Ian MacKaye


In a clip from the documentary Edge (2009) Iam MacKaye criticizes the straight-edge movement that was born from his own words.

By 2009 MacKaye had been the front man of three punk-rock bands: Minor Threat, The Evens, and Fugazi.  He had also been the co-founder of Dischord Records.  Although his song “Straight Edge” sparked the homonymous punk-rock movement, in the video MacKaye expresses disapproval of it.

“Movements start to lose sight of humanity,” he says.  He redefines the word “movement” and gives it a characteristic that applies to all movements in general, not just the straight-edge movement.  He most likely is referring to the violence that straight-edge followers participate in when promoting their sober, abstinent, animal-supporting lifestyle.  Blinded by a cult-like adherence to their philosophy, they lose sight of humanity in that they consider anyone outside their group less than human.

The vocabulary MacKaye chooses to describe the straight-edge movement further expresses his condemnation.  He describes it as a “militant movement,” and a “minority.”  Once again, aware of the violence straight-edge followers have been known to engage in, MacKaye characterizes the movement as a dangerous endeavor to be feared and avoided.  Yet he addresses the fact that the movement is small and almost insignificant by calling it a “minority.”

MacKaye tells stories of fundamentalist straight-edgers who turn their ridiculous philosophies against him.  His anecdotes of the straight-edge teen who criticizes him for drinking iced tea- a “drug”- display the absurdity of straight-edge ideology.  “One kid asked me if I’m still straight-edge,” he says.  MacKaye himself was never straight-edge, he just lived the life that became the example of the label.

“I don’t ever want people to use my words to injure others,” MacKaye says.  His audience realizes that straight-edge followers here are the wrongdoers, the criminals, the bad guys.  MacKaye detaches himself from them by saying they deviated from what his lyrics intentionally meant. When straight-edge followers say “their cause is a just one,” MacKaye says it’s “bullshit,” dismissing them completely and disintegrating their credibility.  “They’re living in a movie,” he says, characterizing them as fools lost in fantasy, out of touch with reality.


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