Gigi D’Agostino’s hit “L’Amour toujours” is in the headlines because partygoers on Sylt chanted racist slogans while singing it. Right-wing extremists repeatedly try to use popular songs for their own ends. Experts call this the “dogwhistle” strategy.

Germany has been shaken for days by a video that was filmed during a Whitsun party on the island of Sylt. It shows a group of young adults on the terrace of the “Pony” club, repeatedly chanting the slogan “Germany for the Germans, foreigners out” to the song “L’Amour toujours” by star DJ Gigi D’Agostino.

What initially appears to be an isolated incident is apparently a trend. For months, young people have been shouting racist slogans to the catchy melody at festivals.

Many event organizers have even banned the playing of “L’Amours toujours” for fear of xenophobic comments. The song will not be played at the Oktoberfest in Munich this year, for example – Wiesn boss Clemens Baumgärtner recently announced this.

According to a ZDF report, convinced neo-Nazis are taking advantage of these developments. Jan Rau and Daniel Wehrend from the Social Cohesion Research Institute told the broadcaster: “It is remarkable that right-wing campaigners quickly picked up the song and are pushing it in a targeted manner.”

Lorenz Blumenthaler of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation explained in an interview with the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ) that there is a reason why “L’Amour toujours” with new lyrics is spreading so quickly. He told the paper: “It can be assumed that it has been prepared for a long time by the extreme right.” Blumenthaler referred to corresponding TikTok profiles.

In order to give well-known songs relevant messages, they do not necessarily have to be rewritten – as is the case with “L’Amour toujours”. In connection with the Sylt video, experts often talk about the so-called “dogwhistle” strategy.

As ZDF reports, classics such as “Major Tom” are also being re-uploaded under the keyword “Aryan classics”. Often without any clearly racist content, but garnished with pictures of Wehrmacht soldiers, for example. The undertone is therefore clear – even if not as obvious as the slogans for “L’Amour toujours”.

The “dogwhistle” strategy is called that because the racist motivation behind playing otherwise harmless songs is only apparent to those in the know. Because of the high frequency, only dogs can hear a dog whistle. Outsiders are usually not aware of the symbolism that a particular song has for the right-wing milieu.

Several years ago, media scientist Stephan Packard explained the “dogwhistle” phenomenon on “Deutschlandfunk Nova” as a kind of double coding: “A racist allusion is not initially perceived as racist in public discourse. But it is recognized by a smaller group, especially racist listeners, as what it was intended to be.”

And so with “L’Amour toujours” it is now enough just to play it. As ZDF reports, the song was also heard at a performance by the well-known Identitarian activist Martin Sellner – in the background, without any explicit re-phrasing.

There is also a YouTube video in which the song is played without the now well-known xenophobic slogan. It is illustrated with a Roman statue. The comments make it clear how the “interpretation” is understood by many users. For example, you can read “Germany for the Germans”.

Miro Dittrich of the Cemas Institute told ZDF that “Dogwhistle” songs are used as clear signals to one’s own community and that the aim is to “create a subculture of political ideology, consisting of music and films, for example. The Identitarian Movement calls this strategy meta-politics.”

Of course, not everyone who sings “L’Amour toujours” or shares the song on social media is right-wing extremist. In an interview with the Schleswig-Holsteinischer Zeitungsverlag (SVZ), Sven-Michael Veit from the Ahrensbök Memorial stresses the importance of information and education in combating right-wing extremist movements.

Veit also advises people to be vigilant and to ask people like the party-goers on Sylt to stop their xenophobic chants. Alternatively, you can also contact the event organizer or the police, says the expert.