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