Friday 11 March 2011

Hitler's Fashionable Lover (Or, What's Eating John Galliano?)

"Beware of the man in the Black Hat/He's fitting you out for much more than that." - Sam Hunt. "Fashion is FasCISM" - Malcolm McLaren. "I love Hitler!" - John Galliano.

THE ANTI-SEMITIC OUTBURSTS of John "I love Hitler" Galliano sent a wobble down the axis of Planet Celebrity.

Dior’s enormously talented fashion designer, who deserves much of the credit for setting the style of the 21st Century’s first decade, will be hard to replace. Indeed, it’s difficult to see Dior sacking Galliano if he’d given them any other choice. But, he did not. In a moment of drunken recklessness, the pencil moustachioed maestro let the mask of celebrity slip – and we couldn’t look away.

Should we be surprised at Galliano’s Hitlerian sympathies? Not at all. Fascism and high-society have always been half in love with each other.

In many vital respects Hitler was himself the creation of Germany’s upper echelons. From his very earliest incarnation as an uncouth Munich street orator, Hitler had friends in high places.

Among his first patrons were members of the aristocratic Thule Society. Seared by Bavaria’s brief flirtation with radical socialism at the end of the First World War, these fanatical anti-communists and racists were organising in secret anticipation of "The Drummer": a saviour chosen by destiny to rescue Germany from Bolshevik levelling and Jewish cosmopolitanism.

If you think that all sounds just a bit mystical and magical, you’re not mistaken. Aristocrats, be they creatures born of inheritance, money, or fleeting fame, have always looked to the supernatural for vindication.

How could it be otherwise? To believe – as just about every blue-blooded aristocrat, fabulously wealthy business tycoon or wildly successful artist believes – that one’s elite status is entirely attributable to one’s own unique and superior talents, makes solidarity with the rest of humanity all but impossible.

The rest of humankind: the "little people", are not like the elite. They are talentless drudges, fit only to serve those whom God, Destiny or the Devil has gilded with greatness. Even worse, the drudges are envious of them - enjoying nothing more than seeing them dragged down to their level – the gutter.

Hitler appeals to the John Gallianos of this world because they recognise in him a kindred spirit. From his early teenage years young Adolf knew himself to be an artist. He just didn’t know what kind. It required the Mephistophelean urgings of Thule occultist, Dietrich Eckart, to convince him that history alone could be his canvass, and that his paints and brushes must be made of flesh and blood.

Galliano may affect the style of a fop and a dilettante, but he shares his hero’s ability to tap into the zeitgeist and his same insatiable hunger for recognition. He too works with a human palette – shaping men’s and women’s bodies to his Procrustean designs. The Nuremberg rallies and the shows of international fashion designers have more than just bright lights and pounding rhythms in common.

It is through their conception of men and women as tools in the hands of superior beings: as mere instruments of their will; that the global elites enter into communion with the principles of fascism. At their very heart (and this is especially true of the fashion elites, who are notorious for their worship of thinness and whiteness) lies a cruel and isolating aesthetic.

It is an aesthetic of perfection and distance.

Nothing worth having should be easily accessible to the masses. On the contrary, the finer things of life must be like the inhabitants of Olympus: impossibly perfect and impossibly remote.

It’s an aesthetic ideally suited to the thin sliver of humanity which has seized control of such an obscenely large proportion of the world’s wealth – and John Galliano was its tailor.

So, what drove him to such self-revelatory and ultimately self-destructive public outbursts?

Could it have been the self-evident falsity of his elite aesthetic?

The finer things of life are not perfect, nor are they remote. The warmth of friendship. The taste of food. The raw confusion of our daily lives. That’s what makes life worth living – and it’s available to everyone. Young and old. Fat and skinny. Rich and poor.

To not be perfect – and yet be capable of joy. Lurching from his restaurant table to confront the subversive reality of human imperfection just metres from his own – that’s what undid John Galliano.

Had Hitler succeeded, he raved, "people like you would be dead!"

Never understanding that the life Hitler’s inhuman model had already taken – was his own.

This essay was published in The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 11 March 2011.


markus said...

Yep. And, of course, a whole swathe of the English aristocracy were more than a little sympathetic to the Nazis in the 30s.

