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Last week, John Galliano was dismissed from Christian Dior as their creative director.  Galliano had held this position for 15 years and there was no reason to expect he wouldn’t hold it for years to come.  His presence in the fashion community has been strong and decisive and his money-making collections loved by many.

So what changed that in a space of a week he went from respected designer to unemployed scoff-law?

Certainly not his talent – he’s still a talented, creative designer.  But somehow along the way he started believing his own press and in a startling display of drunken hubris he verbally abused and maligned people near him in a Paris bar, expressing bigoted sentiments and other hate speech.

Not surprisingly, in our increasingly interconnected world, some bright young thing was there, captured his moment on her cell phone, and uploaded it to YouTube, ensuring that Galliano’s fifteen minutes of shame would be widely shared with a global audience.  Galliano’s actions netted him a pink slip from Dior and civil litigation in the French courts.  Backlash from within his community was swift and uneasy, as people figuratively drew their skirts away from a man who, as a result of his personal expression of incredible bigotry, is at least momentarily a pariah of sorts in the global community.

Galliano’s outburst follows hard on the heels of another famous actor, Charlie Sheen, who also apparently believed his own press and vilified his employers in a public forum.  Not surprisingly, he too was severed from his employers, although how his community will react to this is less clear than Galliano’s ritual sacrifice.

We’re interested in these stories because both instances are applicable to a current area of exploration for us in ScienceSim.  We are researching and thinking about this idea of community, community standards, and how the community enforces its standards on its members.  We are working on this very question in the Senate in ScienceSim right now, and it is not an easy question to resolve.

How do you define community; who is a member and who is merely a visitor; how do you define your community decency standards, and how do you express them to a global audience? We had, for example, no idea that verbally vilifying a person in France could result in a civil lawsuit; here in the US that same level of verbal expression might be protected under our First Amendment that guarantees free speech, regardless of how hateful the person it was directed at might find it.  Nor does this French law necessarily prevent a person from being verbally abusive and hateful to another, e.g., Galliano.

We are still working at defining what the ScienceSim community is. There are lessons learned from both Mr. Galliano’s and Mr. Sheen’s misbehavior that will certainly color what we define as expected and appropriate behavior from our community members.

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