Madonna Defends Her Use of Nazi Symbol

Madonna performs during her MDNA  Tour in London.

(Reprinted from the New York Times)

Madonna defended her decision to use a swastika in a video during her current tour, saying it is a fit image for her message about “the intolerance that we human beings have for one another.”

The Nazi symbol is superimposed on the forehead of the French National Front leader Marine Le Pen during a video that Madonna has been playing while she sings “Nobody Knows Me” at her concerts during a world tour.  Last week, the far-right party said it would sue Madonna after a concert in Paris and accused her of cynically insulting Ms. Le Pen to gain publicity.

Ms. Le Pen, who placed third in France’s presidential election in April, was one of several famous figures depicted in the video: others included Sarah Palin, President Hu Jintao of China and Pope Benedict XVI.  In February, Ms. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front, was found guilty of condoning war crimes after he said the Nazi occupation of France had “not been particularly inhumane.”

Madonna has not changed the video since the National Front threatened to sue her, and it was shown at least three concerts in Britain last week.  Asked about the Nazi imagery by a Brazilian television journalist for a piece that was broadcast over the weekend, the singer said the image was justified because the song concerns intolerance and explores the question of “how much we judge people before knowing them.”

“Music should be about ideas, right?” she said.  “Ideas inspire music.”

The use of the swastika is not the first controversial piece of theater Madonna has employed on her tour to promote “MDNA,” her current album.  On Saturday, she brandished a prop pistol onstage in Edinburgh despite a warning from police not to do so.  And on June 8, she exposed her breast during a show in Istanbul while singing “No Fear.”

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I don’t even need to say it, do I? This is part of Madonna’s process–the cycle whereby she gets herself in publications like Rolling Stone and the New York Times once the attention of a (lackluster) new release has died down. She courts controversy, gets it, then justifies what’s offensive by saying something like “music is about ideas”. Does Madonna really impress you these days as someone who is all about ideas? I think it’s much more likely she’s about finding every possible way to maximize her earnings in an era when she’s been overtaken by so many younger, hotter artists–artists whose “ideas”, shallow though they may be, are connecting with young people in a more impactful way.

To quote Marine Le Pen, the politician whose image was superimposed with the swastika: “It’s understandable when aging singers who need publicity go to such extremes. Her songs don’t work anymore.”

In a sense, she’s taking the low road (resorting to shocking and offending people) while appearing to take the high ground (saying she’s concerned about “the intolerance that we human beings have for one another”). If she wants to examine such topics, why doesn’t she write a serious treatise on the subject? Why not do a benefit tour with all profits going to organizations that fight such intolerance? Is dance music even the best way to address her deep concerns for the human condition? Do you think about human intolerance and the terrible injustice of racist nationalistic regimes while you’re shaking your ass at a club?

Make no mistake, the only idea that concerns Madonna is the idea that you buy her product.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kim
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 11:59:17

    Amen!

    Reply

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