On Lovecraft, Burzum and the Cost of Throwing People Away
It is not the business of imagination, creativity, or art to be any safer than life or death
When I started on this piece, I’d told myself I wasn’t going to do the disclaimers and the throat-clearing and all that. It’s unbecoming, it’s unattractive, and it encourages people to make baseless assumptions about things without disclaimers that shouldn’t be needed in the first place.
But in doing research on the music side of this piece, I found that the tendrils and connections went far deeper than I thought they would, to the point where I was very much disturbed and shaken concerning a subject where I’ve become accustomed to just shrugging. There are a few things I believe that come into direct conflict with each other, and this essay is basically about that conflict and embracing beliefs that will surely be unpopular. But I believe what I believe, and trying to be all stoic about some beliefs while effusively blathering about other beliefs in the end didn’t make any sense.
So let’s get this shitshow on the road with all the unbecoming and unattractive bits:
Race is a fiction, therefore racism is wrong on both a moral and factual level. Yes, I am explicitly saying that “white people” and “black people” etc. do not actually exist. Our skin color and ancestry are absolutely irrelevant to our capacity for intelligence, morality, capability, or kinship. “Racial identity” does not describe who we are, it describes a brutal fiction we inflict on ourselves and each other. Any reification of race fuels racism1. Difference will always invite comparison, and you cannot declare both difference and insistence that any comparison be favorable; humans don’t work that way.
The individual is the most important unit of society. Each individual has their own mind, and by definition any free and just society will allow each individual to pursue their own interests, express their own thoughts, and achieve their own goals to the best of their own individual abilities. Any society which as a matter of course forces an individual to subsume their individual interests, thoughts, and/or goals for the “greater good” explicitly denies the greater part of what makes us human, and is by definition oppressive2. Fascism (and communism, but we aren’t dealing with that in this post) is destructive and repressive not simply for what it does to its enemies and targets and victims, but for what it requires of the fascists themselves.
A person’s ability to express themselves, either artistically or through political speech, must be upheld by everyone for everyone if we are to pretend we are in a free society and cognizant of human reality.
But what do we do when that expression, politically or artistically, is done in the service of evil?
My conclusion is that it is simply a price to pay for living in an open society. Any steps taken to suppress artistic work is an act that denies humanity and moves a society along the road to hell. Some art is going to be offensive. That’s just the nature of art and artists. I’d go so far as to say any creative work that offends no one isn’t actually creative at all. Everyone has their own ideas of decency and comfortable thought, and coming into contact with things that disregard those standards is going to generate discomfort, and perhaps even disgust.
That’s a free society for you.
Then there is the argument of actual harm. Racist art (not always the same as “art made by a racist”), and even worse, propaganda, is an attack on people, no two ways about that. But building a freer and more just society cannot happen by silencing dissent, nor do you build a freer or more just society by suppressing the populace’s ability to access ideas and perform their own evaluations. You don’t improve a society by keeping people ignorant about things. Not even bad things.
“We must suppress these ideas or they will spread and disrupt our society,” is a totalitarian impulse. Censorship3 is something fascists do. In fact, it is one of the defining characteristics of fascism.
“Hate speech” as a concept is nothing more than blasphemy or obscenity under a different name. And history has shown that restricting of such things is never done even-handedly, or even sanely. And the harmless, and indeed the drivers of progress, always somehow find themselves afoul of blasphemy and/or obscenity laws.
And if you silence someone you deem harmful, you’re not just putting out of sight and mind that person’s capacity for harm. You’re also eliminating their positive qualities just the same.
And you’re harming everyone that could ever find positive value from their expression.
And that’s what this essay is all about.
Of course even writing this essay means that I am opening myself up to all sorts of attacks by those who will act in bad faith and intentionally miss the point, and judgment from those who functionally can’t read and thus will genuinely miss the point.
But I’m already in a position where people I once heavily relied on and thought I had good relations with distance themselves from me, and where the influential RPG media outlets do things like put me on a list of most infamous publishers.
So I have four choices.
