Headbanger’s Brawl: Did Joel Birch do the right thing for calling out on fan’s pro-Trump jersey?

Posted by on January 9, 2019

We haven’t had a headbanger’s brawl since last year. Therefore, we thought there’s no better way to ring in our first brawl of 2019 by discussing politics. Earlier this week, The Amity Affliction vocalist Joel Birch decided to call out on a fan for wearing a Trump supporting Jersey at their show in Las Vegas this past weekend. We thought this would be a great peaceful discussion, which turned out to be one of our biggest brawls in a while. Question: Do you think Joel did the right thing? Should bands kick fans out based on their political beliefs?


Jeff Podoshen:  Joel Birch is ignorant. Joel Birch should have paid attention better in history class.  He likens wanting his shows to be a “safe haven” like “a church.” Sadly, for many of us, the church was never seen as a “safe haven,” especially those who perished in events like the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition or when clergy preached that the Jews killed Jesus (which I had to hear time after time growing up). More recently, it appears thousands of young people were sexually abused in churches… this is Joel Birch’s “safe haven”? Poor, ignorant analogy.

As a Jewish person, I find Joel Birch’s comment, “I do not feel like you have the right to make others uncomfortable by wearing a [Trump] jersey that may as well be branded with a swastika.”  very troublesome. Trump may be a lot of things. He is not, however, a Nazi, and a Trump jersey does not signify Nazism. Again, it might signify many things, but Nazism is something that is very specific and Birch’s misuse of the term “Nazi” waters that term down and turns the swastika into a commodity that further loses its meaning. With Holocaust denial at an all time high and a renewed rise in global anti-Semitism, artists like Birch really need to pick their words carefully.   
Birch, in his tweet, infers that he has “open-minded” people at his shows that he feels the need to “protect.” By “open-minded” it seems that he’s referring to people who only have his views. Now I’m not going to deny that many people are offended, saddened and revolted when they see a Trump t-shirt, however, that is part of the free expression that we have in this nation. We don’t always like every thing we see and hear. We do, however, need to learn how to process our exposure to these messages and symbols in a way that is positive and doesn’t trample on the rights of others. There are no reports that the Trump supporter was disrupting the show or targeting people of color with any type of terror. If that did happen – different story here. In all, Birch doesn’t seem to be open-minded here at all, but more like a dictator – hand selecting who can and cannot listen to and experience his live performance. If you pay your money, you have the right to attend the concert. I doubt that Birch’s stunt is going garner the positive attention he is clearly seeking. Likely, it’s going to turn people away.  

Zenae Zukowski: I hear you, Jeff, on the misleading factor. Now is not the time to misdirect terms and labels. People can easily assume the worse and get lost in translation. I see this happen daily including mis labeling band subgenres. 

When I first heard the story, before reading it, I thought something happened. I.E. the fan said or did something to cause such an outburst. However, the kid was just a fan and there are many people in or around Las Vegas who support Trump. Sadly, there are Trump supporters sprinkled across the country. Therefore, there was nothing wrong or out of the ordinary seeing a kid going to a show proud to see a band and proud of his chosen political belief. Despite my personal opinion being 100% against Trump, I will not ridicule and attack others for supporting in something different (unless they are actively causing harm to others). If I said, I am removing everyone who doesn’t follow my beliefs, I would have very few people left in my life. 
What Joel did was horrible. Bashing someone, publicly pointing them out and to say “you are not welcome here,” doesn’t make you any better. That is not how you fix this political division and disaster America is facing right now. Do I have a solution for it? Definitely not. I see everything spiraling out of control. It’s unfortunate. He doesn’t know the kid. 
Imagine this: what if his dad or grandfather passed away who was a die hard Trump supporter and the kid wore the shirt in honor of his lost family member just to get slammed by his favorite band at a show that was supposed to get his mind off from his loss?
Of course, we do not know if that is true but, the fact is, no one knows what anyone is going through. We are also faced with a time where school shootings and suicide are at an unfortunate rise. You never know where someone’s headspace is at.
Joel could have handled it and asked via Twitter why his fans support Trump or actively show how racism is unacceptable in a peaceful and less attacking manner. 
Jeff Podoshen:  I agree Zenae. Joel Birch could have reached out to the fan after the show and had a conversation with him. Instead he decided to go full Cory Booker and attempt to have his Spartacus moment to get the crowd riled up. It backfired. What makes this more disheartening is that the fan is 17 years old. Really, really inappropriate to call out a minor at show. Joel Birch might very well have put the safety of a minor at risk with his actions.  
Zenae Zukowski: Exactly. With the recent threats from our other Headbanger’s Brawl that Arch Enemy, Thunderball and the photographer have received, when will anyone learn? Despite your personal opinion, you should never let your emotions control your actions. It’s outrageous to me that Joel called out a kid who is most likely still in High School. When I was 17, I was told to believe in whatever my parent’s believed. While many do, not everyone follows their own footsteps at that age.

