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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Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Here we go again...
So Adel Smith is finally getting his way, and now Oriana's to be tried in Italy. (For my take on an earlier Italian legal scuffle involving this character, see here.) That makes the third European country to entertain legal charges against her for writing a book. Remember that the next time you hear someone asserting the cultural and intellectual superiority of Europeans over Americans. (Ironically, Oriana herself has done that at times.) The European populace is apparently so enlightened and sophisticated that the only adequate response to publication of a book containing harsh rhetorical swipes (backed by a fair amount of factual research) at a religious group is to legally suppress it. Otherwise, who knows what those gullible mobs might do.

At least one Italian commentator gets this. Pierluigi Battista has a piece on the front page of the Corriere:
It will be a sad day for the law if we discover that in Italy crimes of opinion exist, and are not confined, as they should be, to the antique shop. It will be a sad day for liberty of expression if The Force of Reason is dragged into court and a judge decides … to credit the complaint filed by Adel Smith in which Fallaci is accused of nothing less than “vilifying relgion.”

It will be a sad day if the only protest to have emerged is that of the minister Castelli, who properly termed this judicial tenacity against a book as “coercion of thought.”

It will be a sad day if no-one, but no-one, among those who have legitimately criticized Oriana Fallaci’s opinions, raises his voice to say that ideas, even the most extreme ones, can never be put on trial. A final and bitter confirmation of the Italian malaise, in which we are incapable of thinking that principles apply even to those who disagree with us and that diverse opinions are to be treated and respected as opinions and not as crimes. Far, very far from courts of law.
It would be nice if Umberto Eco, who has spent some time criticizing Fallaci (with customarily opaque erudition), and who also once wrote a novel dramatizing quite vividly the lengths to which some will go to effect the "coercion of thought," would rise to this challenge.

In any event, I doubt Oriana will be much fazed by this. She could probably just move back to New York and stay there, but I suspect she won't. She's already got such a martyr complex, and is so close to death, that this will simply provide her with a last glorious chance to grandstand on the way out. She'll get to write another long comparison of herself to Mastro Cecco or some other suitably noble wronged heretic, and the streets outside the courthouse will be packed with her admirers.

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