At the other end of the social and political spectrum, I note that the two German social sectors LEAST likely to vote Nazi in both the 1920s and 1930s were (1) the unemployed and (2) the unionised, industrial working-class.

Anonymous said...

An example of the fine line between genius and madness!

Victor said...


You're a mighty man when it comes to Psephology. so I'm sure you know what you're talking about.

But I'd always understood that the Nazis polled relatively well amongst unemployed YOUTH, who had never had jobs and, hence, never been union members.

If so, it's an awful warning of what happens when you condemn young people to hopelessness

Anonymous @4.29PM

Genius? Madness?

Seems to me more like bog standard prejudice mixed with alcohol.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen has topped a poll for favoured President, having soft-pedalled Anti-Semitism and emphasised Islamophobia.

Same lousy tune. Different lyrics

Sanctuary said...

Adding to Victor's point - the Waffen SS was heavily drawn from the radicalised and (relatively) uneducated lower middle class, a group that found in the fear and recognition of their uniform a status denied them in the unemployment and social chaos of Weimar Germany.

Anonymous said...

So, all the 'elite' were Hitler worshiping fascists? Even the many who lost their lives opposing the Nazis would find this to silly for offence. The left likes to forget that fascism is a product of big government. (The Road to Serfdom, Hayek)

chris73 said...

Or hes just a twat...

Anonymous said...

Strangely, I did not feel horrified, disgusted, elated or in fact anything when I read of this chaps utterence. What this means is that some fashion magnifico and his callow social views has as much bearing on my life as whether black will be the new black or if hemlines will be up or down. Planet Celebrity exists in it's own orbit, it's solar system provides neither heat nor light, it's stars are dim. This coot with his ridiculous hat, dastardly moustache and swashbuckling diamond earing would find it difficult to get a shoveling job in a nazi labour battalion. He is to be pitied with his illusions of importance.

Why accord him and his ilk any?


Anonymous said...

I don't think this is correct. People generally declare that they love Hitler in order to shock and annoy other people. That is all that has happened here. Galliano is a drunken idiot, as was Mel Gibson (whose ranting his numerous long term Jewish friends and work colleagues found incomprehensible coming from him – the consensus: he's fallen off the wagon again).

The only reason we are hearing about Galliano's drunken idiocy over and over again is that there are countless right wing Jewish organisations whose raison d'etre is amplifying anything like this as part of their campaign to establish the belief that antisemitism of the sort that disgraced the 1930s is once more widespread among the western nations.

Of course it isn't, as anyone who has bothered to investigate knows (reading George Orwell's 1943 essay on antisemitism serves to show how much things have changed for the better – he might as well be writing about life on another planet).

But if you're aiming to deflect any and all criticism of the government of Israel and its actions, this is how you roll.

Victor said...


There is undoubtedly a tendency in some quarters to amplify the current global revival of Antisemitism and to conflate criticism of Israel with "the oldest hatred".

However, violent Antisemitic incidents have mushroomed across Europe, the Americas and the CIS in the last decade. As a Jewish-looking, older male, there are certainly places in continental Europe which I would avoid these days.

Moreover, in country after country, the authoritarian Right is increasing its electoral strength, sometimes with and sometimes without its customary appendage of Antisemitism.

And, even if none of the above was true, Galliano's drunken comments to people, who may well have lost family members in the Holocaust, were obscene, cruel and obviously intended to hurt.

Alcohol is no more an excuse for such behaviour than it is for wife-beating.


Not everyone in Germany's elite worshiped Hitler but a very large percentage sympathised with some of his apparent goals and went along for the ride.

Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of post-war West Germany, was a Catholic arch-Conservative, who, as Mayor of Cologne, refused to fly the Swastika flag on his town hall.

But Adenauer and those like him were exceptions to the rule, at least as long as Hitler seemed to be succeeding.

The officer corps, the judiciary, the higher civil service and most of the great industrialists may have disliked the Nazis' vulgarity and brutalism. But it was only when defeat and destruction were staring Germany in the face that a significant minority of them were willing to move against him.

In contrast, Germany's working class voted disproportionately against the Nazis up until free elections were abandoned and seems to have remained sceptical about the regime for longer than most of the population.

