The real Viet Cong have no comment.
Last week Oberlin College canceled a concert by post-punk band Viet Cong, due to the group’s name, which the promoter found offensive. “I acknowledge the problematic nature of a band naming themselves ‘Viet Cong’ and extend my apology to anyone hurt or made uncomfortable by the name and its connotations,” said Ivan Krasnov in a statement, thinking it was a mistake to invite “a band with a name that deeply offends and hurts Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American communities, both in Oberlin and beyond.” Krasnov was appalled at the band’s name, which he thinks is “reinforcing a tradition of American (and Western) orientalism and appropriation.” In case you don’t know about the real Viet Cong – and apparently the band didn’t (see below) – it was the name of the North Vietnamese guerilla force that fought against South Vietnam and the United States in a little skirmish that happened in Southeast Asia many years ago. The VC – a worthy adversary – was affectionately known by American GIs as “Charlie” and occasionally “The Man in the Black Pyjamas”. While known for its cruelty and torture, it is not known if the Viet Cong ever produced any punk rock. Anthem rock is more their thing.
The band issued a statement of its own, in which it sort of acknowledged the problematic issue of its name, and sort of apologized for it, but still sort of said “hey, it’s just a name!” In an open letter the band stated “when we named ourselves, we were naive about the history of a war in a country we knew very little about. We now better understand the weight behind the words Viet Cong. While we don’t take any concerns about the name lightly, we feel it is important to let you know that we never meant to trivialize the atrocities or violence that occurred on both sides of the Vietnam War. We never intended for our name to be provocative or hurtful.” For a band to say sorry for causing offense isn’t very punk rock now, is it? Then again, they are Canadian. What do you think? Is Viet Cong an offensive name for a band? Let me know, but not right now, as I am heading home to listen to Joy Division, The Dead Kennedys, Jon Cougar Concentration Camp, and Butthole Surfers.