Friday, July 19, 2013

Burzum and faux edginess

Vlag Vikernes, the man behind Burzum, was arrested and (subsequently released)in France on terrorism suspicions. He's already served time in jail for murdering a member of the metal band Mayhem and burning three churches. I saw him interviewed in the documentary "Lords of Chaos" on Norwegian black metal, and he came off as a charismatic psychopath. His website has all manner of vile screeds about how the jews are taking over and pagans need to fight back, and how immigrants and Jews were responsible for a recent train crash in France. Vile, horrendous stuff. I'm not even gonna link to his site because it is so hateful, fucked up, and wrong.

Vice ran an article by Zachary Lipez about people wearing Burzum and Skrewdriver shirts "ironically."  I've definitely seen Haight street crusties with Burzum shirts and patches. The excuse is that Burzum's music is amazing, and his music isn't overtly political. I'm not a fan of black metal, so I can't speak to Vikernes's musical genius, but the conversation around him makes me miss the uber-PC days of my youth. Back when I was tangentially involved in the punk scene, from 1993-2001, racist music was verbotten. Stores couldn't stock white power bands, musicians with racists pasts wouldn't get reviewed in Maximum Rock N' Roll, and basically being on the record as a racist would make you a pariah. There were no ironic Skrewdriver shirts back then, and while people whispered about how good musically their first record was, they wouldn't admit that in polite company. Even dubious "apolitical" oi bands like Combat 84 were looked upon with derision and suspicion. And that's the way it should be. To co-opt the title of a straight edge comp, some ideas are poisonous. In my mind racism, and especially the violent, conspiracy theory racism of Vikernes, should be as taboo as incest and cannibalism (I'd add murder, but that hardly seems very taboo anymore). It's just as damaging to the human race. I'm not proposing that anyone who ever expresses any un-PC ideas be publicly shamed and ridiculed, but I don't think racism should be considered an acceptable or excusable point of view.

And racism definitely should not be considered "edgy," unless by edgy you mean you are on the edge of being a total and complete asshole. Flirting with neo-nazi ideology isn't edgy. It's not challenging the existing social order and stodgy, hypocritical bourgeois values. Racism caters to the existing status quo, and is as old and played out as the religions that Vikernes is raging against. Making gross generalizations and stereotypes about an entire group of people is the kind of thing the counter-culture should be completely against. You know what would be really edgy? Treating all people with love, respect, and kindness, and trying to see people as individuals and not stereotypes.

As I wrote in my earlier post/rant on asshole art, I think you can and should engage with art by people who have different opinions than you, to a point. Burzum crossed that line years ago. If Vikernes was just a right-wing windbag who made music about Norse gods, I wouldn't have a problem with people listening to him. I think you can enjoy Ted Nugent's music without being a total gun-loving conservative. But the fact that Vikernes has translated his twisted views into action, and encourages other people to do the same, taints everything he does. There are thousands of black metal bands. Go listen to one of them. Stop pretending that flirting with a neo-nazism is edgy or counter-cultural.

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