Lie in order to try to regain my reputation in the industry and the respect of my peers.
Just never say anything and act like my own opinions are somehow lesser than everyone else’s.
Be honest and open about what I think and believe and why (and therefore show who I am), in the hope that somehow, some way, it carves out a relatively stable space for me and others to create as freely as possible according to our own values.
I think #4 is the only real choice here. #2 and #3 won’t work, because I know what I’m releasing soon that I suspect will make people lose their shit.
Now that the boring shit is out of the way… let’s get into the meaningful stuff.
Varg Vikernes4 is a convicted murderer and burner of churches, and perhaps most relevantly for this conversation the person most responsible for popularizing Nazi5 paganism to a wider audience. Unrepentant and still spreading those ideas today, he’s been for almost thirty years in public the sort of person that can easily be discounted as just a bad person who brings no positive impact to the world.
Yet he is one of the most influential heavy metal musicians of those same last thirty years, and the popularity of his music helped the careers of so many other musicians who do not share his views nor condone his actions. I have been very personally enriched (every way but monetarily, I should note) by those who have both enabled Varg’s musical career and those who have benefited from it to the point where my life as it has been these past twenty-five years may not have been possible, and certainly the thrust of my imagination and creative forces would have gone in much different directions over that time (if I’d even have become focused enough to ever do anything in the first place), without their direct inspiration, influence and/or assistance.
Life is one hell of a thing.
Life is even one hellier of a thing than you thought: The last Burzum album was specifically intended as a soundtrack for Varg’s tabletop role-playing game. This post is not using the example of some other interest of mine to illustrate a point concerning how I view my profession. They are the same thing.
After his arrest for the murder of his bandmate and compatriot Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth in 1993, one would have thought that Vikernes’ musical career would have come to a halt. As Wikipedia6 puts it, “After Varg Vikernes was arrested in August 1993 for the murder of Mayhem guitarist Øystein Aarseth, no record company wanted anything to do with him. He tried to release Burzum's next album himself, but found that running a worldwide distribution from a prison cell was very difficult.”7
Enter Tiziana Stupia, who was for whatever reason so passionate about Burzum that (again quoting Wikipedia) she “was upset when she heard this. She contacted several record companies in an attempt to persuade them to release the album, but to no avail. As a result, one of the companies she wrote to replied to her, stating, ‘If it is so important to you to have these Burzum albums released, why don't you do it yourself?’ Stupia then decided to do just that, and started Misanthropy Records.”
It could easily be assumed that if Varg is so toxic a personality (and I’ve never seen anything that makes me believe there are circumstances where he is otherwise), that Tiziana was herself was a fan of Varg’s worst qualities, or that Misanthropy Records and its founding can exist only to spread Varg’s political message. But an assumption is all that can be.
Because here’s the thing: In terms of creative quality, Misanthropy Records is the greatest record label to have ever existed in heavy metal.
The company started as a vehicle to release Burzum albums, but quickly moved to sign other bands. And it is these bands that is basically an all-star roster that defined the cutting edge of heavy metal (and post-metal) in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Arcturus, Beyond Dawn, Fleurety, In the Woods..., Katatonia, Madder Mortem, Monumentum, Primordial, Solstice, Ved Buens Ende.
I know that this list means absolutely nothing to anyone likely to read this, but to me this is art in all its superfluous and pretentious meanings, and work that makes life worth living. Arcturus’ La Masquerade Infernale all on its own is worth so much more than most anything or anyone else on this planet, and I don’t know I could have gotten through the late 90s without these bands.
Give a listen:
Beyond Dawn “Chains”
In the Woods... “299 796 km/s”
Katatonia “Scarlet Heavens”
Madder Mortem “Shadows Coming Home”
Monumentum “From These Wounds”
Primordial “Journey’s End”
Solstice “Cimmerian Codex”
Ved Buens Ende “I Sang for the Swans”
(They also had Mayhem for an EP, so for all the schism and the taking of sides that happened in the black metal scene after Varg killed Euronymous, both Varg and Euronymous' bands ended up on the same label anyway.)
