UPDATE: Since the publication of this article, Varg was released, and no terrorism charges were brought up against him. However, he might face charges for hate speech.
I was surprised yesterday when I read that Varg Vikernes, the man behind Burzum, and also known for the murder of Mayhem‘s Euronymous, had been arrested. The headlines were, of course, very gloomy, stating that he had been arrested for “plotting a massacre”. Considering that this was happening only days before the 2nd anniversary of the horrendous massacre in Norway, which took the lives of 77 people, and in light of Varg‘s past, most people probably looked at this news with little or no surprise; Varg Vikernes is a convicted murderer, even if he maintains that he acted in self defense, so quite a few people probably thought that an atrocity is something that he might do.
But what if they’re wrong?
So far, the information available about this arrest is sketchy at best; however, all the reports seem to coincide on the following points:
- Varg Vikernes received the manifesto written by Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of the Norway attacks. ((It should be noted that a search of Vikernes’ sites did not render any results showing that Vikernes received the manifesto from Breivik, only that he had read it. In any case, and even if Vikernes had, indeed, received this manifesto, he would have been only one of the more than 500 people who received a copy!))
- Varg Vikernes holds racist views.
- Marie Cachet, Vikernes‘ wife, legally acquired 4 guns.
- Both Cachet and Vikernes were arrested by the French police under suspicion of planning a terrorist attack, under France’s anti-terrorism laws, which allows people to be detained without charges.
Since his arrest, it has become clear that the evidence against Vikernes is thin at best, with “the French Interior Minister Manuel Valls [admitting] that there was for now “no target, [and] no identified project” in the Vikernes affair”, but justifying the arrest saying that in the case of a terrorism investigation it’s better “to act before and not after”.
Unless incriminatory evidence actually arises from this investigation (and so far that seems unlikely, as the police have even abandoned the Vikernes home) Monsieur Valls’ statements are not only wrong, but also terrifying for the rest of France and, by extension, Europe. The arrest of Vikernes signals the ability of a state to incarcerate those who hold views that the rest of us might deem offensive, and to treat them like criminals.
The above might seem, perhaps, a rushed conclusion, but the fact of the matter is that the Intelligence Services themselves have stated that the suspicions and consequent arrests arose based on Vikernes‘ views, as shown by his own writings, and circumstantial evidence that would never hold up in Court.
The very rationale behind this persecution (we can’t speak of prosecution until charges are actually brought up against Vikernes) borders on the surreal, with the Minister of the Interior stating that “Having received the manifesto before (Breivik) committed his crimes and having been sentenced in Norway in the past for murder, this individual, who was close to a neo-Nazi movement, was likely to prepare a large terrorist act.” ((http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/16/neo-nazi-and-black-metal-star-varg-vikernes-arrested-in-france-/)) In other words, and this is very worrying, what Valls is saying is that Vikernes sounds like the kind of person who could eventually, one day, commit acts of terrorism.
When it comes to Vikernes‘ words, two of his writings (available at the Burzum site and Thulean Perspective) have been used as the main source of concern, “War in Europe: Part V – Breivik Unveiled” ((http://www.ibtimes.com/varg-vikernes-terrorist-brief-history-burzum-frontmans-neo-nazi-pagan-views-1348789)), and “Heros”. ((http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/17/no-target-no-identified-project-as-vikernes-and-his-wife-s-custody-extended/)) Due to the importance, perhaps unwarranted, that has been given to these two articles, a more detailed analysis is required ((In order to avoid being accused of whitewashing Vikernes, which I could do, I will quote him in full, even if it means including his racist remarks)):
- War in Europe Part V: Despite the reports in the media, in this article Vikernes actually attacks Breivik, saying ” I hope you do kill yourself“ and that “ Islam has been imported to Europe by Jews, so that guys like you would run to the Jews and fight for them like you did when you murdered future mothers of Norwegian children.”. If anything, and even if we dislike his anti-semitic rhetoric, Vikernes is separating himself from Breivik, repudiating his actions. This, of course, has not stopped the media from going as far as saying that Vikernes is an admirer of Breivik and vice-versa, an accusation that can only be defined as ridiculous when one considers Breivik‘s Christian Zionist views, and Vikernes‘ antichristian and antisemitic views. ((On Vikernes’ “admiration” of Breivik see this and this article.))
