e-B-a-Y, I Don’t Like You

(originally posted October 2005)


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But you knew that already. Only eBay could turn me into a public apologist for Skrewdriver, but here I am adding another chapter to the three already posted on negative-feedback.com. Up until a few years ago, I'd never even bothered listening to Skrewdriver. Early on in the heady high school days of punk rock, I associated Skrewdriver with overt racism and the vicious Confederate Hammer Skins who mauled many a show goer in Dallas/Fort Worth in the mid- to late 80's. The mere association was sufficient to sour any curiosity. Fast forward fifteen years to a time when my friend the Angry Inch — lover of all things controversial, morbid, and revolting — has finally browbeaten me into having a listen to Skrewdriver's debut LP, All Skrewed Up. He assured me that even a delicate flower like myself would find nothing in the way of "offensive". And anyway it was a punk rock classic. The Angry Inch was right. Anyone who digs early punk rock owes him/herself the favor of finding All Skrewed Up along with the first two 45's. Hands-down, no-two-ways-about-it classic punk rock.

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We don't pose. Skrewdriver circa 1977 in front of their hometown's high point: Blackpool Tower.

Sparked by a newfound enthusiasm for All Skrewed Up, I dug around for some more background on the band. Skrewdriver formed in 1977 in a town described by Chiswick Records label owner Roger Armstrong as the "arsehole of nowhere". The band attracted a hard, working class crowd, and flurries of fists at gigs seem to have been commonplace. Of course, the band partly blamed local politics and press for blowing things out of proportion (listen to "Too Much Confusion"). Continuing bad press prompted Chiswick to drop Skrewdriver from the roster, and the band broke up before 1980 rolled around.

Ian Stuart, the singer, would reform Skrewdriver a couple years later with himself being the only member from the original line-up. A swing to the Far Right and infamy was not far behind. Nationalist sympathies quickly spilled into White Power politics giving racists worldwide a rallying pole, and Ian Stuart more recognition than ever. Too bad so sad for former band members and former label Chiswick (who've steadfastly refused to reissue any of the band's early recordings). So, that's the background, the set-up for another chapter in me versus the clowns in eBay's Trust & Safety circus.

The first brush-up with eBay's new policy regarding Skrewdriver came on August 7th. A self-hating consignor (yes, a Jewish record exec) sent over a first pressing of Skrewdriver's "Invasion" 7in. (Rock-O-Rama 1984) to sell on eBay. This 45 is by the later reformed Skrewdriver, and the Far Right leanings are in full effect. The music is totally lackluster, the lyrics banal... still, there's no accounting for taste and copies have been known to fetch $100+. The picture sleeve shows an illustration of a lowly skinhead crucified on a the ever-threatening hammer & sickle (for more on the "Rock Against Communism" beard, check out Wikipedia).

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Trust & Safety ended my listing and e-mailed the following:
Date: Sun, 07 Aug 2005 12:25:16 -0700 (PDT)
From: ended@ebay.com
Subject: PI NOTICE: eBay Auction Ended by Customer Support - Offensive/Violent Material
To: *****@*****.com

Dear Ryan Richardson (*****@*****.com),

We regret to inform you that your eBay auction:

4754670604 SKREWDRIVER ~ Invasion 7in. (Rock O Rama 1984)

has been removed from the site by eBay Customer Support. All fees associated with this auction have been credited to your account. The item you have listed does not appear to be consistent with eBay guidelines. It is against eBay policy to list any auction item that graphically portrays violence or victims of violence, and lacks substantial social, artistic or political value, including explicit crime scene photographs or morgue photos and movies such as the faces of death series.

For information on our Offensive Items policy, please go to:
http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/offensive.html

For information on infringing, prohibited or questionable items, please view: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/items-ov.html

For more information on why eBay has ended an auction, please visit: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/items-ov.html

Future auctions listed that fail to meet our listing guidelines will be ended early and repeated violations may jeopardize your account status. We value you as a member of our community and wish to continue our relationship, so we respectfully ask you to refrain from any violations of the Listing Policies or User Agreement in the future.

We thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Regards,

Customer Support (Trust and Safety Department)
eBay Inc
I immediately called eBay — yes, on the phone. There is but one "perk" (and an extremely overrated one at that) that comes with being christened a "Gold Level" Powerseller: a phone number where a seller can reach an actual human. Of course, that human is reading off the same cards as anyone else but at least I get the canned answers immediately. I was informed that the Skrewdriver policy had been instituted the week prior and — following eBay's usual M.O. — no notices or information about the new policy was posted or sent to sellers. I politely pointed out how shallow, misguided, and disappointing the policy was and wished the cheerful gal on the other end a good day. I mean, the same people answering the phones were in charge of determining "substantial social, artistic or political value"? Still steaming, I fired off an e-mail to Trust & Safety:
Subject: CW=C36001 Listed an item prohibited (banned) by eBay [#US A33 ?01]

User Feedback: 2029
User State: ?01

Ask about selling or billing (for sellers only) : My listing was removed by eBay : Listed an item prohibited (banned) by eBay

Message: My listing #4754670604 for SKREWDRIVER ~ Invasion 7in. (Rock O Rama 1984) was ended for the following reason given by eBay: "It is against eBay policy to list any auction item that graphically portrays violence or victims of violence, and lacks substantial social, artistic or political value, including explicit crime scene photographs or morgue photos and movies such as the faces of death series." This reason seems wholly unrelated to the record I'd listed. While band members were certainly not the most upstanding citizens of the world, there is nothing blatantly graphic or violent on the record's cover or even in the song lyrics. The A-side ("Invasion") is an anti-immigration song, something I certainly don't agree with... but deserving of being banned? The B-side is called "On The Streets" and it's about, yes, being on the streets. I heard no racial epithets or even four-letter words. Give me a break. I actually listened to the record before judging it, clea! rly more than the parties responsible for ending the auction can say. Would you like an MP3? Though eBay's wasted enough of my time on this matter already, I'd provide them just to prove my point. I ask that my auction be reinstated and an apology issued. Thank you.
Several hours later, I received a reply. Guess what? No apology and no reinstatement!
Date: Mon, 08 Aug 2005 16:26:21 -0700
From: eBay Customer Support (rswebhelp@ebay.com)
Subject: Re: CW=C36001 Listed an item prohibited (banned) by eBay
To: *****@*****.com

Hello,

Thank you for writing with your concerns. I am happy to help.

I understand your frustration at having your item ended, however, we no longer permit the band "Screwdriver" music to be listed on eBay due to the offensive material contained within it.

eBay has always exercised judgment in allowing or disallowing certain listings consistent with the spirit of a worldwide community. Therefore, eBay will judiciously disallow listings or items that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial or religious intolerance, or items that promote organizations (such as the KKK, Nazis, neo-Nazis and Aryan Nation) with such views.

For more information on Offensive Materials, please go to:

http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/offensive.html

It has been my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing eBay and have a great day.

Regards,

Ralston
Community Watch Team
eBay Trust & Safety
The bogus empathy and empty talk of a worldwide community provided little consolation. Here's a word you'll hear me use over and over and over with regard to eBay: disingenuous. With all the lip service about "community" and high ideals, eBay's brand of disingenuous double-speak is particularly galling. I've experienced far too many instances of eBay's "disallowance" (a euphemism for "banning"), and there's NOTHING "judicious" about the process. There's a reason why eBay policy and proceedings are secretive. Emperor eBay has no clothes.

Because screaming at a wall but once is rarely satisfactory, I fired off another heat-of-the-moment missive to my new friend:
Dear Ralston:

I spoke to an eBay representative earlier today who informed me that music by Skrewdriver (this is how the band spells their name) is now banned by eBay. While I will never be an apologist for the band (I don't share the moronic views that eventually surfaced on later releases), I want to make clear how misguided and disappointing your policy is. I hope eBay is also moving to ban music and writing by ALL racists, misogynists, dopers, and gangsters. While banning Skrewdriver's "Invasion" 7in., I hope that the department will also consider also banning ANY commentators who support sealing borders in their respective countries or hold other reprehensible viewpoints. The elimination of all things O'Reilly and Limbaugh would make browsing so much easier! It's a slippery slope, but then again who do y'all answer to? Oh, that's right...

I've provided the lyrics deemed offensive by Trust & Safety below. I encourage your department to review the song lyrics and the history of the band. From there, I would encourage a quick read into the history of democratic societies and the founding of America. Does that sound overly dramatic? It's not nearly as histrionic or absurd as eBay's so-called "judicious disallowance" policy. If ignorance is bliss, members of the "Trust & Safety" department must be having a grand ol' time.

With Unending Disgust,

- Ryan Richardson
eBay Gold Powerseller RYEBREAD
Austin, Texas

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The lyrics to both songs on the ended eBay item 4754670604 (SKREWDRIVER's "Invasion" 7in.)

