Mind your business.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

John Galliano is a bigot, not a criminal

Dior fashion designer John Galliano was recently recorded making racist and vulgar remarks while drunk in a Paris restaurant. When I first saw the video (embedded below) I was just sort of amused: "Hey check out this video of some racist fashion designer saying he loves Hitler. What a jackass. I thought fashionistas were more cosmopolitan, liberal, and accepting than that."

Of course his words were ugly and wrong. If I were the restaurant manager and I overheard the conversation or was alerted to it, I would have asked Galliano to leave and not return. If I were Dior, I'd have fired him like they did. If I were Natalie Portman, I would have expressed my disgust at his outburst like she did. But for the French government to order Galliano to stand trial for "public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" of the people he was being so rude to is a little unsettling.

I'm not exactly sure how it works in France, but I'm glad here in the United States we have the First Amendment to protect speech. The caveat is that ugly, stupid, racist, or ignorant speech has to be tolerated as well, not just speech that most of us find acceptable, otherwise when "most of us" are on the wrong side of history (which has tended to happen a lot in history), we may end up criminalizing speech that is actually beautiful, intelligent, tolerant, and true.

The question ultimately boils down to what you're more afraid of: a drunk fashion designer acting like a buffoon in a restaurant, or a government capable of criminalizing speech. Number of Jews killed by drunk fashion designers: 0 (as far as I know). Number of Jews killed by governments without clearly-defined checks on their power to limit free expression and the exercise of other civil liberties: millions. And unlike antisemitic celebrities, governments never apologize and blame it on the alcohol.

Note: Galliano is also alleged to have physically assaulted a gallery curator that same night. If that happened, then he is a criminal after all and should be prosecuted and sentenced accordingly- but for the assault, not for being incredibly rude and idiotic.

Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
Articles | Author's Page