John Galliano: It is sad, but…

Remember when those charges against Roman Polanski were dredged up after all those years?

All of a sudden, hordes of ordinarily very rational stars were tripping over themselves to defend him. Never mind that he was an alleged rapist, he was so talented, so creative, they gushed.

Who cared that he fled the country rather than face the consequences of his actions? Not when his films were so wonderful.

Right. And maybe Ashley Cole was just having a tough day on the pitch when he fired at a work experience, and perhaps Charlie Sheen just got out of bed on the wrong side.

Maybe Mel Gibson’s drink was spiked that time he made those nasty comments about Jews.

I mean, such a fantastic [insert profession here] couldn’t possibly hold such filthy views or be responsible for such disgraceful behaviour. Could they?

Of course they could – as all those examples and countless more prove. Yet whatever happens with John Galliano’s design career (and it isn’t looking good), we can expect any number of similar tweets, blogs and comments wailing about how terribly sad it all is.

I can see them now – sentences running along the lines of: “I’m not excusing what he said or did, but what a shame…”. Or, “disgusting, but did you like Nicole Kidman’s dress at the Oscars?”

It is sad – sad that someone in this day and age can hold (and utter in public) such abhorrent things. It’s tragic that a nice meal in a bistro can be ruined by the incoherent ravings of an intoxicated man.

And it is depressing that France has a law criminalising hate-filled speech – depressing that it is still necessary.

But it isn’t sad when a bigot gets what they deserve.

I’m no fashion expert, and perhaps Galliano really is a rare talent. But if he holds the views he appears to, his abilities in the wardrobe department shouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference.

Words matter: Greenslade, Desmond, the EDL

When Jan Moir wrote that inflammatory column about the death of Stephen Gately, there was a Twitter campaign and public outrage almost immediately, Likewise, Liz Jones’ rather tasteless piece retracing Joanna Yeates’s final steps prompted web-wide consternation.

Roy Greenslade has admitted he was somewhat amiss to write in his blog about media baron Richard Desmond and the Daily Star’s English Defence League coverage: “As a Jew, he may well have negative views of Muslims”.

It’s an outrageous, idiotic line, a slur against all moderate members of the Jewish community and particularly offensive to those engaged in interfaith efforts, of whom there are many. Some Jews may well have “negative views” about Muslims, likewise some Muslims may well have negative views about Jews.

But there is no causal link; some is not all.

Greenslade was lucky enough to have prompted the ire of just one newspaper with his careless stereotype, rather than the masses out there in the blogosphere.

And as he told the JC, it was a “stupid”, thoughtless comment. He didn’t intend to insult Jews, he said, and he was glad the switched-on Guardian moderators had swiftly removed it.

So why did what he wrote matter? We all say stupid things, all of us, all the time. A flip remark, one made in the heat of the moment, so why not let it lie? Why cause a fuss.

Here’s why. Let’s look at where Mr Greenslade made the comment – in a blogpost condemning the intolerance and bigotry of the EDL.

An informed reader might well have recognised the wider point – that Jewish people, given the history of the last century, should be at the frontline in the fight against fascism.

It’s an important and logical argument. But here’s the thing. As the famous quote goes: “Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

History teaches us as Jews not only to stand up in the battle against bigotry, but also that bigots don’t always read newspaper articles in an informed way.

The generations of ordinary people who hated the Jews did so not least because of the ugly and cheap stereotypes peddled by respected writers and commentators.

They learnt intolerance from the politicians – in Tsarist Russia to Nazi Germany and beyond – who blamed public woes on Jewish conspiracies, from the caricaturists who saw in Jews an easy target, and from journalists who didn’t recognize, or didn’t care to recognise, the power of their words.

Words matter. As Greenslade knows (and blogs about regularly), especially online they have a life beyond themselves.

A throwaway headline in the Daily Star can become another tool in the EDL’s war-chest, regardless of what the story actually was.

A news article about a “Muslim’s” actions – when religion is of little relevance to the story – is fodder for the bigot’s cause.

And an unnecessary line about Jews having “negative views” about Muslims, from an informed and respected writer, is yet another piece of evidence for the antisemitic extremist as to why he hates Jews.

Words always matter.

Gun control and tragedy in Arizona

Michael Bloomberg said it best, although he’s not the only one to have made this point.

The mayor of New York told a crowd in the wake of the Arizona shooting spree: “We don’t know all the facts in this case yet, but we do know that every single day, 34 Americans are murdered.

