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Xenophobic German Presenter’s Comments About BTS Are Just the Tip of the Racist Iceberg

Bavarian radio station Bayern 3’s Matthias Matuschik’s vile remarks comparing BTS to Covid presents a bigger picture of the discrimination against Asians

Riddhi Chakraborty Feb 27, 2021

BTS perform Coldplay's "Fix You" on MTV Unplugged

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Additional reporting by Divyansha Dongre

Yesterday I woke up to the news that a German radio presenter, whom I had never heard of, had launched into a racist tirade against BTS, currently one of the world’s leading pop acts. My Twitter timeline was filled with screenshots and audio clips of Bavarian radio station Bayern 3’s Matthias Matuschik slamming the South Korean group for covering British rock band Coldplay’s iconic 2005 track “Fix You” on an episode of MTV Unplugged.

“These little pissers bragged about covering ‘Fix You’ from Coldplay,” Matuschik ranted on-air. “This is sacrilege! For this you will be vacationing in North Korea for the next 20 years!” He then went on to insist, “You can’t accuse me of xenophobia just because of this boy band. I have a car from South Korea,” but in the next breath declared BTS were “some crappy virus that hopefully there will be a vaccine for soon as well.” He seemed offended by the fact that they were featured on Unplugged at all, and acted as though BTS had disrespected Coldplay in some manner by daring to cover the track–a cover that Coldplay themselves called ‘Beautiful.’

The amount of unprovoked hate and resentment in every word was disturbing and absurd. Matuschik seemed to believe that BTS were ‘unworthy’ of covering Coldplay–and to everyone listening, it sounded like his reasoning had a lot to do with the fact that the septet were Asian. He claimed he wasn’t racist or xenophobic, but his use of terms specifically related to Asia and COVID-19 to bash a group of Korean men countered this. While he continued to argue that where BTS came from had nothing to do with his ire and it was more about them being a boy band (still a rather problematic take, btw), I highly doubt he would’ve sentenced the Backstreet Boys, 5 Seconds of Summer or One Direction to “20 years in North Korea” for simply performing a cover he didn’t like. 

As BTS’ fandom ARMY, global media, celebrities and the rest of the world responded in rage, hashtags like #Bayern3Racist and #Bayern3Apologize began to trend all over social media. Bayern 3 scrambled to put out a rushed, typical non-apology, claiming that Matuschik was simply playing a ‘character’  who voices “his opinion clearly, openly, and without make-up, in his attempt to express his opinion in a clear, open and ironic, exaggerated way and with exaggerated excitement.” Matuschik chimed in as well, expressing his disbelief over how his statement was being misunderstood, saying he’s “displeasedover the “very popular racist stick” that was being used to scan his statements. He further went on to ‘acknowledge’ BTS ARMY’s power by terming the fandom–known for their news-worthy philanthropic activities and diversity–as “fanatical followers of a musical cash machine.” (Of course here’s where the sordid history of men not taking female-led/diverse fandoms seriously also plays in.)

While it’s acceptable to express an opinion, there is a line between what is an opinion and what counts as racist and xenophobic–especially during the rise of hate crimes against Asians across the globe due to the panic, misinformation and ignorance around COVID-19. In an op-ed for Teen Vogue about the topic, Korean-American reporter Jae-Ha Kim wrote, “There’s an epidemic of hatred towards Asians, fueled by public figures like Matuschik, who almost always claim they didn’t mean it. ‘Can’t you take a joke? I love Chinese food!’ This one example of racism against an extremely popular Korean group is part of an insidious context, one that has the dual effect of attempting to minimize BTS’s legacy while also laying the groundwork for violent rhetoric and hate crimes against Asian people.” Kim’s powerful piece goes on to list the discrimination and hate she and other Asian-Americans have faced over the last few decades and the ignorance of racist public figures that drive it all.  

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A report by the United Nations issued last year detailed “an alarming level” of  increase in violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several media outlets report the spike could have a lot to do with former American president Donald Trump carelessly referring to the coronavirus as ‘the China virus’ or the ‘kung flu’–further backing up Kim’s point about the influence public figures can have and the need for accountability. 

Author Min Jin Lee further explained on a viral Twitter thread, “Anti-Asian jokes are messages. Anti-Asian racism has real repercussions on Asians everywhere. There are over 4.5 billion Asians in the world, 60 percent of the world’s population. Many Asians lack real political & economic freedoms and resources. These racist messages are dangerous.”

Racism and violence against Asian people isn’t limited to America, Germany or individuals like Matuschik–it’s a global problem rooted in ignorance. Our society’s irresponsible attitude towards Asians has been allowed to simmer for eons; it’s what has led to the long line of people like Matuschik forming a belief that comments like this have no repercussions, that ‘othering’ nearly 60 percent of the population of the world is something we should all find hilarious and then dismiss. Believing the idea that ‘othering’ cannot incite violence, hate crimes or murder, but is instead a good way to have a laugh, is a delusion born of living in a bubble of safety your whole life. It’s a privilege only certain skin colors and genders can automatically grant you. 

But Asian communities worldwide have had enough. Why do we have to tolerate this? Why are we expected to listen to these tirades in silence and laugh at jokes made at our expense? Why are we labelled as ‘fanatic’ or accused of overreacting while racists are repeatedly given massive platforms to spread dangerous, hateful messages that can potentially incite physical violence? The truth is there is no reason, no logic, no justification for any of it and we cannot allow vitriol to spread in the guise of ‘opinion.’

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As BTS’ ARMY has made clear, racism is not an opinion. There is no spin or outlook that makes any of this okay and we’re done listening to excuses.

Watch BTS cover Coldplay’s “Fix You” below:

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