This Is Not an Odd Book Review – What the Hell Is Going on in France?

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Last year on Houdini’s Revenge, I wrote about how the media worldwide completely mishandled the details of the arrest of Varg Vikernes in the summer of 2013.  Seriously, it was a complete mess, and the hearing that occurred on June 3rd of this year was chilling in what it revealed and the implications for anyone in France who may espouse ideas that are contrary to a particular party line.

Before I begin to discuss the situation with Varg, I need to make a couple of statements, one for clarity and the other just because it always comes up and it’s tiresome.  First, let me tell you how I know Varg.  I met him when I was working on a project I started before 9/11 that eventually fell apart because I am sort of chaotic and was even more so back then.  I consider him a friend, and I assume he considers me one, too, though we frequently butt heads.  Second, despite considering Varg a friend, I don’t share all of his beliefs.  I mention this because I get shade from both sides of the fence and it’s annoying, when it isn’t amusing.  Some people assume I am an anti-Semite because I like Varg and that makes them angry.  Interestingly, some remain angry when I explain I don’t hate Jews because they think I should revile Varg for being an anti-Semite.  But then some people who agree with antisemitic ideas find out that I like Varg and that I am not an anti-Semite, and they get angry.  Not long ago some dude who thinks he’s like Charles Martel because being anonymous on the Internet is evidently pretty empowering was so annoyed by me that he social media snarked me with, “Oh, you are a multicultural white genocide supporter?”

Isn’t that how journalists used to know they were on to something – when everyone was pissed off at them?  That’s what I tell myself these days.  So please know I don’t want to hear your opinion about my beliefs, unless you feel that freedom of speech is a bad thing and then I will totally be willing to throw down with you in comments. 

Media Criticism: The Arrest of Varg Vikernes

This post originally appeared on Houdini's Revenge

One of the goals of Houdini’s Revenge is to look critically at how we receive information and come to believe what it is we believe.  Because of the way information is disseminated these days, we can no longer expect to read the news and know that we are reading the truth.  But it’s worse than that because these days we can’t even be sure that media outlets are even making an attempt to investigate what they are reporting to the public.  When dozens of websites republish the same initial report, if that initial report is completely wrong, by the time any errors are noted, the story is already all over the world and repeated without reflection.

On July 16, a friend on my Facebook left me a comment telling me that he had thought of me when he read Boing Boing!  I have a lot of strange irons in busy fires, so I had to go comb the site to see what he meant.  Within a minute, all was explained.  Xeni Jardin had posted a blurb that referred to an AFP article about the French police arresting Varg Vikernes.   This is the entire news blurb from Jacques Clement’s AFP article, link to article in quote:

Kristian Vikernes, a Norwegian neo-Nazi black metal musician and convicted killer who goes by the name of “Varg,” has been arrested in France over suspicions that he was planning a “major terrorist act.” He is reported to be linked to Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, and he once stabbed a fellow musician to death, and set fire to several churches in the early 1990s.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of Vikernes’ politics, social beliefs or his past, we should all be extremely concerned that this news blurb from AFP that became the backbone of dozens and dozens of articles that reported this story has two major problems in just two sentences.  The first is that Varg Vikernes has not been known as “Kristian” in almost two decades.  Calling him “Kristian Vikernes” and mentioning he goes by “Varg” is like writing an article about “Thomas Mapother IV” and mentioning he goes by Tom Cruise.  I have no idea why AFP made the decision to make that strange distinction, but it set the tone for what was to come in the second sentence.

The second sentence is a hoot.  Varg Vikernes was “reported to be linked to” Anders Behring Breivik?  Ten minutes on Google would have made it impossible for any reporter worth a tinker’s damn to support such an accusation.  If nothing else, it would have made for far better reporting to have at least investigated what Varg had said about Breivik before they had run articles about his arrest.  Perhaps they could have added Varg’s own words from his websites as a counterpoint to the charges against him.  Perhaps Clement could have, you know, reported instead of vomiting up the vomiting up some official reports and adding some sly insinuations to spice up his article. 

This Is Not an Odd Book Discussion: Stuff. And Things.

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Just talking with you guys. “I think the young people enjoy it when I get down verbally, don’t you?”*

–I had a really good entry planned for today but it required a scanner and evidently our scanner is no longer a scanner. Maybe it’s a toaster now. Maybe it’s a small space heater. It is a mystery, but we do know for sure it’s not a device that can capture an image. So Mr. Oddbooks will be purchasing a new scanner this weekend and I will have a nice discussion about death photography up on Monday.

