We were white and awful, but we still weren’t as racist as Vice
The ’90z – 2003 (cont.)
What follows amounts to the final episode of An Oral History Of The Dig: Volume 1 (The 90z – 2003). If this stumble down memory lane has sparked your joy thus far, don’t freak out; our story resumes with Volume Two in the weeks ahead and will continue into 2020.
Before we officially wrap this column, we should mention that plenty of Dig contributors are glad as hell the website was a worthless trash heap back then and their clips from the Weekly Dig have been (largely) lost to time. Part of that’s because most people are shitty writers when they’re 22. The other part is the Dig of that era had a comparatively permissive attitude about humor that today’s readers (and, ah, also readers of that time) might consider questionable. Of course, that olden times Dig also had a permissive attitude about basically everything else, and it was all in good innocent fun, right?
… Um… well…
Not necessarily. Beware those who piss and moan about “political correctness” stifling their “free speech” because a bunch of the time, those people are secret Nazis.
As for the rest of the staff, we don’t buy the idea that white people in this country are getting a raw deal. In fact, we suspect caucasianhood kept some of us out of jail on an occasion or two…
JEFF LAWRENCE (founding publisher): One night at [the] East Berkeley [Street office], somebody called 911 by accident and hung up. So this is on a Monday or Tuesday night. Matt [King]’s got escorts coming in [for the classifieds section]; we’re all like half in the bag. I lean over to roll a joint, and I look up, and it’s the BPD. Guy’s like, “Somebody call 911?” I was like, “Uh … may have been an accident?” And he’s like, “Listen, we’ve got better things to do than bust you guys. You guys are good, right? No 911?” Had we been black they would’ve drawn their guns and it would’ve been over, but they laughed about it and left.
JOE BONNI (ousted founding editor): Jeff owned the majority of the company, and rightfully so. It was his money. He wanted to give people living wages and health insurance. Jeff wanted to do the right thing, but he didn’t do them the right way. Not with me.
LAWRENCE: What he’s pissed off about is he thinks history has left him behind and he feels he needs to be part of the narrative of the Dig, whereas I’ve spent all this time saying I don’t even want to be part of the narrative.
KEITH BENNETT (extreme metal columnist): I would go in once a week and, y’know, just go through the CDs and whatever. We used to get free kegs of beer, which was fucking awesome. And I didn’t have a computer. That was the other thing. So interns used to hate it, ’cos it was their job to transcribe my reviews, because I wrote them longhand on notebook paper. But I’d have my Discman and my headphones, and instead of writing my reviews on the computer, I’d be on black metal message boards and shit like that, or the old Noise Board, and I’d be listening to black metal and getting shitfaced. I’d get in at 10 in the morning and I’d leave whenever it was time to go home at 7 or 8, and I’d walk all the way home back to Allston through the city shitfaced listening to black metal.
LAWRENCE: I expected and relied on everybody to work late and work hard and put in every ounce of energy they had. We would order pizzas from Emilio’s. We didn’t just order beer, we ordered food, we did all that stuff. It isn’t unlike what Google does. We just weren’t on that level. The reason they have a gym and drycleaning and food is they want people to stay there. We did the exact same thing, we just did it the only way we could afford to do it, which was through a [beer] partnership. They donated the kegerator, and they delivered beer every week on trade.
KEITH BENNETT: The first time I put a Nazi band in Extremities, it was honestly just to see if anybody would notice, and nobody did. I never had this idea that I was going to have a bi-monthly white power music column in the fucking Weekly Dig. It was never that. But during my last year writing for them, I think there was one per column, or at least a half-dozen total. Nobody on the staff had any idea. They trusted me, y’know? Which really hurts to say now. And then I got on some anti-racist group’s radar and everything just went down so fast.
BONNI: I was fired about three weeks before Burning Man. So I drove across the country, got there, got wrecked, and pretty much decided then that I was going back to school to study people. I fell in love with archeology, and since then I’ve been to France. I lived for two months in Syria, just a year before the fuckin’ war broke out. I’ve excavated in Italy multiple times. I lived in New Orleans for a month to excavate a church there. I found human remains in Native American burials in both Miami and the Everglades. It’s crazy shit.
KEITH BENNETT: After everything went down, I was like, “Fuck you. I’m going down like a warrior swinging and taking you all fucking with me!” And it was probably like a year and a half afterwards I was fired when I said, “What the fuck, man. What am I really doing? Where has this shit got me? Y’know, I’m a grown-ass man, and I can go deeper into this and there’s going to be serious repercussions if I do, but is this really my thing or am I just pissed off?”
I do remember one conversation … I was at my old place at Rugg Road smoking pot with people, and out of nowhere someone said, “Keith, let me ask a hypothetical question.” I said, “Yeah, what’s up?” This person said, “So … if your race war comes, and the Fourth Reich happens, and you’re going to be a good little stormtrooper in the army, what are you going to do when they start coming for your friends?”
I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Okay, do you really think you’re going to be able to say, ‘No, no, no, he’s cool, she’s okay, that person’s alright. You can let them go?’ Look at all the people you work with. Look at your record collection. Look at your books. Look at all these people who would be dead, gone. Can you say right now that your life would be better if all of these people were gone, ’cos with all the shit that you’re about right now, they would all be dead.”
It just hit me like a fucking boulder, man. And I realized, “Nah. I don’t want that.”
Barry Thompson lives next to a highway in the Allston/Brighton vicinity. He has written for a whole bunch of places, enjoys caffeine, and appreciates a good, hearty anxiety attack every now and again.