Vogue Italia's Disturbing Defense Of Galliano's Anti-Semitism

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Purple, ruffles, doilies, long, long trains—the one red-carpet staple not worn by the parade of gorgeous Oscar hopefuls last night was Dior. If we believe the rumors, Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, having heard of Dior designer John Galliano’s reported drunken anti-semitic tirades in Paris, chose ethnic pride over PR placement and switched the Dior gown the 50-year-old British fashion icon had crafted for her for a beautiful piece by Rodarte. Elsewhere on the red carpet, Galliano’s work was nowhere to be seen besides on Nicole Kidman.

John Galliano’s ship is sinking and if he still has a job at Dior—a brand whose boss is himself the son of a Jewish man who fought against Franco’s Hilter-backed Fascists in the Spanish Civil war—48 hours from now, I’ll be shocked. All over the press, reaction to his hateful comments has been more or less the same. The almost universal turn against Galliano shows that, despite claims to the contrary, we live in a more civilized, polite age where using toxic ethnic slurs because you’re piss drunk or really want to get someone’s goat, is no longer acceptable in public. The world seems to understand that Dior has Jewish customers and, perhaps more importantly, Jewish employees, and that the company probably should cut its losses with a man whose talent may be legendary, but whose mouth has become a serious liability for both internal relations and the firm’s bottom line. No one, be they bloggers, red-carpet movie stars, or French accountants wants to stand up for fashion’s newly minted version of Mel Gibson.

No one, it seems, but Franca Sozzani.

Today, Editor-in-Chief Sozzani allowed Vogue Italia’s website to publish a defense of Galliano that ended with a coded Biblical reference that, to the eyes of this Jew, pointed like a compass toward the antiquarian value of anti-semitism.

The post, loaded this morning and edited this afternoon by someone under the wing of that editor (if not the editor herself), reads, “The creative director of Dior (now suspended by the company) was clearly provoked, and filmed, while obviously inebriated.” One doesn't see how Galliano was "provoked" in the video, and even if he was, how would it matter? The charge would remain the same. The piece then continues to say that the video is suspect because, “It’s all in high definition [sic]—especially the sound—and the image is enviably composed.” Well, congrats to the filmmaker may be in order, true—but high definition video is no longer the sole property of documentary filmmakers and paparazzi on the make. Flip cams and other technologies have been available and in use by the public—and no doubt by contributors to Vogue.It—for years. The text then doubts the editing of the video with a false choice. “Either whoever took it was a master of timing, or what we are seeing is a video created for this purpose.” No. a celebrity was being a fool and someone turned on a camera. Again, conspiracy is preferred over common sense.

The article continues, “An explosion was more than probable when you add together the amount of alcohol Galliano had consumed and the provocations of the people speaking to him.” The old “blame it on the alcohol” defense is as hollow now as it was when Mel Gibson credited booze for his particularly disgusting comments several years ago. Look, I’ve had my share of liquor in my time, and never said anything as racially vile as what appears on that video. That’s not because I've never been as drunk as Mr. Galliano. It’s because I’m not a racist.

Here, Vogue Italia takes a moment to condemn the content of the video. Well done. However, in a previous edit of the same piece, no longer available online, the text read, “but we think that this video offers some form of mitigation.” In other words, Vogue Italia agreed that what was said was racist and condemned it as such. But, because of the video’s very existence, they found that content suspect. To them, the video was its own best argument against itself. If that seems as nonsensical to you, then perhaps you can see why that sentence is no longer available online.

Finally, the post wraps up: “We don’t want to go on an obsessive search for hidden motives, but perhaps behind this event are just some parvenus of journalistic scandal who, in our opinion, were waiting to have three minutes of video to sell to someone for a good deal more than 30 pieces of silver.”

“30 pieces of silver” is shorthand for the Jewish betrayal of Christ. It is one of those artifacts of pre-WWII cultural anti-semitism that has no place in an article defending someone against charges of anti-semitism. How could anyone be so titanically tone-deaf as to sign off their conspiracy theory with that particular chestnut? I can’t claim to step into the writer's mind and explain their motives. Doing so would make me a conspiracy theorist, much like them. But I can speak to what I see, and what I see is someone using old anti-semitic tropes to describe a perceived conspiracy in the press against someone who used anti-semitic remarks.

On face value alone, this Vogue Italia post is sloppy conspiracy thinking underlined with needless racial insensitivity. Dig just a centimeter below the text, and it appears that whoever wrote this—and I do truly hope it isn't Ms. Sozzani—has serious problems with the truth and, perhaps, a serious problem with Jews.

UPDATE: The original " for 30 pieces of silver" ending of the article was removed this morning and a new final paragraph added.