Matt Brown: Regarding for Birch himself: I don’t necessarily think singling the guy out was a good idea. Using your platform to rail against Trump is a-okay in my book, but, as has been alleged, the guy wasn’t actually doing anything to disrupt the show and it would have sucked if people had decided to beat the shit out of him. The last thing we need is more ammunition for the “SEE? THE LEFT INCITES VIOLENCE!” narrative. 


My question is this: why, of all the shirts he could wear to a metal show, did this guy decide to wear one supporting Trump? Part of the fun at metal shows is checking out what t-shirts or outfits everyone is wearing. People are likely to be more observant of something like a Trump shirt. Now, Jeff has already pointed out this the guy is 17 years old and is allowed free expression in this country. I agree. I also think that if you are going to wear an article of clothing supporting Trump you should fully be prepared for people to call you out on it. And yes, this includes the singer for the band you’re seeing. Bands have been calling out individuals from the stage and protesting political figures for decades. And when you said “kid” we’re not talking about a guy that’s a junior or maybe senior in high school, possible has his driver’s license, not some ten year old whose mother stuffed him in a Trump shirt. Either he knows all of what Trump stands for and supports it or is ignorant of just how bad Trump is, which is worse. Either way, he’s only got a short span of time before people can stop calling him kid, the the excuse of “believe what my parents believe” isn’t going to hold water. He should consider this a wake-up call: if you support Trump and you show that support out in the open, you have to accept that people might call you out on it.


And before anyone gets on me for that sentence (because I know someone out there will): saying “expect adversity if you wear a Trump shirt” and “women should expect to be harassed if they show too much skin” is not at all the same thing. Like Jeff said, many people feel “offended, saddened and revolted” when they see the shirt, and for good reason. I’ve seen customers at my workplace wearing Trump hats and shirts and many a co-worker and occasional customers have expressed discomfort. On the other hand, men harassing women for their bodies or dress is an issue as old as time with many different roots that I’m not going into here, so let’s not make a false equivalency here.

Also, you might not think Trump himself is a Nazi, but he sure as hell gets a lot of support from white surpremacists and referred to the white nationalists at Charlottesville as “very fine people”. As a fellow Jewish person, it’s hard to ignore these ties. 
By the way, I hope that no one on the face of the Earth ever thinks the best way to honor a dead family member is to wear a Trump shirt.
Jeff Podoshen: I’d be wary of calling the fact that some white nationalists support Trump as “ties.” I don’t see any actual ties there. Similarly I don’t think every person I see wearing a Burzum shirt at a metal show as having “ties” to Nazism.  Most likely they have ties to poor judgment.  
Joe Koza: Well said, Jeff. As far as the main issue, there are two ways of looking at it, as is the case with many things in life. On one hand, the band is exercising their right to freedom of speech at their show, playing a genre of music that has been fairly outspoken against political machines, “the man”, whatever you wanna call it as a whole. On the other hand, this kid paid money to see a band and have an enjoyable night out, not to be picked apart by the band that’s supposed to be entertaining him. 
I’ve never understood why many who are supposedly opposed to Trump and his rhetoric simultaneously hold the belief that it’s okay to attack anyone and everyone who supports him. You can’t preach tolerance while also attacking and shaming people based on a t-shirt they’re wearing. If the guy was shouting, interrupting the show, etc then maybe it would be warranted. Instead, you just went out of your way to pick on someone publicly who paid money to support you, and alienated other potential paying fans in the process. I guess choosing to wear that shirt means you should be able to handle the consequences, but that still doesn’t justify the actions of the “professionals” on stage.

Zenae Zukowski: A few things to clear up as Matt pointed out, when I said “kid,” I didn’t mean it as child etc.. basically meant it as a younger individual than me. And the example I used was the first thing that came to mind, it was just a reference to show we never know where anyone’s headspace is at. 

Maybe he was attending a Trump supporting event prior and didn’t have time to change? Or perhaps it was laundry day? But, I do see your point as to why did he pick THAT shirt. However, it is his right to wear it. And despite the country’s split, reacting this way doesn’t make anyone look better. 
And yes, Joe, the fan did pay to attend. Now that I think about it, he should get a refund. And no, that does not mean I support Trump. I just don’t think the fan should have been slammed like that.



