Sunday, 3 February 2013

BLOGGERS & HOLOCAUST MEMORIALS



Two weeks ago the popular fashion blogger Pelayo Diaz posted a couple of images of himself on his blog, Kate Loves Me, posing in a David Elfin coat and toting a Celine handbag at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. In the brief caption that accompanies the pictures, seeming to betray a fundamental misunderstanding about the memorial’s purpose, Diaz notes “the good thing is that it doesn’t make you think about the past, only the future, and that's something I love being involved with.”

A fair number of people, myself included, took exception to this post for reasons that hardly need explaining but which – having witnessed the risible “but, he posed RESPECTFULLY” defense doing the rounds – I shall outline briefly. The Holocaust Memorial (or The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in full) is a large site in central Berlin which has been set aside as a place to remember, and reflect upon, the worst atrocity in modern history. It’s there in its uncompromising form so that we do not forget the millions of victims of the Holocaust, and it acts as a reminder that we must never allow anything similar to happen again.

Everybody who visits the memorial will react to it in a slightly different way, but using it as a conduit for your own vapid self-promotion and vanity is not just wildly inappropriate, but is also downright offensive. You don’t need to have studied history, or watched Schindler’s List, or have Jewish friends (many of whom can tell you first hand the appalling ways in which their parents or grandparents were tortured and killed) to realise this. All it takes is a modicum of intelligence and decency.

You can almost sense the thought process. Here I am in Berlin (no doubt on some promotional junket paid for by a B-list mid-market brand), better do the tourist sites to get some snaps to feed my followers – perfect for showing how worldly and cultivated I am. These big concrete blocks look cool… a bit like that directional, geometric shoot in Vogue Italia with Karlie Kloss (or whoever). And apparently they’re totally deep and meaningful too. It will make a great story, how it’s all about me, and my future, and how I strive to be brave in my fight against anti-product placement legislation for blogs, and sartorial mediocrity. Boyfriend! Get 250 frames of me now. Move the camera to the left a bit, would you, my Balenciaga shoes aren’t visible enough. No, not that shot, it will never do. I don’t look nearly reflective enough. How about we try without the sunglasses? What if I relax my mouth a bit more? No that’s just not working… what about with the Celine bag to the side? Yes! Loving it! Sooo chic. Let’s scurry back to the hotel, Instagram the fruit bowl, then spend four hours Photoshopping the pictures for my blog. It’s all about ME right now. Apparently this one time some Jews died or something?

Still not seeing the problem, but sensing trouble brewing after the post went live, Diaz posted a perplexed, half-baked apology on his Facebook page (“I don't think [the images] are disrespectful or inappropriate in any way… I apologize if Ive hurt anybody’s feelings”). Many commenters on the apology post were supportive, also failing to see the problem, and painting a sad picture of fashion-obsessed youth online. Perhaps the “it’s all about ME, and my celebrity, and my personal narrative” culture among young people, which right-wing newspapers frequently bemoan, is more real and more widespread than I thought. Either way, I would have drawn a line under the incident as youthful misadventure (and hoped, optimistically perhaps, that Diaz would later spend 15 minutes on the Holocaust Wikipedia page educating himself) until another character entered the scene: Bryan Yambao.

Closer to 40 than 20 (read: old enough to know better), and a sometime presenter on the TV series America’s Next Top Model as well as a blogger at BryanBoy.com, Bryan Yambao tweeted in support of Diaz “So according to rabid PC trolls on the internet, we now shouldn’t photograph ourselves at memorials...” linking to a picture of himself, at the same memorial, staring vacantly into the distance. “I can’t stand extreme political correctness” Yambao affirmed. Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that ‘Twitter lynching’ and people over-reacting to perceived ‘offence’ online is tiresome, and sometimes a problem, but in this case it was sad to see a figure like Yambao, who is lauded by designers and fashion editors alike, attempt to dismiss a genuinely serious question as “extreme political correctness” perpetuated by “rabid PC trolls.” And how brave, and how provocative, of him to post a picture of himself at the same memorial, also looking like a brainless twat in badly-selected clothes. The defiance! The solidarity! The anarchy!

