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Mumford & Sons co-founder quits band to ‘speak freely’ on political issues

Winston Marshall (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Mumford & Sons co-founder Winston Marshall has announced that he is leaving the award-winning band to "speak freely" about political issues, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

What's a brief history here?

Marshall initially took a hiatus from the band in March after critics slammed him for his congratulating journalist Andy Ngo on his recently released book, "Unmasked," which he called "courageous."

The book, according to Ngo, intended to take the reader "inside ANTIFA's radical plan to destroy democracy."

In his initial announcement, Marshall tweeted, "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. As a result of my actions I am taking some time away from the band to examine my blindspots.

"For now," he concluded, "please know that I realize how my endorsements have the potential to be viewed as approval of hateful, divisive behavior. I apologize, as this was not at all my intention."

In 2018, the band also faced criticism after having invited author and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson to visit their London-based studios. A photo of Peterson and the band quickly went viral, sparking anger across the social media landscape.

Following the controversy, Marshall responded, "I don't think that having a photograph with someone means you agree with everything they say. Primarily I'm interested in his psychological stuff, which I find very interesting."

What's happening now?

In a Thursday blog post on Medium titled " Why I'm Leaving Mumford & Sons," Marshall wrote, "At the beginning of March I tweeted to American journalist Andy Ngo, author of the New York Times Bestseller, Unmasked. 'Congratulations @MrAndyNgo. Finally had the time to read your important book. You're a brave man.' Posting about books had been a theme of my social-media throughout the pandemic. I believed this tweet to be as innocuous as the others. How wrong I turned out to be."

Marshall added that his remarks were met with a flurry of hostilities.

"I failed to foresee that my commenting on a book critical of the Far-Left could be interpreted as approval of the equally abhorrent Far-Right," he admitted. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Thirteen members of my family were murdered in the concentration camps of the Holocaust. My Grandma, unlike her cousins, aunts and uncles, survived. She and I were close. My family knows the evils of fascism painfully well. To say the least. To call me 'fascist' was ludicrous beyond belief."

He noted that he and the band suffered abuse as a result of the tweet on "another level."

Marshall recalled that after he apologized for offending people, a second wave of criticism overwhelmed him and the rest of the band even after he announced he'd be taking a break.

"Rather predictably another viral mob came after me, this time for the sin of apologizing," he wrote. "Then followed libelous articles calling me 'right-wing' and such. Though there's nothing wrong with being conservative, when forced to politically label myself I flutter between 'centrist,' 'liberal' or the more honest 'bit this, bit that.' Being labeled erroneously just goes to show how binary political discourse has become. I had criticized the 'Left', so I must be the 'Right,' or so their logic goes."

Marshall said that he decided to apologize in part because he was "desperate to protect" his bandmates — and in part because he perhaps "did not know something about the author or his work."

"'Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak,' Churchill once said, 'courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen,'" he added. "And so I listened."

"I have spent much time reflecting, reading and listening," he added. "The truth is that my commenting on a book that documents the extreme Far-Left and their activities is in no way an endorsement of the equally repugnant Far-Right. The truth is that reporting on extremism at the great risk of endangering oneself is unquestionably brave. I also 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."

Citing Russian novelist and existentialist Alexander Solzhenitsyn — a favorite of renowned author and psychologist Jordan Peterson — Marshall wrote, "On the eve of leaving to the West, Solzhenitsyn 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."

"'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. 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."

Marshall said that it remains apparent to him that if he were to continue speaking out about "such a controversial issue" will only bring more trouble to the band as a whole.

"My love, loyalty and accountability to them cannot permit that," he added. "I could remain and continue to self-censor but it will erode my sense of integrity. Gnaw my conscience. I've already felt that beginning."

He concluded, "The only way forward for me is to leave the band. I hope in distancing myself from them I am able to speak my mind without them suffering the consequences."

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