Is it too much to ask for thought before speech? (Photos: Lucy Nicholson/Jonathan Ernst/Benoit Tessier/Reuters)
Occupation: Amplifying hate and intolerance and shredding the truth.
Lately Seen: Flapping on the mouth of Los Angeles Laker basketball star Kobe Bryant in the form of a word that rhymes with maggot but is twice as ugly; trilling from the tongue of Arizona senator Jon Kyl as a false claim that abortion is "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does;" hurled by the lopsided sneer of Dior fashion designer John Galliano in a string of anti-Semitic, misogynistic slurs.
The Harm Done:Bryant’s kneejerk (emphasis on jerk) obscenity is a nationally televised reminder that dehumanizing language is all too often the go-to play. Kyl’s blatant lie from the floor of the senate muddies a delicate, emotional issue and validates a view that America’s congress is a cynical clan with no regard for the true needs of the people it serves. Galliano’s multiple rants revive an age-old ethnic demonization and reinforce views of women that are better left on the campus of the University of Southern California.
The Extenuating Circumstances: A professional basketball player is engaged in a high-stress profession and expresses his frustrations by mouthing hateful epithets at any person obstructing his goal. A stressed United States senator expresses his frustration with inconvenient facts by claiming the exact opposite of the truth. (The actual truth: 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does “is preventive in nature.”) A world-renowned fashion designer faces a great deal of stress in cloaking the female form and, in Galliano’s case, expresses his frustration by drinking to excess and verbally assaulting whatever woman is at hand.
The Apology:Bryantreportedly told Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese “that it’s never okay to degrade or tease, and that he understands how his words could unfortunately give the wrong impression that this is appropriate conduct.” Kyl’s office argued that the senator’s “remark was not intended to be a factual statement.” John “I Love Hitler” Galliano “unreservedly apologized,” with the reservation that he had suffered verbal harassment when another bar patron took "violent exception to my look and my clothing."
The Price to Pay:Bryant was fined $100,000. Galliano was denounced by Natalie Portman and bundled off to rehab (in Kyl’s home state); back in France, the designer faces charges of "public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity." He could do six months in prison if convicted. Kyl’s newfound notoriety may in fact produce a bump in campaign contributions.