Obviously all of these bands knew that Burzum was on the label when they signed, and that the label’s ability to fund and market their own albums would be enabled by sales of Burzum’s albums8. Does this make them bad people and in league ideologically with Burzum? Well some people must have thought so.
Misanthropy had some problems getting all of their records distributed, as you may imagine. Especially in Germany. In response, Misanthropy released the compilation album Presumed Guilty in 1998, showing off not only the different bands on the label (as was common for labels to do in those days) but with each artist (and the label head) also writing a piece about censorship for the liner notes. So here is evidence, if you are of a certain authoritarian ideological bent, of bands knowingly appearing on a record with Burzum, while actively arguing for his right (and by extension their own) to be heard.
Let's go down this rabbit hole. Not even all the way down. Just a little bit.
I’ve said before that I was one-place-removed from a lot of the worst people in the metal scene. So me first.
Up to the point that the Norwegian Black Metal Murders happened, UK label Candlelight Records (among others) was in contact with Varg, hoping to sign Burzum. Candlelight had signed Emperor and released their earliest work and arranged their first UK tour before it was known that drummer Faust was a murderer and guitar player Samoth was a church-burner (convicted for burning a church with Varg; he was also a session player on a Burzum release; the Norwegian black metal scene was small and pretty much everyone knew and was involved with everyone else), but Candlelight released Emperor’s debut full-length album after these things were known. So it would seem that Varg’s politics, not his criminal activity, made him too hot to handle (compare and contrast how Burzum and Emperor are thought of and treated in the metal scene) and the story is that Candlelight opted not to sign Burzum for fear that they’d lose distribution for everyone on their label.
Almost a decade later, that same man who was in charge of Candlelight Records during that period was personally very helpful to me in visiting Finland for the first time; I’d dare say I’d so badly screwed up my arrangements that I might never have gotten here if it wasn’t for him. We were quite friendly for years. (This same man was also playing in lefty crustypunk bands in the same timeframe as dealing with Emperor. Good luck with the pigeonholing.)
Primordial singer Alan Averill wrote this for the liner notes of Presumed Guilty: “Word association with Alan from Primordial. topic: censorship... you have 30 seconds young man... fear, weakness, pallid incompetence, ignorance, moralistic dogma, tyrannic egotism, brow beaten herd mentality, lack of individual conscience, understanding, and intelligence, self righteous indignation, fascist... I thank you...”
Primordial has gone on to have a long and storied career9 (these last sixteen years on Metal Blade Records, who were responsible for getting Slayer and Metallica going, among many others), releasing seven more albums after their Misanthropy days. Averill also has a Youtube channel and the Agitator’s Anonymous podcast. This year, 2021, I gave him money to advertise LotFP on his podcast.
And I’ve talked to and given a platform to a number of people who were Euronymous’ and Varg’s friends and musical colleagues back in the day.
I don’t like Varg or Burzum10 (and it very well may be that I don’t like Burzum because I don’t like Varg; it’s hard to say), but it is rather unconscionable to enforce that dislike on other people11. I’ve certainly made the argument to people before, “You shouldn’t go to see that band because they’re those sorts of people,” but the people went anyway and that didn’t affect my relationship with them. Who am I to dictate the tastes of others? And Burzum shirts are not at all rare to see at metal gigs around these parts; you even see them every now and then out on the street. You like what you like and you don’t get to choose what moves you. I’ve known enough people who like people I consider bad for reasons that aren’t related to why I think they are bad, so I know how foolish it would be to judge someone on the sole basis of wearing a band’s t-shirt.
But if I did like Burzum, I’d have no problem saying so, and I’d have no problem buying all his albums. (I have the first three for archive/library purposes12.) I think Emperor is absolutely awesome, Dissection is great too, and once we’re over the “someone in the band killed a guy” hurdle, then politics is a stupid reason to turn away.
