by Daniele Scalea

We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused.

Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign.

We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.

We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign. We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot, We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.

What you have just read is the "story" that stands out on the Instagram profile of the French-Spanish fashion brand "Balenciaga." Instagram profile of over 14 million followers that has been diligently emptied of all other content. From the less-followed Facebook profile, only the incriminated campaign (which will be discussed in a moment) has disappeared, while the company's Twitter profile no longer exists (Balenciaga had in fact decided to delete it after its acquisition by Elon Musk, who is committed to ensuring freedom of speech in the famous social).

If you only get your information from the mainstream media, chances are you are wondering: what's up with the fashion brand? Children? Child abuse? What is the above statement referring to?

Children and S&M bears

Let's start from the beginning. A few days ago Balenciaga launched the promotion of its spring-summer 2023 collection. It also included a photo shoot starring two little girls, apparently between the ages of 4 and 6. The shoot is no longer visible on Balenciaga's website and channels, but the photos can be found elsewhere on the Internet: for example, in this article in the "New York Post" (one of the few widely circulated newspapers to have covered the issue).

The photo shoot contained some disturbing details, which were immediately noticed by Twitter users:

The first and most obvious is that the little girls are made to pose with teddy bear-shaped bags adorned with clearly S&M clothing. In addition to the already evocative leather strap, one bear has bracelets, anklets, and a collar also made of black leather with spikes. The collar is locked with a padlock, and completing the unmistakable outfit is a mesh top. The second bear model has another S&M garment and one that resembles a black thong.

No doubt an unfortunate pairing - to put it mildly - with such little girls. A fact also acknowledged by Balenciaga in its contrite statement above. But the worst, alas, is yet to come.

A disturbing document

In the IT industry, it is customary to call them "Easter eggs." These are bizarre, semi-hidden contents inserted by designers into their programs. Balenciaga's photo shoot also contains one: but it is not at all funny. At most it makes the skin crawl.

In one of the photos, which shows a desk full of messy documents, one can be glimpsed. We can recognize expressions such as "sexual intercourse" and "pornography." From the small portion visible it could be deduced to be a text discussing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, that of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition. This is perhaps a mere coincidence, but it is disturbing in light of the dastardly pairing mentioned above.

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Indeed, in that case dating back to 2001-2002, the Free Speech Coalition (which, despite its name, is an association that promotes pornography) appealed against a 1996 law, the Child Pornography Prevention Act. That provision also outlawed child pornography produced on computers without the involvement of real children. The Supreme Court agreed with the Free Speech Coalition, marking an undoubted success for child pornography users.

Fire from the Sun

So Balenciaga has apologized. But if the problem lay only in a single photo shoot, why did it delete all the material in its own highly-followed Instagram profile? Probably because the affair had triggered meticulous research into all the campaigns, looking for any possible controversial details. As in this case:

The image is still about the spring 2023 collection. Apparently it is harmless: a woman posing at a desk. On it, however, one notices the book Fire from the Sun by Belgian painter Michael Borremans. Without the context so far narrated, no one would have attached any weight to the choice. But in light of what has happened, it has raised perplexity that in that book Borremans depicted naked children, sometimes covered in blood, intent on playing with fire or with amputated human limbs (even some children appear amputated there).

In the same picture, another book that can be spotted is The Cremaster Cycle by Matthew Barney. An artistic cycle including films, photos, and sculptures named after the muscle responsible for the position of the testicles in relation to external temperature. Recurrent are allusions and references to early sexual development.

Mere innocent coincidences, no doubt. But which raise even more fuss in the wake of the scandal that has hit the fashion brand.

Conclusions

We leave it to readers to assess Balenciaga's responsibility with respect to the story told. It is certainly troubling because it occurs at a time when there is a strong push for the early hyper-sexualization of children: the reference is to gender theory inculcated from an early age, sex-change interventions in the very young, the infiltration of pedophiles into LGBTQ associations, and the attempt to clear pedophilia.

Attention to what is happening must be at its highest. Our Center is doing its part by timely denouncing every pro-pedophilia push we see in Italy and around the world.

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Founder and President of Centro Studi Machiavelli. Graduated in Historical Sciences (University of Milan) and PhD in Political Studies (Sapienza University), he is professor of "History and doctrine of jihadism" and "Geopolitics of the Middle East" at Cusano University. From 2018 to 2019 he was Special Advisor on Immigration and Terrorism to the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Guglielmo Picchi. His latest book (as editor) is Topicality of sovereignism. Between pandemic and war.