Ready to Wehr: Famed Designer Galliano To Face Criminal Charges Over Alleged Anti-Semitic Remarks

Famed Christian Dior designer John Galliano will face a criminal trial over an alleged anti-Semitic rank against a rival. As previously discussed in a column and a line of blog stories (here and here and here and here), various Western governments have been curtailing free speech by prosecuting blasphemy and speech against various groups. This is an example of that dangerous trend. While the alleged statements are repugnant, these laws cut deeply into free speech.

The Galliano case highlights the different approach of the United States as opposed to some of its closest allies, particularly on the same day that the Court rendered its Westboro decision.

In this case, Galliano could face up to six months in prison and $31,000 in fines if convicted of “public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity.” against three people.

A video of Galliano proclaiming “I love Hitler” led to his termination by Christian Dior. He was accused of screaming anti-Semitic insults at a couple in a Parisian cafe — reportedly telling the couple ‘‘people like you would be dead,’’ and ‘‘your mothers, your forefathers’’ would all be ‘‘gassed.’’ Two clients — Geraldine Bloch, 35, and Philippe Virgitti, 41 — have also accused him of making an anti-Semitic slur.

Criminally prosecuting “public insults” does not end prejudice. It merely forces such views below the surface. What it does succeed in doing is giving the majority the ability to punish those who hold views deemed offensive. Galliano was selected as the British Designer of the Year in 1987, 1994 and 1995. He was also awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2001 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Ironically, this case shows that public exposure and debate is more than able to punish those who espouse hateful and discriminatory views. Galliano, 50, has fallen from a great height — stripped of his premier position in the fashion world and turned into a social pariah. His move from the catwalk to the perpwalk occurred in a matter of days.

Despite President Obama’s support of blasphemy prosecutions, civil libertarians and groups in this country need to support our counterparts in Europe in seeking a debate over these laws and their implications for free speech.

Source: NY Times

Jonathan Turley

15 thoughts on “Ready to Wehr: Famed Designer Galliano To Face Criminal Charges Over Alleged Anti-Semitic Remarks”

  1. Funny how the hammer swings ! when cartoonists made wordly fun
    of Islamic Prophet Mohammed ( sal ) the world answered back : ” in the name of free speech ” highly supported by french union of journalists ! Whats good for the geese isn’t good for the goose !
    Funny to watch this insane hypocrosity, controlled by the minority of the world. lol good luck Galliano, you are up against the minority.

  2. Mike

    It may be that some racists are like children who always want to do what they are told is a no-no, but the rise of anti-semitism could also be due to the ever increasing usage of the internet combined with a poorly educated populace.

    Nothing (other than Anonymous – who recently attacked the Westboro website) is going to stop the burgeoning internet hate sites, but we must acknowledge that cultures tend to forget what has led to dangerous actions by individuals and/or groups in their history.

    Unfettered free speech that leads to cultural suicide – or ever more genocide – isn’t a freedom but a curse. We must be able to discriminate between actual debate of different ideas and non-debateable exhortations of hatred which can lead to physical violence or reprehensible public policy.

  3. As a proud Jew I of course have trepidation at the proliferation of
    anti-Jewish hate groups, just as I decry bigotry of any kind. I do believe though that these anti hate speech laws in many countries are more for the sake of form then of prevention. Polls have shown that France has rising rates of anti-Jewish sentiment, despite these laws. Switzerland, a supposedly neutral country during WWII actually served as bankers for the Nazis and provided them with loans. Then to the Swiss have tried to avoid payment of funds held there by Shoah victims, to their rightful heir and even the surviving individuals themselves. Germany, the first European Country to enact these laws (though through force of occupation) also has rising anti-Jewish sentiment. Laws abridging free speech don’t work and I believe in some ways proliferate the hatred that
    these laws attempt to alleviate.

  4. “Gingerbaker,

    The government squelching unpopular speech is too high a price to pay for making people feel they live in an inclusive society.

    Is it? What price does society pay for not having to listen to a violent bigot spewing lies about the Holocaust for the thousandth time?

    Answer – nothing.

  5. [For several years, government agencies, private citizens and politicians have been trying to take measures against racism on the internet. With only limited success: as long as nations like the USA protect racist publications, the hands of Switzerland and other nations are tied. However, there are still
    solutions, as the author presents in the following:

    A year and a half ago, the Federal Police made their first attempt. They tried to force Swiss internet access providers to block racist pages from foreign countries. The attempt failed; since then providers and authorities have been working on a mutual solution to the problem – so far without success.

    It is simple in principle: if illicit content is really to be prevented, then that must happen where it is put on the net. In matters of racism, that is primarily in the USA. Indeed, large providers like America Online have taken measures against racist offerings on their public systems when they have been made aware of it.

    Racist groups, however, can retreat to their own autonomous
    internet computers without problem because their provider has separated its own responsibility from that of the content put on the net by its customers. This circumstance is also being exploited by people in foreign countries who use computers on U.S. territory to globally distribute their propaganda. In
    this way, the USA has used the label of freedom of speech to develop into the world’s leading ”safe harbor” for racists.]

  6. On PBS last night, when talking about this case, the reporter said hate groups worldwide are coming to the US because they can say whatever they want on US radio, blogs, forums, etc. without being arrested.

    Perfect law for imperfect people. Stay tuned for the results.

  7. Gingerbaker,

    The government squelching unpopular speech is too high a price to pay for making people feel they live in an inclusive society.

  8. “Criminally prosecuting “public insults” does not end prejudice. It merely forces such views below the surface.”

    Forcing prejudice below the surface is a great benefit, however. It means that bigots don’t get to the imprimatur of a public dais to proselytize. It means that the rights of bigots to espouse bigotry is still maintained – at home behind closed doors in the privacy of their own homes. Just like people who like to have sex, but are not allowed to do it on a table in a restaurant.

    Outlawing public displays of bigotry also does something else – it reinforces the perception of a tolerant society as a place where intolerance will not be tolerated.

    That said, care has to be taken not to take this stuff too far. I’m not sure that one guy losing his temper in a restaurant should be sufficient to trigger a hate speech prosecution – and it remains to be seen if indeed the board which oversees this sort of case actually prosecutes or convicts the guy.

    Frankly, I think he should be prosecuted just for wearing that hat in public myself.

  9. France’s law prohibiting anti-Semitic speech is ill advised. It is preferable to have the bigots operate in the open so we can know who they are and male choices.
    I’m sure that if Dior had not fired him there would be wealthy Jews who stopped buying their products. Banning speech such as this is indeed a “slippery slope.” I think this differs from the shouting fire in a theater
    abridgement in that he was merely expressing an opinion that had little cause to believe in a result of destructive consequence.

  10. You know you’re American when you steadfastly support with righteous indignation the right for someone else to prove themselves a complete idiot.

    There is actually no such thing as blasphemy. Thee are only those minds who believe “being offended” is an end-point to existence. One cannot legislate good manners.

  11. Anti-semitic rantings are illegal in France. I guess he was too drunk to remember. He is off to alcohol treatment in Arizona. By the way, his boss is Jewish so he shouldn’t be surprised about getting fired. Galianno’s blood alcohol was twice the legal limit.

  12. What surprises me is – and please forgive me for jumping to a conclusion based on the guys appearance and voice – does he not know HE would be in line for a quick delousing shower along with those Jews?

    It is an interesting debate though, in light of yesterdays USSC ruling. Its funny how the concept of free speech is viewed, both across topics and across national boundaries.

  13. I may not agree with what the person has said….It does not mean that it is right….I have the right to not listen and walk away…. However, most people still slow down to watch the accident on the other side of the highway….that makes no sense to me either….

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