a lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths University and a founder of the ridiculous, posturing Industrialised Culture Research Network blog (ICRN)1. He also wrote the book Exploring the Networked Worlds of Popular Music: Milieu Cultures (2007)2. Stewart Home has already exposed the extent of the intellectual decomposition embodied in this work, in which Webb features as a love-struck fanboy happy to accept anything uttered by his subjects without bringing critical intelligence to bear on it; he is either unwilling or unable to do the work required to comprehend his chosen field. When Webb and/or his ICRN cronies piped up to whine about censorship and persecution - and isn't it peculiar how those with an obvious hard-on for martial values are so easily rattled by the slightest criticism - Home probed further.
No doubt we'll be hearing plenty more about Webb in future, since he not only embodies the kind of generic sycophancy that provides cover for the neo-fascist goons who operate in the milieus he is concerned with, but also perhaps lends those arguments some small authority by virtue of his position. He advances his career simply by having one foot in academia and the other in various 'milieu cultures'. The bands he sucks up to are happy because he lends them academic respectability; he himself gets to write about and meet his heroes; while his college bosses get to imagine (in a predictably dreary post-modernist way) that they are up to speed with stirrings even on the outer fringes of popular culture. His work is not critically informed, if it has any value at all it is only as intelligence for marketing agencies that need to be 'hip' to the latest 'trends' so as to sell into them: one man's niche culture is another's niche market.
Here I want to extend Home's critique in only one small detail, to pick up on how Webb deals with the issue of censorship by dragging the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) into the argument. Back in the 80s the RCP were widely tagged 'the Elephant Men of the left', and were notorious for taking reactionary positions so that they could claim that the rest of the left were 'complacent', differentiating themselves so sharply from everyone else that it was often impossible to tell them apart from their supposed enemies on the right. So, for example, they opposed the call for sanctions against apartheid South Africa; they supported the calls for a national ballot in the Miner's strike, which would inevitably have seen the strike immediately collapse; and they argued that there was "no good evidence that AIDS is likely to spread rapidly among heterosexuals in the West"3, and therefore that the left was succumbing to a reactionary 'moral panic' in taking the matter seriously. Now, you may or may not agree with those particular positions; the point is that there was a definite method at work in which they covered reactionary positions with left wing rhetoric. I am told (but can't confirm) that Webb was at one time a member of the RCP. If so it would at least explain how it is that he so casually reaches for their arguments when he needs to provide left cover for a reactionary position; if he no longer accepts all of the positions they defended he at least shows that he remembers some of their gymnastic techniques.
In the relevant section of his book Webb repeats the (laughably hypocritical) claims by Doug P (of Death in June - again, more about him in future) that the left are censorious because some of them have campaigned against his band and others they consider to be spreading fascist ideologies as part of a strategy of 'right Gramscianism', calling (with occasional success) for their gigs to be shut down. Webb proceeds by explaining that the RCP opposed this 'no platform for fascists' policy, and tops off his concoction by quoting RCP leader Frank Furedi speaking about the "fascism of the left"4. In other words, he uses the arguments of the RCP to argue that the left are 'fascist', and then contrasts this to the open-mindedness of libertarians, and puts his heroes in this latter camp because - surprise, surprise - they don't like to be 'censored'. In short, in this instance he doesn't just provide cover for the fascists out there; he implies that the real problem is those who oppose fascism.
It turns out that those dancing around at gigs in fascist-style uniforms, waving Cetic Cross and Totenkopf symbols on their flags, and singing hymns to fascist ideologues probably aren't fascists, but the people who oppose them tendentially are. So, at the end of all this teenage huffing and puffing, Doug P et al. finally emerge somehow as proto-typical heroes in the struggle against... fascism!
At this point further comment is probably superfluous - but if this is what passes for academic research these days then academia is a busted flush. Certainly it raises the question as to how naive and uncritical schoolyard 'analysis' like this could ever get published.
1. Use Google if you really need to find out
2. Webb, 2007, Exploring the Networked Worlds of Popular Music: Milieu Cultures, Routledge, London.
3. Michael Fitzpatrick and Don Milligan, 1988, The Truth About the AIDS Panic, Junius, London.
4. Webb, 2007, p95.