Uniform’s Michael Berdan discusses his experiences with “cancel culture”
Vocalist Michael Berdan of genre-defying heavy band Uniform took to Twitter to discuss his experiences with "cancel culture," from the perspective of a "white heteronormative male who has been through it." "Get the popcorn!," he writes. "Here are some thoughts on 'cancel culture' from the mind of a white heteronormative male who has been through it."
In the ‘00s, I played in a band called Drunkdriver. We were harsh in every possible way: comically ascerbic in sound and demeanor, with lifestyles to match. In a decade of excess and anti-pc posturing, this band was one of the worst.
A few months into our existence, we learned that our drummer had been accused of multiple sexual assaults back in his native Los Angeles. We asked around about these allegations in a cursory manner but at the end of the day we wanted to believe our friend (who was a good drummer)
We were wrong. Period.
In March of 2010, the dam broke and we became the subject of a MASSIVE internet call-out. People were either furious & felt duped or reactionary in a “both sides” or “art vs artist” kind of way. It was a big deal.
The fact is: we knowingly took someone around the country who we knew was potentially dangerous. No amount of “it was a different time” is any excuse for that.
I quit the band and made a public statement. My brain broke. The next thing I knew, I was in a dual diagnosis facility for drug/alcohol abuse and a mental collapse. It wound up being the best thing that ever happened to me.
The humiliation of getting called out so openly forced me to take stock of every dark corner of my life. I had to stare at my own behaviors in light of our drummers, which were abhorrent in both word and deed. I had a lot of accounting to do.
I got help. Sought treatment and stuck with it to this very day. Went on medication. Made personal amends where I could. Where I couldn’t or where it would have been inappropriate, I endeavored to make a living amends by NEVER repeating those behaviors
Made it a point to work with men who recognized that their lives had gone haywire and sincerely wanted to change. This is still a big part and a great joy of my life.
I had to rebuild from scratch, and I’m glad that I did. If there was anything left, anywhere to hide, I don’t know if I would have committed the energy into changing. I am far from perfect, but I am nowhere near the dickhead I was when Drunkdriver were around.
I quickly realized that my band getting called out wasn’t so much “mob justice” as it was community self defense. This was coming from a group who saw that an accused rapist was touring with a semi popular band and that it was viewed as just fucking normal. It wasn’t.
All this community wanted was to protect themselves and to be heard. All they were asking of me and everyone else was to listen to them and take them seriously. It wasn’t much to ask then and it’s not a heavy request now.
Nobody likes to look at themselves from the inside out, to check their motives and their behaviors. Nobody wants to admit that their actions hurt anyone else. Therefore, we blame the aggrieved party for fucking with our lives instead of willingly being taken to task. That sucks.
Most of the people who appear to be “cancelling” others left and right are literally fighting for their lives. They are the ones who have been pushed to the margins by people who look like me. They finally have a bit of a platform. That is never, ever a bad thing.
My advice to anyone on the receiving end of an internet call-out: Suck it up. Reflect. Be willing to grow. Be willing to stay open & continue to learn because this isn’t a one & done thing. Unlearning the culture & habits we developed early on is a job that takes a lifetime.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Love & light & all that to everyone in the struggle of existence on planet earth.
Berdan wrote this thread days after Harper's Magazine published "A Letter on Justice and Open Date," a controversial letter signed by over 150 people, including Margaret Atwood, JK Rowling, Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie and others, expressing concern over and calling for the end of "cancel culture." "The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion," the letter reads, "not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences."
Meanwhile, Uniform recently announced a new LP, Shame, which is due out on September 11 via Sacred Bones. Hear first single "Delco" below.