I hope that some of the respected fashion industry types, who have rushed to tell us how “outrageous” and “hilarious” Bryan Boy is, will reconsider their position. I hope that the sad Tweeters and Facebook commenters, whose profile pictures are of themselves staring blankly into cameraphones reflected back in the mirrors of public lavatories, wearing gaudy accessories and Les Plus Dorés ‘designer team’ T-shirts, who rushed to defend Diaz and Yambao with comments like “He didn't wear a swastika, he didn't do anything vulgar. So what's so disrespectful?” are representative of an uneducated minority. I hope that Pelayo and Bryan Boy’s dim little brains light up and realise that homosexuals were also murdered during the Nazi rule, making the whole thing slightly closer to home than they would imagine. It’s not just a matter of concrete blocks and some oversensitive people on the internet. There’s a bigger picture.

23 comments:

  1. I think the commenters above might have lost the meaning of this entire post.

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  2. But what is our conclusion, what do we want to see in the bigger picture? If the accidents above are meaningless, what meaning can we take away in our neon pink Céline bags?

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  3. Oh jeez, apparently the uneducated minority turns into smashing majority on the internet - judging by the first comments.

    So sad that most of the so called fashionable people and all the ones considered style makers have a tunnel vision. Oh my, that jumper I just saw in the front window of my fav hipsta shop! Anybody tortured or killed here? No, please don't spoil this beautiful afternoon, darling, by jibberish of some historic bullshit, at the end many believe it did not happen. Lets go to Starbucks instead and have nice chocolate cake to forget all the misery. We're glamorous, we don't need to think about anything else but my new Prada shoes.

    Sad, sad it makes me - realizing that this is the new generation, the obvious trend of not giving a fuck about anyting and nobody considers it somehow horrifying.

    Just show me a haul post of what you've bought, I don't give a shit.

    Brilliant article, by the way.

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  4. Before I read this, I was one of those people who defended Pelayo (I missed Bryan's tweet) for the photos, but now that you've fully explained your position, it finally clicks. This was really well written and now I understand the problem with them.

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  5. I'm no longer accepting anonymous comments.

    If you want to tell me how stupid / jealous I am, you will now have to go to the effort of making a fake account.

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  6. i know someone who would love to take pictures there: John G.

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  7. the one post you do a month or less, you do it on this guy? quite frankly he's not worth it, and although i am not a fan of him/his style/his whatever, it's really not a big deal. my friends who are from and live in berlin have taken photos there of a non serious nature, that doesn't mean they are SO disrespectful and should have multi-paragraph complaint written on behalf of them. it's a great memorial, it's beautiful and is an important reminder of history jews yadayada, it doesn't mean ASDFJAKLSDF ugh whatever i am not well articulated enough to continue this. my point is, it's not a big deal and everyone is overreacting.

    o hey horst!

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  8. seems like i only heard the first part of the story, the bryan boy/man bit missed me. i really can't believe someone of his position (well you know what i mean) came to his defense. Is no one actually thinking straight. These cultured and well traveled people really should know more.

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  9. Jasper - There's a broader theme here. I see a distinction between photographing the monument and using it as the backdrop for an outfit shot to share on a blog of substantial reach. While ethics in blogging and the responsibility of 'acclaimed' bloggers aren't directly addressed, this post has added to that conversation.

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  10. i think when u spend so much time blogging u start to think as if youre composing posts.....as if u have an audience in your head almost...just a thought lol. theres a lack of living in the present if youre too preoccupied w/ your curated self.

    those pix make me sick...how can u not be humbled by this memorial. this is not a work of art

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  11. I couldn't have said it better. I completely agree with you! Thanks for putting the good word out there.

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  12. I really appreciate this blog. :) Maybe we could follow each other on Bloglovin and/or GFC?

