Tag Archives: Roger Tullgren

Top 5 Backward Messages of 2011

I started Backward Messages a year ago, and since then we’ve seen plenty of lively news and discussion. Here are the stories that got the most clicks in our first year of debunking:

1. “Demonic drawing,” Slipknot album linked to grandparents’ murder: Kyle Smith, 17, was arrested in April for allegedly killing his grandparents and then setting their house on fire to cover it up. Police mentioned a “demonic drawing” found in Smith’s bedroom, along with what was most likely a Slipknot CD, as if those had anything to do with the crime. A few months later, Smith pleaded guilty and admitted he was being treated for mental illness.

2. Investigative reporters uncover sex-crazed werewolf roommates in Milwaukee … or not: People couldn’t get enough of the story of two young Milwaukee women, Rebecca Chandler and Raven “Scarlett” Larrabee, who invited an Arizona man to their apartment for some kind of consensual event. All parties involved admitted it “got out of hand.” The man was cut more than 300 times, escaped, then called the police, who made like a trio of books found in the girls’ apartment might be related: “The Werewolf’s Guide to Life,” “The Necromantic Ritual Book,” and a black folder called “Intro to Sigilborne Spirits.” Comments on that post from folks who knew the girls suggest that they had much deeper issues, unrelated to their reading habits.

3. Heavy-metal fan wins disability benefits for his “addiction” to music: Roger Tullgren managed to convince the Swedish government that his love of heavy metal interferes with his day-to-day functioning and qualifies as a disability. Not many of you agreed with this one, but I still think it says a lot about how extremely passionate some folks are about metal — and that’s worth taking seriously.

4. If you dress goth, are you asking for trouble? After Melody McDermott and a friend were beaten on a tram outside Manchester, many recalled the death of fellow goth Sophie Lancaster under similar circumstances. Goths are frequently the targets of harassment and violence; is it up to them to change it?

5. Do video games change kids’ behavior? In the spring, Empowering Parents published a poll in which they asked parents whether games “affect their child’s behavior.” Sixty-two percent said yes, despite ample evidence — which we’ve looked at throughout 2011 — that games themselves aren’t the real problem. If the group does another poll in 2012, following the Supreme Court’s decision not to ban the sale of M-rated games to minors, I wonder if the results would be much different.

If you’re curious what search terms brought people to this blog, here are some of the top queries:

* intro to sigilborne spirits
* satanism
* larping
* history of violent video games
* wicca
* daniel ruda
* jacob leblanc oklahoma
* phil chalmers

Happy New Year! I’ll have plenty more Backward Messages for you in 2012.

Heavy-metal fan wins disability benefits for his “addiction” to music


Swedish metal fan Roger Tullgren says his love of heavy metal is a disability. The government employment service agreed, paying part of his wages.

Forty-two-year-old Roger Tullgren is like many other heavy-metal fans his age. He discovered the genre at the tender age of 5, when his brother brought home a Black Sabbath album. He’s been hooked ever since, and continues to listen to the music daily and dress in the heavy-metal uniform: long hair, band t-shirts, silver and leather jewelry, piercings, and so on.

Unlike other fans, Tullgren says his love of heavy metal interferes with his day-to-day functioning and qualifies as a disability. He spent 10 years and visited three different psychologists before finally establishing his case. Recently, he filed paperwork with the government employment service near Hässleholm, Sweden, where he lives. They have agreed to pay a portion of his wages while he works part-time as a dishwasher in a restaurant.

Meanwhile, his boss says it’s OK for Tullgren to listen to music while he works — as long as it isn’t too loud and doesn’t interfere with customers’ enjoyment of their meals.

The ageing rocker claims to have attended almost three hundred shows last year, often skipping work in the process.

Eventually his last employer tired of his absences and Tullgren was left jobless and reliant on welfare handouts.

But his sessions with the occupational psychologists led to a solution of sorts: Tullgren signed a piece of paper on which his heavy metal lifestyle was classified as a disability, an assessment that entitles him to a wage supplement from the job centre.

“I signed a form saying: ‘Roger feels compelled to show his heavy metal style. This puts him in a difficult situation on the labour market. Therefore he needs extra financial help’. So now I can turn up at a job interview dressed in my normal clothes and just hand the interviewers this piece of paper,” he said.

“Some might say that I should grow up and learn to listen to other types of music but I can’t. Heavy metal is my lifestyle,” he said.

I’m not going to comment on whether I think Tullgren’s approach is legitimate. As far as I’m concerned, that’s between him, his therapist, the Swedish government, and his boss. But it does speak to a certain aspect of heavy-metal fandom. For many people, especially the most dedicated, this is more than a form of entertainment. It’s more, even, than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle, a tribe, even a religion.

Given those parameters, it’s easy enough to compare participation in heavy metal culture to participation in any other culture: the Amish, Hasidism, Islam. It would be discriminatory for an employer to force someone from one of these groups to change the way he or she dresses or appears while on the job. For example, Hani Khan is suing Abercrombie & Fitch after they asked her — a stockroom worker — to stop wearing her hijab. Meanwhile, the International Weightlifting Federation recently changed its dress code so Muslim women can compete. Likewise, businesses are required to provide allowances for religious practices. Would attending heavy-metal shows qualify?

So when is it a “lifestyle choice,” and when is it one’s culture and creed? That’s a fine line to draw. What isn’t clear to me is why Tullgren went after a disability clearance rather than look at it as a fight for workplace equality. What do you think Tullgren should do?