Going Beyond the Predictable PR Exercise
On Feb. 25, Christian Dior fashion designer John Galliano was arrested in Paris on charges of assault and for making anti-Semitic remarks directed towards a couple in a Marais café. Under French law, making anti-Semitic remarks is punishable by up to six months in prison. While this maximum sentence is rarely handed down (offenders are usually given suspended sentences and a heavy fine for their transgression), the law itself is indicative of France’s staunch stance against intolerance and cultural insensitivity.
A nearby patron’s cell phone captured Galliano’s vitriolic tirade on video. It clearly shows an inebriated Galliano saying, "I love Hitler" and "People like you will be dead" to a couple sitting at a table nearby.
Galliano went on trial on June 22. A date for a verdict and sentencing is scheduled for this coming September. At his trial, Galliano’s lawyers presented a familiar defense; Galliano suffers from alcoholism as well as an addiction to barbiturates, and these vices are what ultimately caused this unfortunate event to unfold. After proceedings came to a close, a source close to Galliano stated to British Vogue, "John is very tired; yesterday was a tough day... (John) is medically very frail as his body comes to terms with the withdrawal from all of his addictions-but he felt yesterday was fair; that everyone understood he has been very ill, poisoning his body with a cocktail of alcohol and pills for so long that when he was out of control and truly knew nothing about his behavior he maintains he is a man who encompasses every race and religion in his personal life and through his creative designs. And that the outbursts are that of a mad man, and not the views he holds."
Arrogant and unapologetic, Galliano has yet to address the underlying problem-cultural insensitivity at best, and deep-seeded anti-Semitism at worst. Instead he, his lawyers, and his PR team have begun down a path often tread by other public figures caught in the media’s crosshairs.
It has become a cultural phenomenon. The story plays out over and over in media outlets across the globe with slight variations in plot line and casting. Earlier this summer New York Congressman Anthony Weiner announced his intention to resign from Congress amid a media frenzy over sexually suggestive pictures sent from his Twitter account. In the weeks leading up to his resignation however, Weiner checked himself into a sexual addiction rehabilitation clinic. He cited his ’disease’ for his errors in judgment, infidelities, and betrayal of his constituency and prayed for public forgiveness.