Political correctness often hides prejudices that are more damning of sections of society than upfront 'disgusting' sentiments.
Political Correctness and Anti-Semitism
by Farzana Versey
State of Nature
Galliano, the famed fashion designer at the house of Christian Dior, has been kicked out for making anti-Semitic remarks. He could be called to court and face upto six months in jail although he has subsequently issued a statement saying, “Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologize for my behavior in causing any offence.” What might have been seen as an ordinary man’s drunken pub brawl has been transformed into a political issue. What are the political dimensions here? In Paris, he reportedly pulled a woman’s hair and said she had a “dirty Jewish face”. This has come to light after his behaviour at a café the next day where someone decided to record his utterances on the cellphone and post it on YouTube. He is telling a group that seems to be sitting at the same table, “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f—ing gassed.” He also says, “I love Hitler.”
Watch the video. There is some light laughter. No one stands up and tells him to shut up. He is sozzled. So, why was there no immediate reaction? This is where the political dimensions come in. Is it the power of the person? To give credit to the mainstream entertainment and fashion industries in the West, they do not spare their celebrities. From substance abuse to paedophilia to shoplifting to promiscuity, criminal and rehab proceedings are initiated against them. Galliano has himself been given the boot on the strength of a video shot by someone who happened to be there.
I am not quite sure which of his statements is considered the worse one – the one against Jews or the one about Hitler. Recently, a Japanese pop band dressed in Nazi-style uniform for a performance on MTV. Sony Music had to apologise for it due to protests by a Jewish rights group in the United States. Why must contemporary Jews living in nations that were not affected by the Holocaust continue to expect no mention of Hitler? Stalin was responsible for the killing of thousands of Jews, but he is considered just another dictator. The reason is that simplistic political ideas work. Nazism is the recognisable and durable face, the brand, so to speak. So, in the event of one brand endorsing another, there is bound to be greater publicity. This is the politics of projection. Galliano’s hate-filled comments are superimposed by the thought police. It isn’t just about freedom of expression; it is controlling ideas.
The idea of the suffering of Jews in the past has been taken over by the media machinery, and it now makes no distinction between Zionism and Judaism. There is the issue of religion and of race. Then there is nationalism. So perfectly choreographed are some of these ideas that even the Jews in the West in positions of power and the ability to influence decisions are seen as the diaspora from a lost land.
Natalie Portman who just picked up the Oscar the other day and is the face of Dior’s fragrance Cherie said, “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video…and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”
This begs the question about pride. The Jews in Hollywood have every reason to be proud; they are remarkable achievers and creative thinkers. The same applies to business. But is it their Jewishness? What aspect of it? This question would apply to any group of people. Is it a matter of faith? Or an identity outside of a structured belief system? Is it possible for those from a lower economic and social background to express such disgust?
Has Galliano said he would not work with Jews? This brings us to the other political dimension – compromise. If he is indeed as anti-Semitic as his drunken insults appear, then there have been no reports that he shirked professional jobs because Jews were involved. Therefore, if these are his ideological leanings, then is he bartering them? Religious and racial prejudices are always compromises because they are handouts from the past.
We can extend the argument to other areas where misogynistic men have written about or made films with strong women characters. Gays have portrayed rakish womanisers and secretly homophobic people come out in support of alternative sexuality. Political correctness often hides prejudices that are more damning of sections of society than upfront ‘disgusting’ sentiments.
Portman had also mentioned that “these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”
It might help at this level. All is not beautiful, though, at the opposite end. There are Hitlers around, some not far from where Ms. Portman got her Kodak moment. There are many prejudices that won’t be voiced. And there will continue to be blanket assertions for causes without taking into account the several facets of it. John Galliano’s behaviour is despicable socially and will be soon forgotten. Not because the rest who will work with him are as prejudiced as he is in this respect but because he is a brand. Just as most ideologies are. And there will be ‘competitor’ ideologies. It is a bit complex but, then, reflection is not what you see in blurred mirrors.