Anyone near my age who likes heavy music will remember certain points where mass media and our preferences have intersected in sometimes unfortunate ways.
My first experience with this would be Kurt Cobain’s suicide. I was probably the most well known Nirvana fan at my school- I carried the Michael Azerrad book around everywhere for a long time. When the suicide happened, it was not uncommon for school counselors to put kids in the school who were big fans on suicide watch. There were some awkward conversations that my rural school administration tried to have with me and my “freaky” friends around this time. Fun fact: I didn’t even learn about Cobain’s suicide until at least a day or two after it happened. The world worked differently back then. But yeah, I was deeply affected by it… but I didn’t need to be on no suicide watch.
Next up would be Columbine. I would be early in my college career for this one, but this tragic incident would stir up a lot of defensive conversations amongst myself and my not like minded peers. Let’s just say this was like the PMRC moment for my generation only much more unfortunate in it’s foundation. “You know, Marilyn Manson seems pretty well spoken!” -my mom. But yeah, wearing certain band shirts whilst sitting in classrooms in 1999 sparked heated conversations. I was used to this; I lived in rural South Texas, blasted metal out of my car in the high school parking lot, but was also an honors student. Almost one year into my BA in Psych (useless- don’t do it)- Statistics 101 taught me that even though the sales of ice cream go up on the days that murder rates go up, that does not mean ice cream causes murder (correlation doesn’t imply causation homie)- typically it’s higher temperatures that do. So Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold‘s favorite music looked very similar to mine. NIN, White Zombie, Manson, Rammstein, etc. Suddenly these fans became profiled, and add those of us who are 2A to that list, or are gamers, or wear a trench coat, and zoinks, watch out for those people!
Ultimately, when something tragic happens, we try to justify it happening by blaming outside influences. But in doing so, we pull down potentially innocent bystanders.
Which brings me to the new Netflix documentary Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. First of all- this is a must watch if you like the True Crime genre. It goes deep on this case, and has a WTF vibe like Don’t Fuck With Cats did. I was living in LA when Elisa Lam when missing, and remember watching the crazy elevator video. But then I didn’t really hear much about it except a brief mention on a True Crime show I watch.
So I was really surprised when the documentary started going into how the hoard of internet sleuths trying to break the case found a black metal musician, read into his videos, and blamed him for Elisa Lam’s death. I hadn’t heard anything about this! At first I thought it was funny: these people clearly knew nothing about black metal, took everything in these videos literally, and, desperate for clues and attention, leapt to conclusions. But then, I learned that their swarm really ruined this guy’s life for awhile.
Which came first: are black metal fans naturally ostracized people to begin with that flock to this kind of music, or is it the black metal that isolates us? Maybe it’s a vicious cycle. Anyway, the story of what happened when the mob went after Pablo Vergara, the black metal artist from Mexico known as Morbid, who just happened to stay at the Cecil Hotel one year before Elisa Lam and filmed a video of himself there, but was not there at the time of her disappearance, is maddening. On a hunch, they went after him en masse, some even threatened to kill him– attacking him online, ultimately getting him deplatformed on YouTube, Facebook, etc. Does that make sense to you? It doesn’t to me. ‘Funny’ how, whilst armchair “investigating” a potential homicide, they were threatening that very act?
Morbid is still working in film, and recently made an award winning film for ‘Proof of Concept’ at FICIME International Film Festival for NECROMURDER: A Black Metal Story (2019). You should check it out.