This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Thoughts On The Outlaw Biker Subculture

From 2010:

I’m reading Angels of Death: Inside the Biker Gangs' Crime Empire by William Marsden and Julian Sher, which is, as the title indicates, all about the “1%er” motorcycle “clubs” (gangs) and the mayhem they inflict on civilised society.

You must understand that this isn’t meant to be a review of the book, since I haven’t finished it yet. It’s much more a discussion of the “outlaw biker” phenomenon, in which (as a biker myself) I’m quite naturally interested.

I first came across any detailed information on the Hells Angels in an issue of the (long since late and highly, by me, unlamented) Parademagazine in the very early nineties (is it just my memory, or was it the February 1991 issue?). It was an article which was interesting to me specifically because I was just learning to ride a motorcycle at the time. (For those who are interested, it was a third-hand 250cc Yezdi belonging to my friend Robin, another model long since relegated to the museums; I mean the bike, not Robin.)

To cease maundering, the article, called Hells Angels: A Horror Story, talked about the outlaw biker gangs, with special attention lavished on the Angels, and their multifarious crimes. I’d hardly been aware what a biker gang was until then, and suddenly I had this surfeit of information; and I don’t mind telling you that my twenty—year-old brain was thrilled and interested.

OK, that was then. In subsequent years I’ve done a lot of casual research on the bike gangs. I’ve visited their websites, and asked questions, got a few answers and a lot of abuse. Once I even made friends online for a while with a member of the Outlaws MC, whosenom de guerre was “Ross 1%er”; he suddenly vanished, whether into prison, or bumped off, or just decided I might be an undercover cop I don’t know and don’t particularly care.

I’ve read the (highly self-serving) autobiography of Ralph “Sonny” Barger, the de facto boss of the Hells Angel criminal empire. I’ve read books like the one I’m reading now, which talk about the ultra-violent crime empire of the biker gangs, where violence is the currency and crime is what pays. Sounds almost like the lower rungs of an Indian political party!

As Sher and Marsden point out, biker gangs are the world’s most high-visibility criminals (barring, of course, politicians). Nobody else actually put on uniforms blaring out their gang identity to the world, hang out in designated gang headquarters (“clubhouses”) and go out of their way to identify themselves to the world. And, as the authors amply demonstrate, far from making them vulnerable, this high visibility actually makes them difficult if not impossible to infiltrate and counter adequately. It’s not easy to earn the uniform, and once you have it, it’s not easy to act within the boundaries of the law – if you are an undercover cop.

Of course, the bikers deny all the allegations. Go to any biker gang website, like this one, or this, or that, for instance, and you’ll discover that all these wonderful men live for is the freedom of the open road, and that all law enforcement says about them is one big fat lie.

Well, let’s see.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the outlaw bike clubs are just that – clubs – and that what the bikers claim about themselves is the utter and unvarnished truth. In that case, just what do we have?

What we have, from my standpoint as a biker myself, is a load of bull crap.

See, I have no problems with the idea that motorcycles offer you a freedom of the road as no other form of transport does; it’s true. When you’re on a bike you’re not enclosed in a mechanical box, and you can feel the environment, and you’re of course far more flexible in where you’re going. And, lest we forget, a modern bike causes far less traffic congestion than a car and is more economical and environment friendly than a four-wheel vehicle, any day of the week.

Now, these bikers claim they’ve formed themselves into clubs because they are “out of tune” with society; that they love freedom.

Driving in rigid lines, looking as joyless as it’s possible to look, going to planned destinations along planned routes, each individual acutely conscious of his place in the ordered scheme of things, where the hell is the freedom?

Look at them off their bikes, too:

See the patches, badge of their membership of the club, on the backs of their leather jackets? They work hard for those patches, let me tell you; act as servants for the full members for years, and to hell with individualism and dignity; and then they do a stint as probationers, and then maybe – maybe! – they get the full colours of the club, at which point they have to do as the club tells them to.

So they - for the cause of freedom - abandon their civilian lives and attitudes to become...what? Patch wearing criminals? Patch wearing club members with no shred of individuality allowed?

This is...freedom?

If it is, maybe I should start a gang of my own, called Freedom Sucks, or F. Ucks for short.

Anybody interested?  

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