On Phil Anselmo’s Non-Apology

A few years ago, at Dimebash 2016, Phil Anselmo, for reasons that are truly hard to comprehend, decided to yell “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 into some good old fashioned virtue-signaling. 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, saying instead that it was an “inside joke” about the fact that he had been drinking a lot of white wine before going on stage… only to then change his story and say that he actually did it to get a rise out of people in the front row who were calling him a racist (let us all be glad that nobody was calling him a rapist or a murderer, since who knows what he would have done then).

Phil Anselmo with Scour @ Hellfest (Photo: J. Salmeron)

After 2 years, and with plenty of time for him to think about why people were bothered, Phil Anselmo has once again failed to either own up to what he said or, alternatively to show any kind of real remorse for it. This is what he demonstrated in his latest interview with Kerrang! UK where, despite having all the benefit of hindsight, Phil once again decided to cowardly pussyfoot around the topic, placing a big part of the blame on those who were offended or bothered:

“I feel like it’s ridiculous. I made an off-colour joke and ‘Boom!’ – it’s like I’m literally Hitler! I’m not. I take each individual one at a time, in the way that any logical individual will. I have love in my heart. Over the years I’ve learned to take the first step with love and to put good faith first. I get along with everybody. If there’s any doubt about my political leanings, people should get it out of their heads. I was raised amongst a dazzling [cast of characters] from the theatre, from the mental hospital, from all walks of life – all colours, creeds and kinds. It’s absurd to me that anyone in this day and age would judge anyone by the colour of their skin, their heritage or their religion. I’m a harmless guy. I’m a reactionary, not a troublemaker.”

Phil’s braggadocio (and about which Kerrang! UK had absolutely no follow-up questions) is in stark contrast to the so-called apology that he issued only days after his Dimebash outburst, and where 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.” Indeed, his new comments certainly raise questions about whether he thinks that people were wrong in being offended, or if he was actually sorry about any of it when he said “I am so sorry, and I hope you just … man, give me another chance to … just give me another chance”

Not having had the opportunity to talk at length with Phil in person, I can make no judgments on whether he is really a Nazi or a racist. 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 plenty of people applauded the cancellation, it does seem to have been a completely exaggerated and disproportional reaction to what, at worse, were 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.

Phil Anselmo with Scour @ Hellfest (Photo: J. Salmeron)

The real problem with Phil’s words, including his new non-apology, is that he really appears to be adopting the kind of attitude that is most often found among 15 year olds who are desperate to prove how edgy they are. The kind of people who make an offensive joke that fails to make anyone laugh, and who then argue that it’s the fault of those who didn’t find it funny. What is even worse is that, despite his groveling apology following the incident, his words actually demonstrate an absolute lack of remorse. He comes off as completely obtuse, thinking that people who are offended by someone yelling “white power” are just ridiculous, placing him on the same footing as Adolf Hitler, overlooking the fact that there is a gigantic spectrum in which people can do bad things without being at the level of Hitler.

Despite Phil‘s tough guy persona, this whole incident makes him come off as a coward. After all, this was a situation in which, when called out for his ideas, instead of owning up to them, he prefers to pretend that there’s nothing to see there, and that people simply don’t have a sense of humor. He also fails to understand why people think that this supposed “joke” was offensive to his audience (none of whom signed up for a Skrewdriver concert), and demonstrates absolutely no interest in learning why that’s a problem.

To err is human. We all make mistakes, and the idea is that we learn from them and improve over time. In refusing to acknowledge his errors in an honest manner, and being dishonest about the entire situation, Phil has done a disservice to no one but himself. Instead of either coming out as a person who feels ideologically connected to the far right, or apologize for his words, he has instead opted to be just like every other edgy little shit on Youtube who, after screwing up massively, yells in their own defense “IT WAS A PRANK, BRO!”.

Phil 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.

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