Not surprisingly, there's been some controversy over the fact that Decibel has chosen to put infamous murderer and racist Varg Vikernes on the cover of their new issue (oh yeah, he also makes music). I was reading this blog and my first impression mirrored her outrage. I mean, why in the world would any magazine choose to put this dude on the cover? The first impression it gives is one of acceptance and endorsement, and who would want to endorse the Count? It seems so idiotic to make a move like this. The only magazine that I read every month a fait une connerie.
But.... I soon realized my first impression was totally lacking in nuance, totally polarized, and this is an issue that demands nuance. It's easy to just call Vikernes a racist and murderer and that he shouldn't be given press attention since his ideas are outrageous, dangerous, and downright despicable (and this is all true). However, I think we must respect people's right to say what they want, whether it's something we agree with or not and whether it's something ridiculous or amazing. I think censorship is generally bad, but it goes both ways. We can't exclude unfavorable and unpopular opinions (I'm sure I have my share of them that no one wants to hear --- voilà ce blog).
Then there's the issue of acceptance and endorsement. Decibel obviously endorses Vikernes as a musician making music a genre that they cover. He's historically important and musically relevant to the magazine. It simply makes sense to include him in the magazine. But why the cover? Probably because he's so controversial. I'd say that he warrants a cover story. Endorsing Vikernes as a musician is not the same as endorsing his misdeeds, past, present, and potential. The same could be said of any other musician on the cover or in the stories. The others just haven't done anything as extreme (-ly messed up) as him.
I've honestly never listened to the music of Burzum. I enjoy black metal of the Norweigan variety, certainly not every band, but it's a genre I devote time and attention to nonetheless. The politics turn me off and there's plenty of other black metal bands (Norweigan and non) to keep my attention. Despite historical importance, I just can't bring myself to really care about Burzum. There's plenty of bands in musical history that occupy a place of high influence, but that doesn't stop me from not caring or liking them (see previous post about important bands that actually suck). So, there's really no reason for me to pursue the music of Burzum, other than to be more clued in to the controversy. Even if I did take an interest in the "band," I probably wouldn't pay attention to the subject matter in the lyrics, since I rarely care about lyrics anyway, and that goes doubly for metal of any sort. And I wonder how many metalheads really do pay attention to the lyrics or message of a band. And then, how many actually take any of those messages seriously, pondering them like some great philosophical arguments?
For some people, it's always going to be a matter of the fact that Varg Vikernes has done some reprehensible stuff and he's a bad person. They can't separate his music from his horrible character. Fine then, don't listen to his music, don't pay attention to him. I just don't think it's fair to slag anyone who chooses to listen to Burzum and automatically brand them a racist or supporter of murder, because she or he is probably not. She or he probably just wants to hear the sounds, since you know, it is music. It's truly only the fringe of an already fringy group of people that actually endorse racism and murder (or am I too optimistic?)
So do I support Decibel's choice to put the Count on the cover? I do, but I'm not without reservations. And after reading the story and the notes from the editor, I get the impression that the writers felt approximately the same. It's a tough, gnarly issue, that's undeniable, but it needs to be talked (or written) about -- both the character and music of Burzum and the choice to put Vikernes on the cover.