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That Thing Dolce And Gabbana Said, And The Matter Of Freedom Of Speech

There’s a lesson Domenico Dolce and Stefan Gabbana should probably take away from this mess that they incurred; that freedom of expression is not a commodity that trades very well in the celebrity market, especially when you are in the business of pandering to the public.

Below is a piece which makes my point, originally published on Pink News, which y’all will find very illuminating. Check on it.


Social media meltdowns are one of my guilty pleasures. Whether it’s public figures who can now bypass their PR people with their iPads and launch a backlash to end all backlashes against themselves, or social media teams who hijack serious and profound hashtags to sell their product, only to find themselves in a spot of trouble for not taking a second to think. Take, for example, the DiGornio pizza company who used the #WhyIStayed hashtag, used to highlight why victims of domestic violence didn’t leave their abusive partners, to tweet “You had pizza”.

The D&G response to Elton John’s boycott has been outstanding in that sense. Any sensible PR person would have sought to apologise emphatically, try to undo the damage by making a small but symbolic donation to a charity related to the issue they’ve been controversial about and, most importantly, do their utmost to ensure the story dies. These tried-and-tested PR objectives were presumably what was going through Stefano Gabbana’s head when he posted a poorly photoshopped image of the famous “Je Suis Charlie” poster, which many displayed after the terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo, doctored simply to say “Je Suis D&G”. Nothing calms down a social media storm quite like comparing yourself to murdered cartoonists.

The gist of Gabbana’s response and that of his supporters is that their freedom of speech is being infringed by the backlash. One of those defending D&G is professional troll Katie Hopkins – normally a moral arbiter for right and wrong (when she’s saying you’re right, you’re most definitely wrong). She said earlier that “Surely being tolerant is accepting we all have different opinions and should be able to express them freely. Elton could express the alternative view to D&G without calling for every other fawning celeb to turn up and throw rotten tomatoes at their brand”. Put simply, D&G should be able to say what they like without fear of people saying what they like to them in return.

There is a stark difference between disagreeing with somebody’s view and disagreeing with their right to hold that view. Retreating to the “I’m being silenced” camp is a coward’s response to losing the argument. “I’ve got no points left to respond with, so instead I’m going to accuse you of attacking my freedoms”. It’s a nonsense we should all challenge. Gabbana had every right to say what he did and he also had every right to compare himself to those poor people gunned down in Paris a few months ago. Disagreeing with those rights is wrong; disagreeing with what he said is your absolute right, as is boycotting their brand.

It’s a gross mutation of freedom of speech to suggest that whilst one can express whatever offensive view they like, they should be able to do so without being offended in return. When people like Hopkins say “you can’t say that anymore”, what they actually mean is that you can, but people might say things back to you. It’s of the same plane of thought that says a perfectly democratic boycott is pretty much like putting D&G in the stocks and, as Hopkins suggests, throwing tomatoes at them. Why can’t we just respect the views of the people who upset us and be quiet? We clearly have absolutely no right to use our freedom of speech in response to them using theirs.

It’s difficult to see what exactly it was about the backlash that made D&G’s supporters feel like their beloved brand had become a victim of “fascist” oppression. Either way, they are acutely aware of the power of brand. The budget they must put aside for marketing is a direct acceptance that the public image assigned to their name matters – it is directly related to sales and, consequently, the amount of money in their pockets. This boycott is going some way to impacting that and it won’t be long before D&G offers an actual apology – not because they’re sorry for what they said or did, but because they’re sorry it’s caused them problems. So please continue to boycott and, for the sake of genuine freedom of speech, don’t let them get away with framing themselves as some sort of victim of Orwellian authoritarianism. They’re not.


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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  1. I don’t know the backstory here, but that Charlie Hebdo comparison was very tasteless and tacky. And yes, freedom of speech is two-way traffic, and until you’re arrested by the authority or harassed by them for something you said, no one’s impinging on your freedom of speech.
    To think they are both Italiano. Several mafia Dons are turning in their graves now.

  2. Once you oppose anything gay now, you’re a horrid person. Gays have become the new bullies, the new majority.

    I’m not saying that calling test tube babies synthetic is right or even true that womb-renting is abhorrent. But these days, saying anything against gay people in America is akin to poking a finger in the Pope’s anointed left eye.


    • shakespeareanwalter

      The LGBT is an embattled minority. So I’m sure you’ll understand why their responses to tasteless comments against them is usually swift and vicious.
      And before you make it out to be a reaction exclusive to LGBT, I’d like you to remember that Mel Gibson once said something (in an inebriated state, no less) against the Jews. He’s yet to revive his career as a consequence.
      Americans, celebrities especially, strive to be politically correct with Blacks. Why? Because racism is still very sensitive.
      So political incorrectness getting rewarded by backlash isn’t a thing of the gays.

    • So true, Eketi. So true!

