Bad News: Rehab Does Not Cure Anti-Semitism

Illustration for article titled Bad News: Rehab Does Not Cure Anti-Semitism

John Galliano is only the latest celebrity to enter rehab after making bigoted comments. It's almost the expected move at this point — but prejudice isn't something you can twelve-step your way out of.


According to the Times, Galliano has left France to seek treatment for alcoholism, probably at a facility called The Meadows in Arizona. This won't eliminate the consequences of his alleged anti-Semitic rant — he's lost his job, and could face prison time in France — but it will make him look contrite, which is probably at least part of the goal. Galliano's friends are apparently concerned about his drinking, but the timing of his retreat to Arizona makes it seem like he's really in rehab for bigotry.

A number of celebs have gone this route in the past. Mel Gibson went to rehab after his anti-Semitic tirade against a cop in 2006 — and was rumored to be considering it again last year when his racist rants at Oksana Grigorieva surfaced. And Isaiah Washington reportedly entered rehab in 2007 after using a homophobic slur in reference to his costar. Even then, media outlets were criticizing the rehab-trip-as-PR-move. And Washington eventually clarified that he was really in "executive counseling," adding, "There is no rehab for homophobia."

No, there isn't. And being drunk — or being an alcoholic, for that matter — isn't an excuse for anti-Semitism. Though alcohol certainly lowers inhibitions, it doesn't change people's personal beliefs or magically plant prejudices in their heads. Far more likely: getting boozed up simply makes celebs say things they think deep down, but are ordinarily savvy enough not to utter when there are cameras present.

I'd like to think it's possible for even bigoted people to learn the error of their ways, and maybe rehab is as good a place as any to begin that process. But in the case of Galliano or Gibson — or Charlie Sheen, for that matter, with his "Chaim Levine" comments — we shouldn't forget that addiction doesn't make you a bigot. They're separate problems, and while treating the former may help with the latter, it's not some magical cure-all. And just as addiction doesn't cause prejudice, rehab isn't the way to atone for it. Real atonement usually starts with an apology — and so far, Galliano's leaves a lot to be desired.


Galliano Said To Be Headed For Rehab [NYT]

Earlier: John Galliano: "I Completely Deny The Claims Made Against Me"


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The thing that sobriety can do is force you to take stock of your life and think more about how you harmed people. However, real redemption—one that leads to reacceptance—takes real work. Not quick fixes or this bullshit but real hard work on yourself, on your relationship and on your place in the world. If Galliano was serious about restoration and repair, he'd realize that it'll take him years, not days or months, to get his shit together.

As a clinician, I do kind of think you are simplifying the role of rehabilitation into being some quick fix that focuses on a particular substance or behavior and is constricted and time limited. Real rehabilitation is multi-disciplinary, requires a systemic change and would include a look at his attitudes, prejudices and abuse of others.

If it is real and he wants to change, he needs to do it for a long time before returning to the limelight—that is usually the problem with celeb rehabs. 90 days ain't shit in terms of therapeutic change. But if he wants something long-term, yeah, it could work and it includes atonement. All rehab includes atonement but you have to build up ego strength first.