The current issue of Maclean’s reports that garish John Galliano, the high-profile anti-Semite and former fashion designer/icon, might be poised for a “resurrection.” Cue the Rocky music, our hero’s returning. A Parisian court found him guilty of “public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity,” a verdict that didn’t exactly require enhanced interrogation techniques to arrive at since Galliano was filmed professing his love for Hitler, and plaintiff Geraldine Bloch described separate occasions where Galliano remarked on her “dirty Jewish face.” Possibly, just possibly, she had remnants of lunch on her Jewish face, but in case you were about to give Galliano the benefit of the doubt consider he called her a “‘dirty whore’ at least a thousand times” in a 45 minute rant.” Even accounting for exaggeration that’s 22 times a minute, rounding down. Thankfully for John, Paris has no law forbidding issuing insults based on sexual proclivity. In any case, the judge let him off light: this incident will appear on his record (should somebody forget) and he only has to pay about an $8000 suspended sentence, meaning he pays nothing unless he offends again in the next five years. He escaped a $30,000 fine and six month jail time, the maximum punishment for his offence. The presiding judge noted the “values of respect and tolerance which the defendant generally adheres to,” of course notwithstanding his rapid- fire misogyny and drunken Jew bashing.
To be sure, I don’t agree that there ought to be a law forbidding saying what he said, as odious as it is. It was obviously a detestable opinion, but it was not a call to violence. Of course the court of public opinion screwed him way harder by effectively dropping him from his high profile jobs, so the verdict in real court was irrelevant. Whether the law should exist or not is a fair but separate question, but it does exist and he was undeniably very guilty.
Too often celebrities are expected to be good people, and when they publicly screw up the public is disappointed they weren’t better role models for the kids and pathetic adults who should know better. People should be admired for their talents, but talented people shouldn’t be expected to be particularly virtuous. Their talent has nothing to do with their morals. I don’t like Wagner’s music, but unlike Woody Allen it doesn’t give me the urge to conquer Poland. There’s a separation for me. Likewise, I still enjoy listening to Thriller, and freely admit I hear the music and mute the sounds of protesting children. So as disturbing as Galliano’s comments were, as long as he can put together a dress I can’t really blame Kate Moss for wearing his at her wedding. Though the standing ovation Galliano garnered after Moss’s father thanked him seems excessively polite for my taste.
As of now, Galliano’s lawyer said his client’s mood is “serene, relieved and pleased this is all behind him.” But some people have longer memories. Unfortunately the article failed to drudge up his most vile comments. For the next five years, Galliano will make sure there’s no video camera around before he tells a woman, “I love Hitler and people like you would be dead. Your mothers, your fathers would all be fucking gassed.”