Let’s go further afield. Amber Asylum (signed to Misanthropy sublabel Elfenblut at the time) contributed to the Presumed Guilty album, and after this time period had multiple members of Hammers of Misfortune appearing on its records, including HoM leader John Cobbett. Cobbett composed music for the Sims 2 soundtrack. Janis Tanaka was a member of Hammers of Misfortune and was the touring bass player for Pink and L7 for a time.
By the time Amber Asylum’s track on Presumed Guilty appeared, they were already signed to another label, Relapse Records, where they were contemporaries with, among others, Grammy-award winning band Mastodon.
Babylon Whores also appeared on the comp. One of their members at the time now manages Nightwish.
Katatonia, who only worked with Misanthropy for one split 10” record, didn’t appear on Presumed Guilty, as they were already signed to Avantgarde Music at the time. But Avantgarde was owned by the main man of the band Monumentum, who did release a full-length record with Misanthropy (and would have released that record with Euronymous’ Deathlike Silence Productions had Euronymous not been killed), and did contribute to the Presumed Guilty compilation. Signing for Katatonia around this time was Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth, a band signed to Candlelight Records. Åkerfeldt has collaborated with Steven Wilson, among others. Opeth and Katatonia were licensed in the US by Century Media Records, who also licensed for US release Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (featuring performances by Euronymous and Varg) and Emperor’s catalog. The same Century Media whose label group includes now in its roster former 80s and 90s major label stars Dream Theater, Geoff Tate, and oh yeah, Marduk (veteran Swedish black metal band that has had US gigs canceled because of protests claiming that they are fascist) and Watain (look that one up yourself).
If we want to go into the recording engineers, cover artists, sleeve design personnel, and other support staff of these Misanthropy bands, we will start getting further in bed with mainstream pop culture, media, and even academia.
Then go to Youtube and note how many people do Burzum covers in various formats. Note that the actual Burzum songs on there, the legitimate uploads anyway, were done by a subsidiary of Sony Music. Yes, one indie label signs a Very Bad Person, enough of the public neglects to listen to their betters on what or who they should like, so the small label is successful enough to get bought up by another label, who is then swallowed by another… and soon enough you’ve got major labels involved in distributing and profiting off of Varg Vikernes’ work. (Reverend Bizarre, a band of utmost personal importance to me, have covered Burzum. The rights to that cover recording are held by Universal Music. Yup, another major label.)
This is just a small sample of how one person in one small corner of an entire art form touches, in six degrees or less, pretty much the entire entertainment industry. This doesn’t even include anybody or anything else that would be completely normal for heavy metal, and the sorts of people attracted to the landless, performing lifestyle in the service of what’s often very dark subject matter. Unstable personalities and mental illness, bizarre politics (of all stripes), occultism, alcoholism and other drug addiction, infidelity, brawling and such violence, it’s all there in great amounts13. People who, rightly or not, feel put upon by or can’t deal with day-to-day existence, and decide that music is their way to transcend, ignore, escape from, or process the existence they are trapped in. Self-medication through creative expression.
Sounds like role-players, actually. I’m not kidding about that. The parallels between RPGs and metal was immediate and obvious in the internet age. The complete separation from reality almost demanded by the form, lack of professional industry-wide standards, the infinite variety of ways to do it from a design, production, and performance basis, the distance between the corporate market leaders in their offices and the passionate DIYers working out of their bedrooms, the ease in which the DIYers can get product out in the first place, the factions and the fanbase slagging off their unpreferred styles and brands and personalities in order to buttress up their own preferences as superior, and the annoying fact for anyone wanting to put a reassuring mainstream face on it all that there will always be troublemakers who just do not want to play ball.
Not to mention the continuing fallout, decades later, of the Satanic Panic, both from those who are sensitive to it and seek to avoid issues, those who feel put upon that any concessions were ever made… and those who decided that all the worst things alleged in those days sounded really cool and should be made real (fucking LARPers…).
So how far do we go to taint people by association? At what point is the connection far enough, by degree or by time, that when you work with a person who worked with a person, you don’t have to justify yourself or worry for your own reputation? At what point is the connection far enough, by degree or by time, that merely having a non-majority opinion on these people or what they’ve done no longer requires you to justify yourself or worry about your own reputation?
