The “Stripped” Video
In 1998, the German hard rock band Rammstein covered “Stripped” (1986), by the English electronic/New Wave band Depeche Mode, for a Depeche Mode tribute album called For the Masses (1998). Later pressings of Rammstein’s second disc Sehnsucht (Longing) include “Stripped” at the end as a “hidden” track, i.e., it is not listed on the cover.
The video for “Stripped” is simply a brilliantly edited montage from Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia, her two-part documentary film on the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin during the Third Reich. The video merely features Greek statues and ruins, attractive athletes, and cheerful spectators. Hitler and the National Socialist flag do not appear. (The American and Japanese flags, among others, do appear, but they simply make the German flag more conspicuous in its absence.)
But such fine points did not matter, and the video provoked an international controversy. In particular, the Anti-Defamation League and various magazine hacks made it known that our Jewish overlords were not amused by images of good-looking, healthy people having fun during the Third Reich, lest people get the wrong idea.
The band, for their part, responded that the video had no political significance whatsoever. They used the Olympia footage simply because of its beauty.
The video and the controversy not only promoted the song, but also contributed to wider interest in Leni Riefenstahl.
In “Stripped,” the singer addresses an object of love or lust: “Let me see you stripped.” Although Rammstein has a reputation for dark and violent music, their version of “Stripped” actually softens the Depeche Mode original, which runs, “Let me see you stripped down to the bone.” Rammstein also omits the line “Let me hear you crying just for me.”
“Stripped” is not merely, or even primarily, a song about sex. It is about a return to nature, which requires the stripping off of artifice, of which clothes are merely one part:
Come with me
Into the trees
We’ll lay on the grass
And let hours pass
Take my hand
Come back to the land
Let’s get away
Just for one day
Let me see you
Modern urban life is characterized not just by artifice, but also by pollution, both physical and mental:
Has nothing on this
You’re breathing in fumes
I taste when we kiss
Let me hear you
Without your television
Let me hear you speaking
Just for me
“Stripped” praises nature over artifice, the rural over the urban, leisure over work, fresh air over smog, and thinking for oneself over parroting the propaganda of the television. Although the narrator does want his partner speaking “just for me,” which may not exactly be freedom, but it certainly is a more intimate and natural form of thralldom.
How does the video mesh with the message of the song? In the most literal sense, the video shows beautiful bodies in sculpture and in life, some of them nude. Most of them are Olympic athletes, of course.
The fusion of images and music is brilliant. During the opening electronic drones, we see Greek statues and ruins. Then the Greek discus thrower is replaced by a living athlete (around 0:45). The moment the discus is released, the drums and guitar enter in, followed by images of athletes in explosions of energy. During an electronic bridge (starting at 2:03), we see a vast field of young women swinging gymnastics clubs in perfect synchronization with each other and the music. When the last verse has been sung and the chorus repeats toward an increasingly ecstatic climax (starting at 3:00), we see high divers leaping into the water—and out of it in reverse footage, to delirious effect.
Is there a political message here? At 1:52, when the Olympic flame is kindled, suddenly we see a vast crowd assembled, with close-ups of beautiful, smiling faces. Then we come to the vast field of synchronized women. So we are now in society, but it is a different form of society—not a society of constricting artifice, pollution, and television propaganda. Sports, of course, are based on rules, which are social conventions. But these conventions function in harmony with nature, leading to the development and expression of physical beauty. Moreover, people gather at sporting events to witness and honor human excellence. Athletic competition is peaceful and constructive, leading to the upward development of the race. This is, of course, a description of the Olympic ideal, but one might wonder why one can’t organize a whole society on such principles. That, of course, is a question the ADL does not want you to ask.
Beyond that, the “Stripped” video is indirectly political precisely because of its purely aesthetic, apolitical treatment of Olympia. The “Stripped” video shows Olympia stripped of tendentious post-war commentary. By showing beautiful images from the Third Reich without informing viewers that what they are about to see is “tainted” by association with demonic evil, the video interrupts the dominant cultural narrative, which seeks to justify the post-World War II order: liberal democracy, expressive individualism, global finance capitalism, and multiculturalism. The chief architects and beneficiaries of this order are Jews. And Jewish power rests ultimately on the conditioning Europeans to feel reflexive horror at all forms of European ethnic pride and advocacy by demonizing them as somehow like National Socialism. By giving us a glimpse of a non-demonic Third Reich, the “Stripped” video short-circuits that conditioning.
The “Links 2-3-4” Video
In 2001, Rammstein released their third album, Mutter, which includes a song entitled “Links 2-3-4” (Left 2-3-4, the equivalent of “hup 2-3-4”). The band asserted that the song and its associated video were a response to the accusation of being right wing. In 1999, Oskar Lafontaine of the Social Democratic Party declared that his heart “beats on the left.” (That’s the difference between them and us, apparently.) In 2001, Lafontaine published a column in Bild entitled “Das Herz schläght Links” (The Heart Beats on the Left) opposite a column by a Christian Democratic politician, Peter Gauweiler, entitled “Mein Herz schlägt auf dem rechten Fleck” (My heart beats in the right place).
Rammstein incorporated both phrases—the heart in the right place, the right place being on the left—into “Links 2-3-4” and had the cheek (or tongue-in-cheek) to proclaim it proof of their leftist sympathies. The music is in 4/4 time with the sound of marching jackboots. But the lyrics are simply about the heart:
Kann man Herzen brechen
können Herzen sprechen
kann man Herzen quälen
kann man Herzen stehlen
Can one break hearts?
Can hearts speak?
Can one torment hearts?
Can one steal hearts?
. . .
