Kristian "Varg" Vikernes, lone member of the band Burzum, is the most notorious figure in heavy metal. In 1994 he was sentenced to 21 years in prison for murder and his participation in the burning of several Norwegian churches (trust me, the irony of Kristian's name is not lost on any of us). In 2009 he was released on parole and now lives in France with his wife and three kids. All the while, he has continued to make music under the "Burzum" name. The entire saga was documented in the 1998 book, Lords Of Chaos already in its second printing.
Over the past 19 years, countless media mentions pertaining to the Norwegian church burnings have helped bring Vikernes/Burzum to the pop-culture forefront. Innumerable references via television shows, documentaries, memes, often couched in humour, and mostly at Vikernes' expense, have all helped turn him into a clown while diminishing the gravity of his thoughts and actions. What makes all this mirth and levity worse is while imprisoned, Kristian publicly aligned himself with Neo-Nazism and dangerous hate groups like the Heathen Front.
Sadly, the fallout left from all this outrage can be pared down to T-shirts worn by halfwits worldwide. Like "CBGB," "Che Guevara," "I'm With Stupid" and "Austin 3:16" preceding it, "Burzum" shirts have slowly become benignly synonymous with adolescent and arrested-adolescent rebellion. Strangely, through the phenomenon of a "broken telephone" and simply by the fact that today's youth are into video games more than books, the Neo-Nazism element that looms largely over the one-man band that is Burzum has frighteningly faded into the background.
Every day, kids sport Burzum shirts that are quietly sold at head-shops and rock booths all over the world, without so much as a raised eyebrow for wearing something so affiliated with racial hatred. To be fair, these kids are acting more on their adolescent impulse to rebel than anything else and associate Burzum more with the notorious church burnings rather than anything relating to racial hatred. How do I know this? I'm on Instagram.
Ah yes, Instagram! Never have I sunk so low than when I decided to participate in this latest social media trend, posting my silly idiotic pics/selfies alongside Miley Cyrus/One Direction fans. At the cost of a few I.Q. points, it's actually quite fun, or rather, fun to watch the "like" counter attached to each of my posts rise. As much as I learned to love the skill needed for Twitter, Instagram is for people who don't read because they can't read. Despite its harmlessness, I was unprepared when a certain public figure I follow on Instagram, who shall remain nameless, uploaded a pic of themselves wearing a Burzum T-shirt.
There wasn't any ironic turn of phrase attached to the pic signifying its socially-conscious intentions. There wasn't any hashtag telegraphing this was some sort of convoluted joke. Instead, a flurry of response saluting this person for their refined taste in music rained on the post like #blackmetal #Varg #hornsup #Burzum etc. etc. Conversely, there was also a lack of any comments espousing racial hate.
So I did what anyone would do when faced with a situation that is so indubitably fucked up -- I did a search for "Burzum." The results were astounding. Over 10,000 posts of Burzum turned up. Again, almost all posts were devoid of any racist promotion proving this pastime has little to do with racial hatred and more to do with what is perceived as cool with hashtags like #metalhead #blackmetal #burningchurch #metal #goth #corpsepaint. Most were teenagers and 20-something hipster simpletons making devil horns, doing their best to look stylishly evil. When I scrolled through the lot of them, I was even more shocked to find a decent amount of posts made by people of colour sporting Burzum shirts.
So I did what anyone would do when looking at photos that were so profoundly fucked up -- I gathered up all the pics of people of colour wearing Burzum shirts I could find and posted them on Twitter titling the collage -- "People Of Colour Wearing Burzum Shirts."
All photos from Instagram
I got the usual round of LOLs and RTs but was most surprised when a few people defended the ignorance, insisting the people in the collage may have been using irony to get under Kristian's skin. If so, how reckless! Not because it flirts with dangerous hateful personages but because by claiming such intentions, the bearer of said shirt is given a free pass to continue to disseminate these hateful symbols and images, free from any culpability and all in the name of some sort of post-post-post bullshit hipsterism.
Besides, I don't know anybody who would spend 20 bucks to wear a Burzum shirt on the off-chance that people will understand their virtuous intent of turning the Vikernes/Burzum imprint on its head. Not sure how many African-Americans would sport a KKK shirt with only the intention of shoving it in the Grand Wizard's white hood.
No, these people wearing Burzum shirts are clearly village idiots.
Whether or not Kristian's music is seen by the black metal scene as ground-breaking, the idea to promote it by wearing his t-shirt is rendered inappropriate due to his politics. And I have no idea why anyone in their right mind, who isn't a white supremacist, would wear a shirt that represents it. I am even more shocked that people of colour are either ignorant of this or conveniently overlook this blaring fact in order to appear cool to their peers.
Any public display of Burzum fandom only exposes the bearer of the Burzum shirt as an ignoramus, knee-jerking to the most sensational band they can think of as an easy stab for limp credibility. The word "poser" comes to mind too.
Burzum must be called out for what it is -- music made by a man who will be facing trial in June of 2014, charged with the promotion of racial hatred and the exaltation of war crimes. The idea that wearing Burzum shirts is socially unacceptable must begin immediately. People who are seen wearing one should be publicly shamed. Don't tell me there aren't two thousand more worthy bands for a person to spend their allotted T-shirt budget on.
Of course the argument will be made that they are free to express themselves etc. ad nauseam. But I find it hard to believe these people even own Burzum records. It's like the tens of thousands of people who love hard rock bands for their "hit ballad." If they have to endure us saucy types giving them a public thumbs down or creating an embarrassing meme at their expense, so be it. At least they may start to become aware that there are social consequences to wearing such an "epic fail" of a shirt like a Burzum one.
And if you already own a Burzum shirt but now feel an impulse to dispose of it put it to good use instead. Use it to line the kitty litter tray at home. They make good makeshift gloves when picking up dog feces or use it on yourself if you ever run out of toilet paper during a particularly loose stool.