Bram Teitelman: One thing that nobody’s mentioned so far: The Amity Affliction are Australian. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have an opinion of the Donald just because they can’t vote him out of office or anything, but you don’t hear me sounding off about Scott Morrison (the Australian Prime Minister – don’t worry, I didn’t know either – thanks Google). I agree that Birch overstepped his boundaries as a frontman. If the kid was a Proud Boy sieg heiling in the pit wearing a Trump shirt that’d be one thing (it would be a Fred Perry shirt anyway). But as a musician, I don’t particularly care who you voted for if you’re going to come pay to see my band. And having a level-headed respectful discussion about who you voted for and why is something I’ve done with some people that voted for Trump, and if you can do it without resorting to name calling and finger-pointing, then great. But yelling at someone from a stage and then continuing to berate him on social media is a bit over the line. If it ended at the show, with him saying “look at this dude with the Trump shirt on, what a dbag your president is,” sure, I’d argue that’s within his right as a frontman. But virtue-signalling after the show is over a little over the line.

I’m sure the kid knew that he was more or less trolling a metal show by going there with a political shirt on, regardless of what party he supports. And seeing his response on Twitter by calling dissenters “libtards” and unironically #MAGA-ing is making me think he’s kind of a smug douchebag anyway. It almost makes up for Birch’s self-righteousness. Now I’m annoyed at everyone involved. Dammit. 



Zenae Zukowski: I discovered the fan’s Twitter, thanks Bram. What’s seen cannot be unseen. 



Sean Matthews: WOW! Reading all that is a mindful. I took a few moments to go over the whole chain, and then do some digging online as to what transpired. 

I’m speaking from an outside point of view, as like the Amity Affliction I do not reside in the United States.
I agree with Matt in the idea that if you wake up in the morning and choose a specific shirt to wear, you should be prepared for whatever may come your way due to whatever is on your shirt. (The most infamous shirt that comes to mind is Cradle of Filth’s Vestal Masturbation) I’ve witnessed the backlash of many people on someone wearing this shirt, and some would say for good reason. But once again, this is a band that hails from the other side of the pond, and might have a more “lenient” tolerance level for this sort of thing.
This “kid” who is younger than most of us on here I presume is still old enough to make his own life choices, and thought a Trump Jersey was his best choice for that evening. Now, wearing a Trump item of clothing realistically shouldn’t matter in general at a concert, because like someone already said… half the fun of going to a show is to see what random shit people pulled out of their closets to show off.
Joe brought up a point that I think is very interesting… This is a professional we’re talking about here. Someone who people look up to and respect, and depending on how influential can cause a massive sway in a crowd’s favor.  He was onstage in the middle of his own show, and decided that his best course of action was to single out some kid for a shirt… A shirt that boasts a name that has no bearing on him (Birch) as he resides 1000’s of miles away, and more than likely has no care for the impact Trump does or doesn’t have on America. What would have happened if a bunch of anti-Trump people lynched the kid in the middle of the show, and pro-Trump people stood up for him. All hell would have broke loose… and for what? So Birch could have a few minutes of fun on stage at the expense of others?
It more than likely is just that… seeing how he dragged it out longer on Social Media. He really had no point to prove.
Some of his tweets really do cross what I would consider to be a line of racism or prejudice. This one specifically
“…believe whatever you want to believe while you are outside the venue, but don’t you DARE bring your negative energy inside to intimidate and cause discomfort to others.”
The point of going to a show for me is to be surrounded by a group of people who all share the same passion for the music. Music brings people together, it shouldn’t tear them apart.
My question is this… 
With such a blanketed statement about causing discomfort to others by wearing something. What would he have said if someone with lets say… different religious views was wearing a symbol  that he didn’t approve of?
Jeff Podoshen: It seems like Joel Birch is the actual fascist here.

Zenae Zukowski: As conspiracy theorists claim Australia doesn’t exist, Joel Birch is concerned about America’s politics. In all seriousness, did any of you watch the footage? Secondly, the below post is concerning in a way that it doesn’t make much sense to me since he blatantly shared via Twitter (unless he deleted his Tweet) “To put it simply, you are not welcome.”

“Aaaanyway I won’t be commenting any more on the topic. You can twist the words or see them for what they were. I didn’t want to single out this kid for supporting Trump, I just don’t want people coming to our racially diverse shows and making anyone who isn’t white”
Jeff Podoshen:  Looks like Joel was trying to get a crowd pop at the expense of an obvious looking teenager who is not even old enough to vote.
Zenae Zukowski: Pretty much. I am not sure if he is bluffing or serious but he “plans” to see them again on Feb 2nd at their show in Salt Lake City, Utah.
…To be continued?
Matthew Brown: Careful, we don’t want to water down the term facist.
Jeff Podoshen: Nah, after reading Birch’s tweets I’m somewhat comfortable with the term here. Maybe “left wing fascist” is more appropriate. It seems like Birch only wants one type of person at his shows based on HIS ideology and has already demonstrated a willingness to publicly throw a dissenter to the mob, knowing that the result might have endangered a minor.  


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