Obviously, the memory of aristocratic patriots such as Claus von Stauffenberg or Henning von Tresckow deserves the highest respect. But so does that of Georg Elser, the quiet carpenter, who almost finished Hitler off in 1938, at the height of his pre-war popularity.

As to your notion that big government caused Fascism, that's even more simplistic than the conventional Marxist view of it as just capitalism with the gloves off.

Billions of words have been written trying to explain why one of the most advanced and cultured of nations plunged into barbarism. Go read a few million of them!


"This coot with his ridiculous hat, dastardly moustache and swashbuckling diamond earing would find it difficult to get a shoveling job in a nazi labour battalion"

Love it!

It's certainly true that many creative talents were attracted to Nazism and Fascism.

But this is a guy who designs frocks. He's, not Ezra Pound, Leni Riefenstahl or Gabriele D'Annunzio!

Or am I missing something?

markus said...

Interesting point about unemployed youth, Victor.

A few years ago, I read a series of scholarly articles/books on the demographics underlying both the Nazi vote and party support as a whole over the entire Weimar period. I still have photocopies but they'll be stacked away in the back of a wardrobe somewhere - so the following stats come entirely from memory. (Though I'm pretty sure these percentages are very close to the mark).

One particularly interesting piece of research employed the most up-to-date multiple-regression software to compare the proportion of different social groups voting Nazi in July 1932 - the election in which the Nazis reached their absolute electoral apex with 38% of the vote nationwide. (of course, they took 44% in March 1933 but historians discount that election as little more than a sham).

So, from memory, the July 1932 Nazi-voting percentages specifically for those social sectors most immune to Hitler's appeal were (bearing in mind, the point of comparison here is the nationwide Nazi vote of 38%): (1) People who had voted for the German Communist Party in one or more of the previous 3 General Elections (about 4% of whom are estimated to have voted Nazi in July 1932), (2) The Unemployed (9%), (3) The unionised industrial working-class (16%), (4) People who had voted Social Democrat in one or more of the previous 3 General Elections (18%), (5) Residents of Germany's largest cities (20%).

There is, of course, considerable overlap between these various groups.

Given the Nazi-voting figure of (about) 9% for the unemployed as a whole, it seems very unlikely that even 20% let alone significantly more than 38% of unemployed youth would have voted Nazi.

Having said all that, however, historiography is of course a dynamic, on-going debate and it would be wrong to suggest that there's absolute scholarly agreement. Certainly, the body of work I've read so far represents only a relatively small portion of total literature on the topic (so you may have read arguments that I haven't got around to yet, Victor !).

But interestingly, this specific piece of research I'm thinking of did suggest that the young in general - not speciffically the UNEMPLOYED young but younger Germans in general - were indeed disproportionately represented among Nazi voters. From memory again, of the various generations: the broad middle-age group (roughly aged 30-60 in 1932) were less likely to cast their vote for the Nazis than both the young and the elderly (to what degree, I don't know).

Victor said...

Thanks Markus

My own reading has certainly tended to emphasise the age correlates in who voted for Hitler.

But I agree it's hard to see the youth factor distorting your 9% figure to the extent it would have needed to have done for the young unemployed to have been disproportionately prone to voting Nazi.

I've never studied the figures but I assume the young would have been well-represented amongst the total unemployed, making it even harder to get from 9% to 38%.

Anonymous said...

I think a little too much may be being read into this man's outburst, seeing as he is a homosexual who the NAZIs liked no more than the Jews. People who are drunk often speak their true hidden feelings about things but they're also prone to talking nonsense.

Chris Trotter said...

I hate to burst your bubble, Anonymous@10:54, but being homosexual was never incompatible with being a Nazi.

The leader of Hitler's Stormtroopers (SA), Ernst Roehm, was a notorious homosexual whom Hitler tolerated without demur until he threatened to lead the SA in a "Second Revolution" against the reactionary German establishment.

The result was the infamous "Night of the Long Knives", during which several of the leading SA bosses (including Roehm) were dragged from the arms of their young male lovers and shot.

uke said...

"Nothing worth having should be easily accessible to the masses."

Guess this insight could be related to Ezra Pound and Martin Heidegger too.

Anonymous said...

