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The Straight Edge Scene: Rated XXX

The Straight Edge Movement preaches against several human vices, but some members believe in enforcing their beliefs through violence.

September 01, 2000  |  by Investigator Al Valdez

Many of today's "youth groups" have been heavily influenced by the music scene.  Of all the movements, one in particular, Straight Edge, still maintains strong ties with the music world.

History

In the early 1980s, the punk rock movement was thriving.  This culture was entrenched in a self-destructive lifestyle.  The ideologies of the culture were communicated through the music.  In the Washington, D.C. area, circa 1981, a countermovement was started.  A punk rock band called Minor Threat, led by Ian McKaye, gave a name to the Straight Edge movement with a song by the same name.

The Straight Edge culture preached a lifestyle without drugs, alcohol, tobacco, premarital sex, racism, sexism and fascism.  The punk rock music style was used to spread the word.  As the new subculture's popularity increased it spread across the country quickly.  The Straight Edge subculture maintained the high energy and aggression of the punk movement without the drunken and drugged brawls.  Actually, the Straight Edge movement professed that not taking drugs or alcohol was a "cool" thing to do.  Initially, Straight Edgers avoided violence and were not a law enforcement problem.

Hardline

In the mid-1980s, the movement began to take on a different persona.  The East Coast was a center for change.  Bands like the Gorilla Biscuits, Bold and Wide Awake helped increase the popularity of the movement, but also helped develop the "us vs. them" attitude.  The Straight Edge movement was becoming intolerant of non-members.

In 1986, another facet to the Straight Edge movement developed.  The vegetarian and vegan ideology surfaced.  Vegan means abstaining from all animal-derived products.

In the summer of 1987 a band named Vegan Reich was formed.  All five members were entrenched in the Straight Edge movement and were also all avid animal liberation activists.  In fact, they used the band to promote their agenda of militant veganism and radical environmentalism.   Until this time, the movement was basically peaceful.  Straight Edge vegetarianism was rare and veganism unheard of.

In 1989, Vegan Reich developed the Hardline movement, separate but related to the Straight Edge subculture.  The band released a new album in 1990 called Hardline.  It outlined the new ideology and declared a war on all animal exploiters, "earth rapers" and drug users.  Surprisingly, almost overnight the Straight Edge vegan (Hardline) movement gained nationwide popularity.

By the early 1990s, the Hardline movement had gained sufficient momentum to become a problem for those who believed in the original Straight Edge philosophies.  In the mid-1990s, this separatism and violence entered the concert scene.  Straight Edgers began force their beliefs on non-Straight Edgers.  Fights and stabbings became more common at concerts.  The music lyrics were filled with rage and anger.

By 1994 violence became increasingly linked to the Straight Edge movement, especially at concert locations.

The Animal Liberation Front

Something unique happened during this time.  Straight Edgers and Hardline Straight Edgers who were exposed to animal rights information at concerts and on the Internet started to join the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an underground organization that vehemently opposes human exploitation of animals.

Hardline Straight Edgers began creating their own local ALF groups, made up of three to 10 members, to act independently "on behalf of animals."  These individual cells, with no central leadership or structure, began to commit "direct action" terrorist acts against businesses that sold animal products.

The ALF, frequently associated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), began in the 1970s, though its activities were rarely noted until the late 1980s.  Actions by the ALF increased during the 1990s, averaging one per day in the United States during 1999.

Another group that recruits Hardline Straight Edge members is the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).  This is a splinter group of the Earth First organization.  The ELF has tried to link eco issues with animal rights.  In 1994 the ELF and the ALF joined forces.

Probably the most memorable ELF action occurred in 1998 when ELF activists bombed the skin lift in Vail, Colo., causing an estimated $12 million in damages.  Direct actions by the ALF usually target research laboratories that conduct animal experimentation, "factory farms," and businesses that sell animal products or those tested on animals.  Weapons have included pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails.  Vandalism and graffiti are common.  Because the ALF cells are independent, the arrest of one group has little or no effect on the others. (Editor's note: ALF members maintain that while property damage is often part of an action, violence against people is not condoned.)

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Comments (1)

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Jim Keith @ 9/14/2013 4:18 AM

While your article about violence being associated with the Straight Edge movement holds accuracy, I

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