By Mathieu Deflem
For The Bali Times
The Lady Gaga concert that was scheduled to be held in Jakarta on June 3 has now been officially cancelled. Through the haze of confusion over this unprecedented event, one must not lose sight of the objective conditions that brought about the decision to cancel the show as well as the consequences it will have in terms of the role of popular culture in the world today.
The main reason the show got cancelled is not because members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) threatened to stop Lady Gaga’s show and use violence against the audience. There are always dangers in society whereby violent groups and individuals threaten to cause harm onto others. That is the reason we have a police in the first place: to provide security when there is a risk of insecurity in view of threats or acts of violence and other criminal conduct.
The fundamental reason for the show’s cancelation is that Indonesian police failed to provide adequate guarantees and provisions to deal with the FPI extremists who, by their own admission, threatened to cause criminal harm onto others only for the fact that they were to attend a concert of one of their favourite performers. If the police of the city of Jakarta and at the national level of Indonesia had responded to the threats by the FPI with authority and resolve, by investigating the sources of such vile threats, they would have devised plans to offer protection to all citizens of Indonesia and the visitors to the country. The police would not have capitulated by refusing to issue permits for the Lady Gaga concert, thus effectively emboldening a small fringe group of fundamentalists.
What the police in Jakarta have shown is that they are professionally unable to accommodate more than 50,000 of its citizens who wished to partake in a celebration of music and dance, because a mere few hundred extremists threatened to cause them harm. By the standards of a modern police oriented at the efficient control of crime and the maintenance of order, the people of Indonesia deserve a responsible police whose officers are professionally committed to providing security and peace for all. After all, what is there to be expected of a police whose job it is to deal with important problems of criminality when it cannot even organise appropriate security for something as frivolous as a pop show?
Yet, at the same time, the cancelation of the Lady Gaga concert may have enormous beneficial consequences coming from the Indonesian police refusing to provide security in the face of the violent threats of a fringe group of extremists. As a society organised as an ever-more connected global village, we should indeed be grateful for the cancelation of the Lady Gaga concert, albeit for reasons the extremists and their allies will not have suspected.
We should be grateful for the cancelation of the Lady Gaga concert because it has exposed the police of Indonesia, by refusing to issue a permit, for being severely lacking in the professional standards of a modern law-enforcement organisation that ought to provide security and allow for the peaceful coexistence of all citizens. The failure by police to guarantee security at a music concert, which more than 50,000 freely wished to attend, may serve as an occasion for the much-needed changes that Indonesian society will need to make if it is to be a full-fledged democracy that unites a commitment to order with respect for all of its many citizens.
We should be grateful for the cancelation of the Lady Gaga concert because it has once again revealed the FPI for its true nature, irrespective of any religious foundation, as an irresponsible group of violent thugs. The group’s hatred is not only centred against Lady Gaga, on whose artistic merits and moral value there surely will be different opinions, but has also involved dozens of acts of violence against, among others, Christians and humanitarian aid workers. Whether it is the supposed immorality of Lady Gaga or the beliefs of Christians, Hindus or any other peace-loving people, the FPI will condemn them to be “satanic” enemies. But with its shameless and now clearly proven record of violence oriented at so many a group, the FPI may soon find itself completely isolated and exposed for what it truly is.
We should be grateful for the cancelation of the Lady Gaga concert, finally, because it reminds us that Indonesia is a nation whose vast majority of citizens have firmly embraced the principles of democracy, tolerance and respect for others. Whether it is in the face of violence against minority religions or because of the intolerance exposed in the case of the cancelation of a pop show, Indonesians — like other citizens of the world — will stand up against bigotry and intolerance.
As such, the threats of the FPI and the unprofessional response by the police remind us, however ironically and painfully, of what the people of Indonesia themselves desire and have every right to expect.
Mathieu Deflem is professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina in the United States. He teaches in the areas of law and policing, as well as popular culture, including a course on the fame of Lady Gaga.