INVASION

They came across the border in the middle of the night
It was much much worse in the cold daylight
There's hundreds of tanks and thousands of men
And helicopters buzzing right above your head

(chorus)
Oh no, it's an invasion, invasion
Oh no, it's an invasion, invasion

They're moving out of cities, they're moving out of towns
If you're caught resisting you're quickly mown down
Everybody's running, but they don't know where
So long as they escape, well they just don't care

(chorus)

You can't understand, why they murder your land
But you can't fight a tank with a stick
And you want to fight back, but the future is black
And the killing is making you sick
The tanks pass by, in a never ending line
Not a man or a woman is spared
And then you wonder why, no help does arrive
The world doesn't seem to care

You've formed a small resistance, you've got a few guns
You plan a small ambush, but you end up on the run
You're running through the foothills, but you'll never make your cave
You're just another rebel in an unmarked grave

ON THE STREETS

Walking down the subway, at the weekend
After a good night out on the town
There's gangs over here, gangs over there, well there's gangs everywhere
You'd better watch out now, if your on your own
It's the day of the boys dressed in blue
You'd better watch out if one of them looks at you

(chorus)
On the streets, of our towns
On the streets, all around
On the streets, everywhere
On the streets, it makes you scared

Standing in a concert, having a good time
Paid your money out to see the show
In come the cops, looking for trouble 'cos your white men
Would you believe that this was Britain '84
It's the day of the boys dressed in blue
You'd better watch out if one of them looks at you

(chorus)

You never see politicians out there standing on the streets
They don't care if your kids are fed or got shoes upon their feet
They don't know what's happening, they don't see what's going on
If they did, they'd all be screaming "What the hell is going on?!"

(chorus)

People seem to think if it's in The Sun they've got to believe it
Try to tar everybody with the same brush
Remember, birds of a feather don't always flock together these days

So don't get carried away by the sight of us


BACK WITH A BANG

With the new policy in place, I noticed a precipitous drop in Skrewdriver listings over the next couple weeks and an increase in Buy It Now and one-day listings hoping to fly under the radar. Curious to see how closely listings were being scrutinized and of course out to have a bit of fun, I re-listed the "Invasion" 45 with a little description doctoring. Well, the eBay thought police didn't catch on — and bidders didn't either! Are cocktail references outdated? Maybe racialist inference skills ain't what they used to be? Maybe my description wasn't "proud" or "noble" enough?

I admired the pluck of eBay seller "uglylenny" who — despite having items ended — carried on listing Skrewdriver box sets as "Ian Stuart's Band" and "Cluediver".

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Fellow seller uglylenny's Irish earned him new eBay status: "not a registered user".

Over the next month or so, I carried on the usual vinyl selling regimen. In early October, I did a search for keyword "Skrewdriver" and got over 100 matches. Ah, I thought... eBay must've rescinded their untenable and absurd policy. I re-listed the "Invasion" 45 and three days later it was shut down again. How foolish to think the policy had changed! The eBay rep confirmed that the policy was still in place and that any other listings I might find are also in violation. In other words, lots of people were speeding, but I just happened to get the ticket (or at least that's what they're telling me). Just another day in the furtherance of "Community Values".

OK, so the ban as I understood it was this: all records, shirts, posters, or memorabilia by Skrewdriver. What about a magazine from 1977 that included a Chiswick Records ad? Would that be glorifying violence and promoting hatred? Surely a fanzine called Sniffin' Glue didn't lack substantial social, artistic or political value.

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Chiswick's ad in Sniffin' Glue #11 encourages you to pogo... oh, and hate Jews.

So, yeah, you guessed it... I noted the ad in my listing, and Trust & Safety pounced. Another victory against hate and intolerance! Sure, I could've simply listed the fanzine without describing the ad, and the eBay goon squad would've missed it. Clearly, "Skrewdriver" is just another naughty keyword like so many others. eBay's Skrewdriver policy isn't about substance; it's about PR, about trying to perpetuate the image of a benevolent, grassroots organization. Don't buy it. eBay doesn't give one fuck about you or about racism or sexism or whatever societal ill they can run up their HQ flagpole. You're just another shitworker in eBay's money factory. Keep your head down, tow the company line, or else. eBay's a goliath version of the boss those Blackpool boys despised back in 1977. Skrewdriver's sentiments make for a fitting conclusion...

— Ryan Richardson
Austin, Texas
Halloween 2005

THE END
(until eBay picks the next fight)


                                                                          
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