Saturday, 29 October 2011

The fascistic futurism of Ziggy Stardust

I was watching the Boyd Rice documentary Iconoclast last night, and was amazed by one scene where Rice showed a picture of Oswald Mosley addressing a rally of the British Union of Fascists. On either side of the stage was their distinctive "Flash and Circle" symbol ("England ignite!"), which Rice points out, David Bowie reused for his performances as Ziggy Stardust (not only having the symbol emblazoned across his face, but utilizing an identical arrangement of the symbols). Bowie has got away with this over the years, and was only ever really pulled up over his suspicious looking "Sieg Heil!" style salute captured in that infamous photo upon his arrival at Victoria Station, as well as his comment that, "Hitler was one of the first rock stars".

While the salute and comment might (almost) be explained away as spur of the moment provocations, Rice convincingly shows how consciously Bowie incorporated fascist iconography into his act. Oh wait, it's actually not correct to say he was only called to account for the Hitler comment and the salute, as Bowie is also on the record as having said, "Britain could benefit from a fascist leader" (see Buckley's bio of Bowie, Strange Fascination). I don't expect Bowie will ever fully, publicly, come clean--probably because he is now very embarrassed about this period of his career and regards such "statements" as morally abhorrent--so we have to thank Rice instead for alerting us to Ziggy's status as the first "(crypto) fascist alien" rock star. The example of Ziggy clearly proves that Bowie's fascist sympathies predated Station to Station.

Throbbing Gristle later used a similar symbol, but I give them more credit than David Bowie in terms of how they staged each performance as a "psychic rally" to explore how individuals were "conditioned" by mass culture etc. Genesis P-Orridge:“The TG flash was NOT in any way based on Oswald Mosley's fools. It was Chris Carter who found it on a British Rail pylon warning DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE ELECTRICITY.
British Union of Fascists rally at Earl's Court 1939 (click to enlarge to see symbols on either side of the stage and then compare to the pic [above] of the decorations behind Ziggy)


HellCombatant said...

You probably forgot to mention one or two figures predating Bowie like Dune's creator Frank Herbert, eg, or just the US Sturmabteilung version of Henlein, here

Anselmo Quemot said...

Thanks for your comments.

Actually though, all I was trying to say about Bowie was that he was the first actual "rock star" (as in an internationally renowned musician/performer on stage), as opposed to a novelist or character in a novel, to consciously utilize fascist iconography. That's why I cited another musician with similar proclivities--Boyd Rice--to this effect.

It's easy though to imagine Ziggy becoming a big hit too in the world depicted in Starship Troopers. I like the films better, and won't forget the patriotic song in Part 3, "It's a good day to die/when you know the reason why." Scary!