A few years ago, at Dimebash 2016, Phil Anselmo yelled “white power!” The backlash was immediate and, to an extent, over the top. As we reported back then, Anselmo’s stupidity was used as a symbol of some kind of powerful, prevalent and somehow undercover “racism in metal,” with the likes of Machine Head’s Rob Flynn using the event as a fantastic opportunity to engage in performative activism. Standing up for the brave and controversial position of “racism is bad, mmmkay?”, every single major metal publication published some kind of denunciation of Anselmo, lamenting what they saw as a dangerous and enormous Nazi (or at least very racist) presence in heavy metal.
From the moment the controversy started, Anselmo demonstrated that he didn’t really understand why people were so bothered by his words. Making matters worse, he failed to offer even a half-decent explanation as to why he yelled such a thing. First, he said that it was an “inside joke” about the fact that he had been drinking a lot of white wine before going on stage… then, he changed his story and said that he actually did it to get a rise out of people in the front row who were calling him a racist (certainly a bizarre strategy). Eventually, he apologized. He groveled. He called his own words “ugly” and “uncalled for,” adding that he was “a thousand percent apologetic to anyone that took offence to what I said because you should have taken offence to what I said.” He added “I am so sorry, and I hope you just … man, give me another chance to … just give me another chance”
Now, after 2 years, in his latest interview with Kerrang! UK, Phil decided to change his story once again, placing a big part of the blame on those who were offended or bothered:
Phil’s braggadocio (and about which Kerrang! UK had absolutely no follow-up questions) is a very big jump from what was his almost tearful apology. And, to be honest, that makes him come off as a coward. He exhibits the same attitude that is most often found among kids who are trying to seem edgy. First, when confronted, and afraid of what might happen to them, they offer tearful apologies. Then, as time passes, and they feel less afraid, they pretend that they are tough guys that didn’t do anything wrong.
I can make no judgments on whether Phil is a racist or not. In fact, I agree with him regarding how some people exaggerated the seriousness of the situation and painted him as some sort of extremist, suggesting that this alcoholic high-school graduate was some sort of ideological far-right leader in the metal community. Following that same ridiculous line of thinking, his band’s shows in New Zealand were cancelled in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, as the promoters and venues were wary of the kind of message that such shows would convey to the local communities. Although many applauded the cancellation, in reality they seem to have been a completely exaggerated and disproportional reaction to what seemed to have been nothing more than edgy words blabbered by a drunk. After all, no one can claim that Phil‘s outbursts or idiotic “jokes” have ever instigated violence, or that they could reasonably be assumed to have violent goals.
To err is human. We all make mistakes, and we should learn from them and improve over time. By constantly changing his story, Phil is doing a disservice to no one but himself. He doesn’t need to get boycotted or to have his shows cancelled. He seems to be doing a good enough job at sinking his own career on his own.