Yesterday, right-wing extremists broke into the U.S. Capitol Building and stormed the Senate floor in a shameful and violent attempt to stop the official certification of Joe Biden’s election win. Hours later, images surfaced showing that musicians Ariel Pink and John Maus were in attendance. On a private Instagram account, filmmaker Alex Lee Moyer posted a photo in which she appeared to be sitting on a hotel room bed with Maus and Pink, later reposted on Twitter. Moyer tagged the post's location in Washington DC and captioned it: "The day we almost died but had a great time instead." In an Instagram Story on the same account, Moyer posted a video showing Maus standing outside the Capitol.
Moyer is the director of the controversial 2020 documentary TFW No GF, a sympathetic portrayal of incel and incel culture that featured Maus and Pink's songs on its soundtrack. In an email to Pitchfork, Moyer said she had met up with Pink and Maus to chat about an unrelated project that day and "felt obliged to record what was happening” in Washington, DC.
Responding to criticism on Twitter early Thursday morning, Pink confirmed he attended the rally but did not storm the Capitol, writing, "i was in dc to peacefully show my support for the president. i attended the rally on the white house lawn and went back to hotel [sic]." Maus hasn't directly responded to the backlash, though he did appear to deliver an opaque and implied condemnation of yesterday's violence on Twitter, where he posted a quote from a 1937 encyclical from Pope Pius XI condemning Nazism. Representatives for Pink and Maus have yet to respond to requests for comment from VICE.
Pink also tweeted early Thursday morning, "welcome to the panoptigan [sic]. they wasted no time...save yourselves friends, cancel me now and turn me in before they come for you."
This is not a half baked exercise in edgy trolling: Pink is an avowed Trump supporter. Though he hasn't released a new album since 2017 (recently, he has been more active on Cameo, where he charges $150 for personalized messages), Pink's Twitter is a cesspool of YouTube conspiracies, pandemic disinformation, and regular "vote for Trump" posts. None of this is particularly shocking coming from Pink, who has been making boring and try-hard misogynistic, homophobic, and racist comments throughout his career. In the past 10 years, publicly supported the hate group Westboro Baptist Church, referred to himself as "Rush Limbaugh Pink," called Grimes "stupid and retarded," and once told The New Yorker that "Everybody’s a victim, except for small, white, nice guys who just want to make their moms proud and touch some boobies.”
VICE interviewed Maus in 2017 following his controversial appearance on Adult Swim's Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace, a show that was canceled in 2016 for racist content and whose showrunner, Sam Hyde, had become a celebrated figure in the alt-right. Asked why he never put out a statement addressing the appearance, Maus claimed that he had "always considered my own politics, in whatever sense you can put them on a spectrum, left of left of left of left" and condemned white supremacy: "A cult of a race and blood—that's an absolute obscenity. That's nothing other than disaster. That's just inarguably obscene, that sort of ideology." However, he refused to apologize for his appearance on the show, and claimed he hadn't been aware of its problematic content when he agreed to appear on it. “What did they do that made them Nazis? Maybe I haven’t looked into it. Or why were they alt-right people?”
Despite Maus' previous comments, Pink publicly stated that Maus is a Trump supporter on an alt-right podcast called Wrong Opinion in December. A little over an hour and 17 minutes into the podcast, whose creators describe it as being inspired by Joe Rogan and Tucker Carlson and which has hosted noted white nationalist Nick Fuentes and Sam Hyde, Pink says that "John is a thousand and one percent on Team Trump." Just as it was no surprise that pro-Trump musicians like Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer were photographed among those storming the Capitol, it should be no shock when artists like Pink and Maus are photographed at a pro-Trump rally.
Maus and Pink can spin this however they want, but they don't get a pass. Even if Maus disavows Trump and white supremacy, he stood alongside the rioters, rather than taking a clear stand against them. There is no performance art explanation that could absolve Maus from attending a pro-Trump rally yesterday with his friend who guested on a white nationalist podcast with episodes titled things like “Kyle Rittenhouse Did Nothing Wrong”; and even if he does try to explain it as some kind of performance art, he's still benefitting from a system that gives him the luxury of thinking about art while Black Lives Matter protestors are not given the same consideration. When artists do or say things like this, believe them.