Ben Weasel Punched Two Women, So Why Do I Still Want to Watch His Band?

BenWeasel560.jpg
Known asshole Ben Weasel
Remember that time Screeching Weasel's singer Ben Weasel lost his freakin' mind onstage and punched, not one, but two women? On camera? And very obviously on purpose? And then had to be held back by his bandmates and pushed backstage to stop him from attacking anyone else? It was pretty much the only memorable thing that happened at 2011's SXSW, so you probably do.

In the immediate aftermath of the dual-lady-attack scandal, Weasel's bandmates released a statement calling his behavior "shameful and embarrassing" (no shit!) and declaring that "the band ... has come to the conclusion that, as a group, we will not likely be able to muster the dignity to attempt a live performance as 'Screeching Weasel' in the foreseeable future."

Well, guess what, everybody? Ben Weasel didn't agree with that assessment of the situation, immediately found replacements to take over from the line-up that was actually there for (and disgusted by) the Austin smack-a-thon, and has carried on regardless. It is now thoroughly impossible to imagine him in any state other than fists-balled-up-in-defensive-rage. Whether that's a correct assessment or not, he is, of course, a shameless, unapologetic shit-head.

Now Screeching Weasel--or Ben Weasel and Friends, as it should be called--are playing Irving Plaza tomorrow night. The correct response to this situation is to remain disgusted and horrified by what this man did in 2011 and absolutely, resolutely not go to this show. So why in God's name then, do I still feel the overwhelming, awful temptation to go and watch this thing?

My whole life in the 1990s was one lived within the confines of punk rock and the ethics associated with the scene--including a strictly feminist ethos. I have wondered, at length, since Chris Brown beat the crap out of Rihanna in 2009, how the R&B star could possibly still sell out shows. Who would buy a ticket to see a woman-beater perform? And how the hell am I now thinking about doing it myself?

The problem is, I fell in love with Screeching Weasel's music years before I realized what a disgusting human being Ben Weasel was (and is). The first time I heard "I Wanna Be a Homosexual" it captured everything I loved about punk rock. It was fast, it was snotty, it was catchy and it unabashedly called out the homophobes in the scene. Weasel drummer Dan Panic, who was in the band between 1991 and 1997, later went on to be in Pansy Division--a San Francisco band that were very gay, very out, and very proud. My feminism and support for the LGBT community have always gone hand-in-hand, so of course it wasn't hard to fall in love with Screeching Weasel, based on this one song.

Subsequently, many fun times in my life were soundtracked by the sloppy, raucous, Ramones-inspired and extremely danceable back catalog of this Chicago band of misfits. It's good, old-fashioned, mindless fun. It is the music of teenage rebellion and staying out all night doing things The Man wouldn't approve of. And, until the proliferation of the Internet (I didn't even own a computer until 2001), I had zero idea what Ben Weasel even looked like--I certainly didn't know whether or not this man had any moral fiber.
Of course, it was clear something was always terribly wrong in the band--Ben Weasel has now had 24 different bandmates (including Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt) in 20 active years of being in the band (there were a few years of being entirely broken up in between)--but it was hard to know who to blame.


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Irving Plaza

17 Irving Place, New York, NY

Category: Music

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4 comments
CMWE
CMWE

I agree that Ben Weasel is an egocentric douche bag, but what singer isn't?? Anyone that thinks the world needs to hear something their saying is a total asshole. That being said, I love screeching weasel. Always have, always will. Lyrically screeching weasel hasn't changed a bit, so why you never noticed his obvious self-centered, pessimistic, asshole-ness is beyond comprehension. I'm glad you've never emotionally reacted, and i'm especially glad that even if you ever had, it wasn't caught on video. It must be hard being perfect and having to pass judgement on people you've never even met.

quelfromage1
quelfromage1

To use any affiliation with Pansy Division is not quite accurate. As a member of the band, this clown was always rude, dismissive and vocally disdainful. He actually refused to talk to us because we made him uncomfortable. I have always made it a point to ignore the guy's existence.  Please do not give the guy credit for having any association with our band. We worked too hard on fighting right wing blowhards, to have them mentioned in the same conversation as us.   Otherwise, thank you to anyone who has ever taken a moment to hear what we have to say.  Love y'all!

jellob1976
jellob1976

Pretty big screeching weasel fan here. I think you're making the right decision, but not necessarily because of the reasons you listed in the article. Here's the deal: the punching incident was abhorrent, but Ben issued an excellent and sincere apology in the aftermath. Basically, he said he lost his cool after being pelted with ice and spit beer, but he didn't try to justify losing cool. Given the apology and his prior track record (eg unlike Chris brown, Ben had written progressive tunes like I wanna be a homosexual), I was ready to forgive this incident as a momentary lapse.

However, my ultimate problem is the post apology behavior. I've continued to follow him, and I saw sw once since the incident, and now he acts like he's the one being persecuted if anyone doesn't throw their full suport behind sw after his apology (especially his old bandmates who understandably left after the sxsw incident). He needs to recognize that forgiveness doesn't necessarily happen overnight; and when that forgiveness isn't immediately forthcoming, it doesn't entitle him to act like an asshole.

As for the Sarah Palin support/anti-transgender comments: my take has always been that bw loves professional wrestling, and he loves playing the heel. I always assumed those comments were made, not because he substantively believed them, but just because he likes to provoke.

Although given all of his other behavior, who knows what he really believes at this point. Anyway, I think you made the right call.

dtvt
dtvt

Look, it's time we look at this situation honestly. The women were throwing blocks of ice and beer at Ben. Was punching the right thing to do? No. But if these women want to harass someone at a punk show and if feminism is about women's equality, then the gender of the person punched shouldn't matter. Should Ben have punched them? No. But if you assault someone, then don't be shocked if you end up getting socked for it. 

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