Jakarta. Indonesian Idol judge Ahmad Dhani apologized on Thursday for dressing up as Heinrich Himmler for a music video in support of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, but several of the latter's most senior supporters stood by the production — with the party's deputy chair heaping praise on Dhani for his creativity.
"I will never wear it again. I've learned my lesson," Dhani told a Jakarta Globe journalist in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, on Wednesday night. "This was purely about fashion and was not related to ideology — the Western media knows I am a real pluralist."
Dhani and three finalists — Husein, Nowela and Virzha — from the Indonesian Idol TV show filmed a music video for Prabowo's presidential campaign in which the singers covered Queen's "We Will Rock You" with the lyrics “Who will awaken Indonesia from its misery if not us? Prabowo-Hatta!”
Dhani was initially defiant on Wednesday, at one point saying that wearing an SS jacket made him as much a Nazi sympathizer as wearing a Star of David made him a Zionist. His management company, Republik Cinta, however, decided to remove the video from its YouTube channel at the request of Prabowo's campaign team on Wednesday after Der Spiegel, the Jakarta Globe, Time magazine and other news outlets reported that Prabowo had endorsed a music video featuring an Indonesian Idol judge dressed as a mass murdering war criminal.
"When we were shooting the video, I did not think about [the costume]," Dhani said, as quoted by Indonesian news portal Tribunnews.com. "My assistant brought so many clothes so I just wore the ones available. I don't have any [fascist] tendencies. It was just by chance that I wore that one. This has been twisted to take a political direction."
Prabowo, despite endorsing the video on June 20 on his official Facebook page, has remained silent on the controversy — instead relying on his campaign team to issue pat dismissals to the effect that Dhani's witless simulacrum of Nazi chic was a worthy expression of a creative genius at work.
"[The video] did not come from the campaign team's direction," said Tantowi Yahya, a spokesman for Prabowo's campaign team and a serving member of the House of Representatives. "As an artist, someone must be eccentric. If they are not they are the same as regular people."
"It was a lame denial," Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), told the Globe. "The campaign team should have stopped Dhani from publishing the video because the video is dumping our people down.
"The government never said that what happened during the New Order era was wrong, so 16 years after the reformation our mind-set remains the same. We just moved on without knowing what was wrong with the New Order and as a result when Ahamd Dhani shows up in his Nazi uniform some people think it is OK."
Some in the Prabowo camp responded to the video on the premise that attack is the best form of defense. The deputy leader of Prabowo's Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the presidential candidate's chief spokesman, Fadli Zon, took the opportunity to remind Indonesians of the dangers of communism.
Sy dukung kreatifitas @AHMADDHANIPRAST . Ini negara demokrasi. Kreatifitas jgn dibungkam. Salam Indonesia Raya — Fadli Zon (@fadlizon) June 26, 2014"I support the creativity of Ahmad Dhani. This is a democracy and creativity should not be silenced," Fadli tweeted on Thursday afternoon, describing the video as "very cool."
1. Indonesia tak ada hub dg NAZI, yg ada dg komunis. Nah 'Revolusi Mental' punya akar kuat tradisi paham komunis. — Fadli Zon (@fadlizon) June 26, 2014
"Indonesia has no relation to Nazism, but it does to communism. The "Mental Revolution" has strong roots in communist ideology," Fadli tweeted on Thursday afternoon, before wandering off into linking rival candidate Joko Widodo's call for a "mental revolution" to China's May Fourth Movement and Marx's 1852 essay "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte."
Fadli was referring to Joko's Kompas op-ed in which the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) candidate articulated a call for Indonesia to undergo a collective change of attitude in order to focus on the prosaic details of clean governance and greater tolerance.
Joshua Oppenheimer, a filmmaker nominated for an Oscar for his documentary on the massacre of Indonesian communists in 1965-66, criticized Prabowo on Wednesday and called on the candidate to apologize on Thursday.
“This is not a clever foreign policy move for Prabowo,” Oppenheimer told the Globe on Wednesday. “Unless he really wants to alienate all of Europe — and the rest of the human community.”
Amien Rais, a leading figure in the overthrow of the Suharto regime who now is now the chief adviser to Prabowo, Suharto's former son-in-law, was one of the few officials in the camp to unequivocally condemn Dhani's flirting with Nazism.
"This really was a fatal mistake," Amien said. "He shouldn't have played around because the Nazis, and the swastika, is an enemy of the world. I think he made a mistake. He should not have done it."
As Gerindra officials gave out a mixed messages on Thursday, a Time magazine journalist who reported the story on Wednesday was subjected to a vile bullying campaign online.
Yenni Kwok's article in the online version of Time was published with the headline "This Indonesian Nazi Video Is One of the Worst Pieces of Political Campaigning Ever."
Several Prabowo supporters spent part of Thursday abusing Kwok for her article. The most egregious example came from Ratna Sarumpaet, a prominent Indonesian writer and — evidently part-time — human rights activist, who tweeted Kwok's personal details along with a picture of Kwok and her daughter, which Kwok said had been lifted from her Facebook account.
As the Indonesian media and journalists from abroad waded in to support Kwok for her article, there were still those wondering whether Prabowo would break his silence on his decision to endorse a campaign video styled on one of the most murderous regimes of the 20th century.
Will Prabowo have the courage to apologise for his disgusting Nazi-themed campaign video?... http://t.co/NipMhMlXlH — Joshua Oppenheimer (@JoshuaOppenheim) June 25, 2014/blockquote>