Heavy metal won't be your scapegoat anymore

[NOTE: All facts about this case are taken from the Daily Mail article unless otherwise indicated.]

*Sigh* I almost can’t be bothered doing this because anyone who reads this probably isn’t possessed cerebral club-foot of racism, homophobia, nostalgia, general paranoia and self-righteousness necessary to be a Daily Mail reader, and are aware that the hateful hypocritical dross pedalled on the awful obsolete little platform is probably just something we’ll have to deal with until all the participants have died of old age. But as always, it’s necessary every so often to call the Daily Mail out on its bullshit and today is that day. Because today this article appeared, placing the blame for a tragic teen suicide squarely at the feet of ‘dark music’. Firstly I must extend my sincerest condolences to the friends and family of Oliver King; as someone who has struggled with mental health myself, I know the feeling of having your own mind fight against you, it’s just tragic that Oliver didn't find the help he needed, and felt he had no way out.

Unlike the Daily Mail, I don’t presume to know why Oliver killed himself. Without a suicide note there is no way to know what he was thinking in the days and hours leading up to his suicide. It might have been the music he listened to, the pressures put on young men in this society, the terrifying adult world painted by endless bleak economic and environmental reports on the television, the day-to-day monotonous stress of the British education system (he had coursework deadlines the day after his suicide), the crushing pressure to conform (he wore eyeliner, and the article states “[His head of sixth-form] added there was no official dress code for sixth formers but he had asked Oliver to tone down his make-up”), his relationship (his girlfriend made many attempts to contact him before his death), or the separation of his parents. His father suggests “'I think the music did contribute to his state of mind. He was hanging out with the wrong crowd and I believe this lifestyle was more to blame than anything else”, and I certainly can’t think why the father, who divorced the mother prior to Oliver’s death, would be keen to point fingers… Can we rule out a connection between the music he listened to and his decision to take his own life? No. Should heavy metal music be linked to his death? No. Charles Manson took a genial Beatles song to mean that there would be an apocalyptic race war. Last year in America a young child was beaten to death for not knowing the Bible, presumably by fiercely Christian parents. There is no way to link a piece of art with what it might do it its audience.

Fears of new media like this are nothing new. Fears of jazz, or comic books, or Elvis’s hips, or erotic novels, or video nasties, or heavy metal music, or video games have always been used by adults firmly embedded in the ‘establishment’ to pass off blame onto a single lone source that is easily accounted for, rather than facing the fact that our society has a terrible habit of damaging its young people before they leave school, and a few of them feel so overwhelmed by this moulding that they throw it off altogether.

Of course the Daily Mail is simply manipulating a tragedy to its own ideological ends (which should be the mission statement in the masthead), if Oliver had spent the hours before his death cooking, or ice skating or reading the Daily Mail, I doubt they would have been quite so keen to draw a causal link. To sensationalise and use Oliver’s death ideologically is almost a worse crime than upholding exactly the kind of social attitudes that caused him to feel to frightened, withdrawn and alone. Telling him to dress differently, think differently, listen to ‘good’ music. Building in him and his classmates a fear from every angle of being ‘different’; don’t screw up your exams kids, or your life is fucked. Don’t be weird. Don’t be different. Being told repeatedly from family, friends and authority figures that you are different and different is bad is the reason young people feel so alone. Articles scapegoating like this also doesn’t help tackle the causes of teen suicide (the most common cause of death among under-35s) or the damaging society in which we all live which causes so many teens to feel suicide is their only release. So what is the point of writing this piece? “Be not afraid” I suppose. Think critically and don’t fall for similar traps in future. Oh and whatever you do, don’t read the Daily Mail. If you yourself feel alone or frightened and especially if you are having thoughts of suicide, there are many charities to help you. Please go to them and seek help, and although you won’t believe me or anyone else on this point: it does get better. School is some of the most repressive, miserable and pointless years of your life. Life only gets better.

Written under duress by Steven.

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