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St. Paul, Minn. — Panzerfaust Records is printing 100,000 copies of a new CD, simply called "Sampler Volume 1." The cover features a cartoon of a muscled skinhead and a flaming Nazi iron cross. The CD has 20 tracks from top white power bands like Brutal Attack, Rebel Hell, Final War, Skrewdriver, and Max Resist.
Panzerfaust makes no secret of the fact it's targeting kids 13 to 19 years old, and the CDs will be given for free to students all over the country. Panzerfaust says it has never done anything on this scale. Civil rights groups say the effort is unusually large and well-organized.
"Schools need to realize what is behind this CD," says Elana Stern, the Chicago-based associate director of the Anti-Defamation League. "It's not just another record. This is a thinly-veiled attempt to attract today's teenagers to hateful and racist music."
There's nothing illegal about what Panzerfaust is doing. Stern says the ADL can only prepare schools to combat the CD though education and conversation. "We're not asking them to take away the CD -- that is not an option," she says. "They should notify parents and let parents know what's out there and in the community, so parents can have conversations with their children about the importance of diversity and respect."
Bryant Cecchini, who uses the name Byron Calvert, is one of two men who run Panzerfaust from the small St. Paul suburb of Newport. "We don't have to justify jack," he says. "This is America, we have a right to do it, and we're going to do it."
The label is using two major routes to distribute the CDs. The first is direct mail. Calvert bought bulk mailing lists of Americans that show things like age, gender, race -- even hobbies.
"We're going to be mailing a lot of these to white teenagers that subscribe to certain magazines -- metal music magazines, skateboard magazines," Calvert says. "And we're going to be concentrating them in groups, so that the result is that there might be 50 to 100 kids at a particular high school that receive this CD."
Panzerfaust is also sending shipments of CDs to a variety of racist groups around the country. Calvert says large numbers are headed for California, the East Coast, and the Southwest, "where the illegal immigrants are starting to irritate a lot of people." According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Minneapolis-based National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group, has requested hundreds of CDs to distribute to kids in the Twin Cities.
Calvert says Project Schoolyard is not about inspiring violence in schools, or even winning converts. "It's not necessarily designed to make them run out and buy a CD, or shave their head and get tattoos and become skinheads -- or even be openly racist, pro-white activists," he says.
Calvert says the idea is first to get kids to appreciate the music, which even critics agree is much better produced than a decade ago. In a broader sense, Calvert says it's about making white power music mainstream and acceptable. He says he deliberately chose more tame tracks for the sampler CD.
"It's not hate-filled music. The ADL wants to run and scream because they make it sound like we're singing about killing Jews or something like that. That's not the case."
The ADL's Stern agrees -- sort of. "Panzerfaust has made a real effort -- I keep saying "thinly veiled" -- to have the basic racist movement and those ideologies in the music, but it's not overt," she says. "But this is the first step in trying to attract young people. Then when -- if -- the kids take the bait, it will get deeper and deeper and more hard-core. This is a recruitment tool, but a very well-organized recruitment tool."
About 5,000 copies of Panzerfaust Sampler Volume 1 have already shipped out. 95,000 more are on the way.