  3. Word! to the second commenter.
    Someone finally sees what is truly going on. These homosexuals have become real life bullies, and say anything they believe points even vaguely to them in anyway and the fangs come out. It doesn’t change the truth though; that homosexualism is still wrong and that attacking everything they believe is directed at them (even by fellow practitioners of the lifestyle) won’t make it more right.
    It won’t be the first time someone thinks IVF, surrogacy, etc are not authentic, it’s their understanding. What the designers said did not warrant the kind of response Mr John gave. So why this level of vitriol?
    Mr John must be dealing with something deeper, and it isn’t quite IVF.

    • Homosexuals are bullies, really?? How many homosexuals do you know in real life? One on one? … Exactly, none. And you dare to open your tiny painted hole to spew such hatred against them. Tell me who the bully is here?
      The thousands of churches worldwide who constantly slice them up in the churches and uneducated homophobes like you who think gay people are lessening your chances of landing a husband. News flash!!!, you’re in a mental prison. The sooner you emancipate yourself, the better for your sorry life.
      You have no idea what they’ve gone through in their life and what they’re still going through.
      And “homosexualism”, really?? It shouldnt come as a surprise to you when I tell you that good money has been wasted on training you. Your parents would’ve been better off buying a dog or a cat.
      You’re just a waste of good tits..

      • I feel like I’m reading a comment on one blog like that…haba, let’s all learn to disagree without hurling insults no matter how hard it is. This isn’t the MMS way, we speak like matured adults with diverse opinions. Thanks

    • This is what Mr. John said. @ Chisom12

      ‘How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic.’ And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfill their dream of having children…’

      Now tell me how that is not similar to a parent doing what comes naturally, which is speaking up in defense of his child. Tell me you wouldn’t defend your child just as vociferously should he or she be a product of IVF.
      Suddenly because he’s gay, his tirade has nothing to do with his God-given right to be an angry parent, but rather he’s ‘dealing with something deeper’.
      Dolce and Gabbana has proven that not every opinion is an intelligent one. A fact that you just exhibited.

  4. Oh Mazz, but you butress the point exactly. It’s difficult these days to support homosexualism or any of it’s angles without being vicious. Isn’t it?
    It is the spirit of the age, I have to say, but then I must thank you for replying.
    Yes, yes, Dubem, thank you too.
    Mr John went too far in his response and that is mostly because something else lies underneath. Afterall, even the so called doctors in the field do not all agree on IVF and Surrogacy.
    But as usual, if there is homosexualism attached to a matter, there must be vicious words and everyone must be expected to not disagree.
    Simmer some gentlemen, look harder and think deeper. A nice day to you.

    • And you just used the word “homosexualism” twice in a sentence.. Need I say more?

    • shakespeareanwalter

      First, it’s ‘homosexuality’, Chisom.

      And secondly, why shouldn’t Elton John or any other parent with IVF children speak vehemently against the thoughtless remarks of D&G? In the expression of your opinion, did you pause to reflect on how this will affect the children borne thru IVF? Or does the issue not matter simply because homosexuals are involved?

  5. But really this isn’t an issue of homosexuality at the end of the day. Elton John spoke up as a parent, not as a gay man, so I don’t get why folks are turning the issue on it’s head and personalising it. I have twin cousins that were born via IVF, and I would take issue with anyone who makes unsavoury remarks about the circumstances of their birth, which is what THIS is about, NOT homosexuality.
    Making this a gay thing is a very-drama-queen thing to do. Pun intendintended.

  6. What is Dolce & Gabbana’s definition of a “traditional family”? Does this include polygamous homes, nuclear families, extended families, single-parent homes? What about kids raised in “parentless” settings: orphanages, foster homes, grandparents and extended relatives’ homes?

    The problem with D&Gs stance is: they are linking parenting to the reproductive process, therefore it has to be a heterosexual affair – penis and pussy. Please they should get their minds out of the gutter! Parenting is more or less a vocation; reproduction is not. Any idiot boy can impregnate a girl – doesn’t make him a parent; any girl can take in – doesn’t make her a parent. All the messed-up kids we have in society today, they did not all come from two-dad and two-mum homes; many are from the “traditional family”…so where’s the logic in D&G’s statement?

    Question is: what do children need to grow up as balanced humans in society? Food, an education, protection from all forms of abuse, a nice bed to sleep in, nice and clean clothes to wear, a caring adult, someone to build their self esteem, etc. What does gender and sexual orientation have to do with the provision of these things?

  7. EVERYTHING Dolce and Gabbana said was stupid – from A to Z. Feel free to paint it anyhow you like.

    Their opposition to same-sex marriage – stupid.

    Their opposition to same-sex parenting – stupid.

    Their calling babies born through IVF “synthetic” – utterly silly.

    They didn’t even offer premises to back up their garbage-y conclusions.

    Secondly: freedom goes with responsibility. Their opinions were irresponsible, period. Evil does not get a pass simply because “man is free”.

    Note to D&G: When called out on your opinions you don’t whine, you defend them. With logical points. Assuming there are any in this case. Oshi.

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