“I’ve had plenty of abuse over the years,” Winston Marshall says. “I’m a banjo player after all. But this was another level.”
Marshall wants to speak freely, but he recognizes that doing so puts those he loves — namely, his former bandmates — in harm’s way. For that reason, Marshall is leaving Mumford & Sons to protect those he cares about. He hopes this will enable him to more freely pursue future endeavors, without being coerced into dishonestly appeasing the mob.
While Marshall has made headlines in the last few months, it all began with a simple (now-deleted) tweet about a book. His tweet turned out to be career-changing.
In early March, Marshall tweeted about American journalist Andy Ngo’s New York Times Bestseller, “Unmasked.” “Congratulations @MrAndyNgo. Finally had time to read your important book. You’re a brave man,” the tweet read.
Ngo has made a name for himself by persistently documenting Antifa’s violence and radicalism. His book reports on Antifa’s “radical plan to destroy democracy.”
“Posting about books had been a theme of my social-media throughout the pandemic,” Marshall explains. “I believed this tweet to be as innocuous as the others. How wrong I turned out to be.”
When Marshall commented on Ngo’s bravery, he didn’t think he was doing anything newsworthy. In a mere 24 hours, however, he experienced a landslide of pushback. By daring to comment on a book “critical of the Far-Left,” he was labeled as a fascist right-winger.
Marshall tried to challenge the mob’s narrative. After all, he characterizes the far-left and far-right as equally abhorrent. And he’s no partisan ideologue for either party. He’s still just searching for answers.
“Though there’s nothing wrong with being conservative,” he says, “when forced to politically label myself I flutter between ‘centrist’, ‘liberal’ or the more honest ‘bit this, bit that’.”
In response to allegations that his tweet made him a fascist, Marshall says his family knows the evils of fascism “painfully well.” After all, thirteen of his family members were brutally murdered in Holocaust concentration camps.
Despite his attempts to respond productively to the fury over his tweet, Marshall watched as not only his name, but the name of his beloved band, was dragged through the mud. It brought distress to his bandmates and their families, who chose to stand beside him during the initial controversy.
“Despite pressure to nix me,” Marshall says “they invited me to continue with the band.” In 2021, Marshall says “that took courage.”
In a further attempt to resolve the situation, Marshall apologized and temporarily stepped back from the band anyways. This time he confronted a second viral mob, which criticized him “for the sin of apologi[z]ing.”
Marshall says he apologized, first and foremost, in an attempt to protect those he loved. Admittedly, part of him was also “sincerely open to the fact that maybe [he] did not know something about the author or his work.” However, after “much time reflecting, reading and listening” Marshall remains convinced that “reporting on extremism at the great risk of endangering oneself is unquestionably brave.”
“I […] feel that my previous apology in a small way participates in the lie that such extremism does not exist, or worse, is a force for good,” Marshall laments. He refuses to make such a mistake a second time.
BREAKING: Winston Marshall officially leaves Mumford & Sons, condemns extremism, reaffirms Andy Ngo’s bravery https://t.co/FAexJaBrGu
— libby emmons (@libbyemmons) June 24, 2021
Rather than attempt to appease the mob once more, Marshall turned to the words of Aleksandr Solzhenistyn, the infamous Nobel-prize winning writer, Gulag prisoner, and Soviet dissident.
“On the eve of his leaving to the West,” Marshall explains, “Solzhenistyn published an essay titled ‘Live Not By Lies’. I have read it many times now since the incident at the start of March.” “It still profoundly stirs me,” he says.
“And he who is not sufficiently courageous to defend his soul—don’t let him be proud of his ‘progressive’ views, and don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, a distinguished figure or a general,” Solzhenitsyn once wrote. “Let him say to himself: I am a part of the herd and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and kept warm.”
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) June 24, 2021
“I hope in distancing myself from [the band,] I am able to speak my mind without them suffering the consequences,” he says. “I leave with love in my heart and I wish those three boys nothing but the best. I have no doubt that their stars will shine long into the future.”
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