What It's Like Being At The Centre Of A Trump Media Pile-On
Joel Birch and his band didn't expect to be slammed by conservative media and a senior Trump advisor.
"It was horrid being in it, I actually started to really hate humanity," he told 10 daily.
Birch, the frontman for Australian metal band The Amity Affliction, found himself at the centre of an "unbelievable" maelstrom of hate after video of him criticising a fan wearing a Donald Trump shirt went viral online.
It led to him and his bandmates being slammed by conservative outlets InfoWars, the Gateway Pundit, and even former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka.
"There shouldn’t be a place at anyone’s show for people wishing to parade their racism or anything else, for that matter," Birch told 10 daily in an exclusive interview, his first extended comments since being forced to temporarily shut down his social media accounts due to sustained abuse and trolling.
The Amity Affliction -- who have number one charting albums, headlined festivals and been nominated for ARIA awards -- are currently on an extensive American tour. At just the second concert of the run, on January 5 in Las Vegas, Birch spotted a young fan wearing a grey baseball jersey, with sleeves in the style of the American flag, and the name TRUMP emblazoned on the back.
"If you want to wear that shit, and you want to walk around and make other people uncomfortable because you hold a certain set of beliefs about other human beings, please leave that shit at the fucking door or go home," he said on stage, to cheers from the crowd.
"I took offence that he had worn it inside, to our show; our crowd is extremely diverse," Birch told 10 daily.
"Anyone who doesn’t believe that Trump attire is like adorning yourself in a racist totem is blind to the current social climate... I’ve never seen anyone roll up to one of our shows wearing something that stood for racism, homophobia, anti-Islamism, xenophobia and division all in one shirt before."
"I will NOT let an undocumented immigrant or a DACA recipient stand in our crowd feeling alone or attacked because of some stupid shirt."
In later tweets, since-deleted, Birch compared wearing a Trump shirt to the concert as being like wearing "an atheist tee to church".
Video of the incident quickly found its way to conservative and pro-Trump social media pages and news outlets. Birch said abuse began "immediately".
"I had a few dozen serious threats made against me. I’m honestly not sure how many of those involved guns, but being Australian in America we are acutely aware of the potential for gun violence here," Birch said.
He had to lock his Twitter and Instagram accounts to escape an endless stream of hate, while the band contracted extra security for several concerts due to threats and fears of violence.
Birch was invited on controversial internet talk show InfoWars, and pro-Trump far-right site The Gateway Pundit -- notorious for sharing fake news -- wrote a story calling him "unhinged".
The young fan wearing the Trump jersey spoke to Gateway Pundit, calling Birch's behaviour "immature and childish" and claiming the criticism "put a target on my back".
The fan posted on social media too, in defiance of the criticism.
Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to Donald Trump, also piled on.
"Once you’ve been called a snowflake cuck hundreds of times it starts to lose its efficacy," Birch said dryly.
"It sucked. I have enough problems going on inside my head without this adding to it. I really started to lose my core faith in humanity."
The online abuse has since died down, and the band's extensive American tour will finish in Los Angeles this weekend. Birch said he did not regret what he said.
"Since time immemorial there has been political protest and moral activism within and through music. People forget where music like ours came from, and from which socioeconomic background," he said.
"I grew up dirt poor and in an abusive household. Rap and hardcore gave me an escape, that’s what music does."
He also stressed his belief that people with a platform should stand by their convictions.
"The most unbelievable thing to me was the 'tribe of Trump' use the exact snippet of me telling this kid to leave his political shirt at the door, to tell me to leave politics out of music. It boggles my mind, still," Birch said.
"It’s the most dense idea I’ve ever encountered that musicians should stay out of it. Musicians are private citizens directly affected by politics, so why are we not allowed to speak on it?"