–Think Progress had a very interesting article about how one can consume good content created by horrible people. Roman Polanski and Orson Scott Card are the focus of the article but I see this question come up a lot in regards to black metal, specifically Varg Vikernes. On the other side of the coin that I explore more often is how to ethically handle really morally upsetting content that comes from people who are not bad people – like Peter Sotos’ works. I’d love to know how y’all handle such issues. I can’t see ever giving a single penny of mine to a man like Card, who opposes equal protection under law for roughly 10% of the people in this country, but this article gives a full story of what hinges on the success of the upcoming Ender’s Game movie, issues that go beyond not giving one’s money to a bigoted man.

–There will be some changes coming here on IROB. We are going to begin monetizing the site and it makes me nervous. I’ve built up a respectable body of work over here and I don’t want to taint it but, at the same time, site ads are so ubiquitous at this point that it’s hard to claim they do any harm to a site. The problems arise, I think, when bloggers begin to engage in sponsored content. That doesn’t happen much with book bloggers, unless you consider review copies a form of sponsoring. Which I don’t.

I am also going to start accepting ads from writers who are in the position of having to publicize their own books. The cost for a monthly will be super-cheap. I will be offering ad space once I have a solid track record of posting at least two book discussions a week. I don’t have extraordinary traffic on this site, but I do have a solid readership of people who often buy books as a result of my discussions. At any rate, that is coming up sometime during the summer.

If you guys notice anything amiss with the ads, probably strictly Google Adsense, please let me know. If anything we add screws up your experience on this site, we need to know.

People have mentioned tip jars and subscriptions and the like. I feel more uncomfortable with that than ads. Some people’s blogs are like magazines and worth subscribing to, but this site is me, me only and I don’t ever see having guest or co-bloggers. I’ve also grown disgusted with the antics one sees from uber-feminist-blogger-beggar Melissa McEwan, who routinely berates her readers for money so she can get a living wage from blogging, going so far as to have one of her co-mods tell a woman with five dollars left from her child support money to fork it over to help support Melissa, a comfortable, middle-class, childless woman with a husband who supports her. I’m a middle-class childless woman with a husband who supports me and the only time any of you should part with money because of anything I said is when I recommend a book you decide you want to buy. And though I know she is an extreme example, McEwan’s antics (and the antics of others like her who failed to make a viable business plan before making blogging their source of income) have forever tainted the tip jar for me. The fact is that magazines don’t make much money from subscriptions – they make money from ads and it’s a piss-poor business plan to expect readers to pay your wages just because you think it taints you if you take corporate money.

–I got an e-mail from a guy in Croatia who praised IROB, but also told me that when he watched the video for “Ride” by Lana Del Rey, he thought of me. I watched the video and was baffled. I asked Mr. Oddbooks what part of my online persona would make anyone think of me when they watch a video about a biker prostitute with borderline personality and a daddy-complex. He watched the video and he understood immediately what my Croatian admirer meant. Though this is clearly in the Southwest somewhere, like Arizona or Nevada, this is likely how a lot of people look at Texas. Wild landscape with lots of sand, people in fringe wearing boots with shorts, lots of beer bottles, lots of guns. I replied and asked him if he meant the landscape and rather than the girl in the video, but never heard back.

For what it’s worth, here’s the video:

As melodramatic videos go, this one ain’t bad. If I was 18, I bet I’d be all over this. Sadly, the middle-aged me mentally told the pretty, drunk girl in the middle of the desert with a bunch of bikers to take off the war bonnet, put the gun away, and sober up and that would be good step toward not feeling fucking crazy. But the American cinematic and literary experience she’s grooving on was built on the backs of pretty, drunk, fucking crazy people. Where would we be as a country without attractive people who are out of their minds. So thanks, Croatian Man, for leading me to this video. It was a hoot, of sorts.

*Though I in no way resemble Lana Del Rey’s daddy-biker girl in this video, I was told frequently in my teens that I reminded people of Jordan from Real Genius, which is the movie from which this quote originates. I’m way fatter now and talk a little bit slower but my neuroses are far more Jordan-eqsue than the languid lunacy Lana Del Rey brings to the table. But ending up with the dorky genius was a far better fate for me than wearing a white dress and screaming at bikers. Mileage, as always, varies.