Two years ago, I did an in-depth cover story for a weekly in Florida called "Living on the Edge," a feature that explored the two sides of the “straight edge” culture.
Straight edge? You know, the don't drink, don't smoke subculture of usually younger middle-to-upper class white males connected with the philosophy of abstaining from what they call poisons—everything from the consumption of illegal chemicals such as ecstasy, speed and pot to legal substances such as alcohol, cigarettes and sometimes caffeine.
Sounds like a parent's dream? Not so fast.
The National Geographic Channel explores straight-edge crews in an explosive documentary called "Inside Straight Edge" airing 10 p.m. Wednesday, April. 9.
The program also airs 1 a.m. Thursday, April 10 and 4 p.m. Sunday, April 13 on NGC.
The special, narrated by Sonic Youth legend Thurston Moore, touches on the handful of reported cases of straight-edge violence in Salt Lake City, Reno and even in Boston (a crew known as FSU, "Friends Stand United," allegedly assaulted drug dealers and users on Lansdowne Street).
For the record, a large majority of those who claim "edge" are good kids with a strong passion for hardcore music. However, like any group, there are a few bad apples in the bunch.
Back in 2006, I interviewed Ian MacKaye, founder of Dischord Records in Washington D.C. and former frontman of the punk band Minor Threat, about the term he coined. He wrote the song "Straight Edge," however, he doesn't claim responsibility for the entire movement.
When asked if he had issues with the contemporary evolution of the lifestyle, MacKaye shoots back.
"You have the five percent who are fundamentalists," he says. "And, within that five percent, you have even a smaller group that has a fascination with violence."
MacKaye continues: "Their issue is not sobriety. It's with violence. People with violence in the belly are in search of a trigger and way to get the violence out."
The outspoken musician is referring to the handful of militants who claim edge—called "hate edge"—where the straight-edge crews attack people for smoking or sometimes liken themselves as soldiers of sobriety.
Near the end of the documentary that airs tonight, a Boston-area eighth grader talks about the violent side of the movement.
“We’re not going to go out and kill people, but I’m not going to tolerate drugs around me and the ones that I love,” he adds.