Skip to comments.She Said What She Thought ... Mark Steyn on Oriana Fallaci
Posted on 01/13/2007 11:58:39 AM PST by Rummyfan
You go fuck yourself, said Oriana Fallaci to no one in particular in a recent New Yorker profile. I say what I want.
And she did. Latterly, she said what she wanted about Islam, on which subject most of us feel constrained to be more, ah, circumspect. And what she wanted to say to Islam boiled down pretty much to: go fuck yourself. She scorned Muslims for their habits of reproduction, of evacuation, of female genital mutilation. She developed obsessions both arcane who really invented sherbet (the ancient Romans, not the sons of Allah) and unhealthy, if not psychologically then certainly actuarially: whats the deal with Mohammeds nine-year old wife? who sodomized whom at Mehmet IIs big knees-up to mark the fall of Constantinople in 1453? These are areas in which more discreet scholars prefer to draw a veil if not the full burqa. In The Rage And The Pride she dwelt upon the hitherto neglected topic of micturition among Somali immigrants in Florences Cathedral Square, whom she accused of leaving yellow streaks of urine that profaned the millenary marbles of the Baptistery:
Good Heavens! They really take long shots, these sons of Allah! How could they succeed in hitting so well that target protected by a balcony and more than two yards distant from their urinary apparatus?
Rendered in what she called the oddities of Fallacis English, this is splendidly offensive and gloriously rude. But it is also, as my colleague Christopher Hitchens dismissed Signora Fallaci in these pages, a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam. One sees his point. Long before the first Muslim convenience store opened in a British city, the gents in every rural pub had a streaked wall over the urinals boasting unfeasibly high-tide marks crayoned on the plaster, at impressive distance from the urinary apparatus. A few years back, during a long bus trip for major-league baseball owners, the driver was obliged to make a roadside stop for Gene Autry to relieve himself: as he reboarded, George W Bush congratulated the old singing cowboy on his great spray. If anything, Muslim men seem to be somewhat more fastidious in this area than your average beery Brit or Frenchman: In his will, Mohammed Atta left instructions for any woman examining his corpse in that particular neighborhood to wear gloves because he didnt want the old twig-and-berries to have been contaminated by unclean infidel-whore morticians when he got to paradise and hit the old virgin jackpot. The long shots of the sons of Allah is not the firmest ground on which to defend western civilization.
Nevertheless, and with respect to Mr Hitchens, if there is a primer in how to write about Islam, that doesnt seem to be getting us very far either. Who ya gonna believe? The Presidents sappy religion of peace speeches or your lyin eyes? La Fallaci (as she styled herself) disdained what the French philosopher Alain Finkelkraut calls the wests penitential narcissism and, in an age of absurd abasement, found many takers for her bravura rejection thereof. After all, if Muslims are so ready to take offence, you might as well give em some. The problem, after all, is not that the sons of Allah are long shots but that theyre certainties: every Continental under the age of 40 okay, make that 60, if not 75 is all but guaranteed to end his days living in an Islamified Eurabia. That being so, why not have some gleeful sport along the road to servitude?
Oriana Fallaci was, on the one hand, an unlikely Crusader. Petite physically if in no other sense, she was a feminist, a secularist, a leftist. On the other hand, who has most to lose? At a time when uncovered women are jeered at and intimidated when they walk through certain suburbs of Continental cities, La Fallaci might have expected the other divas to rally to the cause. Instead, such feminist warhorses as Germaine Greer managed to give the impression they found Islam a bit of a turn-on: heres the patriarchal society theyve been pining for all along. As for the secular elites of the west, insofar as there is a theocratic menace, its not the Wahhabis but Bush and the evangelicals with a bit of help from (as Harold Pinter put it) Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug. So the lioness in winter roused herself and sallied forth to save post-Christian Europe from itself.
She was, like the book title says, full of rage and passion. Passion is a diminished word these days, routinely appended by politicians to dreary boilerplate about prescription drugs for seniors or some such. But La Fallaci was bursting with it. Fiercely beautiful well into her cancer-ravaged old age, she had that careless sensuality that anglophone womanhood can rarely carry off. She didnt subscribe to the old aphrodisiac-of-power clichés: on the contrary, she often found alpha males one big zzzzzzzz, and great men had the vague sensation their apparatus was withering under her gaze. Castro was smelly and Arafat was a blowsy old queen a massive trunk, huge hips red and fleshy lips. Still, she regarded an interview as coitus, and she didnt always mean it metaphorically. Two days after interviewing Alekos Panagoulis, a briefly fashionable revolutionary whod attempted to assassinate the Greek leader Papadopoulos, Oriana became his lover. When their turbulent relationship ended with his death in a car crash, rumored to have been politically engineered, Oriana wrote a book Un uomo (A man) that few other credible journalists could have gotten away with.
One would have been only mildly surprised had her interview with Ayatollah Khomeini followed the same trajectory. After traveling to Qom and kicking her heels for ten days waiting for him to agree to see her, she was ushered barefoot and wearing a chador - into his presence and found what she subsequently described as the most handsome old man shed ever met. In his own way, he must have dug the crazy Italian chick: The meeting was terminated when she tore off this stupid medieval rag and hurled her chador to the floor. But he agreed to return a day or two later to finish the interview.
