Galliano's fall from grace teaches us how the media shouldn't respond to anti-Semitism
Amid rumors Dior has finally found a replacement for John Galliano, my mind is plagued by memories of the ridiculous media storm that crushed a pitiful man.
For nine months, the Dior fashion house has struggled to find a successor for the role of creative director, after John Galliano was fired for his highly publicized anti-Semitic slurs. Finally, according to reports by Forbes and the Telegraph, Dior has found a replacement in Raf Simons.
The saga began in February this year, when, in a crowded Parisian café, John Gallano, Dior's leading creator, was secretly filmed making horrendous anti-Semitic statements. “I love Hitler,” he announced to a nearby Jewish couple. The video was published on YouTube, and soon after, Galliano was fired from Dior. In September, he was also convicted of making anti-Semitic comments, a criminal offense in France.
When the first video emerged of John Galliano’s anti-Semitic slurs, the fashion world was shocked and appalled, and rightly so. But did the media blow this story out of proportion?
The "hidden anti-Semitism of the fashion world" became the leading angle in a media storm that erupted following the video's YouTube release. The flurry of news coverage concerning Galliano’s comments reached the point of overload: everywhere you turned, there was another article about modern forms of anti-Semitism. A simple news search for "Galliano" on the date of the video's release - February 28, 2011 - yields upwards of fifty articles.
Politics Daily issued an editorial comparing Galliano's outburst to rising right-wing anti-Semitism in Europe. But, while there may indeed be rising anti-Semitism in Europe, is it right to say that a drunken man's rant in a bar is indicative of such a trend?
The court presiding over Galliano's trial held that the media coverage was excessive. As it was reported by Independent, the court took into account "the fact that his (Galliano's) racist remarks – however unpleasant – had been intended for just a handful of people. The fact that they had been given "extreme publicity" all around the world was "not the fault of the accused.""
Did we go overboard? Eva Green, a Jewish actress, said in an interview with The Observer that Galliano was very drunk when he made the comments in question, and personally thought those who put up the video were exploiting the man.
The fashion world is filled with Jewish designers, from Diane Von Furstenburg to Zac Posen to Ralph Lauren. Can a man such as Galliano who works in such an industry really be so staunchly anti-Semitic? Of course he can (many friendships between Jews and non-Jews in pre-Holocaust Europe didn't affect whether or not, in the end, numerous Jews were betrayed). And I also believe that Galliano should be punished, and severely at that. But not to the point where the person gets completely destroyed.
By skewering someone in the media so strongly, we may be doing a disservice. While it is understandable that anti-Semitic language cannot and should not be tolerated, the astonishing amount of media coverage may have only fueled anti-Semitic rumors that the Jewish people are all-powerful, much more so than the "average minority."
While Galliano absolutely deserved to be fired, perhaps we should have looked upon this event with pity, and not outrage: the drunken ramblings of a man who caused his own fall from grace. And perhaps next time, a more nuanced campaign should be waged. Although we can never accommodate for anti-Semitism, we should instead try to educate, while still expressing condemnation for such actions.
Yael Miller is a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
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