Facebook’s blanket ban on skinhead subculture

Scarlett O'Malley June 9, 2020
Facebook’s blanket ban on skinhead subculture

Overnight it seems that Facebook has culled its platform of skinhead subculture.

In the last 24 hours, people’s personal accounts, groups and business pages have been deactivated and everyone has something in common, a link to the skinhead subculture.

This could be for anything from liking music pages linked to ska music, to being part of record selling groups, to 60s inspired clothing pages, were all deactivated for nearly 24 hours.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and Facebook’s pledge to ban support of white nationalism from their site in March of 2019, you can’t help but have suspicions as to why people linked to the subculture were deleted.

This isn’t to say that the skinhead subculture is one of white nationalism, quite the opposite in some cases.

Photo by Phil Bourne/Redferns

The skinhead subculture was born in the 1960s, and like many identities of the era it was identifiable by a set sound, look and ethos.

The post-war sounds of ska and soul music, imported from Jamaica and the US were at the basis of the late 60s scene.

Skinheads were often identified by there namesake of a shaven head, doc marten boots, braces, straight jeans and a button-down shirt. Women would often wear a Chelsea cut where the head would be shaved bar the fringe and side-burns and a portion of hair at the nape of the neck.

The ethos was one of solidarity in the working classes, a merging of customs creating a newly founded youth culture.

As documented by Don Letts, DJ and film director, in his documentary The Story of Skinheads, he talks about the multicultural unity of the subculture.

The show depicts the the roots of the skinhead and how there is a ‘brilliant cultural collision between the young white working-class kids and their Jamaican counterparts in British inner cities, a moment of racial harmony’. 

In the documentary, Don said: “When I tell people my first point of entry into youth subculture was via skinheads they look somewhat confused not understanding I’m talking about the fashion version, not the fascist version.”

He carries on stating: “I hope my film goes some way to clarifying what was the UK’s first real multi-cultural movement.”

Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/IMAGES/Getty Images

The scene was shaped by working-class youths who wanted to reject the middle-class hippie movement of the same era, often finding kinship with the mod and rude boy subcultures that had a crossover of interests in terms of style and music.

However the second wave of the skinhead came in the mid 1970s to the early 80s and was shaped in light of a politically testing time.

Identities formed in the background of the merging Thatcherite era saw the name of the skinhead hijacked by white supremacists, or at the time people affiliated with neo-nazi ideals.

In an environment of unemployment and working-class struggles the movement became politically charged and one characterised often by violence.

The formation of groups like the National Front and ‘white power skinheads’ soon tarred the name with a racist brush, and the actions of a few soon made the name of the skinhead and racism synonymous with one another.

This brand of the culture soon informed how international skinheads often identified twinning appearance with a white nationalist mentality, particularly in the United States. 

‘Skinheads’ soon became identifiable within ranks of the prison system in the US and a label to give those involved with the neo-nazi movement, and as it’s most recent in history, has blinded and somewhat erased it’s multicultural roots.

There is no denying that racism within the UK scene was prevalent, however it would seem in the more modern climate, the music subculture is one predominately of solidarity. 

Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

‘SHARPs’ or Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice was formed in the wake of this to remind people who enjoy the music and the clothes of just how the subculture made it about.

In the wake of this blanket ban of skinheads, it seemed as though for a moment that a whole community had been wiped out, including pages of avid anti-racists.

Neville Staples of The Specials, who is black and one of the pioneers of 2-tone movement in the 80s whose purpose was to reunite black and white communities, had his Facebook deactivated.

The Ska legend urged Facebook to rethink its moderation policies.

He said via Twitter: “Please look into things before doing a general cull. Unity runs through the veins of me and @SugaryStaple [Christine Staple] plus all our 2Tone Ska community’s veins.”

Rasha Swais, 30, a fashion designer based in North London who creates skinhead inspired garments had both her personal page and her clothing page taken down. 

She said: “Now I feel really uneasy because as a small business I could have lost a lot of business because of this.”

As a small business who relies on Facebook for a lot sales, she has now been asked by Facebook to send in a scan of her passport and has been sent an email on community guidelines.

Mrs Swais, who is of Jordanian heritage, said she had to give her ID to the site in order for them to monitor her now her page is back up. 

Musician and journalist Garry Bushell blasted Facebook over the move, saying it clearly doesn’t know anything about the music genre.

It would seem in Facebook’s bid to rid the site of white nationalism, they have ignorantly jumped the gun with a blanket ban on a subculture that often openly promotes anti-racism.

Facebook have now given a large chunk of the profiles back to those who are part of the scene after much backlash on other platforms throughout the day, but the question still stands as to why it happened in the first place. 

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