It seems common practice that in the aftermath of some major humanitarian disaster there is a flock of singers and artists writing songs of sorrow and solace. Who would blame them? In response to these disasters we see the best mankind has to offer, whether it be LiveAid or the yearly Children in Need single and creative inspiration isn’t hard to find in these situations.
One such incident which has gained the attention of seemingly every person in Europe is the Calais refugee crisis. It certainly hasn’t gone under the radar of songwriter and activist M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasm). M.I.A. released the video to her single ‘Borders’ – a song which stresses the desperate and dangerous travel are having to embark on every day to travel across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, as well as the dreadful living conditions they are put in once they arrive. However, due to the video featuring M.I.A in an augmented Paris Saint-German T-Shirt, the Paris based football club have threatened legal action over the video.
In an email sent from PSG to M.I.A. (posted by the songwriter on her Twitter page), the club stated that they were “unpleasantly surprised” by the video where M.I.A. wears the official PSG jersey with the sponsors ‘Fly Emirates’ logo changed to ‘Fly Pirates’ (a nod to her friends asking her to do a cool Somali pirate video according to M.I.A.) The club say they “simply do not understand why they are associated” with the video in question and believe the use of their jersey in the video has caused “an economic prejudice and image prejudice” against the club.
However, the sources they use to explain how they have essentially been given a bad rap by M.I.A. are nothing to do with the football club whatsoever. A quote from the Huffington Post’s story on the video is used to demonstrate how it has been damaged by the video, yet the article merely states that at one point in the video M.I.A. happened to wear a PSG shirt. It’s as if the whole of PSG’s PR staff have taken the month off whilst they make petty claims against a well-known outspoken female rapper and activist.
The backlash against PSG in support of M.I.A. and the ‘Borders’ video has damaged PSG’s reputation more than the original video ever could have. The club demanded that M.I.A. remove the ‘Borders’ video immediately along with requesting that she compensate them for the harm they have suffered and for her to refrain from ever using the clubs image in any way again. These demands are with next to no evidence that they have been harmed by the video (let alone the evidence being in any way sufficient), and quite frankly the club clearly cares more about a small amount of supposed image damage than the powerful and poignant advocacy against the horrific conditions migrants have to travel and live in.
Whether or not PSG will continue their futile pursuit is unknown as M.I.A. produced the email in which PSG threatened legal action. Since the situation boiled over two weeks ago, she has moved her focus to criticising Google after their latest tax dodging debacle. One thing is certain, M.I.A. isn’t going to stop her quest for social justice any time soon, whether it be against PSG, Google or Oprah Winfrey.
Ultimately the question is this: when did activism and human rights become a PR problem and not a humanitarian cause?