Madonna drops Le Pen swastika after far-right threats
For a photo montage broadcast at the final French concert of Madonna’s “MDNA” tour, the singer removed a swastika superimposed on an image of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, following threats of legal action from the National Front Party.
American pop diva Madonna on Tuesday dropped a swastika from a photo montage that outraged France’s Front National (FN) – in what the far-right party hailed as a moral “victory”.
At the concert in the southeastern city of Nice, the singer replaced the Nazi symbol - which had been superimposed over a picture of FN leader Marine Le Pen - with a question mark.
Lydia Schenardi, FN leader in the Alpes-Maritimes administrative region, called Madonna’s decision to drop the Nazi reference “an intelligent move” in a city where one in five voters cast their ballot for Marine Le Pen in the first round of the April-May presidential election.
Madonna hit headlines in France after the first concert of her “MDNA” tour in Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 31, in which a video backdrop briefly showed a picture of Le Pen with a swastika emblazoned on her forehead.
She used the same montage during her song “Nobody Knows Me” at a concert at the Stade de France in Paris on July 14 – to cheers and applause from the crowd.
Enraged, the FN lodged a defamation complaint against the singer.
In Nice, party activists pasted pictures of Marine Le Pen over posters advertising Madonna's concert.
Threats of further legal action against the singer ahead of Tuesday’s concert hadpaid off, Schenardi said.
“Maybe she came to the decision that making this kind of political statement was morally wrong,” she told FRANCE 24. “Or maybe she just saw that in such a strongly FN part of France it wasn’t going to help sell tickets.”
‘Victory for the FN’
Madonna’s concert was undersubscribed despite a last minute effort to sell tickets at prices as low as 3.50 euros. Some 4,600 tickets were taken by the city authorities and distributed among its 12,000 employees in a prize draw.
“Using the swastika was obviously a gimmick to make headlines and boost sales. It backfired,” Schenardi added. “And whatever the reason for her change of heart, this is a big victory for the FN.”
The anti-immigration and anti-Europe FN has worked hard to shake off an image of racism and anti-Semitism.
Marine Le Pen, who took over the FN leadership from her father Jean-Marie in 2010, insists that the party’s hard-line stance on immigration is based on economics and not racial prejudice.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the FN in 1972, has been convicted of racism and inciting racial hatred a number of times.
In 1987 he made headlines for describing the Nazi gas chambers of the Holocaust as “just a detail in the history of World War II”.
On Wednesday French anti-racism organisation SOS Racisme, which supported Madonna after her Paris concert, said it was disappointed she had been forced to remove the swastika from the show.
“Of course it’s always up to the artist how and if a political message is sent,” said spokeswoman Aline Le Bail-Kremer. “But it is an enormous pity that a party like the FN was able to force Madonna to change her message. As an artist she has the right to make a political point.”
Perhaps to make up for the toned-down political message against the FN, Madonna nevertheless used the occasion to repeat her support for Russian punk trio Pussy Riot, who were slammed with a two-year prison sentence last week for a stunt in a Moscow cathedral criticising President Vladimir Putin.