Monday, March 7, 2011

Godwin's Law: You Are What You Wear

A fascinating piece in the Times this morning linking fashion with fascism, in the context of Dior's firing of John Galliano for drunken anti-Semitic ranting:

The link is clear: like a fascist demagogue of yore, he was declaring that she did not belong to the gilded group who wear the right boots, and from this Mr. Galliano slid effortlessly to a condemnation of her very flesh, and a wish for her death.

Last week the French daily Le Monde declared that by firing Mr. Galliano, Dior had sounded the “death knell for the myth of the omnipotent designer.” That may be premature, given the myth’s deep roots. But the drunken ramblings of one man in a bar may have set off an important discussion about a less pretty undercurrent in a multibillion-dollar industry. Happy Fashion Week.

The reason Godwin's Law resonates as truth is that fascism/Naziism are entirely, totally human, Nazi acts were perpetrated by humans, and that, once you accept that, you find acts compatible with fascism far more widely scattered than is usually assumed. I was astonished, on rereading space operas I loved as a kid, to find them sometimes outright fascist. Consider the two most influential and popular science fiction universes, for instance: the 'Star Trek' United Federation of Planets with 'Star Wars' Jedi Knights, wearing brown shirts, keeping the peace in the galaxy via an unaccountable triumph of the trained will, most effective when used against the 'weak minded'.

And the reason it's crucially necessary to think of fascism in broader contexts is that we're all capable of it, being human, and have to fight it in ourselves. You are what others make you think you are, and what you're willing to accept in yourself. If we, as individuals and as a society, question neither of those, we're in for it.


Ruth said...

The unfortunate downside of democratic rule is that a well-funded oligarchical movement can use slanted or falsified media reports to inflame the 'peasant' voters - especially when the courts do not enforce the laws against such influences. That is happening now, here, and has made many crimes against the public possible. Hopefully the voters are learning.

ProfWombat said...

As necessary programs are withdrawn or compromised, real people will be hurt, and they'll demand change. That, after all, is where this all came from in the first place...