[Update] Simon Wiesenthal Center denounces BTS, based at least partially on questionable info

As the ongoing mess with BTS is now spreading internationally through the media, problematic things from their past are cropping up. In what I can only characterize as a surprise statement, the Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced BTS. The title of the statement kinda doesn’t pull any punches as to why.

Popular Korean Band Whose Japan Performance Was Cancelled For T-Shirt Mocking A-Bomb Victims, Once Posed With Nazi SS Death Head Symbols, Flew Nazi-Like Flags At Concert

Moreover, in the statement itself they actually call for Big Hit Entertainment as well as BTS to apologize to Japan as well as the victims of Nazism.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced BTS, an internationally popular Korean band whose live performance on Japan TV was cancelled. “Wearing a T-shirt in Japan mocking the victims of the Nagasaki A-bomb, is just the latest incident of this band mocking the past,” charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper. Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish Human Rights NGO. Members of the band posed for a photo shoot wearing hats with the Nazi SS Death Head logo. The SS was a key component of the Nazi mass murder of 6 million Jews during the WWII Holocaust. “Flags appearing on stage at their concert were eerily similar to the Nazi Swastika. It goes without saying that this group, which was invited to speak at the UN, owes the people of Japan and the victims of the Nazism an apology.” “But that is not enough. It is clear that those designing and promoting this group’s career are too comfortable with denigrating the memory of the past. The result is that on young generations in Korea and around the world are more likely to identify bigotry and intolerance as being ‘cool’ and help erase the lessons of history. The management of this group, not only the front performers, should publicly apologize,” Rabbi Cooper added.

As I’ve said before, I agree that the shirt was a shitty look, and people should just admit that instead of desperately trying to defend it with rhetoric that has potentially disturbing consequences. I also agree that BTS definitely fucked up with the photoshoot at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

That said, the other two incidents appear to be questionably sourced. The picture of RM, where he supposedly rocks a swastika, may not be legitimate.

The claim is that it was simply a Boy London logo and that somebody had photoshopped the swastika in. And while the Boy London brand itself is not without controversy, it at least seemed like the swastika was fabricated.

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Update

On the other hand, it was brought to my attention that as far back as 2014 there are scans of this Ceci photoshoot showing what definitely looks like a swastika that might also be a part of the Reichsadler, as well as an SS death head logo.

Yikes.

Obviously the emergence of this information alters my thinking on the situation, even if there are still issues with some of the things in the statement.

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Stuff like connecting the Seo Taiji concert performance to Nazism, which seems like quite a reach.

I guess if you’re looking for it I can vaguely see where they’re coming from. However, the explanations definitely made a lot more sense to me.

But perhaps the most disturbing part about this issue is that the statement cites a ultra-nationalist Japanese account as evidence. And unsurprisingly, the people supporting the denouncement of BTS by the SWC in general, are also mostly ultra-nationalist Japanese accounts.

That’s quite disturbing, especially since obviously it was Imperial Japan who was allied with Nazi Germany during World War 2.

Personally? I’ve made my feelings on people mindlessly defending the shirt with an atomic bomb on it known, but I also made my feelings on the disturbing reach nationalists have in Japan known as well, and I definitely don’t feel like some kind of official apology from BTS and BHE to Japan itself is necessary at all. Additionally, while I’m not going to argue with SWC’s right to demand an apology over the past mistakes of BTS and BHE (and they should’ve just apologized when these things emerged years ago), the denouncement is something they should at least reevaluate (at least some of the wording) due not only to what is still partially questionable information but because of the implications of emboldening Japanese right-wingers. One would think they have to see how that could be a bad look.

Regardless, this is obviously an extremely messy situation for BTS and BHE that is only continuing to escalate.

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