Sie wollen mein Herz am rechten Fleck
doch seh ich dann nach unten weg
da schlägt es in der linken Brust
der Neider hat es schlecht gewusst
They want my heart in the right place
but I see it down below
It beats in the left breast
the envious don’t know it well
If one chooses to interpret left and right metaphorically (i.e., politically), this is an avowal of leftist sympathy. But one could just interpret it literally, which would make it politically vacuous, since Hitler and Stalin both had hearts in the right place, i.e., on the left. The song, then, is politically ambiguous in a studied way.
As for the video:
The setting is an anthill. Using mixture of live and animated ants, we see scenes from ordinary ant life: ants playing soccer, ants watching soccer on TV, an ant getting a beer from the fridge, ants going to a rave where a DJ plays a Rammstein album, ants pouring into a theater to watch a film of a Rammstein concert.
The film is grainy and black and white. As the movie starts, we see countdown symbols flashed on the screen, including crossed hammers, like the fascist emblem in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, but not unlike Soviet the hammer and sickle either. We see a wheel with pointed teeth, not unlike the cogwheel used by Laibach. We see Rammstein’s version of Laibach’s cross. Till Lindemann wears stage makeup reminiscent of old German Expressionist films. It takes one back to the 30s, the heyday of fascist and communist collectivism.
But the film is a bit of nostalgia, for the overall setting of the video is the present day. Individualists love to use the anthill metaphor to dismiss collectivism. But in fact, with their soccer, beer, and Rammstein consumption, the ants and their anthill represent modern liberal democratic Germany.
Suddenly, the screen is ripped asunder by a huge beetle. Three of them are attacking the anthill. The ants scatter, many are killed, but then they are rallied by a leader ant, who addresses the masses. He raises his feelers in a gesture reminiscent of the Roman salute. The masses raise their feelers in response. Then the ants pour out of the hill, marching in formation. The marching ants take the shape of the Rammstein-Laibach cross. These displays of precision marching were staples of fascist and Communist mass rallies.
Then the ants form three columns and swarm the beetles, overwhelming and killing them. What the ants lack in individual size is compensated for by their numbers. It is collectivism at its finest, the use of organization to create strength through numbers. After the beetles are dead, the leader ant raises his feelers in the ant salute, and the ants celebrate their victory with more precision marching, creating a toothed wheel formation around the dead beetles. As the video ends, we see a dead human hand in the foreground crawling with ants as well. (This is cut off in the video embedded above.) Foreshadowing of things to come? (If I had to venture a guess about the identity of the dead hand, I would say it is the American Occupation regime. But more about Amerika later.)
With some justification, critics of the “Links 2-3-4” video immediately likened the whole thing to Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, her documentary of the NSDAP’s 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally. The ant salutes look like the Roman salute, and Triumph of the Will is the only mass party rally most Westerners have ever seen, even though the Communists continued to elaborate and perfect it for decades after 1945. (The whole genre apparently developed from the half-time shows at American college football games.) During the chorus, one hears a crowd shouting “Hi!” Claire Berlinski even hallucinates a Hitler mustache on Till Lindemann.
But the members of Rammstein are not Nazis. They are modern Germans. Like the ants in the video and the fans of their music, they like soccer, beer, raves, and Rammstein. Politically speaking, their hearts are on the left. Not the totalitarian left, but the liberal left: the individualist, consumerist left.
But the problem with modern Germans is that this identity is part and parcel with national self-hatred and guilt over the Second World War. Rammstein wishes to restore a “healthy German self-esteem.” They are trying to establish “a natural relationship with their identity.” To do that, they have to teach modern Germans to look at the Third Reich through new eyes. Not to promote Nazism, but to clear the impediment of Nazism to a healthy patriotism.
Thus I do think that Triumph of the Will is intentionally being alluded to. But the message of the video is not a return to Nazi totalitarianism. Instead, the message is that even a modern, individualist, consumerist, leftist society can come under attack. And when it comes under attack, collectivism and its trappings become necessities of survival. All democracies become fascist when they go to war. Thus, even if your heart is on the left, one must make peace with things conventionally associated with the right. (Of course the members of Rammstein, who grew up in East Germany, saw this sort of stuff all the time from their Communist regime.) Rammstein’s keyboardist Christian Lorenz said that “Links 2-3-4” shows how militant and aggressive the left can be.
Mass collectivism is always-already latent in consumer society, particularly in the activities the ants are shown engaged in: sports, raves, and rock concerts. In an interview reported by Berlinski, Richard Kruspe, Rammstein’s lead guitarist, claims that international soccer is the one arena of life where Germans feel comfortable taking their own side. Raves are mass gatherings where music and drugs produce an ecstatic sense of collective consciousness, orchestrated by a DJ/leader. The same thing takes place at rock concerts. As Mick Jagger once said, “Hitler was the first rock star.”
Rammstein is again trying to teach Germans to see their past with new eyes, and to link it organically to their present, so that mass patriotic gatherings no longer automatically connote fascism and the Holocaust.
In another article, I will discuss three more Rammstein videos: “Amerika,” “Ohne Dich,” and “Mein Land.”
To most people, it seems absurd for organizations like the ADL to police rock videos. But we should not be so dismissive. Perhaps they know something we do not. My hypothesis is that Jewish power is stretched very thin. Jews are working at full capacity to contain positive white self-consciousness, and white pride is virtually nil. This means that even a modest jump in white ethnocentrism — even an essentially liberal-democratic form of patriotism, which is what Rammstein seems to represent — might exceed the ability of Jews to control it. Thus they feel they must smother every little spark, lest it ignite a firestorm that might consume them utterly.
Note: Both the “Stripped” and “Links 2-3-4” videos are available on the Rammstein video compilation Lichtspielhaus.