Who decides any of this? Who should decide?14
And at what point do you have to realize that to even decide who gets to be an artist and who doesn’t, that to decide to get rid of all of the problematic people and influences in art, and to remove from the sight of all the good and respectable people everyone who has inappropriate associations with the responsible parties, to eliminate from positions of influence any who have incorrect opinions about what is to be done, that you will have to get rid of meaningful, personal art altogether?
There are no good answers. But continuing the cycle of suppression seems to me to be the worst answer of all.
Oh, one more personal connection to transition to the next topic.
Rich Walker, leader of Solstice… I had a (written) run-in or two with him, and with his reputation I think if we’d ever met I would have very much suffered for never having learned how to fight. But as a composer and musician, he is great. He also had his own record label, The Miskatonic Foundation. It is through his unwitting, but direct, influence that I finally decided in the early 00s to check out an old author that kept getting mentioned in metal circles…
Howard Phillips Lovecraft is definitely the most foundational influence on Lamentations of the Flame Princess. He did not originate the ideas of the extradimensional “other,” the “weird,” but he did popularize the concept and concentrate its expression. Without him, almost nothing in this realm happens.
He and his “circle” (Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Frank Belknap Long, Robert Bloch) are cornerstones of genre fiction, and without them the entire imaginative landscape would be much, much different.
Lovecraft’s influence to creators like Stephen King, John Carpenter, Alan Moore, Guillermo del Toro, HR Giger, Clive Barker, Fritz Leiber, and more can almost go without saying at this point. I’m at least comfortable enough assuming that anyone reading this is familiar enough with Lovecraft’s work that I don’t need to go into the reach and relevance to the modern cultural industries the way I did with Burzum. He’s everywhere, and his “children” have become literally world-renowned superstars.
He was also outspokenly racist, and it was directly relevant to enough of his work, and part of his great works, to be inseparable. This essay is not going to go into that in great depth, as it is the sort of thing that has been talked about to absolute death.
I will simply note my previous refutation of the idea that he was extraordinarily racist for his time, note that I stand by everything I said there.
Now to the present point, unpleasant questions, and unpopular opinions:
HP Lovecraft has been dead for 84 years. People can enjoy his work (or not) with the comfort that they are not enriching a man with views they abhor.
But… wait a minute.
Does it actually matter whether he was an extraordinary racist, or just your average run of the mill pre-WWII American racist?
Seriously. If all he did was bitch and moan about the people he didn’t like but took no direct action, does that make At the Mountains of Madness or The Call of Cthulhu better, or more interesting, or more worthwhile, than if he went out and threw rocks at his Mediterranean-complexioned neighbors?
And a more difficult question…
Does it matter that he’s dead?
It’s a stretch, but far from impossible, to think that Lovecraft might have survived to the publication of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974. He would have been 84. (Conan creator Robert E Howard, himself racist as one would not be shocked by for someone born and raised in early 20th century rural Texas, would have been 68 had he survived that long.)
I bring that up because Dungeons & Dragons, and therefore the entire role-playing hobby (and great swathes of video games as a medium) was built on the skeletons of these old racists. (Not only these old racists of course; Michael Moorcock has been politically progressive for instance, but Conan has done far more to inform D&D as originally formulated by Gygax and Arneson than JRR Tolkien or other such epic fantasy.)
Part of Lovecraft’s modern popularity is due to Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu RPG, first published in 1981 (Lovecraft would have been 91), and the many volumes collecting the stories of old weird authors, and new pastiches. It is no exaggeration to say their work popularized Lovecraft more than anyone else.
Would these properties have been considered truly tainted if an elderly Lovecraft had been around to personally endorse them?
But there is a certain safety in using the works of long-dead people who died ignobly. Yet there is still the fact that issues of legacy and influence have become important in these modern times, and one can’t step without tripping over those who go out of their way to condemn the thinking of men who died in the 1930s.
