitally important as an issue of international security.
This paper, in an effort to explore the Skinhead phenomenon, has utilized historical context, comparison and contrast to show that Skinheads vary in beliefs, values and geographic location, but all Skinhead groups possess one common attribute that is perhaps the most important to be understood by the readers of this paper- potential for incredible brutality and disruption of the common good. The turbulent times of the 21st century have made it possible for any loosely organized group to seize power, and the Skinheads are no exception.
Therefore, in closing, it is essential for all nations to keep a vigilant eye open to prevent Skinheads, or anyone else, to violate the freedom of decent people everywhere.
Skinheads, as citizens of a civilized world, must be able to respect the rights of others if they are to be permitted to free expression, and in this concept lays the key to world peace- the age old ideal of respect. Then, and only then, can the world truly know peace.
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