France has a no-tolerance policy for hate speech. You might recall, Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes was arrested a few years ago on the charge of inciting hate speech as a result of some hateful blog posts on his website. He ended up having to pay a $10,000 fine.
According to HuffPo France, the government has their sights on Phil Anselmo, after the controversial video was posted a few weeks ago showing Anselmo giving the Nazi salute and shouting "white power" at the top of his lungs, something he has apologized for multiple times. But an apology is not enough for France. On Friday, French senator and President of the General Council of the Vendée, Bruno Retailleau asked the promoters of France's Hellfest to drop Down from it's annual summer festival for promoting hatred, the same reason that Dutch festival FortaRock canceled Down's appearance.
— Bruno Retailleau (@BrunoRetailleau) February 5, 2016
The senator was offering Hellfest promoter Ben Barbaud an ultimatum. Either pull Down from the fest, or the fest loses it's € 20,000 subsidy funding from the city of Region Pays de la Loire, which senator Bruno Retailleau oversees. Retailleau said that the city will not promote anything with "incitement to racial or religious hatred."
Ultimately, Hellfest balked at kicking Down off and announced them as part of the final festival lineup, which was announced earlier today:
— Rock A Gogo (@RockAGogoCom) February 8, 2016
Festival promoter Ben Barbaud was quoted as saying "Let them keep their grant of € 20,000," adding that if Retailleau was truly a partner in this festival and wanted to seek changed, he should have called first instead of going to the press. He added they were just looking for an excuse: (please note these are rough translations from French)
"Bruno Retailleau wanted to please his electorate and anti-Hellfest who relayed this buzz, which had already toured the metal sites. He expected it, like Laurence Garnier [Chairman of the Committee on culture in the region]. They found a perfect excuse to blow the grant. "
As for why he refused to drop Down:
"Anselmo apologized repeatedly. He even offered to leave the band to do no harm to his comrades, who must also be disgusted with what happens. Everyone agrees that this is unacceptable and that the metal scene is neither racist nor anti-Semitic. I know Phil Anselmo very well, who came many times to Clisson. And I am convinced that his apologies are sincere. Hellfest, we never had this kind of behavior, no one has ever seen or wear distinctive sign or speech, both live and in houses. I deeply believe that he is a good person. He is a provocateur who plays the big guys and loses foot when he's drunk. He made a huge mistake. But people who make populist shortcuts and say horrors when they have three grams of alcohol, one can find many, including Vendee. "
The promoter made it clear that Down might end up canceling the appearance themselves to avoid any controversy. It looks like we haven't heard the last of this.