And in what’s unbelievable to me, so many people who have been inspired by Lovecraft’s creations, who use Lovecraftian ideas in their own work, go out of their way to denigrate his person. Not simply criticizing his views about this or his actions concerning that, fair play there, but to trash his value as a human being altogether while simultaneously celebrating that same human being’s creation.
There’s something deeply disturbing about that. An ungratefulness, at the very least.
And over and over during the past year, the thought keeps creeping into my mind: What are we doing to today’s Lovecrafts?
Shit, what are we going to do with tomorrow’s Derleths?
Because lets face it, a modern-day Lovecraft is going to be the type of MAGA-hatted, “redpilled,” Fox Newsy social media troll that absolutely nobody could stand to be around. A truly disturbed weirdo. You probably know the type. Shhhiiitttt, people probably think I am that type.
yeah, most of these people are just obnoxious and unpleasant to anyone not on board with their beliefs15. But a number of them are going to have something positive to offer the world. They will have talent.
But wait a minute. Lovecraft died penniless and unknown. It was only posthumously that he gained wider acclaim. “Mr. MAGA hat can fuck off,” you might say, “and we’ll pick out the good parts when he’s no longer in a position to profit off of it.”
Yes, but… he still had his circle of admirers, and he had August Derleth, who put great effort and expense into glorifying Lovecraft and his work. How well is that going to fly today?
“Oh yes, I was a good friend with Mr. MAGA troll, and we chatted frequently. He was quite the talented fellow, and I will make it my professional life’s work to bring his work to greater awareness and acclaim!”
I’m sure that would receive no resistance.
And I’m telling you we are making a great mistake by not letting today’s reactionary little weirdos (as good a term as any to describe Lovecraft) flex their imagination. Someone out there has the ability and the drive to create things that will enrich the next century’s creators and will enrich the lives of millions of people. Not letting them do so simply because they have some shitty views in this present moment is literally cultural self-harm. Nevermind the harm to specific humans far in the future, some moody teenager, some unbalanced personality in the year 2100, who is able to cope and get through their difficult period one day at a time because of the inspiration from this one artist who in turned was inspired by this other writer who died in the 2040s. Who was a real sonofabitch asshole, judging by his archived Facebook posts, donchaknow.
Another thought experiment pops into my head.
What say Lovecraft pops through a time portal, straight from 1931, fresh off of writing At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. An unchanged, unreformed Lovecraft, the originator and popularizer of so many of the ideas which we just take for granted.
What say he is thrilled by how his work has lived on, how it has been adapted and used. Like this, but Lovecraft:
Now, he wants to continue his work. He’s got this idea for his next story. It was going to be Dreams in the Witch House, but time travel, so he gets to read his own work (and the work that came after) without actually having had gone through the process of writing it. (a writer’s dream!)
So he has some new ideas.
And he’d like a publisher for his ideas. Fiction suits him best of course, but this strange role-playing thing is literary enough that he could give it a go, if it could help pay his rent.
Would Chaosium publish the man whose work is a cornerstone of their very existence? Should they?
Even after Lovecraft finds out about the internet and decides that Facebook and Twitter and Youtube are good replacements for all the letter-writing he did back in the day?
You know what he’d be posting. And how people would react to it, and to anyone who at that point continued to see any value whatsoever in his work.
And I keep thinking, even with all the progress we’ve made in being able to see each other as full human beings, and even with all the work that’s still left to do in that regard… what are we losing as we fumble through those efforts the same way we’ve fumbled forward throughout human history?
I can only think of what we would have lost if we treated creators back in the day the way we treat them now. And I write here with the full assumption that we will lose that same amount in the future if we as a society continue on our current course.
And as I come to the end of this piece, I just feel the one question weighing down on me.
Why? Why do I think like this? Why would I write this, in the open, where people can see it, when I expect the majority who might ever see it to reject its arguments and reject me personally? When the results of this thinking has burned me badly in the past?
Because I think it is right, and I will not be cowed into denying what I think is right.
