German RJ's 'blitzkrieg' on K-pop band BTS: Where does ‘opinion’ draw the line?


By Aparmita Das | SHILLONG:

The hashtag #RacismIsNotAnOpinion is trending on Twitter after the German radio moderator Matthias Matuschik apologised to the K-Pop band BTS for making a "derogatory" remark against the band.

Matuschik came under the lash of the BTS ARMY (Adorable Representative MCs for Youth, the fans of the band) after passing on-air, a so-called “humorous” comment on the septet by comparing them to Coronavirus during a broadcast on Bavarian radio station Bayern 3 on February 25.

Following the uproar on Twitter, Matuschik and Bayern 3 issued further apologies in both German and English on the Bayern 3 website defending the presenter, saying that the statement was “dark humour” and “just an opinion” on his part and that the hallmark of the show “Matuschke-the slightly different Evening” is such that it gives the liberty to express the presenter’s opinion “clearly, openly and without make-up”.

They also mentioned that Matthias is “far away from racist views” but in this case, “he overshot his choice of words thus hurting the feelings of millions.”

People criticised their statement online using the hashtag #RacismIsNotAnOpinion and demanded to release a proper apology.

American singer Halsey, who had earlier collaborated with the band for the song “Boy with Luv”, took to Instagram and shared a story saying that she is "horrified" to read the comments made by Matthias.

“Racism and xenophobia cannot be thinly veiled as ‘on-air humour’. I hope a better apology to BTS, and the Asian communities across the world, is on its way,” she said.

American artistes Lauv and Max also took to the micro-blogging site to share their concerns regarding the “racial” comment made by the Bayern 3 presenter.

Tweet by Lauv
Tweet by Max

Tibor Martini, a journalist from Berlin, appreciated BTS ARMY for their passion and values and said, “I’m deeply sorry that racist remarks like those were published in Germany”.

Tweet by Tibor Martini

BTS’ MTV Unplugged was recently aired in the United States of America and across several countries. The unplugged session was a surprise for the ARMY as the septet provided the fans with never-seen-before performances. They did not only sing four songs from their new album ‘BE’ but also sang a cover of the song “Fix you” by Coldplay.

They mentioned that the song brought comfort to the band throughout 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and that they wanted to share it with ARMY. The performance was applauded not just by the fans but Coldplay too tweeted the link to the video calling it “aleumdaun” (written as “아름다운” in Hangul) meaning beautiful in Korean.

Tweet by Coldplay

But unfortunately, Bayern 3 host Matuschik had to say otherwise. He compared the band to coronavirus, describing them as “some crappy virus as COVID-19 and hopefully there will be a vaccine against it soon”. He called their cover of Fix you ‘sacrilege’ and ‘blasphemy’. “For this, you will be vacationing in North Korea for the next 20 years!” said Matuschik.

Faintly discerning that his remarks could be accused as “racism” and “xenophobia”, he said, “You can’t accuse me of Xenophobia…I have a car from South Korea. I have the coolest car ever”.

This was not accepted well by the Twitteratis. One user tweeted saying, “What was said yesterday was unacceptable and needs to be taken back. COVID-19 is a virus which killed people and ruined many lives whereas BTS made ARMY’s lives 100 times better and their songs gave us a hope to live every time”.

Forbes Magazine also criticized the act which was evident in their headline that read “BTS Were Once Again The Subject Of Racist On-Air Remarks-And Received A Pathetic Non-Apology”.

Also Read: BTS becomes first K-pop group to earn Grammy nomination

Tweet by Bryan Rolli of Forbes Magazine

Ever since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has seen an increase in xenophobia and anti-Asian racism. So, at times like these, such remarks of likening BTS to coronavirus resulted in an immediate uproar on social media platforms and hashtags like #Bayern3Apologise #Bayern3Racist #WeLoveYouBangtan began to appear on the site.

Bayern 3 and the RJ’s half-hearted apology further added fuel to the fire as according to the fans and the Twitter users, it was nothing but an excuse and that "Racism cannot be an opinion".

Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google also stood against this “racism” and said, “it is important to not let the violence against Asian and Pacific Islander communities fade from the headlines.”

BTS's ascent into global stardom might feel a bit sudden to the outside world but it is their continuous struggle that took them years to reach that point. It is all because of the amount of passion and hard work that these artists have put into work that has made this group a global ambassador.

BTS (Beyond The Scene), also known as Bangtan Sonyeondan, have been able to break many records and barriers around the world with their “out of the box” music and lyrics.

Also Read: What does BTS want to ‘BE’: Answer to this question changes every time

BTS at a press conference for the BBMAs

Whether it’s through album releases, breaking records or racking up awards and laurels, the seven members— team leader, RM (Kim Namjoon), Jin (Kim Seokjin) Suga (Min Yoongi), J-Hope (Jung Hoseok), Park Jimin, V (Kim Taehyung) and their “golden maknae”, Jungkook (Jeon Jungkook)—have continuously worked hard to climb atop the international music scene.

But despite their huge success, they are a frequent target of attacks and ridicule on the internet because even now many have not been able to accept them or their music.

So, the responses from the fans, non-fans, Hollywood celebrities, etc. regarding the “remarks” made by the radio moderator have worked as a revitalising therapy for the band and it shows that their achievements and success easily outsizes the racial critics.

I want to conclude by quoting RM (member of BTS) -- “No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin colour, gender identity: Speak Yourself”.

Also Read: BTS’s “Dynamite” hits 800 million views on YouTube