It seems a fantastical encounter now: a man whod just shoveled every female in supposedly the most modernized of Middle Eastern nations back into medieval rags versus the apotheosis of the ballbusting western career woman. The phrase personality interviewer is grossly devalued these days: look at Mike Wallaces cringe-making oleaginous encounter with todays Iranian must-get, President Ahmadinejad. Indeed, Wallace seems to have found Ahmadinejad more attractive (very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way) than Fallaci found Khomeini. She was by that stage the greatest political interviewer of modern times (Rolling Stone), and yet unlike so many of the bland bigshots jetting from foreign ministry to presidential palace she gravitated to power mainly for the opportunities it afforded to knee it in the crotch. She asked the Ayatollah indignant questions about the executions of prostitutes and homosexuals and he sneered at women like her for going around uncovered dragging behind them a tail of men. It wasnt all rage and passion; she did brusque and off-hand pretty lethally, too: Dont you find, she asked Henry Kissinger during Vietnam, fighting vainly the old ennui, that its been a useless war? On this, I can agree, said the Secretary of State.
Her interviews and war reporting made her a wealthy woman, with homes in Florence, the Tuscan countryside and Manhattan. Not bad for a girl from a working-class family, a child of anti-Mussolini Communist partisans who turned to journalism at 16 only as a means of paying her way to medical school. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, the chain-smoking dynamo had done everything her profession could offer. Then came September 11th. And Corriere Della Sera very deftly tempted her out of semi-official retirement to unburden herself of her thoughts on the, er, unfortunate events. Even then, even in those first weeks, the cicadas (as she called them) of cultural relativism were chirruping their pneumatic songs of eternal evasion. In her bestselling post-9/11 improvised aria, La Fallaci was certainly shrill but perhaps not as shrill as those who in the face of a mountain of evidence insist from every university, every interior ministry, every Anglican pulpit that theres nothing to see here, nothing to ask, nothing to ponder, no great questions over Europes future.
She had never lacked bravery. Indeed, she was almost insanely brave. But this wasnt like flipping the bird to some strutting generalissimo. She must have been surprised by how organized the Muslim opposition was: the Islamic Centre of Berne, the Somali Association of Geneva, the SOS Racism of Lausanne, and a group of Muslim immigrants in Neuchatel, just to name a random sampling of Swiss plaintiffs. What would not have surprised her was the weirdly masochistic pleasure the European judiciary derived from facilitating their attempts to silence her. The Federal Office of Justice in Berne asked the Italian government to extradite her so she could be charged under Article 261b of the Swiss Criminal Code or, as she called it, the He-didnt-chase-me-because-Im-a-thief-but-because-Im-a-Muslim clause. She was sued in France, where suits against writers are routine now. An Italian magistrate indicted her and, because of the European Arrest Warrant, which includes charges of xenophobia as grounds for extradition from one EU nation to another, most of the Continent became unsafe for her to set foot in. Only in the last ten days, when she knew she would not live to make her first court date, did she return from political exile to die in a home town defiled less by immigrant urine than by the watery emissions of incontinent fainthearts and appeasers.
I never really thought cancer would get Oriana Fallaci. She seemed so full of fire in the last few years that one felt certain any tumor would shrivel to ash inside her. But the legal harassment from her enemies and their appeasers must have taken their toll. The books were huge sellers but old friends kept their distance. As for those on the left who acknowledged the threat, she parted company there, too. This year, a dozen intellectuals, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie, published a manifesto against Islamism and in defense of secular values for all. All are doughty warriors and important allies in Europes present struggle. But La Fallaci, a lifelong atheist, had come to the conclusion that secular humanism was an insufficient rallying cry, that it had in some sense led to the gaping nullity of contemporary European identity which Islam had simply steamrollered. By the end, she was if not a Christian then, as she formulated it, a Christian atheist. In 2005 she was granted a private audience with Pope Benedict on the understanding that she would never divulge what was discussed. It would be interesting to know, but its safe to say that for once it wasnt Go fuck yourself. I say what I want.
At the height of her fame thirty years ago Oriana Fallaci seemed to embody the triumph of the post-Christian west. The apotheosis of the independent emancipated woman, she lived long enough to understand that its hyper-rationalism was, in point of fact, wholly irrational, and she was big enough to change her mind on that without changing her glorious voice. She was a beautiful writer. If her sin is that she went too far, in a craven culture that recoils even from first steps that is not the worst. Brava, la Fallaci.
Such hope as there may be in all this is that in the end Fallaci's parents and she herself did end up fighting fascism after all, though for a time it seemed advantageous to allow it to tear down the old order. That isn't a great deal of comfort but it's something - should it come to the barricades we are likely to have the denizens of the Daily Kos alongside us asking politely to be taught how to shoot. At that point the barricades will be on Main Street.
I loved that part too.
Great Steyn post.
She was a good human that recognizes the threat that Islam is for the rest of us. Even at her advanced age she was a beautiful woman. That alone tells you that what you think inside, is displayed outside.
"Well never know the number of dead. (Forty thousand, fifty thousand?) The Americans will never tell, so as not to underline the intensity of this apocalypse."
Anybody have any thoughts on that?