I, Thor Harris, am not an activist. This is no time for any of us to wait and see what happens. I am a percussionist and multi-instrumentalist. I play with Thor & Friends, Swans, Ben Frost, Bill Callahan, Adam Torres, Shearwater, Amanda Palmer, and others. I write bossy lists such as “How to Tour in a Band or Whatever” and “How to Live Like a King on Very Little.” I also talk openly about depression. I’m pretty good at Twitter.
VOICES is a Talkhouse series in which artists discuss current events through their own unique lens. For each article written, the publication donates to a charity of the musician’s choosing. Thor chose the NRDC.
— Brenna Ehrlich, Talkhouse Music Editor-in-Chief
Since the Trump presidency began, I’ve been making short videos, “life hacks” for dealing with this unfolding madness. I post them to Twitter @thorharris666. I made one on how to saw through the border wall with an angle grinder. Adam Torres translated it into Spanish. On Monday, February 6, after watching, with conflicted glee, a smug white supremacist get punched on YouTube, Adam and I made a little video on how to land a good, solid punch. I, of course, begin the video by saying, “Don’t do this, but if you have to…” It was meant to be a satirical, humorous comment on the guilty pleasure of seeing a generator of hate get primally shut down.
It began to bounce around, got reposted a few times, and responses of all kinds were soon overwhelming me. It was mostly praise and laughter. I was happy it had made some people laugh. We all need a laugh these days. A lot of black and brown Twitter users loved it and shared it. I felt honored to have penetrated that culture barrier. We are, after all, one culture in America — even if we can’t grow up and act like it by appreciating the thing that is really special about America, which is our diversity. I have traveled a bit and experienced this first hand.
But then, about seven hours into this social experiment, came a wave of right-wingers who found this video threatening and horrifying. They misperceived it as a call to arms. These were white men and a few women who wanted to put bullets in me. They also commented on what a messy slob I am in my ragged T-shirt. I guess that was their way of suggesting I was in a lower class than them. Many of their Twitter profiles were emblazoned with “MAGA,” pictures of Trump, proclamations of Christianity and Nationalism, and pictures of Pepe the Frog, who has become the mascot of the new white power movement. They also like to boast their love for guns in their profiles. They love guns like we love puppies.
dear friend Thor Harris was suspended from Twitter for posting this how punch nazis in the face video. here you go! pic.twitter.com/1tJcKiWi7c
— Xiu Xiu (@XiuXiuforLife) February 8, 2017
I did have a few reasonable debates with Trump voters after assuring them that I had no real desire to punch them. But mostly the middle-aged and older white men just wanted to shoot me. They had found the anti-Trump and they could cure what ails America with a single bullet. I was finally face to face with the fine folks we all saw on the news at Trump rallies — and it felt horrible. I could really feel their hatred for me and all the Left. I wanted to take the opportunity to explain what a terrible mistake they had made backing this clown. It was futile. I quickly learned how to block users and gave up on healing America. After the fall of the Soviet Union the right wingers changed the focus of all that hate on their liberal neighbors: us.
The next day was a bit calmer. Some hate and some love for the video. Adam had translated it into Spanish. That night was my birthday, and my band, Thor & Friends, played a show that was also a birthday party for me. After the show I noticed I had been “suspended” from Twitter.
The next day, February 8, I started getting texts: “Hey, why are you suspended from Twitter?” I could only assume it was for the “How to Punch a Nazi” video. I went through the steps to get unsuspended, still with no explanation from Twitter. The texts and emails of support and congratulations kept pouring in all day. I told my dear friend Jamie Stewart from Xiu Xiu about this debacle. He said, “Send it to me. I will post it on my Twitter account.” Then I learned that Pitchfork and Stereogum had done stories on my conundrum. I actually got a lot done without Twitter. Being off social media all day was liberating. I kind of wanted the whole thing to go away.
I was Charles Manson to the ‘normals.’ I was a funny Viking to my people.
The suspension of my account made the video go viral. I could not Tweet, but the beloved and hated video had a life of its own. Way out of my control. I think if you keep hate from growing in your heart, everything you make will turn out pretty OK. I did not feel any shame over the video. I had hit a nerve. My friends still loved me. Some people out in the ‘burbs hated me. I could feel how broken our America really is. I was Charles Manson to the “normals.” I was a funny Viking to my people, the majority of Americans who are appalled by this administration.
The evening of February 8 they unsuspended my Twitter account and sent me an email saying that the “pornographic” background on my profile had gotten me suspended. The background was an ink drawing I had made of penises. It had been there for years. The Christian Right had busted me on a technicality. By that point, the video was bouncing all over the world.
We all have something to say to these bullies. Some of us have violent urges to stop them. Resist those urges. What I said got amplified because it was funny or something. I don’t know why a thing goes viral. My lists “How to Tour in a Band or Whatever” and “How to Live Like a King on Very Little” were just written to make a few friends chuckle at the shit plight of touring musicians and anyone else who has to work closely with others. They resonated, and off they went.
The Trump supporters feed on hate whether they know it or not. Starve them.
But, my friends, this is no time to just see what happens. This is the time when you should have your senators and the White House helpline on speed dial. Call every day. Twice a day. Text the word “DAILY” to 228-466 for daily acts of resistance. Follow real news: BBC, Reuters, New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, Guardian, The Economist, AP or Slate. Follow Move On and Indivisible. Our country is in the hands of fools.
But the beast is starting to bleed. The protests, Saturday Night Live, the real press, the calls to elected officials (no matter which side) are working. We are activated and will NOT stop until we have a government that we trust. Pay attention to all elections. Boycott every goddam thing with ties to Trump or his supporters. Heed the words of John Lewis and MLK. Be kind and non-violent to everyone — always. Be like Obama; treat people with respect. The Trump supporters feed on hate whether they know it or not. Starve them.
Still, I’m glad I put that video out there. Anyone who is bothered by it but not bothered by a President Trump has much to learn about the world and how to live in it.