Pity the poor rockstar who finds himself embroiled in the culture wars because he liked the wrong book. Winston Marshall, banjo player for the hugely successful band Mumford and Sons, almost certainly had no idea what he was getting himself into when he decided to tweet praise at Andy Ngo, the conservative journalist, for his best-selling book about the horrors of antifa.
‘Finally had time to read your important book. You’re a brave man,’ tweeted Marshall, referring to the conservative journalist’s latest periodical Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy. The book describes itself as telling ‘the story of this violent hate group from the very beginning’.
Queue a barrage of condemnation from the Twittersphere, accusing Marshall of ‘endorsing fascism’. Tweeters seemed particularly upset because Mumford and Sons, only weeks earlier, had dared to invited the controversial author Jordan Peterson to their studio. Talk about toxic!
the mumford is fascist
and plays the banjo
that mean racist creature
loves andy ngo
— horrowfide (@horrowfide) March 8, 2021
Winston Marshall is not being criticized for reading a book. He is being criticized for congratulating a fascist enabler, calling that trash book ‘important’ & for saying a man who puts antifascist lives at risk is ‘brave’. No place for fascists or their grifter enablers! pic.twitter.com/tYHmTSdkUT
— Momma Bear 🐻 (@patmorris37) March 7, 2021
god bless the Wikipedia editors for this pic.twitter.com/8zzX66xVOz
— AntiFash Gordon (@AntiFashGordon) March 6, 2021
How must Carey Mulligan, the actress who is married to Mumford and Sons’ singer Marcus Mumford, feel to know she is this close to literal Nazis who actually read and enjoy books that Progressive Twitter disapproves of? It’s hard to say.
Mumford and Sons are evangelical Christians but they have always sought to keep religion and politics out of their work. They duly caved before the howling mob. A repentant Marshall yesterday released a statement to his 7,000 followers on Twitter: ‘Over the past few days I have come to better understand the pain caused by the book I endorsed. I have offended not only a lot of people I don’t know, but also those closest to me, including my bandmates and for that I am truly sorry.’
Then the chaser. Marshall was putting down his banjo to reflect upon his sins: ‘As a result of my actions I am taking time away from the band to examine my blindspots. For now, please know that I realize how my endorsements have the potential to be viewed as approvals of hateful, divisive behavior. I apologize, as this was not at all my intention.’
What’s so wrong with Andy Ngo’s book? Well, in 2019 the Jacobin website described Ngo as ‘the most dangerous grifter in America’ for what it characterized as his incitement to harassment against left-wing protesters through, as the Guardian puts it, ‘the spread of false claims and selectively edited videos.’
Well, grifter is an idle insult that journalists, being lazy, love to hurl at each other. Having read Ngo’s book, however, and seen the destruction antifa wrought on American cities last year, Cockburn can’t help feeling that he is not the real menace in this story.
Ngo refused to give Cockburn a quote on the semi-noble grounds that he didn’t want to cause Marshall more trouble. He did tweet a statement, however:
I grieve for those who are made to suffer because they dare to read my work, or talk to me.
The danger of Antifa & their allies is not only their willingness to carry out or support maiming, killing & terrorism—but also how they close curious minds from independent thought.
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) March 10, 2021
Meanwhile, Cockburn wonders quite where London-based Marshall will be going to examine his blindspots – after all, Britain is still in lockdown. Perhaps travel for self-reflection is considered ‘essential’.