Some news outlets ((http://www.ibtimes.com/varg-vikernes-terrorist-brief-history-burzum-frontmans-neo-nazi-pagan-views-1348789)), although not all. ((http://www.thecmuwebsite.com/article/varg-vikernes-arrested-in-france)) have also used this article to portray Vikernes as preparing an attack of true genocidal proportions, by his use of the phrase “final solution”. So, for instance, the International Business Times, in an otherwise acceptable article (compared to the competition), states that in his essay ” Vikernes goes on to describe the necessity of a “final solution” against Jewish forces“. The problem here is what was not reported, and which would not fit with the editorial line that aims to paint Vikernes as a terrorist eager to murder as much people as possible, namely the complete quote, and in which Vikernes says “The final solution to this problem is not to kill anyone, but to raise our children with European ideals and values, and a European world view, and make sure that Christianity dies out when our coward parent generation dies out.”
- Heros: The main issue that has been reported from this article, and which is undisputed, is that Vikernes employed his usual racist jargon, to refer to both Muslim immigrants in France and to French Jews, including “The “French” president, the Jew Mr. Hollande, and his Socialist government”. The source of Vikernes’ anger in this article is a train accident in a Parisian suburb, apparently with a large immigrant population, and where some of the bystanders (who, according to Vikernes, were immigrants) attacked and robbed the victims instead of helping them. He then argues that there is a hypocrisy in the media and the government, saying that if the situation had been the opposite, they would be speaking of a hate crime, while in this case it had been dismissed by the Politicians.
As usual, the media blows things out of proportion by mentioning that Vikernes speaks of a European revolt (although he uses more passive terms, saying that “ I just don’t understand why Europe doesn’t revolt against this”), ignoring his closing statement of “For obvious reasons I will not encourage anybody to take any illegal actions to end the European genocide, but there is much you can do that is not yet illegal. Be smart about this, and never give them an excuse to tighten the screw even more”. In any case, a democratic France, a country that was born thanks to an extremely bloody and violent revolt, should not attack those who merely use the term.
As I’ve mentioned above, the way in which newspapers have reported the news about Varg Vikernes is, to say the least, prejudicial. They have made sure that as soon as you read the headlines you immediately agree with the fact that he is, or must be, guilty. So, for example, the media have reported the news like this:
“Neo-Nazi Metal Musician Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes Arrested over Terror Plot” ((Note that the article says that Vikernes is “A neo-Nazi musician with links to mass murder Anders Breivik”))
“Norwegian neo-Nazi musician said to be an ‘Anders Breivik sympathiser’ arrested in France over fears he was plotting a similar massacre” ((Granted, this is The Daily Mirror, low hanging fruit if there ever was one))
Other than the deliberate misquotations and the outright lies that appear in these publications, the most worrying aspect of this type of coverage is the fact that the media is so eager to participate and encourage a legislation which purpose is to limit the liberties of the people, including, but not limited to, the freedom of movement and speech. If the media is so eager to tolerate the arrest of people like Vikernes, simply because they fit a certain profile ((For the lack of evidence supporting “criminal profiling” see Lilienfeld, Scott O., et. al., “50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology – Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Behavior”)) or hold certain views, then they are opening the floodgates to an era where no crime is required to be a criminal. Additionally, and even though they fail to provide evidence for this, if the news outlets want to legitimize “guilt by association”, by labeling Vikernes a terrorist for his (nonexistent!) support or admiration of Breivik, then we should start building bigger jails, as we prepare to arrest the 25% of British Muslims that Support the 7/7 Bombings, the 42% of French Muslims that believe suicide bombings are justified, or the 65% of Americans that support the Drone Strikes in the Middle East ((For a comprehensive analysis as to why drone strikes should be included on a list about terrorism, see Benjamin, Medea, “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control”)).
Even after all of the above, I am sure that many people still agree with the fact that Vikernes should have been arrested and that even if he is innocent, it is always better to err in the side of caution in order to protect ourselves from terrorism. But where does it stop? Should we give up all of our rights in the search of this ethereal sense of protection? When getting on a plane involves treatment tantamount to sexual abuse, when our communications are being intercepted without any sort of judicial oversight and when we give the State an almost absolute power, then we should just accept that terrorism has won.
Noam Chomsky said, while defending a person accused of holocaust denial, that “it has been a truism for years, indeed centuries, that it is precisely in the case of horrendous ideas that the right of free expression must be most vigorously defended; it is easy enough to defend free expression for those who require no such defense.” If there is real evidence proving that Vikernes and his wife were, indeed, preparing a terrorist attack, then they should be tried and punished; however, if the only criticism that can be brought against Vikernes is to think and believe the “wrong” things, then he must be set free.