Canadian post-punk foursome Viet Cong announced on Facebook today that it has changed its name to Preoccupations. The band’s un-punk statement reads in part:
We apologize to those who were adversely affected by our former band name. This was never anticipated nor our intent. We are artists and not politicians, we understand that the name reflected pain to some individuals and we are happy to change it and move on and focus on our music.
Some people found the name offensive because the Viet Cong, the military wing of the National Liberation Front, committed atrocities during the Vietnam War (though that applies to all sides in that conflict). Others felt that it was “appropriative and racist” for a band of four white men to take its name from Asian culture (watch your back, Japandroids). Regardless, it was only a matter of time before Oberlin College inserted itself into the controversy.
As Pitchfork notes, Viet Cong didn’t do itself any favors, admitting naïveté about the Vietnam War (which ... Wikipedia?) and saying things like, “The Viet Cong were always the bad asses in movies.” As drummer Mike Wallace told The Guardian, the name originated when frontman Matt Flegel was “kind of shooting his bass like a gun. I said: ‘All you need is a rice paddy hat and it would be so Viet Cong.’”
I don’t blame Viet Cong for caving to the outrage, which was probably a business decision more than anything. But punk rock is supposed to piss people off, even insult them, and rarely are its politics nuanced. Thus: Joy Division, Gang of Four, Dead Kennedys, and so many other great bands whose names today are deemed “unacceptable.”