Remember Pussy Riot? That Russian punk-group-turned-news-story after their being arrested for partaking in anti-Putin protests? It stood out to us as an example of an authoritarian government unfairly cracking down on left-wing youths speaking out against the government through their art. But once more recent and less reported on arrest of a musician serves to remind us that even in the seemingly small subset consisting of “musicians arrested by the government for political reasons,” there is still plenty of room for wild opposites.
About a month ago, one “Varg Vikernes” and his wife were arrested in France. Granted, the two were later released, but it was certainly not Varg’s first entanglement with prison. The Norwegian black metal musician, better known by his stage name “Burzum,” had only recently been released from the Norwegian prison system, where he was serving time for a myriad of crimes including the murder of his former bandmate, the possession of over 100 kilograms of explosives, and the burning down of several churches. To say the least, he is a controversial figure. However, his recent arrest wasn’t for anything comparable to his previous crimes. He and his wife were arrested in France for legally purchasing four assault rifles.
Black metal, like the punk music played by Pussy Riot, lends itself to reactionary political ideologies. Unlike the anarchists and other left-wingers typically associated with punk rock, Norwegian and Swedish black metal musicians tend to find themselves more on the far right side of the political spectrum. Although Varg does not identify as a Neo-Nazi (well, he hasn’t in the past few years at least), he would certainly not seem out of place at some hopefully hypothetical Nazi convention. His arrest almost certainly stems from fears arisen from the recent terroristic shooting carried out by another Norwegian right-winger.
Apparently, Norwegian Nazism is far more nuanced that one might believe at first. Other than being Norwegian and possessing extremely far-right political beliefs, there are almost no similarities between Varg and Anders Brevik. If anything, Varg has more common ground with Islamic extremists. In a lengthy manifesto (which, unlike Anders’ manifesto, contains no copy-and-pasted segments from the Unabomber’s manifest) he outlines his system of belief, which includes a hatred of the Western way of life, America, and imperialism.
It’s interesting that a decidedly European event, the arrest of a Norwegian musician following a German/Norse ideology in France, could so thoroughly represent two controversies in the United States; being arrested for the purchase of assault rifles conjures memories of recent debates over the second amendment while detaining someone for potential terrorism is a more direct parallel to certain elements of our War on Terrorism. Much like these events, there is no clear cut good guy: Varg didn’t do anything wrong yet, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t a suspicious figure. Perhaps more interestingly is that so relevant an event received no coverage over here. Perhaps the American public just isn’t ready for this particular European musical import.