The Hammer with Which I Am Hitting You Over the Head
We are human. Even those of you (definitely not me) who are at the cutting edge of 2021 social ‘progressiveness’ and attitudes will seem conservative in a generation or two, and downright backwards and ignorant in a century. None of us can ever be “on the right side of history” and anyone claiming that banner for themselves or their views is delusional and dangerous and is no different than anyone claiming God for their side.
In the end, to our descendants we can only be backwards savages whose views were important to overcome in order to usher in the better, modern future. Same that our ancestors were.
And the one thing that to me marks how backwards our ancestors were more than anything else was censorship. Heresy and blasphemy laws (which still exist today, and not only in ass-backwards nations; Finland has blasphemy laws), obscenity laws, excommunication, the auto-da-fé, the struggle session; these are all things that are awful and have destroyed honest and good people right alongside the malevolent. They are blunt and imprecise instruments which show that the difference between “ideas forbidden to be expressed,” and “people who are forbidden to be,” is nil.
We all need to stop being so precious about our own goodness, and our supposed superiority over those we don’t like—even if (especially if) there are good reasons to not like them. We’re just repeating the endless cycles of human cruelty and failure as we continue to identify the bad people and force them out of our sights, giving those same people a sense of purpose and motivation to carry on with their struggle as any mistreated people will have.
And you’re wanting to do this in creative fields, which is going to be where people who are as a rule mentally restless, unable to conform, and possibly a bit touched in the head will filter into, and who are inclined to speak out. It doesn’t matter if the society you are attempting to build is in fact the most kind, generous, fair, and good system ever devised and implemented by mankind. A certain set of the population is just not going to have it. This is as natural and intrinsic to human existence as shitting or blinking, and to attempt to deny it is simply anti-human.
What is it you imagine you’re going to do with all of those people? You’re really telling them they can’t imagine? They can’t express themselves? They can’t have friends? They can’t hold any job in your sight?
That anybody else on Earth isn’t allowed their own answers to these questions?
“Who do we have to get rid of, what ideas do we have to eliminate, in order to solve our problems?” is just pure insanity. You cannot build a good world based on eliminating people or controlling thought. All of those who have tried have reigned over an empire of mass graves and broken peoples.
You’re building a world every bit as cruel as the one Varg would if he was in charge. You’re not any better a person just because you’re sure your targets really do deserve it. He thinks his targets deserve it, too.
You are the same. We are all the same.
At some point we have to stop playing these power games. Those that hate and exclude and make life worse for everyone have to be dealt with so that they have no power over those they look down upon, but they have to be dealt with productively, in a way that does not betray basic human dignity. Not even theirs. Using their own tactics against them, against art, leaves us all the poorer for it, in more ways than one.
Our ability to imagine, to create, to invent something completely unreal out of nothing, that represents the absolute best in humanity. We’ll never be any better than when we inspire each other through creation and art.
And sometimes, that inspiration comes through most unseemly vessels.
This is not to say “I don’t see color.” I’m saying that that it is a moral failure that I do see it, and it is the greatest catastrophe of the human race that this is how we look at each other. It is racism all on its own, regardless of whether one makes a value judgment based on it.
Yes, “I am white,” “I am black,” “I am mixed-race,” are all expressions of racism. As long as these are things that normal people think or perceive, racial strife is never going away.
Sometimes I think I was born too late; that if I had come of age around 1970 instead of in the 90s then I would have been right there at the origin of so many things I love. RPGs, heavy metal, underground cinema…
But when it comes to race, I was born far too soon. Humanity will be forced to shelve so much of its stupid bullshit when we’ve so thoroughly intrafucked that we can no longer assume anyone’s ancestry via visual cues.
I’m not much for thanking people who have served in the military for their service… On one hand it is a sacrifice an individual is making for either their society or their own future, on the other thanking someone for doing it in a time where there is no enemy at the gates feels like celebrating an ongoing and constant tragedy of human civilization.
I define “censorship” quite broadly. It is not only government restriction, but also corporate and social. Any attempt to suppress a work or idea, or create obstacles in it reaching an audience.
Not all censorship is bad. Copyright, for example, while as applied is imperfect and lasts way too long, is a sound in concept. But copyright restrictions are indeed censorship.
