rebel heart copy

Madonna Encounters the IOM (Internet Outrage Machine)

We’re four days into the new year and Internet writers have found the latest thing to be faux outraged at: Madonna. Is this pre-Internet 1984? Or 1989? Or 1992?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what’s happened, let me fill you in. Last month, dozens of demos from Madonna’s upcoming album Rebel Heart leaked to the Internet. The Queen of Pop was obviously pretty pissed and as a response, she and her team released six tracks from Rebel as part of a pre-order (more music is coming next month and the full album release is scheduled for March, 10th).

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Since then, Madonna has been re-posting fan art of photoshopped images of famous activists and freedom fighters, from Nelson Mandela to John Lennon, with the black ribbon around them a la the album cover to Rebel Heart. As she explained, she loved the images and found them inspiring.

I would like to thank all my fans for recreating my album cover with the <3 Rebel Heart ribbon on the faces of so many Great Hero’s. It shows that you are also celebrating and in admiration of these great freedom fighters! When I repost these images i am saying YES! These people are all Rebel Hearts in one way or another from Martin Luther King to Jesus to Nelson Mandela to John Lennon. YES! Lets

But since this is 2015, the fact that she promoted fan-made images of civil rights icons is grounds for self-righteous indignation. Entertainment Weekly ran a hack-job-of-an-article on the images, claiming Madonna was being disrespectful and offensive (hey, sounds like the detractors from throughout her career!) by posting the images. Aside from the ageism and outright Madonna-hatred, this is perhaps the most hilarious line of the piece:

Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t make his “I Have a Dream” speech in order to promote a rich white woman’s record a half century later. And the fact that she’s co-opting the images of three of the most influential figures in the modern struggle for black liberation—King, Nelson Mandela, and Bob Marley—while America struggles to reckon with its history of systematic racism is bafflingly tone deaf, to say the least.

Not to be outdone in up-to-the-minute Internet fads, Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos joined in the funto accuse Madonna of personally photoshopping the pictures. He also joined the author of the EW piece by bashing Madonna for not being the superstar they personally wish she would be.

By tweeting these controversial images, she’s (or someone on her team) doing a masterful job at changing the conversation. Instead of talking about how bad “Rebel Heart” is, people are now talking about how disrespectful she’s being.

It’s almost as if things like introspection and fact-checking don’t exist. This is yet the latest example of something Madonna has dealt with since she burst onto the scene in the early ’80s. Now it’s been updated to the Age of Perpetual Outrage.


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