    Please leave me a comment on my blog and I will follow you!

    http://kstylick.blogspot.com

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  13. bryanboy is a sellout and a tool. a man with a neon pink bag probably would fare no better but i have not read his blog. not because men shouldnt wear pink, but it is simply a giant sign that says LOOKATMELOOKATME. i love pink on other people but own nothing pink besides make-up and refuse to own anything else in the color family in any other form.
    i love fashion but constantly suffer inner turmoil because of the industry's hypocrisy, ignorance, and racism. for me it's a fantasy, fashion, and a timely escape from daily stress, but i can always pull myself out and back into reality. i think that is where those two fools differ. they only have to focus or want to focus on one thing that has nothing to do with nothing in the grand scheme of things. like apparently galliano should be forgiven now for his outbursts because hes been handed a spot at oscar de la renta? bollocks.
    on a sidenote did you see the last look for de la Rentas most recent couture show? 3-4 indian kids run out from under the dress and the model has a bedazzled backpack with a brown doll with a red dot?!?! it was hilarious but so sad. i couldnt think of glamour, all i could think of was all the child labororers that helped in making the collection and piss poor creations like their perfume. i couldnt even mock it on facebook without zuckerberg taking the photo i uploaded down.

    but really....no one apologized for the grandstanding or even the idea that it could be offensive, just sorry not everyone realized his grand vision about labelflashing cult items from the last couple of seasons in a very famous place NO more like a backdrop/afterthought. if they dont get it, all is lost to them and that is just fine with me. they are not sources of insight or enlightenment unless it is regurgitating whatever shocking sentiment they can pull out of their bleached assholes. they are not poignant or seemingly educated based on their "contributions" like the manrepeller. thats ok! i have blogs i go to visuals for and blogs i like to actually read AND look at, like yours.
    i think this is why i can remove myself from the ultimate subjective foolishness that is fashion. you and i can read between the lines, while the two aforementioned delusional trolls will just do the lines and be read. i can be objective because i dont get handouts, get bags named after me, and have a life outside of sucking metaphorical designer dick. i will always love fashion but will never be surprised by the power of stupid. people make millions marketing stupid and i wish i could dumb myself down to be apart of it sometimes, i might be happier. however, this is not one of those times.

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  15. Thank you for the laugh and the brilliant post... Finally someone with a common sense. I had a hard time to admit it but these two are just -mediocrity added- the reflection of what most fashion industry people are : self centered, selfish and so out of the real world that it seems like buying 50 pairs of shoes every season is far more important than anything else happening in the world; They are vanity monsters and the most disappointing is that talented and intelligent people happen to be quite shocking sometimes...(think Prada/Bryan boy, just one of the countless examples). Fashion can be as artistic and inspired as you want, it will always be the same. That's what happen when you only have shoes and handbags in your head all day long your whole life. Sad but terribly true.

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  16. The man is completely obtuse and an effin' dolt! A memorial that does not make one think of the past is no longer a memorial. I guess his next fashion post will be in front of Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

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  17. Thanks for writing this post and taking a stand. I find those bloggers' pictures very disturbing.

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  19. Hi Hapsical,
    Not something I would personally do (just like I also wouldn't care to wear the celine fur shower sandals - and I agree their outfits are tacky) but it is sometimes healthy to throw meaning out the window - so in that sense I could understand how they could just see the memorial site for its pure aesthetic value (large blocks) - and I defend their right for that.
    That's in general.
    To be more specific, the holocaust, holds a different sentimental value to each person. Probably, because of where you're from there was a lot more emphasis on holocaust history in your school system and the culture in general than say in Spain or the Philippines where Pelayo and BB are from. And that's not to belittle anything about the holocaust, but it's a fact that different people will hold it to varying degrees of importance based on their background, etc... to say anything else would simply be unrealistic.
    The pyramids, for example, could mean a triangle to one person and a tomb to another. All depends on the person. I understand you're probably fuming at the analogy, but try to remove the word holocaust from your mind and think about in more abstract terms. In the end we all have the right to express ourselves, even if the outfits are far from inspirational - if not actually setting us back a few steps.
    I also don't think it's fair you mention blog endorsements and all-expenses-paid trips, etc.. against other bloggers, when you yourself (although you make a conscious effort to do it tastefully and you barely do it as much as others) benefit from those. I'm referring of course to those bottega and gucci bags which I'm really hoping were not entirely of your volition..
    x

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