COMMENTARY | Famed fashion designer John Galliano was found guilty Thursday of using anti-Semitic slurs after going on a long and hateful rant in a Paris bar earlier this year. The flamboyant Galliano was obviously drunk and, during his trial in June, stated that he could not recall making the extreme comments. The rant had been caught on tape. After Galliano watched it, he apologized and remarked that he had a "triple addiction," according to Fashionista.
Galliano was given only a monetary punishment of 6,000 Euros (though the amount varies depending on the report at this point). He will only have to pay his fine if he repeats his offense over the next five years.
This brings up a lot of questions. Many Americans believe their First Amendment rights allow them to say almost anything without fear of punishment. Not true. If statements are made that are meant to invoke violence or represent threats, it is a crime. And it should be.
In France, there have been several other well-known people who have been convicted of using racial slurs. Jean-Marie Le Pen, a French far-right politician, has been found guilty of racism and Antisemitism several times. According to Economics Newspaper, he has frequently commented that the gas chambers used in the Holocaust were not "particularly inhumane," among many other hateful remarks.
Brigitte Bardot, the famed sex kitten of the 1960s, has been charged and convicted five times for inciting racial hatred. TIME reports the french actress has gone on record numerous times stating that Muslims were destroying her country. She has called them "invaders" and associated them with terrorist attacks.
Does it go too far to convict a person of a crime for just words? Of course, it depends on what those words are, but if it is meant to invoke violence against people who are of another race, religion or gender, it should be taken seriously and punished accordingly.
There are too many violent incidents in this world that were born out of "just words." The horrific murders at the Norway island summer camp are just one that comes to mind. It's sad to say, but there have been many others, and likely many more to come in the future if it isn't stopped at its inception.