“Every single day. Yesterday it was Judge John Roll and five other Americans and many more across the 50 states. Tomorrow, there will be another 34.”

As a Brit, I find the attitude towards gun control across the pond baffling, to say the least.

The second amendment of the constitution argues for the right of Americans to bear arms. But that’s a nebulous concept.

The founding fathers weren’t talking about weapons with the capacity of modern machine guns and were theorizing in a time of frontier lawlessness that cannot possibly be compared with today.

As Nathan Thonrnburgh points out in Time magazine: “The real question in Tucson, though, is why the alleged shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, was allowed to buy the murder weapon.

“Beyond the clearly delusional nature of online videos ascribed to him, Loughner was suspended last year from Pima Community College apparently because of mental problems…The Army also denied Loughner’s application for unspecified reasons.

“Still, he passed a background check, and late last year legally bought the 9-mm Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun allegedly used in the shootings.”

The familiar refrain, when it comes to arguments about gun control, goes something along the lines of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

It’s a flawed logic. Yes, even without a gun in his hand the alleged shooter could have been harbouring antisemitic, extremist views and planning how he could end the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford.

Sure, he could have attacked her and the six others who lost their lives in their rampage with another weapon. Not having a gun wouldn’t necessarily have stopped him hurting people.

But why make it so easy? Incidents like this, Columbine, Virginia Tech – all were the deranged actions of crazed people with one thing in common. They had access to a gun.

The desire to do something is not the same as the ability to do it.

Take this silly example; I might want a flash car or expensive shoes, but without the ability (ie. enough money) to get them, they remain theoretical.

I could always rob a bank (or, in the case of a shooter, illegally acquire a gun) but it would make the path from A to B far more complicated.

Tightening access to guns won’t stop the disturbed souls out there from sharing their views with the world, or having those views in the first place.

But it would make it a little harder for them to translate those views into action.

Ross Zimmerman, the father of the congressional aide gunned down in Saturday’s rampage, said of his son: “All I ask is that people remember him.”

What better way than to make it harder for it to happen again?

WikiLeaks’ in-house Holocaust denier

Whether or not you think Julian “WikiLeaks” Assange is guilty of heinous crimes or the successor to Barack Obama’s saviour-of-mankind crown – in my view the jury is still out – it seems he’s been keeping some interesting company.

As reported by Reason magazine, the author of the article that first suggested the CIA might have had something to do with the Swedish rape accusation against him, was none other than Israel Shamir – an activist who also uses the aliases Adam Ermash and Jöran Jermas.

Michael C Moynihan, the magazine’s senior editor, writes “Israel Shamir, when he is not accusing Assange’s accusers of setting CIA honey traps, works with WikiLeaks in an official capacity.”

According to the article, Mr Shamir is the man who “selects and distributes” which WikiLeaks documents go to which Russian media organisations.

Mr Moynihan adds: “Yulia Latynina, a reporter at the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta…also found that the Kremlin-friendly paper working with Shamir to promote the WikiLeaks material had already published “outright lies” Shamir claimed were supported by leaks.

“According to Latynina, Shamir faked a cable related to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the United Nations, which supposedly showed collusion amongst those who walked out of the talk in protest.

“That he would invent such a cable is perhaps unsurprising, considering Shamir has previously written an encomium to the “brave and charismatic leader” of Iran.”

So who is Mr Shamir? Well, for those unaware, he is no friend to the country that bears his name or to the Jewish community in general. Moynihan describes him as “an antisemite and semi-literate Holocaust denier with ties to both the extreme right and left and a well-documented penchant for lying”.

Elsewhere, The Times columnist David Aaronovitch has noted that he is a “believer in the blood libel”.

Mr Shamir has also spoken of those age-old Jewish conspiracies, stating that the Middle East policy of the United States and Britain was driven by “the same old fight for ensuring Jewish supremacy,” and that “Jews indeed own, control and edit a big share of mass media.” (This at a reception in the House of Lords in 2005 organised by Labour peer Lord Ahmed).

At one point he allegedly praised the BNP leader Nick Griffin as an “anti-bourgeois nationalist,” and at another he suggested the Jews had been warned in an advance to escape the Twin Towers before the September 11 attacks.

What a lovely fellow. Positively Wiki-ed, if you ask me.

This post originally appeared on theJC.com