Dagger in hand

A man of prodigious fortune, coming to add his opinion to some light discussion that was going on casually at his table, began precisely thus: "It can only be a liar or an ignoramus who will say otherwise than," and so on. Pursue that philosophical point, dagger in hand.

--Michel de Montaigne, Of the art of discussion.

Stab back: cmnewman99-at-yahoo.com


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Friday, June 07, 2002
Here's a new piece in Panorama by Piero Ostellino, Fallaci's most ardent supporter in the Italian press, talking about the threats and abuse to which she's been subjected in Italy while receiving messages of support from all over the world. I'll try to post a summary soon, but work calls. For now, click on the link whether you read Italian or not--there's a great photo of her. Italian "rap" singer Jovanotti recently found space among the various muddleheaded can't-we-all-just-get-along-and-save-the-world-from-rampant-capitalism sentiments in one of his "songs" to throw in a slam against Fallaci, describing her as "the journalist who loves war because it reminds her of when she was young and beautiful." I'd say she's looking pretty damn good in the present, thank you very much.

UPDATE: Oops, the article isn't by Ostellino, it just has a bolded citation of his name. Now that I read it, I see it's by Mauro Anselmo. The piece was written over a month ago now, and compares the attacks on Fallaci in the Italian press to the favorable comments she had received in the Wall Street Journal and New York Post after the publication of her piece on antisemitism. Now, of course, she's been savaged in the French and English press as well. Since Mauro's article, one of the attacks in the Italian press prompted a libel lawsuit by Fallaci. The offending article appeared in Il Foglio, which subsequently reproduced on its front page the entire complaint filed by Fallaci's lawyers, under the sardonic headline "I FIND IT ACTIONABLE: A Foglio exclusive of new text inspired by Oriana Fallaci."

The article Fallaci sued over was by Pietrangelo Buttafuoco (whether he's a distant relative of Joey I can't say, but he seems to exhibit a similar level of intellectual acumen) in response to the antisemitism piece. There, you may recall, Fallaci had this to say about (and to) a certain unnamed individual:
(There’s someone in Italy who, since the appearance of Anger and Pride, would like to do the same to me. Citing verses of the Koran he exorts his “brothers” in the mosques and the Islamic Community to chastise me in the name of Allah. To kill me. Or rather to die with me. Since he’s someone who speaks English well, I’ll respond to him in English: “Fuck you.”)
Now, it seems rather obvious on reading this that she's speaking about a specific individual who made direct threats against her, and that her profane gesture is for him alone. Here's how Buttafuoco reported on this passage:
Since I speak English, maybe not well, but well enough to understand a thing or two, Oriana Fallaci has sent a message to everyone who doesn't see things the way she does: "Fuck you." Since someone has to respond, with all due respect, in the name of all the mosques and all the naughty boys and girls, to this person who seems to have become the nation's Supreme Court (she's even worse than Enzio Biagi), we say to her, "Thanks, same to you."
The gravamen of Fallaci's complaint is that he misrepresents her as having expressed absolute intolerance for difference of opinion rather than having merely insulted an individual who had threatened her life. That individual, by the way, is named Adel Smith, and he is the President of the Muslim Union of Italy. He wrote a book called "Islam Chastises Oriana Fallaci," which I saw in the stores last time I was there. I picked it up, because I would have been interested in reading a thoughtful response by an Italian Muslim to the issues Fallaci had raised. I quickly realized that this was not that response. Here are some of the eloquent excerpts cited in the complaint:
[From page 18 of the book:]

Woman, you shouldn't have told lies! I'm not [...]. You'll get the lesson you deserve. A powerful slap. But not a slap of the kind that you really deserve, so much as a moral slap that will, maybe, make you go back to your crying.

Prepare yourself for a strong and just punishment: to be stripped nude. Denuded. Undressed. Not of your clothing as, perhaps, you might have desired [...] But denuded of your strength--of that tenuous strength that you draw from your despicable lies.

Prepare yourself! I'm going to unmask you.

Prepare yourself! I'm going to inflict punishment on you.

You deserve it, and how.

Woman! Ugly or beautiful as you are, prepare yourself for the chastisement of man; the divine one, much more abundant and painful, you'll have later, in good time. That's a promise. "Those who injure Allah and His Messenger, Allah has condemned whether in this life or the next and has prepared for them humiliating torment."

[And later, toward the end of the book:]

The choice then is yours: either do as we Muslims do and stop drinking alcoholic beverages or continue to die; to die together with Fallaci.
Now I have to say that none of these particular quotes from the book strike me on their face as constituting an actual threat of violence. (In fact, I'm fairly confident that the Ninth Circuit would regard them as protected speech even if they were directed at abortion providers...) They use violent--and sexually demeaning and violent--imagery, but make it clear that the only "chastisement" the writer intends to dole out is moral, by rebutting her writings. Even the line about dying with Fallaci, as far as I can make out without context, sounds like he's exhorting people in general to adopt Muslim practices to avoid the bad end to which all infidels like Fallaci will come. Yet Fallaci clearly reads it as a direct exhortation to violence. Her bravado response, according to Piero Ostellino, was as follows: "Die with me how? With a load of explosives? God what a waste! Wasting a whole kamikaze and a whole load of explosive that costs a ton of money on little old me?" Well, who was it that first said anything about explosives? Given Oriana's various experiences with (and at the hands of) Islamic fundamentalists, she may have reason to believe that this is a reasonable inference for her to make. Unless she has other examples though, I wonder whether she'd win if Smith followed suit and charged her with libel for saying he'd made actual death threats against her.

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