What unified all factions of the pre l933 Nazi's was anti communism. They were elected by the middle and upper class to stop any possibility of the hard left coming to power in Germany and creating a Bolshevick revolution. And if the Nazi's had not existed who is to say the radical left would not have come to power in Germany and done even worse. The look of the revolutionary communist forces that existed in the fleet, cities and rebel cities of Germany in l919 suggest violence equal to the Russian civil war might have happened.
To some extent the unique nature of Nazism was not grasped, in l932 Communist and Social Democrat rhetoric was just as violent and people were just as likely to regard the Strasser brothers as the potential leader of a Nazi Government. Democracy had collapsed in Germany and the only alternatives were a radical right or left wing government or more likely a military dictatorship.
The SS, Luftwaffe and Germany Army were fundamentally anti proletarian forces and hard right politics is always about the elimination of the proletariat be it the South American juntas or libertarian governments of the right such as those in the former states of Yugosalvia and the Balkans in the l990s.
Essentially the SS were the Weimar German police in a new guise and their priority target were always hard left communists, unions and soviet spies. In l940 France Willie Munzenburg leader of the Red Orchestra was torn to pieces without trace the day Guderains army occupied France while fashionable and famous communists like Picasso, Artuad and Beaviour were left largely undisturbed.
Uniforms are always much of the attration of the Hard Left as the groups Jam and Pete Townshend in Uniforms outlined brilliants. No more lethally attractive suit has ever been designed than the SS garb. Accounts of the French occupation suggest it was powerfully attractive to the French ladies even a dedicated leftist and hater of the Nazis like Simon Beevor in his book on D day accounts as to the fact the occupying French army and SS spent most to the time shacked up with the French ladies. Much of the reason for the revolt of Munich women doctor Sophie Schol all was resentment all the other women students and labour team workers dreamed only of SS cock. And indeed Sophie as a middle class women doctor would have got off spreading anti war literature if she merely apologiesed.
Among the fashionable nobody regarded the Nazis as more fashionably than the late l970s punk rockers. Susie Sioux performed with the Swastica band on her arm. The Clash was formed out of the London SS which definitely emphasised NazI chick. The Clash lead singer Joe Strummer( son of a diplomat) had a brother whose room was a Nazi SS shrine. The Clash were in the eyes of most objective observers people who would have been incredibly dangerous -in the event of the breakdown of British democracy that the hard left anticipated pre Thatcher and the effective military coup of the Falklands war when the British military and Navy achieved the final stage of the relitimisation of war followed closely by the destruction ofthe miners by British SAS and marines dressed in police uniforms. The clash bullshit that'White man in hammersmith palais' is an anti racist song- one can only say it was and was percived by their audiences as a call to white power revolt. Both Ian mcCulloch of the bunnymen and Ian Curtis were obsessed by the Nazis and even the Bunnymens best songs are right wing inversions of the Doors. Songs like the Cutter Killing Moon and All that Jazz are military marching songs.And what of Ms Rampling. In the SS brothels, in the similar establishment in factories, army bases, Hamburg, Berlin and Paris the party seems to have continued.

Anonymous said...

It has always been that authoritarian totalitarian political or religious structures usually maintain one set of moral precepts for the ruling classes and another for the ruled. The NAZIs instigated significant persecution towards homosexuals; as a flamboyant, outwardly homosexual fashion designer, Galliano would have epitomised the ''Berlin liberalism'' so despised by many in their movement.

Victor said...

There is a theory that Hitler was a closet gay and that one of the motivations for the murder of Roehm and his associates was the destruction of evidence of past associations.

It could not, of course, have been the sole motivation, as Hitler had an obvious political motive for destroying the Brownshirt street army as an alternative power centre.

By the same token, the persecution of homosexuals may, in part, have stemmed from self-disgust projected onto others, although it would also, of course, have fitted in with the broad range of right wing prejudices of the time.

And, of course, there was an element of unconsummated infatuation about Hitler's affection for Albert Speer.

Despite his sentimental reverence for some socially privileged women, there is, to my knowledge, no record of Hitler having any heterosexual relationships before his savage and murderous courting of his niece, Gelli, during his later Munich days and the virtually contemporaneous start of his relationship with Eva Braun.

So, my guess is that any flamboyant Galliano-types that might have been in Hitler's rag bag of artistic biergarten chums would not have lived very long, once he came to power.