Anyone who supports censorship while denying the idea that what they are doing is censorship is either arguing in bad faith and trying to conceal their aims (liars!) or are so ignorant of the positions they espouse that they won’t even have considered their consequences.
They are dangerous either way.
Using his most well-known alias; he’s had a handful in his career.
“Nazi” may not be technically accurate, but frankly it’s close enough for my purposes.
It is funny though, that for all his talk on racial matters, and it is all awful, as far as I’ve found the only people he seemed to have directly harmed, or made concrete plans to harm, were fellow white Scandinavians with opposing politics. What is it with Norwegian racists who can’t even racist right?
(I can imagine, if anyone ever reads this bit, this devolving into some nonsensical “Is a political murder worse than a racist murder?” non-discussion. My answer: “What could you possibly gain from even having an opinion either way?”)
Everything I quote from Wikipedia I have heard from independent sources, much of it before Wikipedia was ever a commonly-known thing. Doesn’t mean it’s actually true, it might just mean the same urban legends got into both my ears and onto Wikipedia’s page.
“Running a worldwide distribution from a prison cell was very difficult,” has to be hands down the most unintentionally hilarious line ever written.
I am assuming Stupia was not some independently wealthy heiress or something (it was too early for her to be a dot com or other internet fast-cash situation) who could just spend money willy-nilly on these things, but who knows?
Many of the bands and musicians on Misanthropy have had long careers that extended long after the label folded. Burzum included, actually.
I normally hate this sort of throat-clearing (and am very embarrassed by how much I’ve done in the past; it’s ridiculous) but in this case it is relevant. None of this is a defense or a positive impression of Varg as a person, his views, his actions, or even as a quality artist. This point about whether someone is allowed to be an artist in the first place, for people to be able to decide for themselves and only themselves whether to engage with an artist’s work and how, to not make assumptions or judgment of others based solely on their opinions about or associations with that artist, it only works because the central figure in this whole story is someone I personally consider to have little redeeming value in the first place.
Defending someone or something you like is easy. So easy it really doesn’t mean anything.
Defend something or someone you hate, defend on principle that which doesn’t deserve it on their own merits, and then I’ll think you’re serious human being.
I haven’t always felt exactly this way. I published crusadey little pieces back in my metal zine days, trying to expose and shame people for expressing shitty things. Thank fuck none of it ever got any traction.
But even in those days, when people didn’t listen, I didn’t decide they too were my enemy because they liked The Bad Thing.
I made the decision that I will buy any Nordic (Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish) death or black metal band’s material recorded in 1994 or earlier if it is available on compact disc. This decision has resulted in an impressive library, but includes a lot of garbage. My goodness the indie labels are scraping the bottom of the barrel to make sure every last crap demo that was recorded back then gets pressed on shiny disc. phew.
And perhaps I suppose some decent, well-adjusted, and/or pleasant people are around the scene too, I don’t know.
It seems obvious to me that if this essay ever gets in front of a wider audience, it will be used as evidence that both the metal scene and myself are completely corrupt and compromised. But corruption is part of being human. It will always manifest, for we are all imperfect and stupid. If it’s not the present idiocy being discussed, it’s something else. Everybody’s got something.
The thing is though, when you advocate for identifying the bad people and doing everything you can to destroy them, up to and including also eliminating anyone who refuses to vilify them, or just are not on board with your vision… congratulations, you’re a fascist. Fascism, or whatever specific label of authoritarianism fits your pedantry, is not defined by the end, but by the means.
I’m not being coy and I’m not joking. It’s disturbing how a person can transfer their hatred of a person and/or their actions or ideas onto a book of fiction, or a disc of music, or whatever medium, and then treat them like they’re the same thing. You don’t get to do that and claim any moral high ground whatsoever.
And I think it is finally here that I can express my philosophy of the world. My view of what is evil. I don’t care what you believe. It can be as stupid and toxic and shit as you like, and I’ll just figure, “Humans. What can you do?” My criteria for negative judgment is How do you treat people who believe differently?